Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Pistol for Ringo

A Pistol for Ringo is a 1965 spaghetti western that takes place during the Christmas season. I love a non-traditional Christmas movie, and this is about as non-traditional as you can get. Many a "Merry Christmas" is called out across the dirt street, and there's talk of presents and a Christmas tree, and someone even says that the kindness of Christmas should last all year instead of being reserved for a single day of the year. Delightful! calls it an "essential spaghetti western from the early days of the genre" and says,
A Pistol for Ringo was one of the most successful films of the early stream of spaghetti westerns. Director Duccio Tessari had been one of the co-authors of Leone's first western, A Fistful of Dollars and Ringo is clearly modeled after the Man with No Name. But he's not a clone. Just look at the way the character is introduced: he's playing with a group of children when he is addressed by four guys. Before we know what is going on, he shoots all four of them. The wonderful scene says: I'm a cheerful fellow, but don't mess with me! A Pistol for Ringo was meant to be a lighter, less cynical version of the western Italian style, with Giuliano Gemma playing a character who is, so to speak, No Name’s more fashionable brother: instead of a poncho, he's wearing a suit (modeled after the clothes Gary Cooper was wearing in High Noon). His knickname would forever be Angel Face.
A Fistful of Pasta recommends it, calling it "a good, solid, entertaining film" and says, "It was well-paced, the acting wasn't over the top as it can often be in these films, the English overdub was well-recorded and ably acted, and there was a good Morricone score. Gemma's got some good screen prescence as always, and it works well in this one."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dear Satan

Well, we can't have it be all sweetness and light, can we? And who can resist a Christmas story about Satan narrated by Patrick Stewart?

Dear Satan:

via: Open Culture

Sometimes we just want a little edgier take on Christmas. Well, I do. The Husband prefers to keep the Christmas spirit in a warmer, cozier, more traditional way.

I can't say I blame him.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Nutcracker (1973 animation)

The Nutcracker is a 1973 Soviet animated film. According to Wikipedia, it is "based partly on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, but more closely on E.T.A. Hoffmann's novelette The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story which inspired the ballet." The family's young maid is the main character here and the one who helps the nutcracker/prince.

via Youtube:

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Nexus is the first book in a trilogy by Ramez Naam. I found this an interesting read with relevance to current issues. It's maybe a bit too deliberately relevant to suit me, and I probably won't read the sequels.

from the back of the book:

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can cause humans to link together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he's thrust was over his head into a world of danger and international espionage, for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.
favorite quotes:
It had been the most painful, most confusing, most troubling six months of his life. But it had opened his eyes. And eyes, once opened, seldom closed again.
"Communism, capitalism, all the same. The powerful want resources. Water. Natural gas. Uranium. The powerful see them, reach out their hand and scoop them up, and who cares who they crush in the process, eh? Dictatorships and democracies, all alike. Your precious democracy doesn't care about us, does it? All men are created equal, eh? We all have inalienable rights. Unless we live so very far away, perhaps? You Americans defeated your British king because he was a dictator. We are the same. We will defeat our dictator, even if you oppose us."
We're all born dying, someone had said. What matters is only how we spend the instant we're given.

The Guardian says, "Ramez does a brilliant job of examining the ramifications of upgrading humankind and combines in‑depth philosophising –occasionally resorting to clunky info-dumps– with effective action sequences in a mind‑expanding cyber-thriller." Wired praises it, calling it "a bleeding edge technical thriller that is full of surprises."

io9 says, "overall it's a fast, fun read which is both emotionally engaging and thought-provoking. You'll be mulling over the implications of Nexus — the book and the drug — long after you put the book down." Strange Horizons says it's "a modern-day Edisonade" and calls it frustrating.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Night Before Christmas (1961)

The Night Before Christmas is a 1961 Soviet film based on the story Christmas Eve by Nocolai Gogol. Yes, another one. Gogol adaptations seem to be as popular in Russian-speaking areas as Dickens adaptations are in English-speaking ones.

via Youtube:

While I watched it I drank some of this new coffee The Daughter and Son-in-Law gave us for Christmas:

It's good, very mild. Our favorites are still Peet's Italian Roast and Ugly Mug Hardy Passion. It's always fun to try new kinds, though.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Coffee at the Peabody Hotel

Last week The Husband, The Daughter, and I went downtown to have coffee and do some people-watching in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. It's been said,
”The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg. The Peabody is the Paris Ritz, the Cairo Shepheard, the London Savoy of this section. If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby ... ultimately you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta...” -Author/Historian David Cohn, 1935.
Given that, how can you resist?

