Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dracula in Istanbul

Dracula in Istanbul is a 1953 Turkish film loosely based on a translation of the Bram Stoker novel. It's an interesting take on the story, and I'm glad I've seen it for comparison's sake.

Diabolique Magazine closes with this:
Technical flaws and budget issues aside, Dracula in Istanbul is a decent take on the Count Dracula legend and I’ll give the Turkish production credit for doing the best they could do. The film certainly isn’t scary, but it manages to entertain as a whole and makes for an interesting viewing.
Horrorpedia has a few screenshots. Den of Geek notes it as the first film to make a direct connection between Dracula and Vlad the Impaler.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sugar Mama Blues

Sugar Mama Blues:

by Sonny Boy Williamson I, who died on June 1 in 1948 at the age of 34. He was born near Jackson, TN, (about an hour and a half northeast of Memphis) but settled in Chicago, Ill, in 1934. He was killed in a robbery as he walked the block and a half home from a performance at a local tavern.

lyrics excerpt:
I like my coffee sweet in the mornin'
You know, an I'm crazy 'bout my tea at night
I like my coffee sweet in the mornin'
You know, an I'm crazy 'bout my tea at night

Don't get my sugar three times a day
Oh, Lord, then I don't feel right

Monday, May 29, 2017


Reputations is a novel by Juan Gabriel Vasquez. I'll be on the lookout for more by this author. The book is beautifully written/translated, the characters are real people, the plot is interestingly constructed.... It's thought-provoking but not manipulative. I am glad I picked this book up.

from the dust jacket:
Javier Mallarino is a living legend. He is his country's most influential political cartoonist, the conscience of a nation. A man capable of repealing laws, overturning judges' decisions, and destroying politicians' careers with his art

After four decades of a brilliant career, Mallarino is at the height of his powers. When he is paid an unexpected visit by a young woman whose shocking story upends his sense of personal history, he is forced to reconsider his life and work, and question his position in the world.

Juan Gabriel Vasquez explores the weight of the past, how a public persona intersects with private histories, the burdens and surprises of memory.
In this intimate and propulsive novel, he plumbs universal experiences to create a masterful story, one that reverberates long after you turn the final page.
favorite quote:
There are women who do not preserve, on the map of their face, any trace of the little girl they once were, perhaps because they've made great efforts to leave childhood behind -its humiliations, its subtle persecutions, the experience of constant disappointment -perhaps because something's happened in the meantime, one of those private cataclysms that don't mold a person but rather raze them, like a building, and force them to reconstruct themselves from scratch.
The New York Times calls the author "a true international writer" and says, "“Reputations” can be read and enjoyed on many levels: for its reflections on art, memory and fate; for its account of recent Colombian history at a slant, which is Vásquez’s trademark approach; for its Jungian exploration of lives intersecting." Kirkus Reviews calls it "A brisk and sophisticated study of a conscience in crisis."

NPR has an interview with the author.

This is part of my book challenges for the year. It is on the NPR list of best books of 2016. The author is also Colombian, so I'm feeling a connection with Memphis in May, whose honored country this year is Colombia.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is another in the current long line of superhero films. I am not familiar with much in the way of superheros, and The Husband had to tell me who this one was. I thoroughly enjoyed this and look forward to more. Benedict Cumberbatch stars.


The Guardian closes by saying, "It’s a tremendously engaging and likable superhero ride, in which the classiest of casts show they know exactly where to take it seriously – and where to inject the fun." Time has a positive review.

Slate says, "Thanks in part to its charming cast, and despite its serious intentions, Doctor Strange is a pleasantly silly film, with plenty of humor hiding amid all the reality-distorting special effects and high-flying action." Rolling Stone has a positive review, focusing on Cumberbatch.

