Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bizarre Ceramic Animals

Some people get quite creative with broken ceramic animal decorations and end up with creations that do look a bit bizarre. The closest I can come to "bizarre ceramic animal" is this little piece:

which The Grandmother used to use as an Easter decoration and which reminds me of the Peter Rabbit stories. He has a sticker on the bottom that says, Murray Kreiss & Co., copyright 1950, Made in Japan.

As I look around, I don't have a single piece that qualifies as "bizarre ceramic animal".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Man from Laramie

The Man from Laramie is a 1955 Western film starring Jimmy Stewart, Arthur Kennedy (High Sierra, Lawrence of Arabia, Fantastic Voyage), Jack Elam (High Noon, the 1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Once Upon a Time in the West), Frank de Kova (The Robe, F Troop), Donald Crisp (the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Sea Hawk, Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1919 silent D.W. Griffith Broken Blossoms) and Wallace Ford (Freaks, The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, Harvey). I enjoyed this film. The characters are well-drawn and the plot moves right along. I enjoy seeing actors I've seen in so many other movies.

via youtube:

It's on the Images Journal list of 30 Great Westerns. DVD Talk says it "holds a special place at the end of the 'innocent' era of American Westerns". The Western Review calls it "a stylish and well paced—if awkwardly plotted—tale of intrigue and betrayal." The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die calls it
a taut, tragic tale with a memorable hit theme song... and Mann's trademarked sense of the way desperate and obsessed men relate to each other and of the dangerous landscape that emphasizes their extreme psychological states.
It gets a score of 100% from Rotten Tomatoes.

Other Westerns I've seen are listed here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Puffin Stamps

Puffins are getting their very own U.S. postage stamp! The Oregonian blog Oregon Live says,
The stamp artwork features a painting of two tufted puffins by artist Robert Giusti of Bridgewater, Conn., under the art direction of Derry Noyes of Washington, D.C. Both birds sport the striking tufts of long, yellow feathers that give the tufted puffin its name, plumage that only appears during breeding season.
You can buy them from the Post Office online here.

The picture of the stamp at the top of the post is from the post office web site.

New Hunan

The New Hunan buffet is one of my favorite places to eat, but The Husband had never been there. I told him recently that we were going, and he was a good sport about it. We each had the lunch buffet and a nice pot of green tea. No fan of Chinese food, he tried all the meat options, an egg roll and banana pudding. I got a little bit of almost everything that wasn't meat and skipped dessert.

Their menu is online here, but I've never ordered from the menu. I get the buffet every time. We paid $18 including tax but not including the tip.

Dining With Monkeys says, "I’m not a huge fan of buffets, but as far as buffets go, New Hunan is pretty good." It gets so-so reviews at Yelp.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Marking Territory

I've never been particularly bothered by spray-painted graphics on local buildings. I've never seen them obscure signs or writings placed by businesses. Although I realize it's illegal and expensive for business owners to correct, it's been just under the radar for me as a concern.

That has changed. On my way to The Grandmother's place a couple of days ago, I saw wall after wall after wall marked. Block after block after block of ugly bright pink vandalism. Not too bad if it'd just been one wall, but this seemed like it was everywhere I looked.

It's just like dogs pissing on fire hydrants to mark their territory. It makes me mad.

The photo at the top of the post comes from this pet blog.

1 (2009 film)

1 (2009) is a Pater Sparrow adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's book Library of 21st Century (Biblioteka XXI wieku, 1986) translated as One Human Minute. There's some information at this site.

Wikipedia has a plot description that begins with this:
A bookshop renowned for its rare works is mysteriously and completely filled with copies of a book entitled 1, which doesn't appear to have a publisher or author. The strange almanac describes what happens to the whole of humanity in the space of a minute. A police investigation begins and the bookshop staff are placed in solitary confinement...

A little over an hour in there's a short clip of a Tasmanian tiger. The entire movie is bizarre. What is reality?

via youtube:

"You have to close your eyes to see."

Quiet Earth rates it 9 out of 10 and says, "this is one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen".

HT: Quiet Earth

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Buchman Statues at the Dixon

I went to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens to see the Jim Buchman sculptures before the exhibit closed. They were large pieces in a group in the area in front of the main entrance. Buchman is a Memphian, a sculptor (obviously) and teacher.

Go Memphis has a review of this exhibit. That review has some photographs and says, "Whether seen on a bright, sunny day or under the gloaming of cloud cover and drizzle, the pieces cannot fail to impress on myriad aesthetic and emotional levels."

They were striking.

The New Couch

The cat destroyed our old couch some time ago. And I don't just mean some scratches, no, not at all. Our cat deposited some bodily excreta that left remnants that could not be either fought or lived with. We tried everything. Nothing worked. It's some comfort that the couch was bought used almost 30 years ago for $75, but still we were fond of that couch. Black naugahyde, it was. Remember naugahyde? Many a nauga gave its life so we could sit in comfort, and now the couch is gone. Gone! So sad.

The search for a new couch has taken longer than I would have thought possible. For years we have searched and researched. We have such a small spot for it, but we need it to let me stretch out a bit and leave room for a chair next to it. I'm still surprised at how big furniture is these days. Everything's over-sized with big frames and big rolled arms and soft I've-fallen-in-and-I-can't-stand-up cushions. That's suitable for big suburban McMansions but not for our little city townhouse. Not what we wanted. Not what we needed.