Here's the gingerbread house display:

Here's the lobby menu:

I had coffee and lemon meringue pie:

We were there when the late afternoon duck march took place. This daily ceremony is when the Duckmaster takes the ducks back up to their rooftop quarters. A delightful experience, I'd certainly recommend it if you're ever in Memphis.

As we left the Peabody, we passed by the side entrance:

on the way back to the parking garage. You can see how dreary and drizzly it was, but it wasn't actually very cold:

Downtown has nice Christmas decorations, and we enjoyed our stroll.

Please join us at the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. Share a drink of holiday cheer with us.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Join me for a cuppa coffee in front of the Christmas tree? We're having a low-key day with come-and-go family visiting on their way to and from other family. We'll be enjoying the increase in the birds we're having at the feeder now that it's cooling off a bit. We're seeing the usual sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, mourning doves, snowbirds, woodpeckers... but more of them and more often.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols is a traditional Christmas service. This is the audio from the 2015 version of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge, which was first heard there on Christmas Eve in 1918:

They have a website with more information on the service and directions for how to listen to it live. This is a beautifully uplifting celebration.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Music

We have a lot of Christmas CDs, but I also enjoy combining music to make up my own list of songs to listen to. Here's my Spotify Christmas playlist:

I like a variety, but if your tastes are different I'm sure there's a playlist to suit you. Searching Spotify for Christmas playlist yields more options than I can possibly describe. This link is to my past posts that were tagged "Christmas Music". And yes, it seems I post a video for the song Chiron Beta Prime every year.

Have a joyous Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Death of an Englishman

Death of an Englishmen is a 1981 mystery, the debut novel and first in a series by Magdalen Nabb. I enjoyed this, finding an interesting look at the characters of police officers and citizens and expats in Florence. The dialogue was great at illustrating the people. I'll definitely look for more of these.

from the back of the book:
Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Florentine Carabinieri wants to go south for Christmas to spend the holiday with his family in Sicily, but a retired Englishman living in Florence has been murdered. Who has shot Mr. Langley-Smythe in the back? The marshal must discover the identity of the criminal and the motive for the crime before he can take the train home for the holidays.
favorite quotes:
Dotty old dear, they'd have said -and don't tell me you wouldn't have said the same, you needn't blush, I've seen you giving my shoes funny looks but when you get to my age it's either be comfortable and keep going or be dignified and sit in a chair all day and I know which suits me.
So many people lived on a knife edge, just managing to keep going,, just managing to "keep straight," but if anything went wrong, a missed train, a week without wages, for them it was a tragedy because they had no resources except their families who were as poor as themselves.

Kirkus Reviews says the plot isn't this book's strong point but says,
there are genial glimpses of English expatriate life in Florence here (a dotty vicar, a pathetic library); the Italian/British interplay -especially the chumship between the two younger cops- is quietly witty; and the non-tourist side of the city is nicely captured, from Christmas-tree sellers to come-as-you-are restaurants.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Night Before Christmas (1913)

The Night Before Christmas (1913) is a Russian silent film by Ladislas Starevich. It's a fairly faithful adaptation of the story Christmas Eve by Nicolai Gogol. The film combines live action and stop motion animation.

via Youtube:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


The Becoming Minimalist website offers links to other sites that also highlight simplicity and minimalism and says:
So fix yourself a nice warm cup of coffee or tea. Find a quiet moment .... And enjoy some encouraging words to inspire more simplicity in your life today.
Those are secular sites, but as a Christian I find myself during this Advent season looking at the way the Advent and Christmas seasons have become the time of the year when buying is at its height and when wanting more and more is encouraged. Let's reconsider that, shall we?

Catholic Mommy Blogs says, "I’ve been thinking about how Jesus came into the world that first Christmas – as a small infant, born in a stable. In poverty and simplicity" and has four suggestions. The Art of Simple has a page on Advent that offers easy ways to separate Advent (that period before Christmas) from Christmas itself, including an Advent playlist on Spotify. Nourishing Simplicity suggests six ways to be intentional in our preparations for Christmas, saying, "Intentional celebration does not mean adding all you can to your month. Often it means simplifying and cutting back."

Advent Conspiracy has a 2-minute video on consumerism during the season:

that suggests we spend less money on stuff and more time on relationships and says, "slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering."

