Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Veldt

The Veldt is a Ray Bradbury short story originally published in 1950 and included in the 1951 book The Illustrated Man. I remember clearly the first time I read it in the mid to late 1960's. It's one of the reasons I became devoted to science fiction. Ray Bradbury is a genius!

I am surprised to find it online, but you can read it here or here. This is how it begins:
"George, I wish you'd look at the nursery."
"What's wrong with it?"
"I don't know."
"Well, then.
"I just want you to look at it, is all, or call a psychologist in to look at it."
"What would a psychologist want with a nursery?"
"You know very well what he'd want." His wife paused in the middle of the kitchen and watched the stove busy humming to itself, making supper for four.
"It's just that the nursery is different now than it was."
"All right, let's have a look."
They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them. Their approach sensitized a switch somewhere and the nursery light flicked on when they came within ten feet of it. Similarly, behind them, in the halls, lights went on and off as they left them behind, with a soft automaticity.
"Well," said George Hadley.

They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. It was forty feet across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as much as the rest of the house. "But nothing's too good for our children," George had said.
The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with a hot yellow sun.
George Hadley felt the perspiration start on his brow.
"Let's get out of this sun," he said. "This is a little too real. But I don't see anything wrong."
"Wait a moment, you'll see," said his wife.
I highly recommend it. I think anyone who can read this story and not rush right out and buy the book is lacking some kind of basic something that all readers should have. Either that or they don't like darker fantasy, which is possible, I guess.

It has been adapted several times for both radio and television. There was a Swedish TV film adaptation released in 1983 starring Bibi Andersson and Erland Josephson.

Color of the Cross

It's been a while since I've watched a movie about Jesus -I have a list here- so I thought I would watch one I hadn't seen in preparation for Easter.

Color of the Cross is a 2006 French film covering the last 2 days of the life of Christ, who is played by a black man. Except for that conceit, there's not much here. It is slow and labored, a tedious slog. Get your Jesus movie fix anywhere else, I beg you. Maybe start with Jesus of Nazareth.

via youtube:

DVD Talk calls it a "plodding waste of time" and a "maudlin bit of cinema". It has a score of 33% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tabletop Day!

Happy Tabletop Day! We got the cool stand-ups online: one of the Trophy of Awesome and one of Wil Wheaton. The Daughter, The Younger Son, The Husband and I were here for the fun. I enjoyed having Wil Wheaton smiling over our gaming endeavor. We forgot to award the Trophy of Awesome.

We played Pandemic, a game we learned about from Tabletop but had never played. We picked it up from Target (Tabletop's sponsor) for today's event. We like the game. We lost the first one, but won the second.

After that, we played a card game called Target that we've had for a long time but haven't played in ages.

And now I look forward to many a Tabletop Day observance in the future!

Holy Week Labyrinth

Yesterday morning I walked the labyrinth that had been set up by the local United Methodist student ministry. It is set up in the chapel in their building located just off-campus and is open to the public. Well, it was open to the public. It's not a permanent installation and has been stored until its next use.

There were informational brochures on a table just outside the chapel:

A chair is located close by where one can sit and read about what a labyrinth is, the different types of labyrinths, some of the ways to use this devotional tool, the symbolism of the labyrinth's elements, and locations of other publicly accessible labyrinths in Memphis.

I find walking a labyrinth a meaningful exercise.

Fabulous Foreign Fantasy Films

Den of Geek has a list of 10 fabulous foreign-language fantasy films:
1. Beauty And The Beast (1946)
2. The City Of Lost Children (1995)
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
4. Destiny (1921)
5. The Exterminating Angel (1962)
6. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
7. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
8. Trollhunter (2010)
9. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (1970)
10. When Pigs Have Wings (2012)
Ones I've seen are in bold print. 6 out of 10 isn't too bad, I don't guess; but I haven't even heard of 3 of the other 4, so I'll be adding more to my to-be-watched list. I find it such a comfort for some reason to have movies/books in the house that I have not yet seen/read.

HT: SF Signal

Friday, March 29, 2013

Weavers of the Earth

Yesterday I went to the Pink Palace museum to see their current exhibit, Weavers of the Earth: Native American Baskets. The musem website says the exhibit includes 166 baskets and 40 framed Edward S. Curtis 19th century photogravures of American Indians and their baskets. There are also botanical drawings by University of Memphis art student Corie Walker of the plants used in making the baskets.

I remember making a basket at church camp one year, and that attempt gives me a real appreciation for the skill involved here.

This slideshow shows pictures of some of the works presented:

Here's a picture of the promotional card:

The review at Go Memphis closes with this:
It would take much examination and perhaps much training to be able to recognize subtle differences in styles and techniques among the many peoples represented here, so the best approach for visitors is probably to let themselves go and enjoy each object for its own decorative principles, individuality and anonymous sense of history.

The baskets are beautiful. There is a variety of design, size and purpose represented, from a tiny basket thimble to burden baskets to baskets used in harvesting and winnowing to storage baskets. They vary by age, also, from 2 fragments from cliffdwellers (one from Camp Verde and one from Mesa Verde) dating 500-1300 C.E., to a North Carolina Cherokee single weave basket dated 1980.