What we've finally found is the American Leather Natasha full-sized sofa sleeper in mahogany (a dark brown). It's only 64" long, but the arms are quite narrow giving a lot more seating space (and stretching out space) than we found on most other sofas. I had wanted something a bit more modern looking, but getting this style allows us to get back out our braided rugs that we had stored when we thought The Grandmother was going to be moving in with us. I have been looking at dark gray couches, but when we saw this we really liked it. And again, the color looks good with the braided rug.

It also cost a lot more than we expected, so some of the other projects we'd hope to accomplish this year will be postponed. But that's OK. I think we found The Perfect Couch (for us). Made even more perfect, though The Husband and The Younger Son roll their eyes and laugh, by a blanket and a couple of pillows:


Harumafuji Wins Sumo Tournament

Harumafuji has won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record. Asia and Japan Watch opens their report by saying,
Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji dominated nemesis Hakuho on Jan. 27 to finish the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record, his first at the sport's highest rank.
Japan Today explains why he had a lot to prove after disappointing losses at his debut at this rank. The Japan Times quotes him:
“I am really happy,” said Harumafuji. “This is my first title as grand champion. I fought each day and made sure I had no regrets.”
Here's video of the final match with commentary by JasonsInJapan, who has a Youtube channel devoted to coverage of these tournaments:

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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter

Marshmallow World:

sung by Dean Martin. Often thought of as a Christmas song and included on Christmas albums, Christmas isn't mentioned. It's a celebration of fun times in the winter snow. We haven't had any snow this winter -well, except for 3 snowflakes one day earlier this month, and that doesn't count.

It's a marshmallow world in the winter
When the snow comes to cover the ground
It's the time for play, it's a whipped cream day
I wait for it the whole year round.

Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly
In the arms of the evergreen trees
And the sun is red like a pumpkin head
It's shining so your nose wont freeze.

The world is your snowball, see how it grows
Thats how it goes whenever it snows
The world is your snowball just for a song
Get out and roll it along

It's a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts
Take a walk with your favorite girl
It's a sugar date, what if spring is late
In winter it's a marshmallow world.

The Potter's Field

The Potter's Field is the 13th book in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano mystery series by Andrea Camilleri. I like this series. The characters are appealing and the plots are off-beat. I love the setting; I can picture myself out on his deck having just come in from an ocean swim. Ahhh... I love his house, and I've never even seen it. I haven't read all of them in the order they were written, but they are better read in that order because of the development of the characters and their relationships over time. These characters actually age and grow over the course of the series.

from the back of the book:
An unidentified corpse turns up near the Italian town of Vigata, a place known for its soil rich with potter's clay. Meanwhile, a woman files a missing persons report for the disappearance of her husband, a Colombian man with Sicilian origins who turns out to be related to a local mobster. Then Inspector Montalbano remembers the story from the Bible -Judas's betrayal, the act of remorse, and the money for the potter's field, where those of unknown or foreign origin are to be buried- annd slowly, through myriad betrayals, finds his way to the solution of the crime.
There were several things that particularly caught my eye as I read:

The first came fairly early when Montalbano was walking along with a few others in single file and was reminded of a painting: He muses, "Brueghel? Bosch? But this was hardly the moment for art." I wondered if The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder might be the painting he had in mind:

The second was a fun self-referential bit where Montalbano read a book by Andrea Camilleri.

Third, there was a passage that struck me, probably because of all I'm dealing with as primary care-giver for The Grandmother (my mother). I see my childhood and her attitude towards mothering in a whole new light now. Montalbano was driving through "the landscape of his youth" and reflects:
A line of Brecht came to mind: "Why should I love the windowsill from which I fell as a child?" But that line still doesn't quite say it, he thought. Because sometimes, when you're already almost old, the hated windowsill from which you fell as a little kid comes urgently back into your memory, and you would even go on a pilgrimage to see it again, if you could see it the way you did then, with the eyes of innocence.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "Especially recommended for series fans and mystery readers who enjoy the journey more than the solution." Eurocrime concludes its positive review with this:
The novel is more than a crime novel - though the plot is very clever and convoluted, because of the way Salvo decides to proceed with it - it is a meditation on getting older, on failing powers, and on the uncertain future we all face.

I've also read these:
1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
3. The Snack Thief
4. Voice of the Violin
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
7. Rounding the Mark
8. The Patience of the Spider
9. The Paper Moon
10. August Heat
11. The Wings of the Sphinx
12. The Track of Sand

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Incredibles

After the Total Fail of my Lebowski pick, The Husband picked The Incredibles (2004) the next day. It has always been a family favorite, and we've seen it several times. It hasn't held up as well to repeat viewings for the rest of us as it has for The Husband. The Younger Son wandered off after it started, and I'm writing up blog posts to publish later this month. It is a fun film. My favorite scenes are Edna Mode designing the costumes. Edna has her own Facebook page.


Rolling Stone concludes, "Bird has crafted a film —one of the year's best— that doesn't ring cartoonish, it rings true." Roger Ebert, The BBC reviewer, and Locus Online like it. The New York Times likes everything but the ending. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 97% score.

Etta James

Etta James died a year ago today at the age of 73.

Tell Mama:

At Last:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is a 1998 Coen brothers film starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and with Sam Elliott as The Stranger.

The Younger Son and I laughed out loud throughout the film; The Daughter found it uninteresting; The Husband was so offended by the frequent F-bombs that he couldn't pay any attention to the rest of the film. I had picked it with The Husband in mind because it was a comedy without blood & gore and I'd heard it had a happy ending. Well, I like it, but as a choice for him? Fail!


