Saturday, August 31, 2013

Butterfly Garden

The Memphis Botanic Gardens has a lovely butterfly garden:

I did see a lot of butterflies, but they were flying higher than I could get pictures of. There were also bees and dragonflies.

Even though it's been here a while, I think of it as one of the newer features. It gets better every year. The Botanic Gardens web site has this description:
Today, the Butterfly Garden incorporates a variety of plants designed to attract butterflies. A major portion of the plants are native. The large variety of herbs in this garden, including parsley, fennel, and chives, acts as food for butterfly larvae. Many species, such as coneflower, goldstrum daisies, asters, and joe pye weed, serve as sources of nectar. Passion vine and red honeysuckle, known as "Mardi Gras," grace the arbor with color and fragrance.

A Hard Pill to Swallow

A Hard Pill to Swallow:

by Son Bonds, a Brownsville, Tennessee, native who died on this date in 1947 at the age of 38. He was gunned down on his own porch by a near-sighted neighbor who mistook him for somebody else.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Never On Sunday

I saw Never On Sunday on late-night TV when I was in high school and then never came across it again 'til now. It's a 1960 Greek film directed by Jules Dassin. It stars Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited whore and Dassin as the American scholar who tries to guide her onto a more moral path. The theme song won the Academy Award for best song. Mercouri won the award for Best Actress at Cannes for this role. It's dated, but the music is wonderful.

via youtube:

DVD Talk calls it "entertaining but dated" and says, "it charms audiences immediately with its infectious music and charismatic leading lady." Time Out says, "You can see how this might have felt joyful and liberating to audiences coming out of the uptight '50s." Emmanuel Levy calls it "A kind of contemporary “Pygmalion,” ... a culture-collision comedy with all the cliches of the genre". TCM has an overview, as does MSN. Rotten Tomatoes has an 88% critics rating.

"Love the Leaf" at the Dixon Gallery

Love the Leaf is an exhibit of art work inspired by the Dixon.

from their web site:
The works of art of our members and supporters chosen for Love the Leaf is an expression of how the Dixon has inspired interesting and creative ways to love the leaf!
My favorite is Mind Garden #1 (Mixed Media Collage in Resin, 2012), by Meg Zachry. I can't locate this piece online, of course, but I found it particularly striking. I kept coming back to it. I can't begin to describe it. It's less a picture of something and more of an experience.

The photo of the entrance to the gallery is from Wikipedia.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mythago Wood

For years I searched for this book by Robert Holdstock, because of all the glowing reports I'd had of it. I looked in both new and used book stores without success and finally gave up and ordered it online. Mythago Wood (1984) is the 1st book in the series and the most acclaimed. It won the World Fantasy Award. I liked it fine, but -having read it- am satisfied and feel no need to read further into the series. Fantasy isn't my favorite genre.

from the back of the book:
The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain's last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley's entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation.

For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth of myths come to life, "mythagos" that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams... and may drive you insane.
The review at describes it as "an intelligent modern fantasy set in the years immediately following the end of World War II" and says it "easily ranks among the best and most ambitious fantasy novels of the twentieth century". The Wertzone review calls it "a rich and textured novel about myth which is thought-provoking and densely atmosphere". Graeme's Fantasy Book Review site says, "what we have here is a journey back into pre-history (via that reliable fantasy archetype, the forest) showing us how myths form and perpetuate throughout time."

Memphis Hipster

photo from Travel + Leisure

No, not I, I'm no hipster, but Memphis has been named by Travel + Leisure as one of the best cities for hipsters. They selected 35 cities based "on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals."

I love it when my city gets good national press!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ulzana's Raid

Ulzana's Raid is a 1972 Robert Aldrich Western starring Burt Lancaster (not one of my favorite actors). Bruce Davison (who has Star Trek connections) is also in this. The plot involves the military trying to control some Apache warriors who have escaped the reservation to exact vengeance for treaty betrayal. This is excellent. Thoughtful. Worth seeking out.

favorite quotes:
"What bothers you, Lieutenant, is seeing white men act like Apaches. It kinda confuses the issue."
via youtube: opens by saying it's "regarded by many as Aldrich's best film". Empire Online calls it "Grim but thrilling, with sterling performances." Time Out closes by saying that the film is "far more than just an extraordinarily intelligent horse opera: the parallels with America's involvement in Vietnam should be easy to see." Emmanuel Levy calls it "one of the best Westerns of the 1970s". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 86%.