The baskets made from pine needles fascinate me. There are several of those from the Seminole and Creek. I had never heard of a "wedding basket" before, and there are several of those in the exhibit. I looked for information online, and it seems these serve as a chart or map of life.

Edward S. Curtis' photos show the Native Americans, usually singly, posing or engaged in everyday activities. Some pictures are of habitats and don't include people. According to information provided in this exhibit, there was controversy over his staging of the subjects and his payments to them for their assistance. He reportedly called his work "accurate but artistic," if I remember correctly.

The exhibit was very interesting. There were 2 people stationed in the exhibit space, and they were friendly and informative. It had been a long time since I had been to the Pink Palace, and I enjoyed myself.


Undine is a fantasy by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué written in 1811. Wikipedia notes the book
is descended from Melusine, the French folk-tale of a water-sprite who marries a knight on condition that he shall never see her on Saturdays, when she resumes her mermaid shape
In this version of the story, the water creature is sent to a human family as a child so she can grow up and marry a human and thus gain a soul.

Wikipedia names many adaptations of this book to dance, music, art and in other works of literature. Of particular interest to me are the 2 film adaptations:
  1. Andy Warhol very loosely adapted it for film in 1968 and re-made Ondine into a gay man; and 
  2. Ondine (2009), with Colin Farrell, which looks to be a straight drama with no fantasy elements at all.
The book is available online. It can be read online here with the Arthur Rackham illustrations, one of which is at the top of this post. You can listen to the story at LibriVox.

This makes an interesting read. Absorbing, as most fairy tales are to me, and I didn't find the slightly archaic language at all distracting. It begins:
Now it may be hundreds of years agone that there lived a worthy old fisherman, and he was seated on a fine evening before his door, mending his nets. The part of the country where he lived was right pleasant to behold. The grassy space on which his cottage stood ran far into the lake, and perchance one might well conceive that it was through love of the clear blue waters that the tongue of land had stretched itself among them; while with embrace as close and as loving the lake sent its arms round the pleasance where the flowers bloomed and the trees yielded their grateful shade. It was as though water welcomed land and land welcomed water, and it was this made both so lovely. But on this happy sward the fisherman and his household dwelt alone. Few human beings, or rather none at all, even cared to visit it. For you must know that at the back of this little tongue of land there lay a fearsome forest right perilous to traverse. It was dark and solitary and pathless, and many a marvelous strange creature and many a wraith and spectral illusion haunted its glades, so that none might dare adventure unless a sheer necessity drave them.

Nathless, the worthy fisherman might pass unharmed, whensoever he was carrying some choice fish caught in his beautiful home to a large town bordering the confines of the forest. He was a man full of holy thoughts, and as he took his way through the gloomy shades peopled with forms of dread, he was wont to sing a pious chaunt with a clear voice, and an honest heart, and a conscience void of guile.
Sometimes when we see or read things around here, we say that Klingons would like them since, "Lots of people die, and nobody makes a profit." This book qualifies.

I read this as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain is a 1983 fantasy film from Hong Kong. There's plenty of special effects and comic relief. The plot is complicated, the action non-stop. Great fun.

The video embedded below is wonky, backwards, so that the print is backwards on the screen, but it's dubbed in English, so it doesn't much affect viewing.

via youtube:

Senses of Cinema concludes,
These constant, blurring oscillations between difference and similarity, as well as the repeated assertion that opposing forces actually come from the same place, could be read as Tsui’s way of navigating the internal conflicts brought about by Hong Kong’s evolving cultural identity both nationally and at a more individual level. It can then be said that the dizzying mythology, narrative complexity and intense frenetic energy that are generated by Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain reflect a complex but thrilling history of a nation’s cultural identity in the process of becoming.
Moria says,
This is where it all began – the flying swordsman cycle, the genre of Wu Xia Pan involving martial artists and monks taking on ghosts and demons with a combination of martial arts and Eastern beliefs.
Stomp Tokyo opens with this:
In the early '80s, the world of filmmaking in Hong Kong saw an explosion of vibrant, action-oriented films with fantastic settings and courageous heroes. Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain is one of the seminal films of that new wave. It was the first special effects extravaganza of its kind, and it made Tsui Hark into arguably the most powerful director in the territory.
DVD Talk praises it and offers this plot synopsis:
The film's plot is difficult to comprehend (even if you speak the language) and recounting the various twists-and-turns is not too easy. Basically, a young man named Ti Chi (Yuen Biao) goes to hide from a nearby battle and ends up in a haunted mountain that happens to be the gateway between the realm of good and evil. There he is confronted by a magic swordsman who has been trying for years to save the world from being consumed by the Kingdom of Evil. They team up -- with the help of a couple of monks and a princess -- to prevent the spread of evil in the universe. But eventually most of the team is killed so -- against overwhelming odds –- Ti Chi and one of the monks (Adam Cheng) get together and go in search of a pair of Celestial swords that, when joined, have the power to save the universe.
Love HK Film calls it "Dated fantasy epic that still packs a punch even today. Required viewing for Hong Kong Cinema fanatics, and we mean it." It gets a score of 86% from Rotten Tomatoes.