EW gives it a B- and says,
Nearly everything in The Big Lebowski is a put-on, and all that leaves you with is the Coens' bizarrely over-deliberate, almost Teutonic form of rib nudging. It's as if the film itself were standing off to the sidelines, saying ''Look, isn't this a hilarious concept?'' The Coens don't create jokes, exactly—they create ideas for jokes. Still, you can see what they're after.
Rolling Stone opens with this:
Maybe it's the way the Coen brothers tie everything together with bowling that makes this Los Angeles-based tale of burnouts, gun buffs, doobies, tumbleweeds, art, nihilism, porn, pissed-on rugs, severed toes, Saddam Hussein, attack marmots, Teutonic technopop and Bob Dylan — not to mention extortion, kidnapping and death — such a hilarious pop-culture hash.
Roger Ebert opens by saying,
The Coen brothers' ``The Big Lebowski'' is a genial, shambling comedy about a human train wreck, and should come with a warning like the one Mark Twain attached to ``Huckleberry Finn'': ``Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.''
DVD Talk says, "The Coens' writing is as amusing as ever, with perhaps more quotable dialogue per minute than any movie they've made." says, " It is, obviously, one of those movies that demands, and rewards, multiple viewings." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 80%.

Commercial Appeal Paywall Down

just temporarily, mind you, but for now you can access as many of their stories as you'd like without bumping your nose on a brick wall when you reach the 10-per-month limit.

The question is this: Why should I care??? I've gotten used to not clicking on CA links since they instituted the paywall. Why should I get back into the habit "temporarily"?

I'll be honest, I got disgusted with the CA several years ago when we tried to subscribe and couldn't get them to deliver it. We kept calling, they kept saying they'd look into it, and then we got a bill. They said our carrier had been delivering it to the wrong address. Then the carrier started calling us before dawn every morning to tell us he had just delivered our newspaper. We talked to the CA folks, who admitted that behavior was inexcusable, but by then we were fed up.

They keep outsourcing to India anyway, so I don't even feel like I'm doing something to support local jobs by subscribing to it.

I quit their Facebook page because they kept posting links and then not letting me through. I don't need the CA. I certainly don't need temporary access.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Red River

Red River is a 1948 John Wayne Western. Also in this are Walter Brennan, Coleen Gray (The Leech Woman, The Phantom Planet and of course other and better movies), Harry Carey (who was active during the silent era, in one of his last films), John Ireland (My Darling Clementine, All the King's Men, 1957's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Spartacus), Hank Worden (who was in many John Wayne movies and an active actor until the year of his death in 1992 at age 91), Noah Beery, Jr. (whose first film was an uncredited role in the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. 1920 Mark of Zorro, also in Rocketship X-M, Inherit the Wind and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), Harry Carey, Jr., Montgomery Clift (in one of his first films) and Paul Fix (an actor who had a long career beginning with silents and who has a Star Trek connection). Howard Hawks directs.

This is a classic Western, enjoyable both on its own terms and as an important film in the history of the genre. John Wayne isn't good in everything (I know I hold the minority view here), but he's good in this. Small character interactions (some friendly, a few comic, some conflicting) alternate nicely with large scenic views. It's hard to find any fault with this movie.

It's on the Images Journal list of 30 Great Westerns and there's a description there. opens their review with this:
Red River (1948) is a classic and complex western (and considered by many critics to be one of the ten best westerns ever made). It is a sweeping, epic story about a cattle drive (historically based on the opening of the Chisholm Trail in 1867) and a film of rivalry and rebellion, spanning a time period of fifteen years.
Wild West Web calls it "memorable". The Book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die says,
Hawks, the great film chronicler of macho pursuits, here stages the definitive cow opera, putting all other cattle-drive Westerns in the shade with beautiful, lyrical, exciting sequences of stampeding, rough weather, cowboying, and Indian skirmishes.
Roger Ebert considers it a "great film". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 100%.

Other Westerns I've seen are listed here.

B is for Bengalese

I discovered the ABC Wednesday project earlier this week, and when I saw that this week's letter was "B" I took it as a challenge to get a decent picture of my sweet little Society Finches. Also known as Bengalese finches, they are easy to care for and make excellent pets for those who don't want a pet that needs a lot of personal interaction. They are a great first bird, not needing anything more than the right temperature range, room to fly, appropriate food and clean water and at least one other society finch to be social with. They are totally domesticated, don't exist in wild populations, and aren't the least bit shy around people. Just watching them will cheer you up.

They have a sweet little song, and the males will puff up and sing their hearts out serenading the female. They breed easily if you have the room and inclination, but I don't have room for more than the 3 pictured above. I have two males (the darker one and the solid white one) and one female (the one on the left in the picture above).

