Friday, June 30, 2017

Samson (1961)

Samson is a 1961 sword and sandal film in which the titular character is in no way connected to the Biblical figure by the same name. This is a fun adventure romp, easy to watch. The Imdb has this plot synopsis:
While traveling through the kingdom of Sulom, Samson is arrested and finds that the queen no longer reigns and that a power-mad warlord and his army of mercenaries now controls the kingdom. Samson teams up with some of his one-time adversaries to battle the usurper and restore the rightful queen to power.

10KBullets has a fairly detailed plot description and a few screen shots.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sunset over the Mississippi River

Every year I go down to the river and watch the sunset on either the day of the Summer Solstice or on the longest day of the year. The solstice was late at night on the day I took the sunset photos in this post.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Bullet for Sandoval

A Bullet for Sandoval is a 1969 revenge spaghetti western starring Ernest Borgnine and George Hilton. This can be a bit hard to follow, but worth it because of the cast. praises it, but calls for an uncut DVD release. Fistful of Pasta has an intriguing history of the film. DVD Talk says, "it's remarkably well paced and often times so dark in tone that you can't help but appreciate it."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tony Hancock

Tony Hancock, an English actor/comedian pictured above with a cup of coffee for the T Stands for Tuesday blog gathering, killed himself on June 25, 1968, at the age of 44, leaving a note that said in part, "Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times". Tragic. You hafta wish he'd found a way through that crisis. Here's a 10-minute video segment exploring his decline and death:

He had a BBC tv series, and here's a classic episode from 1961, The Blood Donor:

It has aged remarkably well. Timeless.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Lower Body Exercise, part 3

These are more video exercise routines for the lower body. This first one is from Melissa Bender's Youtube channel and focuses on leg, butt and thigh muscles:

These exercises from Bob and Brad ("the most famous physical therapists on the internet. in our opinion, of course"):

focus on knee strengthening but get in some hip strengthening, too. I do like this channel. The therapists are fun to watch, have a variety of offerings (including occasional product reviews and reviews of other channels), and have exercises that are appropriate for me with explanations of adaptations and progressions.

Lower Body Exercises, part 2

Here are more videos I like to rotate or that I regularly use exercises from:

I do all of the exercises in the video below but don't use this video. This is a great series of leg exercises (like the ones in the Michelle Kenway video I posted in Lower Body Exercises, part 1), fairly easy to do but still effective:

Sofia Davis has a leg strength exercise program that includes warm-up:

The actual exercise session starts at 6:45. I use dumbbells instead of kettle bells.

This 20-minute video has basic leg-strengthening and stretching exercises for runners. I don't run but find the exercises helpful:

The video above is from the Medi Weightloss Youtube channel.

Lower Body Exercises, part 1

This especially focuses on leg strengthening, but includes the broader lower body when I see videos that cover that. There are 2 more posts on this subject (part 2, part 3). has a series of 12 leg exercises they recommend.

Yoga for Healthy Aging has a sequence of yoga poses for lower body strengthening.

Michelle Kenway offers leg-strengthening exercises particularly intended for women with pelvic floor issues, but I find them helpful and easy:

Ekhart Yoga has a playlist of yoga videos targeting leg strength:

Five Parks Yoga has videos designed to work your legs:

from Yoga Upload:

The following 2 videos are from one of my favorite channels Fitness Blender.

10 minutes:

10 minutes:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal is a 2006 psychological drama starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy, and featuring a music score by Phillip Glass. The main characters in this film are despicable and unsympathetic. It is at times actually painful to watch, and the ending provides no justice or peace or resolution.


The New York Times opens with this: "The claws draw blood in “Notes on a Scandal,” a misanthropic game of cat and mouse from which no one emerges unscathed". The Guardian says, "Something so horrible and abject shouldn't be so compulsively watchable, and yet it is." The Independent has some of the same plot-spoiling concerns about the film that I do.

Empire Online calls it "Intelligent, classy and skin-crawling." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 87%.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower, book 4

Wizard and Glass is the 4th book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. This one focuses on The Gunslinger's youth, told as a fireside story to his current companions. This book is 668 pages long. It's an interesting story, but I'm glad to be done with it. There are 7 books in this series, and God help me Book 5 is longer than book 4.

from the back of the book:
At last, Stephen King returns to the Dark Tower with the eagerly anticipated fourth volume in his bestselling series. Roland, The Last Gunslinger, and his band of followers have narrowly escaped one world, and slipped into the nest. It is here that Roland tells them a long-ago tale of love and adventure involving a beautiful and quixotic woman named Susan Delgado. With shocking plot twists and a driving narrative force, Wizard and Glass is the book readers have been waiting for.