Organizing Books

Tabula Rasa asks, "How do you organize your bookshelf?" The only logical way, of course! I alphabetize by author within subjects. I have separate sections for mystery, science fiction/fantasy/horror, general fiction, travel narratives, religion, natural history, and biography. Actually my religion section isn't organized within that subject; they are just grouped together in a kind of whatever fashion.

I've heard of organizing by size or color, but I can't imagine how you'd ever find a particular book using that system.

The photo above is of some of my shelves. I tend to clutter them with trinkets.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Felicia's Journey

The Story of Lucy Gault impressed me so much that now I pick up this author's books whenever I find them, so I picked up Felicia's Journey by William Trevor without looking at anything but the author's name. This novel is about a serial killer, but there are no police, no investigation, no blood, no crime scenes... It seems atypical of books about serial killers. It's not a mystery or a crime novel. I'd say it's more of a psychological revelation, a real page-turner. It won the 1994 Whitbread Prize.

The back of the book contains reviews instead of the more usual synopsis/lure, but the Wikipedia page sets up the plot this way:
The plot follows eighteen-year-old Felicia, a poor provincial Irish girl, who was made pregnant and abandoned by Johnny Lysaght, a young man who is supposedly working in the English Midlands. Felicia's father believes Johnny has run off to join the British army. As Felicia journeys to the Midlands in search of the father of her unborn child, she meets with mild-mannered Mr Hilditch, the manager of a catering company
There's a reading group guide online here. The Independent calls it "as harrowingly grim as anything fictional you'll read this year." Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "Trevor's combination of the pathological and the lyrical transcends mere genre fiction: He's a master still exploring the possibilities of his craft."

Calming Tea

Tazo claims of their Calm blend: "A single cup of Tazo Calm has been known to have the same effect as sitting for 45 minutes in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with your shoes off." I doubt that. It's an herbal infusion and not a tea, which is a fine thing, but it has licorice in it. I don't like licorice at all, so I had trouble getting past the smell to taste it. Tasting it didn't change my mind.

The cup is another of my Pink Palace Craft Fair finds. This one is marked 2002 JRC on the bottom. I feel like I claim all my cups are favorites. Maybe they are. I get rid of ones I don't like.

Join Bleubeard and Elizabeth for the "T" gathering here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Man Into Space

First Man Into Space is a 1959 science fiction/horror film starring Marshall Thompson. Determined to be the first man in space, our hotshot pilot ignores orders and damn the consequences. And there are definitely consequences. It's a horror film after all. It's quite watchable.

Closing words:
"The conquest of new worlds always makes demands on human life. And there will always be men who will accept the risks."
but my favorite line is this:
"It takes more than human strength to do this. Unless he had an ax."

Embedded below as the first film in a double feature which is followed by Fiend Without a Face:

Moria says it has "a dull and uninteresting visual style and a pedestrian pace" and "some surprisingly good effects shots". 1000 Misspent Hours says, "This is a movie that scrupulously avoids any hint of action." The Spinning Image says, "If this isn't top notch, then it's perfectly passable with some scenes very effective". DVD Talk says, "This was a fairly typical monster movie from the 50's that rises over the others due to some creative use of stock footage." TCM has an overview.



by The Memphis Dawls.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Squirrel and Raccoon

I used to see these more, but it's been a while since I ran across one. I've seen the squirrel here and here, and I've seen her joined by her raccoon friend here. The one pictured above is downtown.

Cheese and Books

image from AirshipDaily

I love cheese and books, but I have fairly boring tastes. I've never heard of most of the cheeses listed in this article pairing authors with the appropriate ones. I'll have to check my crowded TBR shelf and see if any of these authors are hiding there. I'd have the perfect excuse for trying a new-to-me cheese.