I'm including this as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge in the Quest Onscreen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Online Blogger Feud

I read a lot of Memphis blogs. It helps me keep up with what's going on in town. Two of the blogs I read are this blog on all things downtown and this other one that focuses on Memphis food. The other day I saw the two engaged in dueling blog posts. The first wrote a rant ending with this:
I’m not telling this story so he will read it and realize what a screw-up he is; he’ll never change. I’m writing this for the benefit of people who are around him maybe one day a month, and who defend him to me, ... until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, YOU DON’T KNOW.
The second one reacted with this:
After reading the latest writing from a certain blog, I’ve come to this conclusion. It is that the blogger in question is really obsessed with me. It seems that this guy goes nuts whenever I’m at a place where he goes, even if I arrive before him. Instead of going about his business, he flips out like a spoiled brat.
Oh, honestly! These 2 people know each other and have mutual friends. I don't know either of them, and my guess is we have no mutual friends. I just read the public blogs. I enjoy reading the blogs. This? Not so much. Taking the fight public is a less-than-welcome addition to either blog, in my opinion. I'm just scrolling past any future posts that revisit this drama. Sheesh.

Wayward Saints of Memphis

Wayward Saints of Memphis sung by Etta James begins at the 12:35 mark in the video below:

or directly at this youtube link.

I heard it recently on Joyce Cobbs' show Voices on WEVL. I also found it on Spotify.


Inversions is one of the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks. It's atypical of the other books in this science fiction series in that there is no overt reference to The Culture. It reads more like a novel of intrigue set in the Medieval Period. I've read Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Use of Weapons, Excession and Look to Windward. This is a fine addition to the series, but I prefer the ones with space ships. It's enjoyable as a stand-alone novel, but more so as a Culture novel if you are familiar with that series.

I'm a bit peeved that my book is defective. A page is in backwards:

It can take you right out of the world the book creates to get to the end of the page and find the next page isn't where the next page should be. Whatever happened to quality control?

The back of the book has quotes praising Banks instead of the usual synopsis.

io9 describes the plot:
... it's not set in outer space. In fact, it's set entirely on a semi-Medieval planet where a Culture agent has been sent to study the natives — and has gone native herself. She's become a doctor to the king (whom she secretly loves), and must cope with backwards science as well as old-fashioned social roles to complete her mission. Though we're never quite sure what that mission is, and that's the beauty of this novel. It's not about space fights and war; it's about the murkiness of human relationships.
Stephen Wu, who concludes it's "bland", begins his review: "What to do with backward worlds? In Iain M Banks's Inversions, two parallel plot threads (which never intersect) represent two answers: actively intervene to shape events, or passively allow history to run its due course." The Kirkus Review doesn't say much but offers a plot description.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Angel's Egg

Angel's Egg (Tenshi no Tamago) is a 1985 Japanese anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii. The 2 characters are a girl and a young man. The girl is protecting a large egg in an abandoned decaying city, and the young man finds her and stays with her. She keeps asking him who he is, but he never responds. There's very little dialog.

It looks like a triumph of metaphor and symbolism without sacrificing plot. But then I think 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great film, while the rest of The Family considers it a triumph of trippy visuals at the expense of plot. Angel's Egg is pretty to watch and to listen to (the music is by Yoshihiro Kanno) if nothing else, but there is much more here.

Nihon Review closes with this:
Ultimately, I find it hard to not recommend Angel’s Egg to the more seasoned anime viewer since the movie is undeniably immersive and shows what can be done with the animated medium. Just be warned that if you cannot enjoy an anime purely for its aesthetics, the movie will probably bore you out of your mind.
Japan Cinema says,
For one of the first times since I began watching anime I think they managed to get some Christian references correct or at least in a recognizable order. References to the birth, re-birth, temptation, ascension are all present. One of the few anime Directors who has been nominated for both a Palme d’Or and Golden Lion, Oshii is famous for his philosophical rhapsodies displayed in his anime
Anime Dream says, "As a whole, Tenshi no Tamago is a rather memorable gem of existentialism, something I cannot recommend enough if you are interested in this theme." Rotten Tomatoes has an aggregate audience score of 85%.

I watched this as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge Quest on Screen.

Young Billy Young

Young Billy Young is a 1969 Western starring Robert Mitchum (and that's reason enough to watch it right there), Angie Dickinson, Robert Walker, Jr. (who has a ST:TOS connection), David Carradine (Kung Fu, Ingmar Bergman's only English Language film The Serpent's Egg, Kill Bill), Paul Fix (who has a ST:TOS connection) and Parley Baer (who has a ST:Voyager connection). Mitchum sings the title track.

Mitchum is looking for his son's killer. This is a traditional Western, nicely done. Carradine looks so young in this.

via youtube:

Reviews are hard to find. TCM has some information.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eagle Nest Cam

The Eagle Nest Cam here in Tennessee has a lot to show. The nest has 2 eggs!

from the site:
This disabled bald eagle pair (Franklin & Independence) has produced numerous young during previous breeding seasons, which have all been successfully released into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains - on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee.