And the Tower is closer....


Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you've ever read. Here is Stephen King's most visionary piece of storytelling, a magical mix of fantasy and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

Join the quest for the elusive Dark Tower.
Rolling Stone took a poll, and this book came in on the list of top 10 Stephen King books. SF Site says it is "the strongest book of the first four in the series, the most controlled, the most reverberant with what the so-called literary writers like to call "craft." It also marks the final stage in the transformation of King's narrative style to something fully mature and realized". SFF Book Reviews rates it 9 out of 10.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Of Human Bondage (1934)

Of Human Bondage is a 1934 film based on the 1915 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. The book itself is recognized as a masterpiece and can be read online. The book has been adapted for film three times, and this 1934 release is the first.

This film stars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis in the lead roles. Also starring are Alan Hale (senior) and Reginald Owen. All the actors do a fine job, and the film doesn't feel as dated as you might think it would -more like a costume/period drama. I found the characters fascinating.

via Youtube:

The New York Times says, "the very lifelike quality of the story and the marked authenticity of its atmosphere cause the spectators to hang on every word uttered by the interesting group of characters," and particularly praises Leslie Howard. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 78%.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

100 greatest novels

The Guardian has a list of the 100 greatest novels written in English:
1. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678)

2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

4. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)

5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)

6. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759)

7. Emma by Jane Austen (1816)

8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

9. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)

10. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

11. Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli (1845)

12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

14. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848)

15. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)

16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

17. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

18. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)

21. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2)

22. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)

23. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5)

24. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

25. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (1889)

26. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

27. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

28. New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891)

29. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

30. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)

31. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)

33. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900)

34. Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

36. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)

37. Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe (1904)

38. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

39. The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)

40. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911)

41. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)

42. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)

43. The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)

44. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915)

45. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

46. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)

47. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)

48. A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)

49. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925)

50. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

51. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

52. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)

53. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)

54. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929)

55. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930)

56. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

57. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

58. Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos (1932)

59. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)

60. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)

61. Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)

62. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

63. Party Going by Henry Green (1939)

64. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)

65. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

66. Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse (1946)

67. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)

68. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)

69. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)

70. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

71. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)

72. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)

73. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)

74. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

75. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

76. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

77. Voss by Patrick White (1957)

78. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

79. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1960)

80. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

81. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)

82. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

83. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)

84. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)

85. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)

86. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth (1969)

87. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)

88. Rabbit Redux by John Updike (1971)

89. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)

90. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul (1979)

91. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)

92. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)

93. Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)

94. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)

95. The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald (1988)

96. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1988)

97. Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990)

98. Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)

99. Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999)

100. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)
As best as I can recall, I've read the ones in bold print.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Martin is a 1977 George Romero horror movie about a young man who drugs women, rapes them, then drinks their blood. He goes to live with his uncle who thinks the young man is an 84-year old vampire, part of an ancient family shame.

via Youtube:

Senses of Cinema says, "Martin remains an artistic success in terms of its effective explication of the director’s strong thematic interests as originated in Night of the Living Dead". DVD Talk calls it "one of the single greatest vampire movies of all time". says it "it lives up to its ambitions in long sequences, if not throughout the film, and there are many pleasures in both the visual treatment and the often witty script." says, "Romero demonstrates, without a doubt, that the terror of vampirism is not in the myth. According to Romero, there is no magic, and that reality is far more terrifying than any creature of the night."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 93%.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Hero of Our Time

A Hero of Our Time is an 1840 novel by Mikhail Lermontov, "the poet of the Caucasus". He died at the age of 26 after being shot through the heart in a duel.

Wikipedia describes this book as
a set of five loosely linked stories unfolding the drama of the two conflicting characters, Pechorin and Grushnitsky, who move side by side towards a tragic finale as if driven by destiny itself ... Lermontov's magnum opus
I offer it for the T Stands for Tuesday weekly blog gathering, noting that the excerpt below ends with this: "I invited my fellow traveler to join me for tea, since I had with me a cast-iron tea-kettle--my sole comfort on my Caucasian travels."