Vanity Fair and BBC and many other have positive things to say. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Drawing of the Three: Dark Tower #2

The Drawing of the Three is book 2 in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I'm re-reading the first two and reading the rest of the series in preparation for the release of the sequel film. This book is really just an extensive origin story for the gunslinger's companions. If I hadn't known the rest of the series was worth reading I'd have stopped after this one, and in fact it was after this one I gave it up the last time I started this project. Onward, though. Now I am motivated to read til the end.

from the back of the book:
Stephen King returns to the Dark Tower in this second mesmerizing volume in his epic series. Roland of Gilead has mysteriously stepped through a doorway in time that takes him to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous Odetta Holmes. A savage struggle has begun in which underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland's desperate search for the Dark Tower. Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, The Drawing of the Three compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter.
The Guardian says, "The sequel to The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three seems to have been meant for what King referred to as the "Constant Reader" – those who follow his every published word." Kirkus Reviews concludes, "In an afterword, King previews volumes 3 and 4: an epic in the making, and, if the quality of this one sustains, a series to be savored as it grows." SF Site says, "this second book is more of an interlude, a place for Roland to consider his quest and replenish his strength by drawing a new ka-tet (a phrase which appears later in the series, and which means literally "one from many")." SFF Book Review says, "THE VERDICT: Highly recommended! This will get you into the Dark Tower craze and it also happens to be an excellent summer book."

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Color of Pomegranates

The Color of Pomegranates is a 1969 Soviet biographical film, which tells the story of the Armenian poet/singer Sayat-Nova in a poetical rather than literal style. It is directed by Sergei Parajanov. It was shot on location in Armenia. It is a visually striking film.

via Youtube:

TimeOut has it on their list of Top 100 Films, saying this:
Originally refused an export license, Paradjanov's extraordinary film traces the life of 18th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova ('The King of Song'), but with a series of painterly images strung together to form tableaux corresponding to moments of his life rather than any conventional biographic techniques. Pomegranates bleed their juice into the shape of a map of the old region of Armenia, the poet changes sex at least once in the course of his career, angels descend: the result is a stream of religious, poetic and local iconography which has an arcane and astonishing beauty. Much of its meaning must remain essentially specific to the culture from which the film springs, and no one could pretend that it's all readily accessible, but audiences accustomed to the work of Tarkovsky should have little problem.
It is 84th on the 2012 BFI list of Greatest Films of All Time. Senses of Cinema says, "This deliriously beautiful film is made up of autonomous, resonant images that – like lines of poetry –stay in the mind long after the film has run its course." The Guardian says, "the magnitude of Parajanov’s cinematic achievement is clear to see".

The New York Times says, "anything this purely mysterious has its magic" and closes with this:
Mr. Parandjanov made ''The Color of Pomegranates'' in 1969, and it was released in the Soviet Union three years later. Since then, the director was sent to prison camp for a five-year sentence at hard labor, and he has not made any subsequent films. He ''has been painting and living in harsh circumstances in Tbilisi,'' according to the program notes.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 91%.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Shape Shifter

The Shape Shifter is the 18th book in the Chee/Leaphorn mystery series by Tony Hillerman. I only have one book left to read from these -an early one I don't have yet- and I'm sad to see the end of them. I can re-read, of course, but it's just not quite the same.

from the dust jacket:
Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn
is back, in this latest tale of murder and mystery
from the renowned bestselling author.
Since his retirement from the Navajo Tribal Police, Joe Leaphorn has occasionally been enticed to return to work by former colleagues who seek his help when they need to solve a particularly puzzling crime. They ask because Leaphorn, aided by officers Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito, always delivers.

But this time the problem is with an old case of Joe's -his "last case," unsolved, is one that continues to haunt him. And with Chee and Bernie just back from their honeymoon, Leaphorn is pretty much on his own.

The original case involved a priceless, one-of-a-kind Navajo rug supposedly destroyed in a fire. Suddenly, what looks like the same rug turns up in a magazine spread. And the man who brings the photo to Leaphorn's attention has gone missing. Leaphorn must pick up the threads of a crime he'd thought impossible to untangle. Not only has the passage of time obscured the details, but it also appears that there's a murderer still on the loose.
I've read these from this series:
1. The Blessing Way (1970)
2. Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

4. People of Darkness (1980)
5. The Dark Wind (1982)
6. The Ghostway (1984)

7. Skinwalkers (1986)
8. Thief of Time (1988)
9. Talking God (1989)
10. Coyote Waits (1990)
11. Sacred Clowns (1993)
12. The Fallen Man (1996)
13. The First Eagle (1998)
14. Hunting Badger
15. The Wailing Wind
16. The Sinister Pig (2003)
17. Skeleton Man

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trouble Every Day

Trouble Every Day is a 2001 vampire movie directed by Claire Denis. Not your usual vampire movie, which is reason enough to give it a chance. It's slow, but I didn't mind that.