What is the American Eagle Foundation (AEF)? Established in 1985, the non-profit AEF is dedicated to protect the majestic Bald Eagle, the USA's National Symbol, and its habitat by supporting and conducting eagle and environmental recovery and education programs.

In 2010, the organization celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
They'll be even more fun to watch after the eggs hatch.

The photo at the top of the post is from the web site.

Alice or the Last Escapade

Alice or the Last Escapade is a dark 1977 French fantasy film loosely adapted from Lewis Carroll's Alice. Claude Chabrol directs. Alice is a woman who leaves her husband and then has some interesting experiences. This is an unsettling film. What is "out there" if we leave the familiar? The ending is no surprise, but that doesn't take anything away from my enjoyment.

a quote from early in the film:
"The real dangers are never those we imagine and never turn up in the places we expect them. You know that, don't you?"
That is certainly a frightening comment.

via youtube (there's some full frontal female nudity as part of a scene where Alice prepares for a bath):

The Spinning Image says it's "Interesting for a director operating outside of his comfort zone". TCM has an overview.

I watched this as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge Quest On Screen.

Llama Llama

I bought this cup on a vacation years ago, because as soon as we saw it we started laughing at the memory of The Llama Song:

We are easily amused. During election seasons, I would call it my Obama Llama cup after this song:

The percolator is the one I remember from when I was little. When I would wake up smelling coffee as a child, this is what was being used. The Grandmother (my mother) gave it to me years ago when she started making her coffee one cup at a time. She had a drip coffeemaker we used when we went over there for family gatherings. The percolator still works just fine, which is sweet.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Once Upon a Time Challenge

Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting a fantasy challenge, and I've decided to participate. I'm a fan of fairy tales from way back, and there's a lot of appeal for me in this challenge.

I'd really like to do all the quests. We'll see. If I do Quest the Third, my choices for books will most likely be
Fairy Tale:
  • Ralph Manheim's translation of the Grimm tales
  • The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco
and, since I have read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, I will watch a filmed version.

For the Short Story Quest I'll find stories online:
The Bolt Tightener
Town's End
The Life and Deaths of Rachel Long
The Mouse Whisperer
The Quest On Screen is gonna be easy, because I do those anyway:
Alice, or the Last Escapade
Angel's Egg
Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
Krabat: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Fire and Ice
Black Orpheus
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
What fun!

The Stone Tape

The Stone Tape is a 1972 BBC TV film written by Nigel Kneale (Quatermass and the Pit). It's a ghost story. A science team is renovating a Victorian mansion for use as a research facility. The place is haunted, and evil is at work there. A good ghost story, creepy without being overdone. I'm surprised I'd never heard of it. It's worth seeking out.

DVD Talk notes that it's not available here in the U.S. but can be had from UK outlets and says,
Nigel Kneale is a grand old talent of British television, although barely known in the United States. The Stone Tape is one of his legendary BBC telefilms, one often referred to in Science Fiction literature, but that nobody seems able to see.
The Spinning Image says,
Approached from a purely supernatural perspective, The Stone Tape hits the back of the net on many occasions, with its aura of evil practically reaching out from the confines of a television screen to suck you into that infernal room where past events intrude on the present. The aural and visual manifestations are frightening enough, but [director] Sasdy's film reaches its peak when a solitary figure enters the time-slip vacuum, breaching the darkness to confront a silence that is deafening. It's a scary trip
British Horror Films concludes:
this programme shows us just how perfectly tailored to television the horror genre can be, with a rattling good script and good performances. Think of other films when scientists try to study unexplained events; Amityville III, Hell House, etcetera, none of these has done scientists as well as this, here they ask deep search questions that are relevant to all unexplained events.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hakuho Wins Sumo Tournament

Hakuho did it again, winning with no losses in the tournament.

Asia & Japan Watch opens their report with this:
Yokozuna Hakuho established a new gold standard at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament by sending rival Harumafuji to the dirt to win his final match on March 24 and mark an unprecedented ninth perfect 15-0 finish.
The Japan Times reports:
Hakuho had shared the career record for titles with a perfect mark with Futabayama and the late Taiho. But the Mongolian overtook the legends with a clinical uwatenage win in the day’s final bout against countryman Harumafuji
Futabayama died in 1968, and Taiho died this past January.

This is the winning bout:

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

Shrek Forever After

I had not been looking forward to Shrek Forever After, but I enjoyed it once we got started. I hear they were going to make a 5th film but have decided against it.


Empire Online likes it, saying, "DreamWorks could be entering a period of fresh creativity. With How To Train Your Dragon and a balanced, darker-hued and very funny Shrek finale, they’ve found the magic again." Rolling Stone concludes: "It's a fun ride. What's missing is the excitement of a new interpretation." The Village Voice says, "It takes the film a deadly long time to kick in, and when it does, it largely retreads formula". EW gives it a B- and says,
what was once a fresh, self-referential twist on the vulturish consumption of pop culture when the first Shrek debuted in 2001 has become a lazy corporate tic.... Everyone involved fulfills his or her job requirements adequately. But the magic is gone
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 57%.