Or maybe I could try a new author and a new cheese! This idea is getting better and better.

Oho! It looks like our local bookseller has The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. According to the article's suggestion, that book would be paired with El Trigal Manchego. Sounds like fun.

HT: Apartment Therapy

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lichterman Center Meadow

The Lichterman Nature Center has 2 meadow areas. One of them (pictured above) is part of the Backyard Wildlife Center:

The other meadow area is reached by following these signs:

to this path:

The meadow is more overgrown than I've ever seen it. I don't know if this is part of some overall plan that involves mowing the whole thing and starting over every few years, but right now the plants are nearly twice my height. If they leave it, they'll eventually have a new forest area:

When the meadow was more open we used to see foxes and rabbits. While I was there yesterday I saw grasshoppers and butterflies:

The butterfly above wasn't actually in the meadow area. The meadow butterflies were too busy for me to catch. The butterfly in this photo was in the forest area.

Two Dancers

I saw this recently on the Golden Age Paintings blog, and it looked so cheerful to me that I couldn't resist sharing. Two Dancers is by Laura Knight, an English Impressionist painter who died in 1970 at 92 years of age. The painting is from 1912. from Wikipedia:
During the Second World War, Knight was an official war artist. She worked on several commissions for the Ministry of Information's War Artists Advisory Committee, and she was one of only three British women war artists who travelled abroad. Her works during this period include In For Repairs (1941), A Balloon Site, Coventry (1942), Ruby Loftus screwing a breech-ring (1943), Take Off (1944), Factory Workshops and Land Girls, amongst many others. After the war, she was the official artist at the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals.
The BBC has a slide show of 85 of her paintings, including some of her war work and her controversial Self Portrait with Nude.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Kanchenjungha is a 1962 Bengali film directed by Satyajit Ray, who directed the Apu trilogy and Charulata. It is about the last day of an upper class family's Darjeeling vacation during which they have tried to arrange an engagement for their daughter. This is Ray's 1st color film. I've liked all the films I've seen by this director, and I like this one. He is a treasure.

a scene via youtube:

I can't find much in the way of reviews.

I Used to Be Cool

image from Cafe Press

seen on a bumper sticker on an SUV. I was never cool, being a nerd from way back, but I'm not sure how cool someone who drives an SUV ever could have been. SUV drivers can't even drive, seemingly unable to stay in their own lanes on the road or park in less than 2 parking spaces. So much not cool there, I can't believe any cool was ever there.

Random poor parking:

The pictures were taken in a single, small parking lot over the space of a day and were hardly the only examples.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Howard Foote's Donations to the Brooks Museum

This exhibit led me a merry chase, because I didn't want to have to ask where it was. It was in "Gallery 5B" I knew, but I had no earthly idea where that was. After some wandering through the museum I found it.

Howard Foote, a native Memphian, has been donating works of art to the Brooks for years. This exhibit highlights that generosity.

from the website (I've been unable to figure out how to link to a particular exhibit):
A Decade of Gifts from Howard Foote

Curated by Marina Pacini, Chief Curator and Curator of American, Modern, and Contemporary Art

Between 2002 and 2012, Howard Foote generously donated thirty-three paintings, watercolors, drawings, and a photograph to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The artworks span almost a full century and in style range from abstraction to realism. Although the artists represented in the gift are primarily American-born—among them Sidney Goodman, Grace Hartigan, Everett Shinn, and Lois Dodd—his collecting also includes immigrants such as Alfred Eisenstadt, George Grosz, Raphael Soyer, and Elizabeth O’Reilly. His catholic taste provides a compelling overview of twentieth-century art through a group of artists whose works reflect the great diversity of modernism.
My favorite is a large picture called What Sunflowers Do (2007), by Patricia Forrester (1940-2011). The Brooks has a short video:

My favorite is at about 25 seconds in.

Some other of Forrester's work can be seen here.