You can read it online in English translation here. It begins:

Part I
I was traveling along the military road back from Tiflis. The only luggage in the little cart was one small suitcase half full of travel notes about Georgia. Fortunately for you most of them have been lost since then, though luckily for me the case and the rest of the things in it have survived.

The sun was already slipping behind a snow-capped ridge when I drove into Koishaur Valley. The Ossetian coachman, singing at the top of his voice, tirelessly urged his horses on in order to reach the summit of Koishaur Mountain before nightfall. What a glorious spot this valley is! All around it tower awesome mountains, reddish crags draped with hanging ivy and crowned with clusters of plane trees, yellow cliffs grooved by torrents, with a gilded fringe of snow high above, while down below the Aragva River embraces a nameless stream that noisily bursts forth from a black, gloom-filled gorge and then stretches in a silvery ribbon into the distance, its surface shimmering like the scaly back of a snake.

On reaching the foot of the Koishaur Mountain we stopped outside a tavern where some twenty Georgians and mountaineers made up a noisy assembly. Nearby a camel caravan had halted for the night. I saw I would need oxen to haul my carriage to the top of the confounded mountain, for it was already fall and a thin layer of ice covered the ground, and the climb was a mile and a half long.

So I had no choice but to rent six oxen and several Ossetians. One of them lifted up my suitcase and the others started helping the oxen along--though they did little more than shout.

Behind my carriage came another pulled by four oxen with no visible effort, though the vehicle was piled high with baggage. This rather surprised me. In the wake of the carriage walked its owner, puffing at a small silver-inlaid Kabardian pipe. He was wearing an officer's coat without epaulets and a shaggy Circassian cap. He looked about fifty, his tan face showed a long relationship with the Caucasian sun, and his prematurely gray mustache did not match his firm step and vigorous appearance. I went up to him and bowed. He silently returned my greeting, blowing out an enormous cloud of smoke.

"I guess we're fellow travelers?"

He bowed again, but did not say a word.

"I suppose you're going to Stavropol?"

"Yes, sir, I am . . . with some government baggage."

"Will you please explain to me how it is that four oxen easily manage to pull your heavy carriage while six animals can barely haul my empty one with the help of all these Ossetians?"

He smiled wisely, casting a glance at me as if to size me up.

"I bet you haven't been long in the Caucasus?"

"About a year," I replied.

He smiled again.

"Why do you ask?"

"No particular reason, sir. They're awful good-for-nothings, these Asiatics! You don't think their yelling helps much, do you? You can't tell what the hell they're saying. But the oxen understand them all right. Hitch up twenty of the animals if you want to and they won't budge as soon as those fellows begin yelling in their own language. . . Terrific cheats, they are. But what can you do about them? They do like to skin the traveler. Spoiled, they are, the robbers! . . . you'll see they'll make you tip them too. I know them by now, they won't fool me!"

"Have you served long in these parts?"

"Yes, ever since General Aleksey Yermolov was here," he replied, drawing himself up. "When he arrived at the line I was a second lieutenant, and under him was promoted twice for service against the guerrillas."

"And now?"

"Now I'm in the third line battalion. And you, may I ask?"

I told him.

This brought the conversation to an end and we walked along side by side in silence. On top of the mountain we ran into snow. The sun set and night followed day without any interval in between as is usual in the South. Thanks to the glistening snow, however, we could easily pick out the road which still continued to climb, though less steeply than before. I gave orders to put my suitcase in the carriage and replace the oxen with horses, and turned to look back at the valley down below for the last time, but a thick mist that rolled in waves from the gorges blanketed it completely and not a sound reached us from its depths. The Ossetians loudly pestered me, demanding money for vodka. But the captain shouted at them so fiercely that they went away in a second.

"You see what they're like!" he grumbled. "They don't know enough Russian to ask for a piece of bread, but they've learned to beg for tips: 'Officer, give me money for vodka!' Even the Tatars are better--at least, they don't drink alcohol. . . ."