10 Obscure Cult Horror Films

What Culture has a list of 10 Obscure Cult Horror Films:
1. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)
2. The Nanny (1965)
3. Alice Sweet Alice (Communion/ Holy Terror) (1976)
4. I Drink Your Blood (1970)
5. Bloody Moon (1981)
6. They Don’t Cut The Grass Any More (1985)
7. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)
8. Blue Sunshine (1978)
9. Fascination (1979)
10. Autopsy (1973)
Ones I've seen are in bold print, so, yes, that's right, I haven't seen a single one of them. In fact, the only one I've even heard of is Bette Davis' The Nanny. I don't have any way of knowing whether or not these deserve their obscurity, so I guess I'll be looking at some of them to see.

HT: SF Signal

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Hate My Flatware

We had a cheap set of "stainless" flatware (well, it was supposed to be stainless) when we married, and it served us well through several decades. Once we bought our very own dining room furniture, we decided to retire the old and buy a new set that would look better on the table. For some strange reason we ended up with Mikasa Rockford, pictured above. As I recall the price was a selling factor, and the set was huge and included serving pieces. We like the serving pieces. On the other hand, the large forks and large spoons are giant-sized; I can't use them at all. We wanted the simple straight lines, but the edges are so severe that the corners are actually sharp. We've used them for a few years now, and I am not growing in my love for them.

I'm not going to invest in a large set of anything. What I've decided to do is buy one place setting of a pattern we think we'll like, use it for a while, and then decide if we want more. If we do we can get one place setting at a time as budget allows. If not, we can get a single place setting of something else that strike's us and try again. What harm's been done? We'll have yet another place setting of flatware we don't particularly care for to add to the drawer. It's never been important to me to have everything match, so I won't mind a bit of eclecticism at the meal table. In fact, it might be fun. I've done that with cups and saucers for ages.

As I begin to notice what's out there, surely something will reach out and grab me. I saw a slideshow at Dwell of 5 "New Modern" patterns, but I don't like them at all. I think my best bet will be to go to physical locations nearby. I'll probably start at Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Command Performance

Command Performance is a 2009 Dolph Lundgrun film, where many explosions happen, the good guys win, and the bad guys die horrible deaths. Dolph Lungrun isn't my favorite action star, but I'm not complainin'. This is fun, mindless entertainment, and when the weather is unseasonably cold and I can't remember the last time I saw sunshine, this fits the bill. If you wanted more than that, you wouldn't be watching a Dolph Lundgrun film.


Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score, and the audience score is just 32%.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ronnie Grisanti's Italian Restaurant

Ronnie Grisanti's Italian Restaurant is located inside an antique mall located in Collierville, TN, a suburb of Memphis. You can see the lunch and dinner menus here. The Husband and I had lunch there one day when I was checking out this mall. The Husband had spaghetti and meatballs, and I had the 4 cheese ravioli special:

The food and the service were wonderful. The Husband's meatballs were missed by the chef, and there was a bit of a wait for them; but we were in no hurry. Our total including tax but before tip was about $26. That's expensive for us for lunch, but for a treat it was worth it.

The Urban Spoon gives it a score of 78%


Amarcord is a 1973 Italian film, a comedy-drama. It's directed by Federico Fellini. I saw it when offered it as a free selection.


It is a coming-of-age story that takes place in 1930s Fascist Italy and tells the story of an ordinary family -their sorrows, their joys and their community interactions- over the course of a year, beginning and ending with the arrival of puffballs in Spring. It felt odd to hear an instrumental Stormy Weather in the score. The film is delightful, a joy to watch.

Senses of Cinema describes it:
in Amarcord Fellini revisits his upbringing in fascist Italy. Fellini’s vision depicts an extravagantly funny, dreamlike evocation of life in a small Italian coastal town in the 1930s, not as it literally was, but as recalled by the director (Amarcord can be translated as “I remember”).
DVD Verdict calls it "One of the best movies of all time". Roger Ebert considers it a great film, and he opens by saying, "If ever there was a movie made entirely out of nostalgia and joy, by a filmmaker at the heedless height of his powers, that movie is Federico Fellini's "Amarcord."" Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 90%.

It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bottom of the River

Bottom of the River:

Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it's a long way down to the bottom of the river
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it's a long way down, a long way down
by Delta Rae

The Tailor of Panama

The Tailor of Panama by John le Carre is a spy novel. The Elder Son loaned it to me when he found out I had never read anything by this author. This is a clever take on the spy genre, very amusing.

There's a film based on it, and he loaned me that, too, to be watched after I finished the book.

from the back of the book:
He is Harry Pendel: Exclusive tailor to Panama's most powerful men. Informant to British Intelligence. The perfect spy in a country rife with corruption and revolution. What his "handlers" don't realize is that Harry has a hidden agenda of his own. Deceiving his friends, his wife, and practically himself, he'll weave a plot so fabulous it exceeds his own vivid imagination. But when events start to spin out of control, Harry is suddenly in over his head - thrown into a lethal maze of politics and espionage, with unthinkable consequences....
Entertainment Weekly gives it a B+ and concludes,
The satire finally gives way to sermonizing, and Graham Greene retains his title as literary champion of slippery ambiguity and furtive redemption, but Le Carré has, as usual, written a deftly subversive and delectably sour fictional confection.
Kirkus Reviews ends with this:
Le Carre goes back to the spy story's roots--Our Man in Havana, with a touch of Conrad's Secret Agent--to amuse frazzled millennialists with the refreshing news that we've all been here many times before.