I found a Youtube video that shows what their song sounds like, though each bird's song differs:


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tea and Turnips

This is our turnip mug, named after the book The Rabbit and the Turnip: a Chinese Fable (illustrated by Roswitha Gruttner and translated from the German by Richard Sadler), because the picture on the cup reminds us of the story. It is a beautiful story of self-sacrificing love among the animals of the farm and woodland. When a rabbit finds 2 turnips, he leaves one of them for a friend who finds it and who also decides to give it away. We get the book out around Epiphany and read it as a story of generosity and giving. The book begins with this:
It was a cold winter morning and snow covered the ground. Little Rabbit went out to look for food and he found two turnips. He gobbled up one of them. Then he said, "It is snowing so hard, and is so cold that perhaps Little Donkey has nothing to eat. I will take my other turnip to him." He ran to Little Donkey's house at once, but Little Donkey was out. So Little Rabbit left the turnip on Little Donkey's doorstep. Then he hopped back home.
It seems to be out of print but is available used, including at where the picture below came from:

The tea is one of the Celestial Seasonings teas. There are several of these that I'm fond of, and the Sleepytime blend is one I've enjoyed for years. I don't notice that it makes me sleepy, so I drink it at all times of day. Most recently, I drank some this past Sunday afternoon while watching some episodes from the 2001/2002 Timothy Hutton/Maury Chaykin Nero Wolfe TV series on DVD. It is a sad loss that the acclaimed show only lasted 2 seasons. Chaykin died in 2010 on his 61st birthday.

The Cry of the Owl

The Cry of the Owl is a 2009 suspense thriller based on the Patricia Highsmith novel by the same name. It was a Christmas present from The Elder Son.

This is one bleak film. It starts creepy and gets steadily creepier throughout. I was unable to sit through it. I got up and paced and made hot tea and leaned against the wall. The Husband kept suggesting we turn it off since I was having so much trouble. The Younger Son laughed at me. I found the entire experience enlightening. We do agree that the big reveal is a throw-away scene and that the reveal should have taken place in the police station where we could have experienced it along with the main character. It seems a good film for those like me, who don't have a high degree of tolerance for suspense. I can't remember the last film I saw that had not even a hint of comic relief.


DVD Talk likes elements of the film but says, "It's a stew made up of good ingredients, but one that is never brought to boil. The end result is a lukewarm concoction where the flavors never blend." It gets a score of 13% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Zero Stone

When I ran across the Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge at The Little Red Reviewer, I thought it would give me a perfect excuse to re-read one of those early favorites that made me fall in love with science fiction.

The Zero Stone is a 1968 novel by Andre Norton. It can be read online here. Norton was one of the first sff authors I discovered, and I read several of her works early on. I'm not sure why I quit reading her books as I got older, but it may have been because I wanted to keep trying new authors and just never got back around to her. She's one of the authors responsible for my continuing love of the genre, and I think of her fondly. I was sad when she died in 2005 at age 93.

from the back of the book:
A mysterious stone, born of worlds long extinct, is the key to powers unimaginable to man —powers that could enable its owners to control the universe. Murdoc Jern, gem trader, finds that possession of the stone has led him to the center of a web of intrigue and murder.

With his companion Eet, an inscrutable feline mutant with phenomenal ESP powers, he is hunted through space, coming finally to a long forgotten planet inhabited by apelike "sniffers." There, facing the predatory sniffers, the antagonistic Patrol and the laser-guns of the Thieves' Guild, Murdoc must seek the source of the Zero Stone and bargain for his right to pursue his destiny as a free man.
The SF Reader gives the book a positive review and says, "The relationship with Eet is the strength of this book." Kirkus Reviews likes the "Good sustaining action".

There Will Come Soft Rains (film)

There Will Come Soft Rains is a 1984 Russian animated short film based on the 1950 Ray Bradbury short story by the same name. The story can be read online here and as part of the book The Martian Chronicles. You can listen to Leonard Nimoy read it here.

The short story takes its title from the WW1-inspired Sara Teasdale poem:
There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

The film, directed by Nozim To'laho'jayev can be viewed online here:

I remember when I first read this story. I am still affected by it. My first exposure to the film was back in 2007, and I'm reminded of it now by the blog Need Coffee.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Penn's Restaurant

Penn's Restaurant is new here, having recently moved into the old Captain D's location on the south side of Park just east of Highland. The Husband, The Daughter and I went for lunch one day, and all of us enjoyed our food. I got the #1 fried fish combo, and it was much more than I could eat:

I sent my leftovers home with The Daughter to eat for supper. We will definitely go here again. The renovation makes the place more open and welcoming, everything is spotless, the staff is friendly and efficient, and the food is very good. I'm so glad something nice moved into that location, even if we had to lose one of the Squirrel With Red Balloon pictures.

Yelp has 2 reviews, both positive.

Their menu is online here.

Fast Five

Fast Five (2011) is the 5th in the Fast & Furious film series and the 3rd with Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel is a favorite around here, and I'll watch him in anything. While I'm waiting for Hannibal, I'm happy seeing his other offerings. I love the Riddick films.

The Younger Son gave me this DVD for Christmas. We think it's great fun and actually quite good. We're glad to hear there's going to be another.


Rolling Stone opens with this: "Bless me father of all critic gods for I have sinned: I liked Fast Five." Slant Magazine doesn't like Vin Diesel, so who cares what their opinion of his movie is? says,
That force of chaotic and unsatisfiable desire that Freud called the id is much closer to the surface in a movie like “Fast Five” than ever before in action-cinema history, and part of Lin’s peculiar genius is that he barely tries to conceal it.
Roger Ebert says,
What it all comes down to is a skillfully assembled 130 minutes at the movies, with actors capable of doing absurd things with straight faces, and action sequences that toy idly with the laws of physics.
DVD Talk closes by saying,
As far as action entertainment goes, Fast Five is a solid offering, despite making its protagonists nearly invincible and increasingly lawless. These are small criticisms for a movie whose 131 minutes feel like 90 thanks to its breakneck pace and pleasing mix of sets and stunts. I look forward to meeting up with these characters again in the inevitable follow-up. Fast Five proves that sometimes you can keep a good thing going.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 78%.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss)

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss):

by Glasvegas

HT: Caffeinated Joe


I love Lili. It's delightful! And how can you go wrong with Leslie Caron? My problem began when I realized how long it had been since I'd seen it, started looking for it on DVD, and couldn't find it anywhere. I looked for it off and on for years, sadly unable to get it locally or online. I happened to mention my difficulty to The Husband this past Fall, and *poof*, he found it for me for Christmas! I'm thrilled!