Go Memphis has an article that closes with this:
In the way that all collections do, this selection from works of art donated to the Brooks by Foote indicates something about the mind of the person who over the years purchased them for his own pleasure, lived with them, and then decided to pass them along for the pleasure of people who live in the city where he was born and worked. That mind seems to be curious, restless, esthetically various and — for our benefit — generous.

The Photograph

The Photograph is one of Penelope Lively's novels. I love the way Lively writes and have several of her books on my shelves. She spends much attention on the effect of the past on the present and the place of memory in our lives. This is a quick, easy read, but thought-provoking.

from the back of the book:
It opens with a snapshot: Kath, at an unknown gathering, hands clasped with a man not her husband, their backs to the camera. Its envelope is marked DO NOT OPEN - DESTROY. But Kath's husband does not heed the warning. The mystery of the photograph, and of Kath's recent death, propels him on a journey of discovery in which he must peel back layers of their lives. The unfolding tale reveals a right web of secrets - within marriages, between two sisters, and at the end of an affair. Kath, with her mesmerizing looks and casual ways, moves like a ghost through the thoughts and memories of everyone who knew her: Glyn, her husband, past his lusty, professorial prime; her remorselessly competent sister Elaine, a garden designer married to ne'er-do-well Nick; and their daughter, Polly, beloved of Kath, who oscillates between home, family, and the tumultuous new era she inhabits.

The Photograph, with Penelope Lively's signature mastery of narrative and psychology, brilliantly explores a woman's beauty and its collision with everything from her own happiness, to the cost of professional "success." It is this award-winning author at her very best, the dazzling and intriguing climax to all she has written before.
The Guardian review says,
The Photograph sets out to cover familiar ground, yet as it gains momentum it becomes astonishingly bleak. Centring on the absence of someone who seems "least likely to be dead", the book is chilled by the baffling capriciousness of death. Lively pits the outrage of dying young against the anguish of growing old. In her previous work, old age has seemed a time of mature reflection. Here she presents characters hurtling towards 60, furious at their inability to slam on the brakes.
Kirkus Reviews says, "Lively handles this oddly unremarkable story skillfully, building a teasing fragmentary portrait of Kath from others’ memories of her—while clearly developing her manifest theme: the unknowability and mystery of other people’s lives." There is a reading group guide here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Shooting

The Shooting is a 1966 Western. A woman hires a former bounty hunter who is working a dead gold mine with his slow-witted friend to take her across the desert. While they are traveling, they are tracked by a gunman (played by Jack Nicholson).

I had never heard of this movie before. It's well worth watching. The style of dialog is interesting, sounding awkward but natural to the setting. The film is atmospheric, has interesting characters and a bit of mystery, and it isn't at all a typical Western of any sub-genre.

via youtube:

Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "The film's ending is a favorite among cinephilles and serves as a paradigm of Camus's thinking—both stoic and humane, it champions the power of nature over violence." Time Out calls it "Probably the first Western which really deserves to be called existential." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a critics score of 100%.

Movies So Bad They're Unmissable

According to Rotten Tomatoes, these are 25 movies that are so bad they are unmissable:
MANIAC (1934)
BEN & ARTHUR (2003)
ISHTAR (1987)
TROLL 2 (1992)
THE OSCAR (1966)
I've seen the ones in bold print. 4 out of 25? This is one list I won't use to further my film experience, but given that, I wouldn't mind seeing Glen or Glenda, Road House, and Manos.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shroud for a Nightingale

Shroud for a Nightingale (1971) is the 4th book in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series by by P.D. James. It felt familiar as I read it. I may have read it long years ago, or perhaps I saw the Roy Marsden miniseries? At any rate, I didn't remember the details, and it was an enjoyable read. I generally find the Dalgliesh stories to be easy and enjoyable reads, with characters that are engaging and plots that keep me interested throughout. This is a good one.

from the back of the book:
The young women of the Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed. Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills. The New York Times called Shroud for a Nightingale "mystery at its best."