Village Voice calls it "a hypnotic, unsettling work by one of the most sensuous filmmakers of the past 25 years. Slant Magazine has a positive review. The New York Times has a mixed review and calls it "daring" and "intermittently beautiful".

Time Out says,
Denis shoots this grisly-erotic roundelay in her distinctively woozy and elliptical style. The deepest connections between characters emerge from silence as opposed to dialogue—Shane gazing hungrily at a hotel maid’s neck, Coré quietly enticing a fresh-faced neighbor boy into her boarded-up lair—while the groggy atmosphere, aided immeasurably by Agnès Godard’s grainy cinematography and the punch-drunk score of indie-rockers Tindersticks, keeps you constantly beguiled. describes it this way: "Steamy anonymous sex meets horrible crimes of violence in Claire Denis' languid, lurid new art movie." says it "is an eerie, visually attractive French horror film that isn’t afraid to take an old trope and tell a new story." Rolling Stone has it on their list of "20 Scariest Horror Movies You've Never Seen" and calls it a "gorgeous, shocking riff on the bloodsucker genre."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

One More Cup of Coffee

One More Cup of Coffee:

by Bob Dylan, who will turn 76 years old tomorrow.

Lyrics excerpt from the beginning of the song:
Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don't sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go.
To the valley below.

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton is a 2016 novel by Elizabeth Strout. I read Olive Kitteredge, and I will continue to pick up other books by this author as I come across them.

from the back of the book:
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
The New York Times concludes a positive review with this:
There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, “My Name Is Lucy Barton” offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to —“I was so happy. Oh, I was happy”— simple joy.
Washington Post opens with this:
“There was a time, and it was many years ago now,” Elizabeth Strout’s slim and spectacular new novel begins, “when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.” And it feels like she is going to tell us a story, the old-fashioned, uncomplicated kind. But only for a little while. “My Name Is Lucy Barton” is smart and cagey in every way.
The Guardian closes by saying this: My Name Is Lucy Barton confirms Strout as a powerful storyteller immersed in the nuances of human relationships, weaving family tapestries with compassion, wisdom and insight. If she hadn’t already won the Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge, this new novel would surely be a contender." The Chicago Tribune says, "Strout, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Olive Kitteridge" and other highly praised novels, has always awed us with her ability to put into words the mysterious and unfathomable ways in which people cherish each other." The book was the subject of one of Diane Rehm's programs. Kirkus Reviews says, "Fiction with the condensed power of poetry: Strout deepens her mastery with each new work, and her psychological acuity has never required improvement."

NPR concludes,
Some novels, regardless of their relationship to actual events, feel true. It's like something gentle has taken you to one side, where things you already half-knew but couldn't articulate are finally explained to you. You feel relief, you feel understood, you feel realer, even. You think, that's it. That's what life is like. My Name is Lucy Barton renders familiar universal tensions — family, sickness, money — quietly and aptly. It's a true novel.
I read it as part of my book challenge for this year. It's listed on the NPR site as one of the best books of 2016.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 classic, an award-winning epic masterpiece. It's directed by David Lean and stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Arthur Kennedy. If you haven't yet, you must see this film.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Masonic 42

This 42 is part of the street address for a local Masonic lodge.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stalking Moon

Stalking Moon is a 1968 western starring Gregory Peck and Eva Marie Saint. It is a fine enough western but not something I'll watch again.

The NYT has a negative review that concludes with this: "The ads say that no one can escape "The Stalking Moon." You can if you stay home." DVD Talk has a lot of criticisms but says, "On its own limited terms The Stalking Moon gets an "A" for excellence." Roger Ebert says, "... the movie doesn't work as a thriller. It doesn't hold together as a Western, either".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Dark Tower, book 1

The Gunslinger is the first book in the Stephen King Dark Tower series. I'm re-reading the first two books and completing the series in preparation for the upcoming film.