I hadn't realized until just now that it's based on a written work.

Hi-Lili, Hi Lo:

Bright Lights Film Journal says, "... Caron and Ferrer approach their roles with such honesty and insight into the misery of unrequited love." DVD Talk says, "... there is something undeniably likable about Lili". DVD Verdict calls it "a wonderful film". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 100%.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Incandescence is a science fiction novel by Greg Egan. I read the whole thing but won't ever do it again and won't ever read another book by this author without seeing a copy and previewing it first.

My science knowledge is limited to high school- and college-level biology, natural history readings, and what might be considered a very basic degree of science literacy. I get the feeling I might have enjoyed this book if I'd had a knowledge of physics, but, honestly, I'd rather not have to have a knowledge of physics to enjoy reading a science fiction book. I'm more used to science fiction books where the science is background, and I've read many a "hard" sf book that I enjoyed. In this book characters and plot are background, and the science is the thing. In a way it reminds me of Flatland, except I liked Flatland.

Also, I don't mind the occasional infodump in the service of advancing the plot, but I felt like entire chapters of this book were infodump but that the plot itself was not advanced by it. It felt like a science class attempting an experimental teaching method.

I feel like I accomplished something by making it through this book, but I'd never have made it if the book hadn't been a Christmas present from The Husband. It was even on a list of books I'd like to have, so it's my own fault. I wish I could remember where I got the recommendation from.


from the back of the book:
Are you a child of DNA?

Composed of innumerable beings from a wide variety of races, human and otherwise, the vast meta-civilization known as the Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy–except for the bright, hot center. There dwell the Aloof, silent residents of the galactic core, who for millions of years have deflected all attempts at communication and contact. But when Rakesh encounters a traveler who claims to have been contacted by the Aloof and shown a meteor bearing traces of DNA, he cannot turn down the opportunity to explore uncharted space in search of a lost world.

On a translucent world of rock called the Splinter, deep within the sea of light known as the Incandescence, lives Roi, a member of a race lost not only to the Amalgam, but to itself. Her world is in grave danger, and it will take an unprecedented flowering of science to save it.

Rakesh's journey will take him across light-years and millennia. Roi's will take her through vistas of learning and discovery just as vast. Greg Egan's blend of dazzling speculation and gripping storytelling will leave you stunned by the wondrous vision of the far future that he has created.

Strange Horizons (who lays out my own complaints much better than I ever could) calls the narrative exchanges "dry and unengaging," says, "It is not that the book wholly lacks interest" and says:
...the scientific model is that they spell this significance out clearly and fully. That is what this particular scientist (Gregory Egan BSc) does in this novel. He does it all the way through. It is deadening.
SF Site says, "For all its hints of greatness and pleasing moments, Incandescence ultimately feels like a failed literary experiment" and closes by calling the book "frankly rather dull". SF Signal says, "If you don’t particularly want an awesome science lecture with your science fiction, there’s not much else here."


PU-239 is a 2006 impossible-to-classify film about a man who is exposed to deadly levels of radiation in a secret Russian facility and what happens to him afterwards. It is a tragedy with dark comic elements, but that description doesn't do the film justice. Based on a book, which we had never heard of, the film aired on HBO. The Younger Son happened across it and was intrigued. It's fascinating, riveting even.


via youtube:

DVD Verdict recommends it and describes it as "A magnificent drama full of introspection, destruction, gangland comedy, and nuclear material—everything you could ever want from a film!" Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 57%.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Skinny Jeans

In my defense, I didn't realize they were skinny jeans until I tried them on. I am smarter than that. Really.

How do people wear those things?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Green Tea

This particular green tea isn't very good, but I guess the fact that it's a Kroger brand tea bag could go a long way towards explaining that. It was worth a try, but I think I'll try something a bit higher up the tea ladder the next time I buy.

I don't remember where I got the cup, and the writing on the bottom is too worn to read.

The Last Drop

The Last Drop is a 2006 WW2 adventure film starring Sean Pertwee (our favorite Hugh from the Derek Jocobi Brother Cadfael shows) as a good guy and Laurence Fox (Lewis' detective sergeant) as an evil Nazi. Our heroes are trying to rescue Dutch gold and art treasures the Nazis have plundered before it can be moved to Berlin. Many explosions occur.


Reviews are hard to find, but The Younger Son and I like it fine.

Monday, January 14, 2013

To Winter

To Winter

"O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car."

He hears me not, but o'er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain'd, sheathèd
In ribbèd steel; I dare not lift mine eyes,
For he hath rear'd his sceptre o'er the world.

Lo! now the direful monster, whose 1000 skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o'er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

He takes his seat upon the cliffs, —the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal'st
With storms! —till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driv'n yelling to his caves beneath mount Hecla.

by William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)

They were predicting "wintry mix" for this afternoon. That usually means that we either get warm sunshine or an ice storm that paralyzes the city.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Sum of All Fears

The Sum of All Fears is a 2002 film, rebooting the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan world of political intrigue with a much younger main character replacing Harrison Ford from the last version. Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman star in this one. I think all the films with these characters are fun and mindless entertainment. If you like explosions this movie will provide.