In the book here's a description of a room that includes mention of "an original water colour, a charming landscape by Robert Hills, hung where the light from the window lit it most effectively." I looked this artist up (he doesn't have a Wikipedia page), and here's the type of thing I imagine hanging on the wall:

A Farmyard, by Robert Hills (1769-1844) from the Tate

I'm horrified at it being hung where sunlight directly shines on it, though.

That same room is described as containing "a Staffordshire pottery figure of John Wesley preaching from his pulpit." It's called "a collector's piece". I like to think it's this one:

There are several authors and specific books mentioned. In this same room, the author says,
[Dalgliesh] walked over to the bookcase beside the bed and again examined the books... A collection of modern poetry, his own last volume included; a complete set of Jane Austen, well worn but in a leather binding and printed on India paper; a few books on philosophy nicely balanced between scholarship and popular appeal; about two dozen paper-backs of modern novels, Greene, Waugh, Compton, Burnett, Hartley, Powell, Cary.
Of these, I have some Austen, Greene, Waugh, and Powell on my shelves.

A different character has different books. This shelf includes Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, In the Steps of St. Paul and In the Steps of the Master. I have read the first and third of those 3. Another of the suspects mentions "the new Iris Murdoch," but I don't know which one of her books that would've been. I like Murdoch and have several of her novels.

There's only one film mentioned: One of the suspects goes to a showing of Antonioni's L'Avventura. I haven't seen that movie.

I enjoy specific mentions of books and movies when I'm reading. I like noting which I've read or at least heard of and which I might even have on my own shelves. I think it's fun. Hey, I take my fun where I find it!

I have blog posts on these:

#2 A Mind to Murder
#5 The Black Tower
#7 A Taste for Death
#8 Devices and Desires
#9 Original Sin
#12 The Murder Room
#13 The Lighthouse

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

Seattle's Best Dark Coffee

We like this one fine, but Seattle's Best Dark and Intense Level 5 coffee doesn't have the full, robust flavor we are looking for. It's strong enough and dark enough but not full-bodied enough. It also seems a bit bitter to us. Once this is gone, we won't replace it. I feel like we keep rejecting perfectly decent coffees, but reject it we do, so "another one bites the dust" (and the world is a song cue):

The cup is just a Dollar Tree mug, but I like the shape and color and use it a lot.

I'm posting this to join the fun at T Stands for Tuesday at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909)

This 1909 silent adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the first filmed version:

It is directed by Charles Kent and J. Stuart Blackton and stars Dolores Costello ('Dearest' Erroll in the 1936 Little Lord Fauntleroy and Isabel in The Magnificent Ambersons among many others), her sister Helene Costello (in her 2nd film) and Florence Turner (who was in films from 1907–1943). It's delightful to watch. There are intertitles to explain the upcoming action. The sets are exterior locations, appropriately enough. I'm always impressed by early special effects.

Weird Wild Realm calls it "very pretty to watch" and says, "This is truly a film that speaks in the language of silent cinema, not the stage, but carries also some of the glamour of even older Victorian fairy illustration" and closes with this: "This film was an enormous success in the Christmas season of 1909, & easy to see why it was so. Even today it can charm child & adult alike, & in its time it must've been just about the most exciting fantasy film imaginable." MSN has an overview.

Workin' Woman Blues

Workin' Woman Blues:

by Valerie June, who was born in Jackson, TN, grew up in Humboldt, moved to Memphis in 2000 and now (I think) lives in NYC.

I ain't fit to be no mother
I ain't fit to be no wife yet
I been workin' like a man, y'all
I been workin' all my life yeah

There ain't no dinner on the table
Ain't no food in the 'fridgerator
I'll go to work and I'll be back later
I go to work said I'd be back later

Lord you know I'm a good looking woman
Lord you know I'm a good looking girl ...
If you want to give me something
Anything in this great big world yeah
Lord you know that I am ready
for my sugar my sugar daddy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