from the back of the book:
In the first book of this brilliant series, now expanded and revised by the author, Stephen King introduces readers to one of the most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues the man in black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
one of my favorite quotes:
Above, the stars were unwinking, also constant. Suns and worlds by the million. Dizzying constellations, cold fire in every primary hue. As he watched, the sky washed from violet to ebony. A meteor etched a brief, spectacular arc below Old Mother and winked out. The fire threw strange shadows as the devil-grass burned its slow way down into new patterns -not ideograms but a straightforward crisscross vaguely frightening in its own no-nonsense surety. He had lain his fuel in a pattern that was not artful but only workable. It spoke of blacks and whites. It spoke of a man who might straighten pictures in strange hotel rooms. The fire burned its steady, slow flame, and phantoms danced in its incandescent core. The gunslinger did not see. The two patterns, art and craft, were welded together as he slept. The wind moaned, a witch with cancer in her belly. Every now and then a perverse downdraft would make the smoke whirl and puff toward him and he breathed some of it in. It built dreams in the same way that a small irritant may build a pearl in an oyster. The gunslinger occasionally moaned with the wind. The stars were as indifferent to this as they were to wars, crucifixions, resurrections. This also would have pleased him.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Whip and the Body

The Whip and the Body is a 1963 Mario Bava gothic horror film starring Christopher Lee. Marriage, betrayal, jealousy, suicide, revenge, madness possession.... A ghost, perhaps. "You can't stop the hand of fate."

Images Journal calls it "the great director’s most romantic, overwrought, macabre, and sexually provocative film." Slant Magazine gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. 1000 Misspent Hours gives it a positive review. Weird Wild Realm thinks it's hokey.

DVD Talk describes it as "a startlingly original scare show with an unexpectedly adult theme".

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Instant Coffee Blues

Instant Coffee Blues:

from the first studio album Old No. 1 (1974) by Guy Clark, who died in Nashville, TN, at age 74 a year ago tomorrow. I'm not a big country music fan, and I have to say that listening to him hasn't converted me; but we have to be willing to try, don't we?

lyrics excerpt:
And him he hit the driveway with his feelin's in a case.
And her she hit the stoplight and touched up her face.
So you tell them the difference between caring and not.
And that it's all done with mirrors, lest they forgot.

I said it's all done with mirrors, of which they have none.
To blend the instant coffee blues into the morning sun
Please join this week's edition of the "T Stands for Tuesday" blog gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth, where we share a drink and other eclectic offerings.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Upper Body Strength, part 3

Again as in parts 1 and 2 of this little trio of posts, these videos are from the Fitness Blender Youtube channel. They have a large number of videos online, and I've found some of them (well, most of them, to be honest) much too challenging for me. There are plenty, though, that are suitable for my age, small size, and strength and endurance limitations.

The ones in this post don't require any equipment.

6 minutes:

9 minutes:

22 minutes:

Upper Body Strength, part 2

These are from Fitness Blender, a Youtube channel I've found incredibly helpful, and are the same style as their videos in part 1 but don't include the warm-ups or cool-downs:

The first one is specifically targeted for functional upper body strength rather than for toning.

27 minutes:

Below are seven more videos of varying length from that same channel.

9 minutes:

9 minutes:

12 minutes:

16 minutes:

20 minutes:

28 minutes:

35 minutes:

Upper Body Strength

I do some kind of upper body strength exercise three times each week. I have a set of resistance bands, but I've never liked using them. I'm not sure why I don't like them, but give me my little dumbbells any day. If you prefer written programs without the video, I've found plenty of those online, too., for example has a 10-exercise upper body routine with photographs and clear instructions, has instructions for 6 exercises they recommend, WikiHow has an illustrated article, and there are plenty of others.

Video, though, that's my favorite, because I can have the moving model to follow while still being able to adapt as needed.

There are 2 more posts on this subject: part 2, part 3)

The Fitness Blender Youtube channel has a lot of videos that are much too challenging for me -I get worn out just looking at them- but I've found quite a few that I like to use. These include warm-ups and cool-downs.

The first one is specifically targeted for functional upper body strength rather than for toning.

38 minutes:

Below are three more embedded from that channel:

30 minutes:

38 minutes:

40 minutes:

50 minutes:

This link is to a Fitness Blender video at Youtube that focuses on exercises to improve posture and prevent hunched shoulders. I hope I can maintain, and maybe even build, strength. I want to avoid frailty if at all possible.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Les Jeux des Anges

Les Jeux des Anges (The Games of Angels) is a 1964 animated short directed by Walerian Borowczyk. This is definitely different. Imdb describes it:
A bizarre, semi-abstract animated film, based around the theme of angels being processed by a nightmarish factory.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Slight Case of Murder

A Slight Case of Murder is a 1938 comedy starring Edward G. Robinson as a gangster who decides to go straight. This is very watchable, filled with delightful 1930s-era cuteness. I loved it. You can't go wrong with Robinson, after all.