The 2001 film stars Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis and Daniel Radcliffe in his film debut. We enjoyed this one. It was fun trying to figure out exactly when the Brosnan character guessed what was going on with the Rush character. By the time I watched the movie I'd actually forgotten how the book wrapped things up, which was very frustrating. The film is fairly faithful to the book, as well as I can remember, but I'm obviously not remembering very well.


Roger Ebert closes with this: "The movie is abundant in its gifts, a pleasure for those who like a story to unfold lovingly over a full arc, instead of coming in short mindless bursts." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 77%.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Committed to the Seven Summits

I'm gonna do it! Yes! I have found a way for me to experience these mountains in spite of being too poor and too out of shape to begin the process.

The virtual seven summits experience, beginning with Mount Kilimanjaro:

from google:
with Google Maps you can instantly transport yourself to the top of these peaks and enjoy the sights without all of the avalanches, rock slides, crevasses, and dangers from altitude and weather that mountaineers face.
Just like being there! Well, kinda like being there. At any rate, it's as close as I'll ever get, so I'm gonna enjoy my trip.

Ride Lonesome

Ride Lonesome is a 1959 Randolph Scott Western. It also stars Karen Steele (who has a Star Trek connection from Mudd's Women), Pernell Roberts (the oldest Cartwright son on Bonanza), Lee Van Cleef (one of our favorites), James Coburn (a personal favorite), James Best (Winchester '73, an unnamed crew member in Forbidden Planet) and Roy Jenson (who has a Star Trek original series connection). If you like traditional Westerns, you'll like this.

Images Journal considers this one of 30 Great Westerns and says, "Ride Lonesome (1959) is one of [director] Boetticher's finest Westerns." Senses of Cinema has an article on Boetticher's career. The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die praises "the easy-going interplay between Pernell Roberts and James Coburn as Boetticher's two most likable villains". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 83%.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Daffodils at the Dixon

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens has lovely daffodils. Some are in their cutting garden:

Some are in decorative flower beds:

Some are along walkways:

This time of the year you can see daffodils from almost anywhere in the gardens.

Komodo Dragon Coffee

I'm not a fan of Starbucks coffee as a rule, but there are always exceptions, and The Daughter bought us this hoping it would be one of those exceptions. It is. The Komodo Dragon Blend is a dark, full-bodied coffee that we enjoy. Usually there's something about the Starbucks coffees that tastes burned to me, but I do like this one.

The cup and saucer were a gift from The Younger Son, bought at the late and sadly lamented Bojo's Antique Mall. I think it's perfect for coffee. Something about the color and pattern just begs me to have a warm-up. It's a Franciscan pattern named Country Craft, Russet Brown.

This pattern has been discontinued, but then most of the Franciscan patterns have been. In 1979 the company sold off its various lines. The Franciscan Ceramics division went to Wedgwood, which closed down that division and discontinued all the patterns except Desert Rose, Apple, and Fresh Fruit. Those patterns were transferred to their Johnson Brothers division. Then in 1986 Wedgwood was acquired by Waterford. In 2009, Waterford Wedgwood (including the Johnson Brothers division) was taken over by some private equity firm that moved production to China. Sad, but true. As I understand it, only Desert Rose and Apple are still in production from the Franciscan division.

Monday, March 18, 2013

R.I.P. Julie the Hippo

Born in Memphis 51 years ago, Julie has spent her whole life here. The Memphis Zoo mourns:
She lived a long, full life, producing ten offspring. Her last two calves are well-known in the Memphis community. Twins "Splish" and "Splash," named by native Memphian Cybill Shepherd, were born on Christmas Day 1988. Splish still resides in the Memphis Zoo.
Julie is preceded in death by her mate, "Ubei," who died of problems related to arthritis in 1995. He was 41, and was the father of all her calves. Julie and Splish come from a Memphis hippo lineage dating all the way back to 1914.
"Julie has been one of the Zoo favorites," said Gail Karr, Memphis Zoo Assistant Curator. ".... She has been a figurehead, and it will be hard to imagine her not here. All Zoo staff members have a heavy heart today as we say goodbye to the Memphis Zoo's oldest resident."
The Memphis Zoo will work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to acquire a new companion for Splish at the Zoo's hippo exhibit.Plans are currently under way for constructing the Zoo's new hippo home, Zambezi River Hippo Camp. This exhibit will feature a state-of-the-art environment for the hippos, complete with underwater viewing areas.
ABC 24 says,
Zoo keepers and veterinarians saw Julie's health decline dramatically earlier this month and placed Julie in hospice care. After closely monitoring her health, the decision was made to euthanize Julie in order to avoid prolonged suffering.
WMCTV has a report, as does Fox13.

The photo at the top of the post is from the The Memphis Zoo web site.

How Will You Treat Me?