I'll not be eliminating Christmas buying and I'll be giving some gifts, but I'm conscious of my spending in every season and am ever more willing to pare down and cut back on the stuff. I have enough and more than enough. Accumulating even more at this stage in my life is a bad idea for many reasons.

So I'll listen to some Advent music, drink a cup of spice tea, and enjoy my tree.

First, though, I had to make the spice tea. Here are my ingredients:

and the jar my daughter decorated as a child that I fill for her every year:

You can see my recipe here.

Please join me in a cup:

and I'll invite you to take your cup over to Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly blog gathering.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Full House, by O.Henry

Full House is an 1952 O.Henry anthology film containing these five stories:
  • "The Cop and the Anthem"
  • "The Clarion Call"
  • "The Last Leaf"
  • "The Ransom of Red Chief"
  • "The Gift of the Magi"
This is a joy to add to the Christmas Movie queue.

The New York Times has a positive review that closes with this: "Notable in all of these episodes is a flavor and atmosphere of New York when it was Bagdad on the Subway and O. Henry was grinding out his tales.... These stories need no introduction. They thoroughly stand on their own."

Variety calls it "a full house of entertainment that has something for all tastes." DVD Talk calls it "solid entertainment from the Hollywood studio system".

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Wonders at the Garden

The Husband had an event one night, and I was at loose ends and in the mood to do something. I chose Holiday Wonders at the Garden and had a lovely time. They had different areas lit up. The first area is Snowy Nights at the Garden in the Big Backyard:

Then I went through the rose garden:

to Trees Alight:

and then Sculptures Bright:

I ended by taking a moment to sit in this area:

to post my photos to Facebook. What a nice solo treat for me!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Last Night (1998)

Last Night (1998) is an award-winning Canadian apocalyptic black comedy-drama film. I had never heard of this movie and happened across it just by accident, and I'm surprised it's not better known. I highly recommend it. It's a beautiful look at the last hours of our world, a look into the choices people make as the world ends.

via Youtube:

The New York Times has a positive review. Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and a positive review.

Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 84%.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Watch a Christmas Movie!

I won't reproduce it here, but I have a list of Christmas movies here. Not all of them are Christmas-y movies, but all of them have a Christmas connection. Some, especially the older ones, are available online.

We have a lot of DVDs and CDs here:

We've been accumulating for years but have begun the process of letting go faster than we add to the collection.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pickup on South Street

Pickup on South Street if a 1953 spy film/film noir. A low-life pickpocket accidentally steals government secrets intended for a Communist spy as he's dipping a wallet out of a purse. Richard Widmark stars as the thief. Thelma Ritter and Milburn Stone also star.

Slant Magazine concludes, "This film is an amazing example of what might be called noir jazz." The Guardian calls it "masterly". DVD Talk says, "A great old film, the kind that's no longer a mainstream 'classic' but can still fill a revival house with crowds that love gutsy filmmaking and pulpy dialogue, tough-guy action and Runyonesque sentimentality."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Dragon Man

The Dragon Man by Garry Disher is an award-winning book, the first novel in the Australian series featuring Detective Inspector Hal Challis. I picked it up on a whim. I am not sure I've read any novels that take place in Australia, but I find this fascinating. The characters have interesting lives, and I appreciate how well fleshed out their private lives are while still maintaining the focus on the crime-based plot. I'll pick up the rest of this series along the way. This book takes place during the Christmas holiday season.

from the back of the book:
A serial killer is on the loose in a small coastal town near Melbourne, Australia. Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his team must apprehend him before he strikes again. But first, Challis has to contend with the editor of a local newspaper who undermines his investigation at every turn, and with his wife, who attempts to resurrect their marriage through long-distance phone calls from a sanitarium, where she has been committed for the past eight years for attempted murder -his.
Reviewing the Evidence says it "completely engages the reader". Kirkus Reviews closes a positive review by saying, "This series debut from the prolific Disher (The Sunken Road, 1996, etc.) doesn’t read like one, thanks to fully formed characters and wall-to-wall mysteries. The offbeat setting’s a bonus for US readers." Publishers Weekly calls it "an intelligent, atmospheric police procedural".

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pearl's Oyster House

Pearl's Oyster House is a delightful place located on South Main here in Memphis. They have their own parking lot behind their building, which is unusual in downtown Memphis. This is the view from my table:

I like their fried catfish:

I always walk around when I go downtown, and this time I saw a mural I had never noticed before:

This most recent trip was with The Daughter, and she offered me dessert at her house:

Homemade cookies! Yummmmm!

Please join the T Stands for Tuesday gathering over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where you can share a drink with us.