The New York Times, in a review from the film's release, calls it "immoderately" amusing, praising the writing, the direction, and "the flavorsome performances of an unusually apt and well-chosen cast."

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman is an 1833 story in verse by Alexander Pushkin. Wikipedia says it is "about the equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg and the great flood of 1824" and says,
Widely considered to be Pushkin's most successful narrative poem, "The Bronze Horseman" has had a lasting impact on Russian literature. It is considered one of the most influential works in Russian Literature, and is one of the reasons Pushkin is often called the “founder of modern Russian literature.” The statue became known as the Bronze Horseman due to the great influence of the poem.

Pushkin died on February 10, 1837, of peritonitis following a shot in the stomach during a duel.

The poem can be read online here. It begins:

A wave-swept shore, remote, forlorn:
Here stood he, rapt in thought and drawn
To distant prospects. Broad and chartless
The river ran, along it borne
A lonely skiff, rough-hewn and artless.
Darker against the marshy green
Of moss-grown banks appeared some mean
Log huts: the poor Finns’ habitation;
And forests which had never seen
The mist-veiled sun’s illumination
Were live with whispers.

And he thought:
‘From here the Swede is ill-protected:
A city on this site, to thwart
His purposes, shall be erected.
For here we may, by Nature blessed,
Cut through a window to the West
And guard our seaboard with conviction.
At home in waters which had been
Unknown, all flags shall here be seen,
And we shall feast without restriction.’

A hundred years have passed. We see,
Where swamp and forest stood but lately:
The city, northern prodigy,
Has risen, sumptuous and stately;
Where once a humble Finnish lad –
Poor foster-child in Nature’s keeping –
Alone upon the low banks had
Oft cast his time-worn nets when reaping
The waters’ hidden harvest, – now
Great towers and palaces endow
The bustling banks with grace and splendour;
From every corner of the earth
Come vessels, jostling to berth
At these rich wharves. Now, to defend her,
Our city’s banks are granite-cased;
Fair bridges interlace her waters;
And verdant parks bedeck those quarters
With which the islands have been graced.
So our young capital’s aurora
Puts ancient Moscow in the shade,
Just as a new tsaritsa’s aura
Must make the empress-mother fade.

O how I love you, Peter’s daughter!
Your aspect, graceful yet austere;
Nevá’s augustly flowing water
And granite banks: these I hold dear;
Your railings, finely ornamented;
Your pensive nights of moonless light
And lambent dusk, when I, contented,
Sit in my room and read and write
Without a lamp, while in the nearly
Deserted streets huge buildings clearly
Loom up, asleep; and solar fire
Plays on the Admiralty spire;
And Dusk directly (as if plotting
To keep the golden skies alight)
Hands on the torch to Dawn, allotting
A brief half-hour to cheated Night.
I love your winter, harsh and bracing:
The still air resonant with frost;
Girls’ rosy cheeks; and sledges racing
By broad Nevá, now freely crossed;
And ballrooms: noisy, scintillating;
At junketings of single men
The glasses charged and coruscating,
And rum punch, flaming blue again.
I love the military vigour
Paraded on the Field of Mars:
Stout-hearted foot troops and hussars
In orderly and pleasing figure;
Torn battle colours held on high;
Smart ranks in measured rhythm swaying;
Glint of brass helmets, all displaying
Proud bullet scars from wars gone by.
And, martial capital, what pleasure
To hear your fortress cannon roar
When the Tsaritsa adds more treasure –
A son – to the Imperial store;
Or Russia celebrates once more
Defeat of our opponents’ legions;
Or when Nevá’s blue ice fragments,
And she, saluting Spring, sweeps hence
The shattered ice to ocean regions!

O fair Petropolis, stand fast,
Unshakeable as this great nation:
So that the elements, at last
Subdued, may seek conciliation!
And may the Finnish waves now cast
Aside hate born of long subjection,
And not with futile insurrection
Disturb great Peter’s ageless sleep!
There was a dreadful time … still deep
Its imprint on our generation …
My friends, that time, remembered well,
Shall be the theme of my narration.
It is a sombre tale I tell.