Slant Magazine gives it 1 1/2 out of 4 stars and says, "Essentially, the filmmakers hope to scare an already paranoid America into seeing past the narrative dung heap". says, "It’s the same damn Tom Clancy picture that’s been churned out since “The Hunt for Red October,” as humorless and gray and dour as its predecessors." Rolling Stone calls it "lame". Roger Ebert says,
Director Phil Alden Robinson and his writers, Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne, do a spellbinding job of cranking up the tension, they create a portrait of convincing realism, and then they add the other stuff because, well, if anybody ever makes a movie like this without the obligatory Hollywood softeners, audiences might flee the theater in despair.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 59%.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

One Lonely Night

One Lonely Night is a Mike Hammer novel by Mickey Spillane. The Elder Son loaned this to me after warning me it would insult my feminist sensitivities. Isn't he cute? I remember the Stacey Keach Mike Hammer mid-80s TV show fondly. It was extremely sexist. At least Spillane's work has some excuse, dating as it does from the 1940s/50s. I don't require my reading material to be inoffensive. I don't have to agree with it to enjoy it.

That said, it certainly is a period piece. I'd have to say it moves from mere sexism into misogyny, including, as it does, a scene in which Hammer strips a woman naked and beats her with a belt. The act is prefaced by this,
I slid my belt off and let it dangle from my hand. I watched her face. I saw the gamut of emotions flash by in quick succession, leaving a startled expression of pure animal terror.

"Maybe you should know why you're getting this, Ethel. It's something you should have gotten a long time ago. Your father should have given it to you when you started fooling around with one of those Commie bastards who was after the dough you could throw his way instead of yourself. I'm going to lace the hell out of you and you can scream all you want, and nobody will be around to hear you but me and that's what I want to hear."
Stunning! Just stunning!

Also, I had the big mystery figured out so early that the final revelation was a bit disappointing. I will read the other 2 in the anthology The Elder Son loaned me but won't seek out others.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The White Shadow

The White Shadow is a 1924 silent film long thought lost. In 2011 the first 3 of 6 reels were re-discovered, and those have been restored so that we now have the first half of the film. One of its major attractions is that Alfred Hitchcock was involved, including in the direction.

It can be viewed online at this link, but I can't find any pieces of it that can be embedded here.

Hollywood Reporter says
Sterritt, the author of 1993’s The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, hailed the discovery as “one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work.”
The picture at the top of the post is from, which is hosting the film online for a limited time.

19 science fiction movies that could change your life

io9 has a list of "19 science fiction movies that could change your life," describing them as "science fiction movies that challenge your preconceptions about reality and force you to rethink your place in the universe":
1. Metropolis (1927)
2. The Island of Lost Souls (1932)
3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
4. Alphaville (1965)
5. 2001 (1968)
6. Stalker (1979)
7. Born in Flames (1981)
8. Blade Runner (1982)
9. Brother from Another Planet (1984)
10. Brazil (1985)
11. The Fly (1986)
12. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
13. The Matrix (1999)
14. Adaptation (2002)
15. Teknolust (2002)
16. Avatar (2009)
17. Moon (2009)
18. District 9 (2009) (started watching it but didn't finish)
19. Looper (2012)
Ones I've seen are in bold print.

The description above about challenging my preconceptions and rethinking my place in the universe is exactly how some of these films affected me. Some of these are thought-provoking and continue to be rewarding as I watch them again at different points in my life.

Others -for example, the first 3 on the list, Brother from Another Planet, The Fly- are fun movies I'm glad I've seen, but I can't say they affected my life in any meaningful way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Outpost: Black Sun

Outpost: Black Sun is the 2012 sequel to Outpost. Again with Nazi zombies. How can you go wrong? In this one, folks are trying to shut down and capture the Nazi zombifying machine once again. There's a 3rd installment in the works. Not nearly as good as the 1st one, this is still watchable, re-watchable and fun.

There's  a Facebook page.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Frog Sculpture

We were at Eastgate Shopping Center recently looking for a pair of non-skid house shoes for The Husband so that he doesn't slip on the stairs and make me a widow before my time. While we were walking along in front of the stores I saw something I had never noticed before: a large metal sculpture of a frog. It is pictured above.

It wasn't labeled, so I've no idea who put it there or if it has a name. The Husband named it "Phil".

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a 2007 Romanian film about a student's experience in getting an illegal abortion in that country. Her roommate in the university dorm helps make the arrangements and goes with her. The film is set it 1987 when Romania's abortion laws were more restrictive and arbitrary. The friend who helps the woman get the abortion is a more accommodating person than I am; there are some she does for her friend that I'd be unwilling to do.

via youtube:

Slant Magazine calls it "an allegory that speaks to the struggles of freedom fighters gripped by the terror tactics of a political machine." Rolling Stone says, "This is great acting — you can't shake it." Wall Street Journal calls it an "elegantly crafted, brilliantly acted film". Time says, "That story is tautly, bravely acted". Spirituality and Practice concludes, "In this absorbing film friendship is the crown of life." DVD Talk describes it as "a harrowing, starkly told tale of abortion and rape in the waning years of Romania during the oppressive Ceauşescu regime." encourages us to think about this as a thriller -a film noir- and not an abortion movie, saying,
If this was a movie about young men instead of young women, and if the illegal activity in the story involved a suitcase of money or a harebrained plot to kill someone ... then its genre roots would be no mystery.
EW gives it a grade of "A" and says,
Nothing good happens in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the riveting, horrifying chronicle of an illegal abortion performed in 1987 when Ceau¸escu's dictatorial hand still gripped Romania's throat. And yet no lover of greatness in filmmaking will want to look away from one of the very best movies of 2007
Christianity Today has discussion questions and says,
The film is not a pro-life propaganda film any more than it is a pro-choice one. What it is, is an honest, bracing, unflinching, compassionate work of art—superbly acted, staged, and directed
Roger Ebert praises the film in general and the acting in particular and notes, "obtaining an illegal abortion was much the same in this country until some years ago, and also in Britain". The film won awards. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 95%.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

I don't observe the birthdays of dead people, but since Elvis Lives I can wish him a happy birthday.