20 Science Fiction Moments That Will Make Absolutely Anyone Cry

[note: There are spoilers at their site.] io9 has a list of "20 Science Fiction Moments That Will Make Absolutely Anyone Cry" that somehow doesn't include Firefly/Serenity, which I think greatly decreases the value of the list:
1) Supernatural, "Pac-Man Fever"
2) Excalibur
3) The Neverending Story
4) The Last Unicorn
5) Fullmetal Alchemist
6) We3
7) Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
8) E.T.: The Extraterrestrial
9) Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Inner Light"
10) The Iron Giant
11) Galaxy Quest (Really? Galaxy Quest, but not Serenity???)
12) Angel, "Not Fade Away"
13) Wall-E
14) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
15) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
16) Futurama, "Jurassic Bark"
17) Blade Runner
18) Doctor Who, "Vincent and the Doctor"
19) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Body"
20) Terminator 2: Judgment Day
I've seen or read the ones in bold print.

I think I'm going to enter the modern Doctor Who universe. I'll start looking for them at Spin Street and try to watch them in order. They didn't have season 1 of the current series the last time I looked. Season 2 was around $80, which seems high to me. It'll be expensive to catch up but shouldn't take too long time-wise; we've gone through 5 seasons of Big Bang Theory in less than 2 weeks, after all.

Reading Poems Backwards

I don't care for poetry as a rule, actively avoiding it in most cases, but I found this concept intriguing: The New Yorker suggests you begin at the end.

I selected a poem from the internet. A Photograph of Shadows and a Side Window, by Martha Ronk ends like this:
as the house is only a material copy of house writ large, exposed
as the flesh and bone, coats and jackets of the lived again.
For the Linden Moth, by James Dickey ends with these 2 lines:
Wherethrough wings for all creatures have come
Too late and just in time.
The Creeps, by Sidney Wade ends with
a pearl
on toast
Ya know, I don't think this technique is gonna aid my ability to appreciate poetry....

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Dreaded Swimsuit Search

I haven't had a swimsuit in 7 years. Our last house had a pool, and I bought a couple of suits when we moved there. That was, oh... 14 years ago, maybe. By the time we moved here those suits were losing their structural integrity, and I didn't replace them. There's a pool here, but I still wasn't motivated enough to go through the swimsuit try-on gauntlet. I'm not overweight, but I am extremely short and not in the best of shape, so finding a suit that both fits and looks ok on me is a challenge.

Earlier this summer, The Daughter arranged a little trip, just the 2 of us, and suggested I get out there and shop! So I went to the mall, walked down to Macy's, and found all the size 6 one-piece suits in stock. That late in the season there were 5 of them. I took them into the dressing room, and lo and behold! 2 of them fit and didn't look half bad. And on top of that, they were clearing out their swimwear!

I bought this one:

and this one:

which doesn't show up at the Macy's site, but is here at Michael Kors. Does this model look pitifully thin like she needs to eat more regularly? She does to me. I want to offer her a donut, or maybe half a dozen donuts. And a steak dinner with a loaded baked potato.

I bought a cute little halter dress cover-up while we were on our trip:

I only wore a suit once while we were gone, and that was wading in a cold stream playing with crawfish. But now I have swimsuits. I could actually go to the pool if I wanted to. Hoorah!

Churches Cannot Be Third Spaces

I don't hear it much any more, but I used to hear some church leaders talk about the concept of "third space" and discuss the church as such a place. I'm reminded of that by this recent post at the blog of the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa here in Memphis. He links to an article that explores the idea of museums as Third Places.

Wikipedia uses urban sociologist Oldenburg's definition of such places as
the heart of a community's social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy. They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.

Oldenburg identifies that in modern suburban societies time is primarily spent in isolated first (home) and second (work) places. In contrast, third places offer a neutral public space for a community to connect and establish bonds.
According to this view, a "third place" must have the following characteristics:
Free or inexpensive
Food and drink, while not essential, are important
Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
Involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
Welcoming and comfortable
Both new friends and old should be found there.
I think churches (in cases I'm familiar with, anyway) fail at several points:

1) Depending on your definition of "free or inexpensive" churches are not. In some, the push to tithe is enough to make casual attenders or unconnected community visitors uncomfortable.

2) There is limited food and drink, mostly coffee on Sunday mornings and perhaps a community meal on Wednesday evenings.