This counts towards my Russia book challenge.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jade Lady Burning

Jade Lady Burning (1992) is the first book in the Sueño and Bascom series by Martin Limon. I liked the setting, but it wasn't filled out very well. The characters were also lacking in depth, and although I think the main character has potential I'm stopping with this first book unless I'm somehow convinced by circumstance to read another one.

from the back of the book:
Meet Sergeants George Sueno and Ernie Bascom in
their first investigation, set in 1970s South Korea.
Almost twenty years after the end of the Korean War, the US Military is still present throughout South Korea, and tensions run high. Koreans look for any opportunity to hate the soldiers who drink at their bars and carouse with their women. When Pak Ok-suk, a young Korean woman, is found brutally murdered in a torched apartment in the Itaewon red-light district of Seoul, it looks like it might be the work of her American soldier boyfriend. Sergeants George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, Military Police for the US 8th Army, are assigned to the case, but they have nothing to go on other than a tenuous connection to an infamous prostitute. As repressed resentments erupt around them, the pair sets out on an increasingly dangerous quest to find evidence that will exonerate their countryman.
Kirkus Reviews says, "Authentic low-life Korean backgrounds don't entirely compensate for this first novel's predictable plot and flat characters". Publishers Weekly concludes by calling it "A mixed-bag first effort, with an evocative setting and a sluggish pace."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Housemaid (1960)

The Housemaid is a 1960 drama edging into horror about the ruin of a family after a predatory woman enters the household to help out when the wife becomes pregnant with their 3rd child.

Criterion calls it a "venomous melodrama" and "an engrossing tale of class warfare and familial disintegration that has been hugely influential on the new generation of South Korean filmmakers". Politico says it's "a claustrophobic, suspenseful masterpiece". Slant Magazine compares it to the 2010 remake.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Cafeteria

The Cafeteria (1930):

by Isaac Soyer (1907-1981), part of the permanent collection at the Memphis Brooks Museum. Soyer was a registered WPA artist. He immigrated to the U.S.A. with his parents, who were born in Russia.

Please join the other participants in the weekly "T" party hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. Share a drink of your choice with us.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Hunters in the Dark

Hunters in the Dark is the 2015 novel by Lawrence Osborne. This is a fascinating book, beautifully written. I'll look for more by this author.

from the back of the book:
Eager to sidestep his quiet life as a small-town teacher from England and test the thresholds of a daring new future, Robert Grieve decides to go missing.

On his first night in Cambodia, a windfall precipitates a chin of events -involving a bag of "jinxed" money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler taxi driver, and a rich doctor's daughter- that changes Robert's life forever.

In a sophisticated game of cat and mouse redolent of Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock -in which identities are blurred, greed trumps kindness, and karma is ruthless- Hunters in the Dark brilliantly twists dark superstitions of the Cambodian jungle with the machinations of fate, confirming Lawrence Osborne as one of the finest writers of today.
favorite quote:
You waited for life to begin and yet for some reason it did not begin. It hesitated while you wondered about the risks. You stodd in the wings of your own play, afraid to walk onto the boards and begin.
The Guardian calls it "edgy, gripping and beautifully written". NPR calls it "an elegant, dark, well-put together novel." The Independent concludes, "Hunters in the Dark is a tip-top thriller. Osborne knows how to keep the pages turning; he is a name to watch." Kirkus Reviews closes a positive review by saying, "Complex in plot yet simple and intense in style, Osborne’s narrative takes us into an Asian heart of darkness."

The New York Times closes with this:
“Hunters in the Dark” is a novel of immersion, not suspense, shaped like a quiet dream. The reader can do nothing but float as if in a muddy river, going where it takes him, which will be back to a version of the beginning. As such, it’s an unqualified success, and I hope it enjoys a wide readership
I read it for my book challenge this year, as part of the NPR list of best books of 2016.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Now, Voyager

Now, Voyager is a 1942 starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper. I watched this because it's in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, but I don't tend to like these melodramas. I actually did enjoy it, though. Bette Davis and Claude Rains are always irresistible.


At the time of its release the NYT concludes, "Although "Now, Voyager" starts out bravely, it ends exactly where it started—and after two lachrymose hours." Film Site says it's "the quintessential, soap-opera or "woman's picture" ('weepie') and one of Bette Davis' best-acted and remembered films in the 40s".