Dixon Art Gallery across the south lawn

I went to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens on Saturday to see the daffodils. The weather was wonderful: sunny and 76 F. You just never know what you're going to see when you go somewhere, though, and on this trip I saw an interesting art installation I hadn't noticed before.

Titled "How Will You Treat Me?" it is by Cat Peña, who came to Memphis in 2006 to pursue a Master of Arts degree at the Memphis College of Art. The sign says the work
connects viewers to a larger network of nature and their places within it as they assume the role of caretaker to a young red cedar sapling. The continued well-being of a single tree becomes a metaphor to humankind's relationship with nature and the individual's environmental stewardship.

I didn't take one of the trees offered:

My little patio isn't a good spot for this tree to thrive.

This is not the kind of art I'm used to seeing, and I don't think I "get it" as a work of art. That's ok, though. Sometimes I think my life is a bit too much of what I'm used to, and something different can be a blessing. Stretching.

Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans is a 2012 sequel to Clash of the Titans. This stars Sam Worthington (as Perseus), Rosamund Pike (as Andromeda), Bill Nighy (as Hephaestus), Édgar Ramírez (as Ares), Toby Kebbell (as Agenor), Danny Huston (as Poseidon), Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) and Liam Neeson (as Zeus). Some of the special effects were fun, but we were not sad to see the end of it.


Moria closes with this: "It makes for a pretty show of flash, bang and wow, even if the spectacle eventually washes over you with all of the sum and substance of a disco ball light." Rolling Stone says it "sucketh the mighty big one." Slant Magazine doesn't give it any stars at all and says,
This is a product of gross indifference in every respect, an attempt on the part of its producers to make enough money to justify a third, perhaps even more cut-rate, installment. (Revenge of the Titans?) Just when you think the Hollywood machine can't express its contempt for its customers in clearer terms, Wrath of the Titans, compared to all the cynical CGI dumps we've endured over the past two decades, is one increment beyond the bottom of the barrel.
Roger Ebert says,
No attempt is made to achieve a consistent physical scale in the movie, nor a comprehensible spatial plan. I was never quite sure where anybody or anything was in relationship to anything else, and eventually I gave up trying: This is a montage of sweaty, dirty, bloodied faces and figures assembled to fit between balls of fire.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a critics score of 26%.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sheffield Antique Mall

Sheffield Antique Mall is out in Collierville, a suburb of Memphis, TN. I had never been to this antique mall before but wanted to check it out to see if it could take the place of the sadly demolished BoJo's in my heart. Alas, no. It's a fine place, but as big as it is it's missing a touch I can't describe -that Je ne sais quois that Bojo's had aplenty.

The picture above is a view from the entrance. The place really is huge.

I tried on a hat in the booth pictured above. Sweet hat, but more than I was ready to pay.


RED is a 2010 action/comedy film starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss. RED stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous," which is what these people are. A sequel is in the works. Here's another movie that works as great entertainment if you're happy with fun characters, good guys who win, and plenty of explosions. Bruce Willis is always a plus. I liked it, but I like watching Bruce Willis in movies where things explode.

trailer: calls it "Cynical, idiotic — and a total blast" and says, "All those guys are a blast, and the dark-hearted idiocy of “Red” is mostly quite enjoyable." Empire Online concludes: "Verdict: Good fun, and though it breathes hard in the second half, the ensemble has charisma to spare." Slant Magazine gives it a paltry 1 out of 4 stars, saying it "exhibits all the get-up-and-go of a grandpa on the verge of an afternoon nap." Roger Ebert is unimpressed, saying it's "neither a good movie nor a bad one. It features actors we like doing things we wish were more interesting. I guess the movie's moral is, these old people are still tougher than the young ones." It gets a score of 72% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Audubon Park Lake

It was such a beautiful day yesterday that The Husband and I spent some time at Audubon Park Lake in the afternoon. The tree above had caught my eye from the street several days ago, and I was glad to take this chance to get a picture of it.

We saw a woman feeding the geese:

There were not as many of the mallard ducks as there were geese but still plenty on the lake:

I saw several wildflowers blooming in the grass:

There were a very few tulips and a volunteer daffodil:

What a beautiful day! I'm so glad to see signs of Spring, sunshine and warm weather!

Must-Read Horror Books

This Horror has a list of Must Read Horror Books for World Book Day. I don't observe World Book Day, because -for me- every day is book day. Their list:
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
Last Days by Adam Nevill
World War Z by Max Brooks
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
On Writing by Stephen King
The Tale of Raw Head & Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
The End of Alice by A.M. Homes
That I've only read one of these doesn't surprise me. I've read precious little horror, most of which was short stories. I may look into these as possible reading for next October when I plan on spending more time reading/watching horror. We'll see.

HT: SF Signal


We had been meaning to try Boneheads on Perkins between Southern and Poplar for some time and went there recently for lunch. We didn't know what to expect, but it reminds us a lot of McAlister's except with fish instead of deli sandwiches. You order at the counter and take your number to a table, sitting wherever you like. You get your own drinks here. We each had the fried fish and chips. It was fine but nothing special. Their menu is online here. I'd like to try the piri piri burger next time.

I froze to death. It's cold in there! I'll wait 'til Summer-time to go again, and I'll sit out on the patio. Our cost was about $23.