3) Most church-goers I know do not live nearly close enough to their church to walk, and the people who actually live close enough to walk are from a markedly different socio-economic group than the church's members.

4) This one fits, as church activities always involve people who habitually go there.

5) Welcoming and comfortable? I have to say that churches are almost always cordial to visitors, but if your definition of welcoming involves more than a smile and hello, I'm not sure most of the churches I've been to manage to make people feel like they are truly welcomed into the inner life of the community. And make no mistake, there is an inner circle in any church. Depending on who you happen to overhear, you will be made to feel distinctly uncomfortable. God forbid you sit in any of the regulars' habitual seats, for example.

6) If you have managed to make a place for yourself in a church, then, yes, you will find both new friends and old if you are in a church where new people ever visit.

Wikipedia quotes 8 characteristics that Oldenburg says a "third place" must have. I'll comment on each of these from my own personal experience.
1. Neutral Ground: Occupants of Third Places have little to no obligation to be there. They are not tied down to the area financially, politically, legally, or otherwise and are free to come and go as they please.
Church members actually have a distinct obligation to be there, having almost certainly taken some sort of membership vow. Non-members have no such obligation, but doesn't that mean they don't "belong"? Many churches have "pledge campaigns" during which you make a commitment to give a certain amount of money during the upcoming calender year. Members definitely have an obligation to be there.
2 Leveler: Third Places put no importance on an individuals status in a society. Someone's economic or social status do not matter in a Third Place, allowing for a sense of commonality among its occupants. There are no prerequisites or requirements that would prevent acceptance or participation in the Third Place.
Obviously, this is not true of churches. There are requirements for someone to join a church in almost every church I'm familiar with, and also a method for kicking folks off the roll. Churches try to not give preference to folks' socio-economic status, I know, but many people find that difficult. Many churches have requirements that prevent various types of participation. For example, many around here don't allow women to have any leadership role except with childrens' ministries, many won't let divorced people teach, many won't allow openly gay people to join at all. A church member once told me that she had told a visitor he should go away and come back once he had showered and changed clothes. She didn't think that was too much to ask, but as he was homeless and destitute and she didn't offer him shower facilities or fresh clothes, I'm sure it felt like an insurmountable barrier to him.
3 Conversation is Main Activity: Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in Third Places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light hearted and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are highly valued.
There is happy conversation in most churches, but it is never the main focus.
4 Accessibility and Accommodation: Third places must be open and readily accessible to those who occupy them. They must also be accommodating, meaning they provide the wants of their inhabitants, and all occupants feel their needs have been fulfilled.
This may well be true of churches, as folks who don't feel their needs are being met tend to leave.
5 The Regulars: Third Places harbor a number of regulars that help give the space its tone, and help set the mood and characteristics of the area. Regulars to Third Places also attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.
Churches definitely have regulars, I'll give them that.
6 A Low Profile: Third Places are characteristically wholesome. The inside of a Third Place is without extravagance or grandiosity, and has a homely feel. Third Places are never snobby or pretentious, and are accepting of all types of individuals, from several different walks of life.
Not a chance.
7 The Mood is Playful: The tone of conversation in Third Places are never marked with tension or hostility. Instead, they have a playful nature, where witty conversation and frivolous banter are not only common, but highly valued.
Again, not a chance.
8 A Home Away From Home: Occupants of Third Places will often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.
This is true of churches. Those who do really belong feel it's a home for them.

As the purpose of churches is to provide worship opportunity, to convert people, to make disciples of them, to aid them on their faith journey, to teach them, to provide opportunities to reach out to do good in the world, and other Christian activities, I'm not sure how possible it is for churches to be third places in the sense described above. I haven't heard it discussed in church venues in a long time, so perhaps it's not considered in church circles any more. I think churches more often function as private clubs for like-minded people than as open spaces for community gathering.