Slant Magazine opens by saying,
Now, Voyager remains a highly narcotic, swoon-inducing romance in the Bette Davis canon. It’s an unabashed soap opera about how true love gets hindered by social conventions, and manages to squeeze in a moralistic tale of female self-empowerment to boot. Toss in a third act bit of passive aggressive wish fulfillment where our high society heroine projects the love of a man she cannot have onto his unsuspecting, needy daughter, and there’s enough to make one’s head spin. But that cloudy feeling isn’t a drawback—it’s more like floating with a movie whose indulgences are reminiscent of foolishly falling in love. You ignore the flaws.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 91%.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Happy World Naked Gardening Day!

Happy World Naked Gardening Day, the first Saturday in May.

Not that I'll be participating... I spend most of my time gardening on the ground, and I'm more comfortable in clothes. But y'all go for it!

Friday, May 05, 2017


Ninotchka is a 1939 film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, with Greta Garbo ("Garbo laughs!), Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Sig Ruman, and Felix Bressart,

On its release, the NYT said of it,
Stalin won't like it. Molotoff may even recall his envoy from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. We still will say Garbo's "Ninotchka" is one of the sprightliest comedies of the year, a gay and impertinent and malicious show which never pulls its punch lines (no matter how far below the belt they may land) and finds the screen's austere first lady of drama playing a dead-pan comedy role with the assurance of a Buster Keaton.
Deep Focus Review has an in-depth examination and includes the political ramifications:
Politically, Ninotchka treads on delicate ground in its favor of Western culture and Capitalism over Communism, and the film was inevitably banned from several Soviet countries upon its release. The picture takes a bold step forward by representing Communism with some degree of realism for a Hollywood production, and by further representing a woman of some power—though Ninotchka reports to a male, Bela Lugosi’s Commissar Razinin—as a significant member of the party. Wilder later observed that, while writing, he knew he could not avoid the truth when representing Communist Russia. The film’s depiction of Soviet life would not only break gender role taboos of the period, but it would present a serious-minded satire of the facts. In 1939, Russia was a needed ally, and so referencing Stalin’s Great Purge and Ninotchka’s five-year plans with a sense of humor represented an undeniable risk and required political awareness from the film’s audience. When Ninotchka first arrives in Paris, her three comrades ask “How are things in Russia?” She replies coldly, “Very good. The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.” As Capitalism prevails, the message underneath the love story becomes clear, so much so that in 1948 the U.S. State Department sent 35 prints of Ninotchka to Italy during the “Red-threatened” elections in hopes of impacting voters.
Film Site opens with this:
Ninotchka (1939) was the long-awaited, classic romantic comedy, with a clever and witty script and the magnificent presence of actress Greta Garbo in her first official American comedy (in her next-to-last film). The charming film about clashing ideologies (Soviet communism vs. capitalism) begins with Garbo portrayed at first as a humorless, cold, curt, deadpan, and seriously-austere Russian envoy (in a parody of her own stiff onscreen image), who soon melts and is transformed and softened by Parisian love (and a persuasive playboy Count) into a frivolous, romantic figure and converted Communist.
Time Out says, "Ninotchka is delicate flirtation and political satire made into a perfect whole, and a reminder of skills that studio writers have largely lost." This film is listed in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Blood and Roses

Blood and Roses is a 1960 French film, which may be about a vampire and may be about a woman who undergoes a shock and resulting psychological disturbance. The movie lets you decide. Mel Ferrer stars. I enjoyed watching this.

The movie is loosely based on the 1872 Joseph Sheridan le Fanu book Carmilla, which can be read online at many different sites. You can have it read to you here courtesy of Librivox.


The New York Times calls it an "exquisitely mounted reprise of the old human vampire theme". Moria gives it 2 1/2 out of 5 stars. DVD Talk calls it "One of the most coveted but elusive Euro-horror delights from the 'first wave' of the late 1950s and early '60s"

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

A Cup of Tea

A Cup of Tea is a 1922 short story by New Zealander Katherine Mansfield, who died of tuberculosis in 1923 when she was 34 years old.

You can read the story online here. It begins with this:
Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn't have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces ... but why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces? She was young, brilliant, extremely modern, exquisitely well dressed, amazingly well read in the newest of the new books, and her parties were the most delicious mixture of the really important people and... artists -quaint creatures, discoveries of hers, some of them too terrifying for words, but others quite presentable and amusing.
You can listen to it thanks to LibriVox:

You can see photographs of her home and garden online here.

There's a weekly blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth where you can join in sharing a drink. You'll be welcomed.