About a mile remained to the stage coach station. It was quiet all around, so quiet that you could trace the flight of a mosquito by its buzz. A deep gorge yawned black to the left. Beyond it and ahead of us the dark blue mountain peaks wrinkled with gorges and gullies and topped by layers of snow loomed against the pale horizon that still retained the last glimmer of twilight. Stars began to twinkle in the dark sky, and, strangely enough, it seemed that they were far higher here than in our northern sky in Russia. On both sides of the road naked black boulders jutted up from the ground, and here and there some shrubs peeped from under the snow. Not a single dead leaf rustled, and it was pleasant to hear in the midst of this lifeless sleepiness of nature the snorting of the tired stage coach horses and the uneven tinkling of the Russian carriage bells.

"Tomorrow will be a fine day," I observed, but the captain did not reply. Instead he pointed to a tall mountain rising directly ahead of us.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Mount Gud."


"See how it smokes?"

Indeed, Mount Gud was smoking. Light wisps of mist crept along its sides while a black cloud rested on the summit, so black that it stood out as a blotch even against the dark sky.

We could already make out the stage coach station and the roofs of the huts around it, and welcoming lights were dancing ahead when the gusts of cold raw wind came whistling down the gorge and it began to drizzle. Barely had I thrown a felt cape over my shoulders than the snow came. I looked at the captain with respect now . . .

"We'll have to stay here overnight," he said, annoyed. "You can't get through the hills in a blizzard like this. Seen any avalanches on Cross Mountain?" he asked a coachman.

"No, sir," the Ossetian replied. "But there's a lot just waiting to come down."

As there was no room for travelers at the inn, we were given a place to stay in a smoky hut. I invited my fellow traveler to join me for tea, since I had with me a cast-iron tea-kettle--my sole comfort on my Caucasian travels.
This counts towards my Russia book challenge.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Gertrud is a 1964 film, the last film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. The life of Gertrud wouldn't suit me at all, and I disagree with her conception of what love means. The movie is made up of more long takes than I'm used to, with long static scenes of 2 or 3 people talking seriously together. I almost felt like I could join the conversation.

I can't find a trailer, but here's one scene:

Slant Magazine says,
Gertrud is a film that is as richly mysterious and inscrutable as it is earthy and wry. It’s this frequently unrecognized artistic relevance that continues to inspire debates, wild interpretations and, yes, frustrated indifference. This is not to say that debate and varied interpretation are the hallmarks of a work of great cinema, but rather evidence of a film that audiences still find vital and alive.
The New York Times found it dated even at its premier. says, "She knows that her demands on life cannot be fulfilled, so she chooses to live in accordance with her inner demands. ... This is not a naturalistic portrayal, but a tragic one —Gertrud is bound for defeat."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 79%.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Most Emotionally Draining Films

Criterion has a list of most emotionally draining films:
Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman
Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky
Sansho the Bailiff, Kenji Mizoguchi
The Silence, Ingmar Bergman
In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-wai
The 400 Blows, François Truffaut
The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir
The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Th. Dreyer
Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky
Winter Light, Ingmar Bergman
I've seen the ones in bold print. I'm not sure I'd describe them as "emotionally draining". I guess maybe I just wasn't emotionally invested enough to be drained. The ones I've seen were all worth watching and even re-watching.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Short Classic Books

Huffington Post has a list of classic books that are so short you have no excuse not to read them:
The Stranger by Albert Camus (123 pages)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (166 pages)
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (55 pages)
Silas Marner by George Eliot (160 pages)
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (96 pages)
Passing by Nella Larsen (102 pages)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pages)
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (128 pages)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (72 pages)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (182 pages)
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (96 pages)
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (128 pages)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (144 pages)
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (77 pages:)
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (128 pages)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (64 pages)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (180 pages)
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (160 pages)
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville (160 pages)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (80 pages)
The Pearl by John Steinbeck (96 pages)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (160 pages)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (140 pages)
I've read the ones in bold print. Some of these are old enough to be in the public domain and available online.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wooden Crosses

Wooden Crosses is a 1932 French film directed by Raymond Bernard. This shows the horrors of WW1 trench warfare from the perspective of soldiers we grow to know.

trailer (in French, no subtitles):

The New York Times calls it "One of the great films in motion picture history". The Guardian says, "Less sentimental than All Quiet, and surprisingly little known outside France, Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses), now revived in a restored centennial version, is one of the most important war movies."

Criterion says, "No one who has ever seen this technical and emotional powerhouse has been able to forget it." DVD Talk says it's "one of the most tender and tough antiwar films to come out of the era."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More of the Patio

I recently posted some photos of plants on my patio and wanted to offer pictures with a wider view of the entire space. These show my patio from the back of the house. The door in the photo on the right leads into the garage.