If other people can believe that we didn't land on the moon and that the Earth is flat and that evolution is an atheist plot and that their god lives on the planet Kolob and that they'll be gods on their own planets after they die, then I can believe that Elvis is alive and enjoying the view from a second story window at Graceland. He'd be 78 years old today.

I mean, why do you really think they don't allow visitors up there?

Crawfish with Elvis and jazz singer Kitty White:

from King Creole, my favorite Elvis Presley movie.

Cup of Tea

Since I believe everything I read, I think I'll start drinking more green tea to build bone density. Coz I saw it on the internet, so it must be so. Right? But, honestly, I like green tea. It certainly can't hurt me.

The image at the top of the page is from Positive Med.

Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes is a 2011 science fiction novel by James S. A. Corey, which is a pen name for the combined effort of 2 authors. I didn't realize the book was authored by 2 writers until just now. I had been impressed by how seamless chapter transitions were, which isn't always the case when chapters switch back and forth between points of view. I'm even more impressed now.

The book is an old-fashioned space opera, my first love in science fiction, and is the first in a projected trilogy. I am excitedly waiting for the future installments, though this book works just fine as a stand-alone. Characters are well-defined but descriptions and background information are not belabored. The plot is clear and easy to follow but not simplistic or predictable. Corporate and political shenanigans are integral to the events, but we aren't burdened by pages of exposition into the whys and wherefores of those histories. At 561 pages, I was never tempted to skim over anything, was never irritated at the author(s) and was sorry to see it end. I have no complaints, only happy satisfaction.

There is one Methodism reference on page 224 when one of the main characters says, "I was a Methodist when I was anything. What flavor are you selling?" but religion is not a major theme.

from the back of the book:
Humanity has colonized the solar system -Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond- but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for -and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations -and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as "A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail." io9 calls it "a fun ride and the perfect thing for a long summer afternoon by the beach or the air conditioner". Cheryl Morgan says, "Hopefully it will also cause its readers to ponder the value of radical transparency." SF Signal says, "Leviathan Wakes’ solar system is a masterpiece of world building," "The action sequences of the novel are where the writing shines nearly as well as the worldbuilding" and, "But what this novel has most of all is simple: it’s fun!" says,
If you’re looking for a solid science fiction story that’s not about dazzling technology and fantastical aliens, that won’t confuse you with overly-complex descriptions of the way governments and corporations work, and that won’t throw made-up words and cryptic names at you left and right… you’re going to like Leviathan Wakes.
The WSJ writes,
The story rips along, driven by two main characters who don't like each other, each of whom has his own uncompromising morality. Even more compelling than the pace, though, is the sense of possibility.

I've just come across the 2013 Science Fiction Experience. The invitation at that site says,
The “rules” of the experience are simple: there are none. Remember, this isn’t a challenge. If you would like to join us in discussing any science fiction reading or television viewing or movie watching you do over the time period, please do. Although signing up isn’t required, nor is posting your reviews, I do like to be able to keep up with folks who are participating, so there will be a Mr. Linky at the end of this post and there is a Sci-Fi Experience Review Site for you to link any SF-related posts of any kind that you would like the other participants to check out. Again, this doesn’t have to be entirely book related. It really is about experiencing science fiction (and even non-fiction having to do with space or technology) of all kinds.

Sounds like fun, and I'll be trying to keep up with their posts. I might find some fun blogs to follow.

Monday, January 07, 2013

12 Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Are Just Pure Nonstop Fun

io9 has a list of "12 Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Are Just Pure Nonstop Fun":
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. Time Bandits
3. Escape from New York
4. The Princess Bride
5. Big Trouble in Little China
6. The Fifth Element
7. Galaxy Quest
8. Total Recall (original)
9. Stargate
10. The Crow
11. Lockout
12. Dredd
Ones I've seen are in bold print. My favorite on this list is The Fifth Element, but I agree that they -ones I've seen, of course- are all fun.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

We celebrate Christmas through all 12 days, so we're just now moving into Epiphany. The 3 Kings are finally in place at the nativity scene, and the Christmas decorations (except for the creche) have been put into the attic.

The pieces pictured above -except for the paper angel- are mine from when I was in high school. I bought each piece and the stable separately. There are other pieces than those in the photo, but I didn't get the camels and extra sheep out this year. The angel was made by The Daughter when she was little, many years ago.

The Grandmother bought The Elder Son and The Daughter handmade ceramic nativity scenes when they were little but didn't do that for The Younger Son or my niece (The Evil Sister's only child, who is the same age as my youngest). The Younger Son will get this one when I no longer use it.