Memphis Magazine has a review. It has a score of 72% at Urban Spoon. The review at is positive. The ratings at Yelp cluster along a perfect bell-shaped curve.

Friday, March 15, 2013

L'Enfant (The Child)

L'Enfant (The Child) is a 2005 Belgian film. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

It reminds me a bit of Pickpocket in some of its subject material; but L'Enfant is more emotionally charged, perhaps because of the presence of the newborn baby. This film is horrifying.


This movie is on the Arts and Faith list of top 100 most spiritually significant films, where they call it "a subtle parable about tests of conscience and character in a punishing world". Rolling Stone calls it "a forceful, impassioned and unsparing triumph". Slant Magazine closes by saying, "the film is nothing short of a miracle". Bright Lights Film Journal says it "counts as among the very best in contemporary cinema." Roger Ebert concludes with this: "Here is a film where God does not intervene and the directors do not mistake themselves for God. It makes the solutions at the ends of other pictures seem like child's play." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 86%.

Pi Day

Yesterday was Pi Day. I admit I don't make my own pies; I buy them. I don't usually get frozen pies, but the bakery I went to didn't have cherry. Since cherry pie was what I wanted I brought home this:

In 30 minutes I had pie for lunch!

The A-Team

The A-Team is a 2010 action movie based on the TV series by the same name. Liam Neeson is the main name on the team. Quinton Jackson, who plays the Mr. T role, is a native Memphian. Sharlto Copley was in District 9, which I recently tried to watch but failed to finish. Jessica Biel is the token female and love interest. We got a kick out this movie. Lots of action. Many explosions. Good guys triumph. A good time is had by all.


"Overkill is under-rated." Yes!

Salon opens with this: "For a movie that reportedly required 11 writers and more than 10 years to complete — all without any real reason for existing in the first place — “The A-Team” is reasonably good fun." Rolling Stone says, "It's big, loud, ludicrous and edited into visual incomprehension. But pity the fool who lets that stand in the way of enjoying The A-Team". Empire concludes "An energetic escape from Development Hell: suitably OTT, often fun and always loud. The villainy is underpowered, the plot a mess, but Cooper and Copley impress." The Christian Science Monitor says, "What matters in the end, what always matters in these Type A flicks, is how many explosions there are, and how loud. By this reckoning, and only this, “The A-Team” rates an A." Roger Ebert calls it "an incomprehensible mess with the 1980s TV show embedded inside." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rotten 47%.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I tried to see the comet PanSTARSS last night, taking The Boys and 2 pair of binoculars out into the courtyard. I followed the instructions given at this Memphis weather site. We had a decent enough view of the sky from where we were, but we didn't see any hint of the comet. I'll try again tonight. My guess is that we'd have better luck getting out away from the city lights a bit.

The crescent moon was pretty, though.

The crescent moon photo above is from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center flickr stream. It was taken from the space station. I wish I could take pictures of the moon that looked like anything, but mine don't turn out nearly pretty enough to post.

All Will Be Well

All Will Be Well:

The Gabe Dixon Band | All Will Be Well from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

lyric excerpt from
The winter's cold
But the snow still lightly settles on the trees
And a mess is still a moment I can seize
Until I know

That all will be well
Even though sometimes this is hard to tell
And the fight is just as frustrating as hell
All will be well
by The Gabe Dixon Band.

Dumbledore's Hat

I don't look as good in it as Dumbledore does, but, yes, I do wear it. Out in public. Where just anybody can see me.

The Daughter gave it to me, a souvenir of a vacation. We have several fans of the books and movies here in this family. The hardback books have a place on the shelf, and the DVDs are readily available when the mood strikes. We each have favorite characters, favorite scenes, and strong opinions.

I'm proud of my hat.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

R.I.P. Google Reader

"Google Reader will be retired on July 1, 2013."

I've tried to come up with a replacement for Google Reader without success. I am not pleased with this. I've grown accustomed to the face of Google Reader and resent this intrusion into my chosen routine.


CNET suggests:
Google Currents
Lifehacker has some suggestions that might work for me, including FeedDemon. FeedDemon is dead.

The Week suggests "Feedly, Flipboard, or The Old Reader."

PC World offers this:
Some alternative readers to check out include Pulse, Flipboard, and The Old Reader, which describes itself as “just like the old Google Reader, only better.”
Pocket-Lint offers these 5 as alternatives:
Pulse, Flipboard and Google Currents [for mobile devices]
Listly has a crowd-sourced list.

In an older article I trust will be updated, Extreme Tech recommends these:
Forbes suggests these 5:
The Old Reader
Reeder This app is for Mac only
Feedly is on top in ReplaceReader, an aggregate of twitter recommendations.

Mashable says, "On the surface, the three alternatives that match the look, feel and functionality of Google Reader are Feedly, NewsBlur and The Old Reader," but offers caveats and other recommendations.

The Next Web has an article and a long list of alternatives with links.

I haven't tried any of these yet. When I researched this a while back I couldn't find anything that had all the features I need. I do not want any social networking embedded in the experience, and I don't want it connected with my real-life identity. I just want to read my news and blog updates in peace.