We attract a good number of birds at those feeders, but I have no luck getting photos of them. When I'm ready they're not there and vice versa.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Chronos is a 1993 Mexican horror film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi. A strange device gives a taste for blood and longer more vigorous life. It's a fascinating vampire variant.

via youtube:

Time Out concludes, "A most startling genre piece: tender, imaginative and wholly its own." Empire Online calls it "a wonderfully baroque, gleeful subversion of the days of Hammer. A unique, terrifying mini-masterpiece." Moria praises it, opening with this: "This fascinating Mexican-made film attained some of the most celebrated reviews of any arthouse genre release when it came out. It gained first-time director Guillermo Del Toro a strong reputation". 1,000 Misspent Hours gives it a positive review, saying, "Cronos seems as eccentrically fresh today as it did back then. Furthermore, in stark contrast to some other drastically revisionist takes on the subject that I could name, Cronos achieves its uniqueness without redefining vampirism to the point where it ceases to be itself anymore."

Horror News has several screenshots and recommends it for you if you "want a movie with intensity and humanity, a story which really explores the myths and adds something new to the mix, then give Cronos your time, you won’t regret it."

Roger Ebert gives it a positive review and says, "The heart of the story is the love that persists between the little granddaughter and the immortal old man, after everything begins to go horribly wrong." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 89%.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

English Tea

English Tea:

by Paul McCartney, who will celebrate his 75th birthday this coming Sunday.

lyrics excerpt:
Would you care to sit with me
For a cup of English tea
Very twee, very me
Any sunny morning

What a pleasure it would be
Chatting so delightfully
Nanny bakes, fairy cakes
Every Sunday morning

Please share your drink-related post at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly T Stands for Tuesday blog party.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dimensions of Dialogue

Dimensions of Dialogue is a 1982 award-winning stop motion animated Czechoslovakian short film directed by Jan Švankmajer. It's under 12 minutes long and is divided into 3 chapters. 3 very weird chapters.

Open Culture quotes Terry Gilliam:
Jan Svankmajer’s stop-motion work uses familiar, unremarkable objects in a way which is deeply disturbing. The first film of his that I saw was Alice, and I was extremely unsettled by the image of an animated rabbit which had real fur and real eyes. His films always leave me with mixed feelings, but they all have moments that really get to me; moments that evoke the nightmarish spectre of seeing commonplace things coming unexpectedly to life.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Patio

May Night Salvia

I live in a townhouse and have no yard, but I do have a patio and thought I'd share some pictures from this Spring. I keep the pentas for the butterflies and hummingbirds, but I buy new plants every year:

The coneflowers came back again but still haven't spread like I'd hoped they would:

My daylilies are a common field lily transplanted from the yard where I grew up:

I tried lavender a couple of different times before I found one that would live, but this one has lasted:

I keep my oxalis in little pots even though I've heard it's hardy here:

I didn't have much luck with my zinnia seeds this year, as the chipmunks and birds got to them as soon as I was back in the house. I did get enough to make up a pot, and this is the first bloom:

I've tried the Shasta Daisy from seed, from plants, in the ground, in pots, and in various places on the patio. It does well at first before gradually fading. It has not once come back. This is my last attempt:

The bee balm has begun blooming:

I rooted some abelia in a pot a couple of years ago, and it continues to do well:

I always keep mint in a pot, too. I use it in lemonade and don't have any trouble using enough to keep it in check:

My houseplants do much better outside than they do in the house. My peace lilies, for example, are very happy:

I have several bird feeders but have no luck getting photos of the birds. I'll keep trying and hope to be able to put up a post featuring them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Lewis Man

The Lewis Man is the second book in Lewis mystery series by Peter May. I had another book by this author recommended to me, but my local bookseller didn't have it. They had others, though, so I bought this trilogy. I'm a fan now. I look forward to reading the next in this series and exploring more of this author's work.

from the back of the book:
The mummified body of a man is discovered in a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis. Punctured by several stab wounds, the corpse is initially believed to be more than two thousand years old -until the police spot the Elvis tattoo on the right arm.
Having recently left behind his previous life in Edinburgh, including his career as a detective inspector, native islander Fin Macleod finds himself once again chasing the past across the beautiful, rugged Outer Hebrides in a hunt for long-buried secrets.
The Guardian opens by saying, "It's a relief to find that the second novel in May's Isle of Lewis trilogy is as good as its superb predecessor". The Scotsman has a positive review. Eurocrime says, "Very highly recommended."

Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "Despite some well-judged surprises, the mystery isn’t all that mysterious. But you’ll keep turning the pages anyway—not to learn whodunit, but to find out what’s going to happen to the present-day characters so deeply, fatally rooted in the past." Publishers Weekly describes it this way: "The fast-moving investigation sweeps Fin across the starkly beautiful Hebridean landscape into unexpected byways".

Friday, June 09, 2017

Y Tu Mamá También

Y Tu Mamá También is a 2001 Mexican film, a road movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón. It's a powerful and affecting film, both lighthearted and truthfully serious. Life as it's lived.


Rolling Stone opens with this: "Road movies don't come hotter than Y Tu Mama Tambien". The NYT says the film "is one of those Bildungsroman films that could begin or end with the phrase "And my life was never the same again." But the director, Alfonso Cuarón, works with a quicksilver fluidity, and the movie is fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating."

The Guardian says, "This film is an exhilarating adventure in narrative, eroticism and social commentary." EW calls it "sad, funny, sexy, and altogether marvelous".

Roger Ebert gives it a full 4-star review and says, "Beneath the carefree road movie that the movie is happy to advertise is a more serious level--and below that, a dead serious level." He reflects on the state of our ridiculous film ratings system:
Why did he return to Mexico to make it? Because he has something to say about Mexico, obviously, and also because Jack Valenti and the MPAA have made it impossible for a movie like this to be produced in America. It is a perfect illustration of the need for a workable adult rating: too mature, thoughtful and frank for the R, but not in any sense pornographic. Why do serious film people not rise up in rage and tear down the rating system that infantilizes their work?
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands is the 3rd book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Much better than the 2nd book, this one gives me hope that I'll finish the series before the sequel movie comes out in November.

from the back of the book:
In this fantastical third book in the Dark Tower series, Stephen King once again takes readers on a journey of incomparable imagination. Roland, the last gunslinger, is moving ever closer to the Dark Tower, which haunts his dreams and nightmares.
As he and his friends cross a desert of damnation in their macabre new world, revelations begin to unfold about who -and what- is driving him forward. A blend of riveting action and powerful drama, The Waste Lands leaves readers breathlessly awaiting the next chapter.
favorite quotes:
"What we don't need is a man who can't let go of the useless baggage of his memories."
"... it occurred to him that there were a lot of stories for kids with stuff like this in them, stuff that threw acid all over your emotions. Hansel and Gretel being turned out into the forest, Bambi's mother getting scragged by a hunter, the death of Old Yeller.
It was easy to hurt little kids, easy to make them cry, and this seemed to bring out a strangely sadistic streak in many story-tellers..."
The sky was huge -he could not remember seeing so much uninterrupted space, so much pure emptiness. It made him feel very small,
and he supposed there was nothing at all wrong with that. In the scheme of things, he was very small.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Blood for Dracula

Blood for Dracula is a 1974 Andy Warhol production, an Italian-French English-language film, that wants to be a Dracula film but is so in name only really. It's actually soft-core porn instead. I found it boring with its posing topless sisters and its sex scenes and its gratuitous dismemberments and its pathetic Dracula who vomits whenever he drinks from a woman who isn't a virgin. Tiresome.


Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 67%.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Spit Cake

This sculpture is Spit Cake:

created in 2015 of hand-cut bone china by Elizabeth Alexander, as it appeared in the Dixon Gallery when I saw it. Here's a closer shot:

where you can see the cup used as part of this. I think I'd rather drink out of the cup than use it in sculpture, but then I'm not an artist.

I had never heard of "spit cake" before, but it is an actual kind of cake. The Wikipedia article was quite helpful.

I've been away from the blogging world for a bit, leaving the blog on auto-pilot, but I'm happy to be back in time to actively participate in T is for Tuesday, a weekly event where we share our beverage of choice and anything else we like. Please join us at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where a warm welcome waits for you.

Monday, June 05, 2017

W. C. Handy Home 42

This 42 is located just east of the W. C. Handy Home and Museum on Beale Street.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Jules and Jim

Jules and Jim is a 1962 French film directed by François Truffaut. This one has been on my to-be-watched shelf for ages, and I'm so glad I finally got to it.