When the kids were growing up, I used to get out some wise men and star decorations and white candles for Epiphany, but I haven't done that for the past couple of years. I've always enjoyed decorating for the seasonal changes.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Obama That I Used To Know

A Somebody That I Used To Know parody:

that proves some people never understood that Obama was a moderate all along. I feel sorry for the young people who actually believed the election-year rhetoric, and I am sad at the disillusionment that might well drive some folks from political involvement for good; but you can't really believe the political rhetoric from either party. The Republican candidate wouldn't have outlawed abortion, and most election year promises are like that: grandstanding. You have to look at larger party agendas and party accomplishments from the past, and you have to look beyond any one candidate.

Do you know the story about the snake? Here it is:
A man who was about to cross a river noticed a rattlesnake snake also trying to get across. The snake looked up and said, "Could you take me across the river? I'll drown by myself." The man felt sorry for the snake but knew that rattlesnakes were poisonous. He said, "You're a snake. If I take you across the river you will bite me." "I won't bite you," promised the snake. So the man picked up the snake, put him in his pocket and carried him across the river. When they got to dry land and the man took the snake out of his pocket, the snake bit him. "You said you weren't going to bite me!" cried the dying man. "You knew what I was when you picked me up," hissed the snake.
Well, Obama's not a rattlesnake, but he was a moderate all along; and we knew what he was when we picked him up. He's been much better than the alternative, but a sainted savior and champion of far-left causes he never was. Compromising first and best is not the goal I want my president to aim for. Am I disappointed? Yes! Terribly, terribly disappointed. But to complain that he's not a flaming left-wing liberal seems a bit unfair since -as far as I can tell, he is the Obama that I used to know. The disappointment is understandable, considering what we wanted, but that's politics. He was -and is- better than the other party's alternative.

If we keep drifting right, though, I'm moving to the Green Party.

Revive Cafe

Revive Memphis was The Daughter's suggestion. We could go out to breakfast on her way to work, and they have a cereal bar she was curious about. It's on the west side of Highland at Spottswood across the street from the Catholic church.

In addition to the cereal bar, they have some muffins, an extensive bagel/spread selection, and oxygen by the minute. We had cereal and coffee. The Daughter had a bowl of mixed dry cereals, and I had 2 large helpings of some kind of bran flakes with red fruit. The staff was friendly and helpful. The cereal, well, it was cereal. You can't really go wrong serving cereal, but there's not much to say about it.

Here's the cereal bar:

Here's the oxygen bar:

They have a Facebook page.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Die Hard 2

I had never seen this one, so it was a real treat. It's less a Christmas movie than the first one, since the first one had an actual Christmas party while this only has a few Christmas decorations at the airport, but it's good enough for me.

Die Hard 2 has Bruce Willis fighting terrorists at a snowy airport while his wife is stuck in a plane running out of fuel and not allowed to land. Colm Meany (who has a Star Trek connection) is a pilot on one of the many planes in a holding pattern. William Sadler (who has a Star Trek connection) is the head terrorist. Robert Costanza (who has a Star Trek connection) is a cop.

Icicle as weapon! This does not end well. The movie, on the other hand, ends well with the good guys soundly defeating the bad guys with explosions all 'round and plenty of overflowing goodwill. Bruce Willis has been fun in everything I've seen him in.


DVD Talk calls it "a really tight, solid film that has plenty of phenomenal action sequences, a solid script and an excellent performance by Bruce Willis." Rolling Stone concludes, "However impressively made, Die Hard 2 begins to wear thin. Though the follow-up is bigger, it's not really better. The surprise is missing." EW gives it a B- and says, "Willis once again makes an appealing superhero." Roger Ebert says, ""Die Hard 2" is as unlikely as the Bond pictures, and as much fun" and calls it "terrific entertainment". Rotten Tomatoes scores it at 65%.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

As I was looking for books that take place over the Christmas holiday season I came across Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I hadn't read in many years. I read it first for my English class in high school probably in the Weston translation, which can be read online here. I read it again sometime during my young adult years using the Tolkien translation, which I can't find online.

from the back of the book:
The fourteenth-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the greatest classics of English literature, but one of the least accessible to most twentieth-century readers. Written in an obscure dialect, it is far more difficult to digest in the original than are most other late medieval English works. Yet any translation is bound to lose much of the flavour of the original. This edition of the poem offers the original text together with a facing-page translation. With the alliterative Middle English before the reader, James Winny provides a non-alliterative and sensitively literal rendering in modern English. This edition also provides an introduction, explanatory and textual notes, a further note on some words that present particular difficulties, and, in the appendices, two contemporary stories, The Feast of Bricriu and The Knight of the Sword, which provide insight on the poem.
There are many translations. The one I came across at my favorite local used book store is the 1992 James Winny translation. It's easy to read and leans towards accurate meaning when alliterative fidelity compromises that. No translation is perfect. I'm fine with losing some of the form in the service of meaning, though I realize some of the meaning may be in the form itself.

I won't even go into how nuts I go over the sexism displayed at the end:
But it is no wonder if a fool acts insanely
And is brought to grief through womanly wiles;
For so was Adam beguiled by one, here on earth,
Solomon by several women, and Samson was another -
Delilah was cause of his fate - and afterwards David
Was deluded by Bathsheba, and suffered much grief.
Since these were ruined by their wiles, it would be a great gain
To love women and not trust them, if a man knew how.
For these were the noblest of old, whom fortune favored
Above all others on earth, or who dwelt under heaven.
Bequiled were they all
By women they thought kind.
Since I too have been tricked
Then I should pardon find.