I believe churches could provide third places in their buildings -not be third places, but provide space for them, but I don't personally know of any that do.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Footprints on the Moon

Footprints on the Moon is a 1975 Italian film featuring Klaus Kinski. It tells the story of Alice, whose life falls apart as she descends into madness. Often classified as a horror film, I certainly wouldn't call it that, and it is definitely not what comes to mind when I think of Italian horror. This is quite different, a fascinating film. There is no gore, and there are no sudden scares. Just strangeness. I'd definitely watch it again.

I'm a sucker for anything with Klaus Kinski in it.

Reviews are scarce.

Hillel Butterfly Garden

The Morris S. Fogelman Jewish Student Center at Hillel of Memphis (beware the auto-playing music at that web site) at the University of Memphis has a lovely butterfly garden. There's also a vegetable garden against the fence at the back of the parking lot just to the right of the photo above. The Husband and I saw it on a walk recently.

The tiger's official name is Aubergine, but she has a Hebrew name, too: Nimorah Hashamorah - Guardian Tiger

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Martin Scorsese's Favorite Movies

Miramax has a list of Scorsese's 12 favorite films:
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick
(1963) – Federico Fellini
Ashes and Diamonds (1958) – Andrzej Wajda
Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles
The Leopard (1963) – Luchino Visconti
Paisan (1946) – Roberto Rossellini
The Red Shoes (1948) – Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger
The River (1951) – Jean Renoir
Salvatore Giuliano (1962) – Francesco Rosi
The Searchers (1956) – John Ford
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) – Mizoguchi Kenji
Vertigo (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock
I've seen the ones in bold print. This is a great list in that I've enjoyed the ones on it I've seen, so that motivates me to seek out the others.

HT: Open Culture

In the Heart of the Country

In the Heart of the Country (1977) is an early novel by J.M. Coetzee. Describing this book is like describing a wave you didn't see coming. It swept over me and then was gone. I'm still clueless.

from the back of the book:
On a remote farm in South Africa, the protagonist of J. M. Coetzee's fierce and passionate novel watches the life from which she has been excluded. Ignored by her callous father, scorned and feared by his servants, she is a bitterly intelligent woman whose outward meekness disguises a desperate resolve not to become "one of the forgotten ones of history." When her father takes an African mistress, that resolve precipitates an act of vengeance that suggests a chemical reaction between the colonizer and the colonized - and between European yearnings and the vastness and solitude of Africa. A story told in prose as feverishly rich as William Faulkner's, In the Heart of the Country is a work of irresistible power. With vast assurance and an unerring eye, J. M. Coetzee has turned the family romance into a mirror of the colonial experience.
Reviews are scarce.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wagon Master

Wagon Master is a 1950 John Ford Western starring Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Joanne Dru, and Ward Bond. Bond plays a Mormon who hires 3 men to guide him and his group of settlers to Utah. A fine enough traditional Western with a reputation that indicates most folks like it better than I do. I don't care for the score, which has a bit too much of the singin' cowboy trope to suit me.

It inspired the TV series Wagon Train, which ran from 1957 to 1965. I remember seeing some of the episodes of that.

via youtube:

Empire Online calls it an "utterly delightful, lyrical Western". Time Out says it's "A moral fable, but with a refreshing lack of rhetoric to its poetry." DVD Talk calls it "a simple and heartfelt cowboys 'n' settlers story with a gentle touch" and says, "If you like "pure" westerns that showcase good horse riding and other cowboy skills, Wagon Master is a must-see title". TCM has an overview. The Rotten Tomatoes critics score is 100%, and the audience score is 70%.

Carroll Cloar at the Memphis Brooks Museum

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is participating in the Summer of Cloar with an exhibition called The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South. I've never been a big fan of Cloar's paintings, and I feel like a traitor to the South saying so, but his style has just never particularly appealed to me for some reason.

I'm most familiar with his works Wedding Party (1971) and My Father Was Big as a Tree (1955), because they are part of the Brooks permanent collection and I remember them more than some of the others. They are pictured here:

image from the Brooks Museum

image from the Brooks Museum

My favorite from this exhibition is The Time of the Blackbirds (1955), which I can't find a picture of online. This exhibit names Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog as his most famous work:

image from the Brooks Museum