The New York Times calls it "an arch and arty study of the perversities of woman and the patience of man". Slant Magazine says, "Truffaut is inarguably the star of the film and his presence alone justifies both Jules and Jim's almost immediate introduction into the canon of greatness as well as its enduring appeal."

The Guardian concludes,
Jules et Jim seemed revolutionary at the time, but Truffaut's revolution, unlike Godard's, implied not so much the destruction of the past as a turning back to the humanism of Vigo, Renoir and the French cinema of the 30s. The film's "rondo of love" represents both a backward glance at the best of the past and a forward glance into the cinema's future. Its enthusiasm for what the cinema is and can be is what makes it so special.
Criterion calls it "Hailed as one of the finest films ever made...". Roger Ebert includes it on his list of Great Films. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

San Francisco

San Francisco is a 1936 film starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy, Jessie Ralph, and Ted Healy. You can't beat this movie as an inspirational story of resilience and redemption. It is best remembered for the song:

You can watch the film online divided into two parts. Part 1:

part 2:

The New York Times calls it "stirring," "impressive and thoroughly entertaining". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Friday, June 02, 2017


Sphere is a 1998 film, a science fiction thriller directed by Barry Levinson and starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, and Liev Schreiber. Reviews were generally negative, but I enjoyed it. It's not typical and has a lot to offer both in terms of enjoyment and in providing something to think about; but having seen it once I won't go back to it again.


Roger Ebert calls it "a watered-down take on the sci-fi classic Solaris". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 12%.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine is the 16th in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book series by Alexander McCall Smith. This was published in 2015, I'm reading this series in publication order, and I enjoy them. There's not much mystery to them, but the setting, characters and writing keep me coming back for more. This is another delightful addition to the series.

from the back of the book:
Precious Ramotswe, the esteemed proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, now faces her greatest challenge yet: a vacation!

Business is slow at the agency -so slow in fact that, for the first time in her distinguished career, Mma Ramotswe has reluctantly agreed to take a holiday. The week of uninterrupted peace is cut short, however, when she meets Samuel, a wayward young boy with a troubled past. Moreover,
Mma Ramotswe can't help but wonder how the agency is faring in her absence. Her worries grow when she discovers that Mma Makutsi is handling a rather delicate case.

Ultimately, the situation will require Mma Ramotswe to draw upon her kindness, generosity, and good sense, and will serve to remind them all that ordinary human failings should be treated with a large helping of charity and compassion.
quotes that struck me:
They both fell into silence as they contemplated the sheer injustice of Violet Sephotho's apparent happiness.
Mma Makutsi opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it and closed it again. She had been about to say, "But God will surely punish her,
Mma," then had decided that this was not the sort of thing that people said any more, even if it was what they were thinking. The trouble was,
she thought, that God had so many people to punish these days that he just might not find the time to get round to dealing with Violet Sephotho.
It was a disappointing thought -a lost opportunity, in a sense: she would very willingly habe volunteered her services to assist in divine punishmet, perhaps through something she would call Mma Makutsi's League of Justice that would, strictly but fairly, punish people like Violet.

Mma Ramotswe's own thoughts were far from retribution, divine or otherwise.
In her work, Mma Ramotswe had learned this and had discovered, too, that even the most inconsequential of secrets could weigh heavily on a person's soul. An act of selfishness, some small unkindness, could seem every bit as grave as a dreadful crime; an entirely human failing,
a weakness in the face of temptation, could be as burdensome as a major character flaw: the size of the secret said nothing about its weight on the soul.
She gazed at her husband. Being loved and admired by a man like that -and she knew that this man, this mechanic, this fixer of machines with their broken hearts, did indeed love and admire her- was like walking in the sunshine; it gave the same feeling of warmth and pleasure to bask in the love of one who has promised it, publicly at a wedding ceremony, and who is constant in his promise that such love will be given for the rest of his days. What more could any woman ask? None of us, she thought, not one single one of us, could ask for anything more than that.
We forget, she thought. We think that we were always the way we are now, but we were not.

Publishers Weekly closes with this: "As usual, Smith’s blend of gentle humor and insights into human nature is irresistible."

I've read these others from this series:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband from Zebra Drive
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
The Double Comfort Safari Club
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe