Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Bet

The Bet is an 1889 short story by Anton Chekhov. It begins,
It was a dark autumn night. The old banker was walking up and down his study and remembering how, fifteen years before, he had given a party one autumn evening. There had been many clever men there, and there had been interesting conversations. Among other things they had talked of capital punishment. The majority of the guests, among whom were many journalists and intellectual men, disapproved of the death penalty. They considered that form of punishment out of date, immoral, and unsuitable for Christian States. In the opinion of some of them the death penalty ought to be replaced everywhere by imprisonment for life. "I don't agree with you," said their host the banker. "I have not tried either the death penalty or imprisonment for life, but if one may judge a priori, the death penalty is more moral and more humane than imprisonment for life. Capital punishment kills a man at once, but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly. Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years?"

"Both are equally immoral," observed one of the guests, "for they both have the same object - to take away life. The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to."

Among the guests was a young lawyer, a young man of five-and-twenty. When he was asked his opinion, he said:

"The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral, but if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life, I would certainly choose the second. To live anyhow is better than not at all."

A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man:

"It's not true! I'll bet you two million you wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for five years."

"If you mean that in earnest," said the young man, "I'll take the bet, but I would stay not five but fifteen years."
You can read the entire story online here.

You can listen to it here:

There's a twist ending.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Day of Wrath

Day of Wrath is a 1943 Danish film directed under Nazi occupation by Carl Theodor Dreyer, who went to Sweden after the film was released. This is not a horror film, and yet there is nothing quite so horrifying as the righteous person sitting in judgment based on their own sincerely held religious beliefs.


Senses of Cinema says it "is a passionate yet restrained story of sin and guilt, and much of its power lies in its reserved approach." The Guardian says this director "stands among the greatest, most profound, artists of the 20th century." says, "Day of Wrath is a harrowing portrait of ideological persecution - the tragic consequences of a misdirected cruelty borne of intolerance and repression."

Bright Lights Film Journal says,
Critics of the time read the film as an anti-Nazi allegory, but modern viewers will see more timeless effects in Dreyer’s Rembrandt-like compositions and lighting, his fluid camera movement, and above all, the sexually supercharged performance of Lisbeth Movin as Anne, whose sensuality is equated by the narrow minds around her with satanic power.
DVD Talk says,
The spiritual horror film Day of Wrath seems to be a condemnation of the inquisitors of the Holy Office and a criticism of religion... at first. ... this tale has no villains, only people playing their pre-ordained roles in a repressed society where the church seems to rule all. Absalon may be pitiless but he is also sincere to the bone, and willing to be ruthlessly merciless with himself when made aware of his shortcomings. The cruelest torturer is a man with a soul trying to do his best.
Rotten Tomatoes has a 100% critics score.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Langston Hughes' "Early Autumn"

"The leaves fell slowly from the trees in the Square. Fell without wind. Autumn dusk."

Early Autumn is a 1950 short story by Langston Hughes. It's a very short story and easily read quickly, but the effect is profound and can stay with you. You can read it online here. There's an exploration of the plot, structure, and characters here.

Alyscamps by Vincent van Gogh

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Alien is a 1979 horror/science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto. The score is by Jerry Goldsmith. I saw it in the theater when it was released, expecting a science fiction film, and was caught off guard by the horror. I've grown in my experience of the horror genre since then and can appreciate this movie now for the classic it is.


It had mixed reviews at the time of its release, but that has changed through time and now it generally finds a place on best-of lists in both science fiction and horror films. It has a 97% critics score at Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Little Bee

Little Bee is a 2008 novel by Chris Cleave. Wikipedia says,
The Other Hand, also known as Little Bee, is a 2008 novel by British author Chris Cleave. It is a dual narrative story about a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, and are re-united in England several years later. Cleave, inspired as a university student by his temporary employment in an asylum detention centre, wrote the book in an attempt to humanise the plight of asylum-seekers in Britain. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability.
from the back of the book:
This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again -the story starts there...
I liked the book, the way it was written, how the characters were revealed... I wasn't blown away by "the magic" of the book (the back of the book says, "The magic is in how the story unfolds"), but I think sometimes the copy on the cover is over-sell.

There's an interesting reflection on tea in this book, and I offer it for the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering, a weekly event hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth where all willing to share a beverage are warmly welcomed:
I do not have to describe for you the tea that Sarah made for me when she came down into the living room of her house that morning.
We never tasted tea in my village, even though they grew it in the east of my country, where the land rises up into the clouds and the trees grow long soft beards of moss from the wet air. There in the east, the plantations stretch up the green hillsides and vanish into the mist.
The tea they grow, that vanishes too. I think all of it is exported. Myself I never tasted tea until I was exported with it. The boat I traveled in to your country, it was loaded with tea. It was piled up in the cargo hold in thick brown paper sacks. I dug into the sacks to hide.
After two days I was too weak to hide anymore, so I came up out of the hold. The captain of the ship, he locked me in a cabin. He said it would not be safe to put me with the crew. So for three weeks and five thousand miles I looked at the ocean through a small round window of glass and I read a book that the captain gave me. The book was called Great Expectations and it was about a boy called Pip but I do not know how it ended because the boat arrived in the UK and the captain handed me over to the immigration authorities.

Three weeks and five thousand miles on a tea ship -maybe if you scratched me you would still find that my skin smells of it. When they put me in the immigration detention center, they gave me a brown blanket and a white plastic cup of tea. And when I tasted it, all I wanted to do was to get back into the boat and go home again, to my country. Tea is the taste of my land; it is bitter and warm, strong, and sharp with memory.
It tastes of longing. It tastes of the distance between where you are and where you come from. Also it vanishes -the taste of it vanishes from your tongue while your lips are still hot from the cup. It disappears, like plantations stretching up into the mist. I have heard that your country drinks more tea than any other. How sad that must make you -like children who long for absent mothers. I am sorry.
The New York Times says,
While the pretext of “Little Bee” initially seems contrived — two strangers, a British woman and a Nigerian girl, meet on a lonely African beach and become inextricably bound through the horror imprinted on their encounter — its impact is hardly shallow. Rather than focusing on postcolonial guilt or African angst, Cleave uses his emotionally charged narrative to challenge his readers’ conceptions of civility, of ethical choice.
The Guardian says,
Part-thriller, part-multicultural Aga saga, the book enmeshes its characters in the issues of immigration, globalisation, political violence and personal accountability. Lists of themes are often review-speak for "worthy but dull", but not in this case. Cleave immerses the reader in the worlds of his characters with an unshakable confidence that we will find them as gripping and vital as he does. Mostly, that confidence is justified.
The Washington Post says, "Despite the cutesy title (the book was more sensibly published in Britain as "The Other Hand") and the coy book-flap description ("It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it"), "Little Bee" will blow you away" and closes with this: ""Little Bee" is the best kind of political novel: You're almost entirely unaware of its politics because the book doesn't deal in abstractions but in human beings."

I read this as part of my Book Challenge this year. It's been on my to-be-read shelf for years.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Knives of the Avenger

Knives of the Avenger is a 1966 Italian sword and sandal film about Vikings. It was directed by Mario Bava, who was brought in to save it and who re-wrote and finished it in less than a week. It stars one of my favorites, Cameron Mitchell.

DVD Talk has a mixed review but says, "Knives of the Avenger is a sword 'n smorgasbord action film, filmed largely outdoors. It stresses performances while telling a straight genre story, and shows a sensitivity to characters" and "what surprises about Knives of the Avenger is the simple effectiveness of the intimate scenes". TCM has an overview.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Search the Dark

Search the Dark is the third book in Charles Todd mystery series about a Scotland Yard detective suffering the results of having fought in World War 1. I began with the first book and am reading through the series. The detective is fascinating, and the author (author team, actually) is good at realizing fully-formed characters.

from the back of the book:
The introspective hero of Wings of Fire and A Test of Wills (Edgar award nominee) returns in a provocative new mystery. Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by memories of World War 1 and the harrowing presence of Hamish, a dead soldier, is "a superb characterization of a man whose wounds have made him a stranger in his own land" (The New York Times Book Review).

A dead woman and two missing children bring Inspector Rutledge to the lovely Dorset town of Singleton Magna, where the truth lies buried with the dead. A tormented veteran whose family died in an enemy bombing is the chief suspect. Dubious, Rutledge presses on to find the real killer. And when another body is found in the rich Dorset earth, his quest reaches into the secret lives of villagers and Londoners whose privileged positions and private passions give them every reason to thwart him. Someone is protecting a murderer. And two children are out there, somewhere, in the dark...
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Best for those who like their mystery melodramas written the old-fashioned way." Publishers Weekly calls it a "fine period mystery".

I've also read these from the series:
  1. A Test of Wills
  2. Wings of Fire

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dixon Gallery: Edward Giobbi: An Artist Comes to Memphis

The Dixon Gallery describes their Edward Giobbi: An Artist Comes to Memphis:
'Edward Giobbi: An Artist Comes to Memphis' explores Giobbi's lasting connection with the people he met during the year he spent in the city. It's such a vibrant and emotional exhibition, and it's on view now through September.
on their Facebook page. This photo also came from the Dixon FB page:

Edward Giobbi has a website here that has photos of some of his work. The I Love Memphis blog explains the Memphis connection:
In 1959, Edward Giobbi married Elinor “Ellie” Turner, a Memphis native then living in New York. ... When the Giobbi family returned to the United States in 1960, they settled in Memphis. The Turners were (and are) a well-known family in Memphis. Ellie’s brother ... was one of Mr. Dixon’s closest friends, and was one of the founding trustees of the Hugo Dixon Foundation (which formed the Dixon Gallery and Gardens). The Giobbi family only spent one year in Memphis, but it was long enough for Edward to attract an interested local audience.
I had three particular favorites from this exhibition:

Study for a Religious Painting:

There two: Times of Day, 1973; and Up Yours Irene, 1955-2013, I can't find photos online but will add them here if I'm able.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Rebel Rousers

Rebel Rousers is a 1970 motorcycle gang starring Cameron Mitchell, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Diane Ladd. I've never been a fan of biker films, and this one certainly didn't convert me. The cast can't be beat though, and I'll follow them into whatever sub-genre they go.

via Youtube:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Year of the Runaways

The Year of the Runaways is a novel by Sunjeev Sahota. You can read an excerpt here. I didn't much care for this. The book jacket copy wants me to be impressed with and surprised by the female character, but I was not. I didn't actually find any of it "surprising". There were so many named characters, the point of view changed too much for my taste, and then when it was done I was glad to be done with it. I was never tempted to quit reading, but I can't say I enjoyed the experience. The reviews I saw were universally positive, though, so what do I know....

from the dust jacket:
From one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and Man Booker Prize nominee Sanjeev Sahota -a sweeping,
urgent contemporary epic, set against a vast geographical and historical canvas, astonishing for its richness and texture and scope, and for the utter immersiveness of its reading experience.

Three young men, and one unforgettable woman, come together in a journey from India to England, where they hope to begin something new -to support their families; to build their futures; to show their worth; to escape the past. They have almost no idea what awaits them.

In a dilapidated shared house in Sheffield, Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his life in Bihar. Avtar and Randeep are middle-class boys whose families are slowly sinking into financial ruin, bound together by Avtar's secret. Randeep, in turn, has a visa wife across town, whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes in case the immigration agents surprise her with a visit.

She is Narinder, and her story is the most surprising of them all.

The Year of the Runaways unfolds over the course of one shattering year in which the destinies of these four characters become irreversibly entwined, a year in which they are forced to rely on one another in ways they never could have foreseen, and in which their hopes of breaking free of the past are decimated by the punishing realities of immigrant life.

A novel of extraordinary ambition and authority, about what it means and what it costs to make a new life -about the capaciousness of the human spirit, and the resurrection of tenderness and humanity in the face of unspeakable suffering.
The New York Times calls it "deeply affecting". The NPR reviewer opens by saying, "Sunjeev Sahota has written what I suspect will be finest novel of the year." The Guardian calls it "a brilliant and beautiful novel" and says, "Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel makes a nonsense of common assumptions about what it means to write a political novel." The Telegraph says, "The main characters are superbly well drawn."

The Washington Post calls it "essentially “The Grapes of Wrath” for the 21st century" and says,
By following a handful of young men, Sahota has captured the plight of millions of desperate people struggling to find work, to eke out some semblance of a decent life in a world increasingly closed-fisted and mean. If you’re willing to have your vague impressions of the dispossessed brought into scarifying focus, read this novel.
The Times of India concludes, "as a depiction of the stark realities that unlucky, unqualified immigrants face, it is unlikely to be bettered." The Atlantic says, "Only portraits like Sahota’s can describe the experience of being a migrant." Kirkus Reviews has a positive review.

I read this as part of my book challenge this year. It is on the NPR list of Best Books of 2016.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Descent

The Descent is a 2005 horror film. A cave-exploring expedition goes terribly, terribly wrong. This one is worth watching.


Moria has a positive review. Rolling Stone says it's one of the "20 Scariest Horror Movies You've Never Seen". Empire Online says it's "Brutal, bloody, terrifying, astonishing... And so tense it'll leave you aching."

Roger Ebert says, "Finally, a scary movie with teeth, not just blood and entrails -- a savage and gripping piece of work that jangles your nerves without leaving your brain hanging" and describes it this way: "The titular drop refers to a cave-diving expedition undertaken by six women, but it's also a breathless plummet into the abyss where nightmares are realized, a descent into primal chaos and madness."

DVD Talk says, "this movie works" and calls it "a damned fine flick". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 85%.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Drinking with Alan Lowndes

Bog's Cat (1951):

by Alan Lowndes was a British painter born in 1921, who died on September 22 in 1978.

I offer this for T Stands for Tuesday, and you are welcome to the beverages in that picture. I'll stick with my black coffee this morning. Or perhaps I'll join the Child at the Table (1958) for tea:

Tea would be nice. Perhaps later I'd let The Barmaid set me up at that cozy bar:

but I might be like The Solitary Drinker and find a table away from the bar:

You can see more of his work online here and here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dixon Gallery: Power & Piety: Spanish Colonial Art

Power and Piety: Spanish Colonial Art is described on the Dixon website:
The exhibition is drawn from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection and is co-organized by the Museum of Biblical Art, New York, and Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia.

Power & Piety is filled with works of fine and decorative art created for the many churches that populated Latin America, religious works of art created for the home, and objects intended for private devotional use. Ranging from paintings of saints to furniture used in devotional practices, these works illuminate how both piety and social ambition fueled the production and conspicuous consumption of religious art in these culturally rich societies.
One of my favorites from this exhibit is their featured piece:

Juan Pedro López, Our Lady of Solitude, 18th Century

Photography was not permitted, but I found photos online of some of the pieces that struck me, such as:

Tabernacle, School of Caracas, Late 18th Century

but I never found a picture of the 17th century Sacrarium Door with the Image of Christ that had early on been re-purposed for private devotional use. I found this exhibit inspiring.

It was a pretty day, so I spent some time in the cutting garden:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Exorcist

I never used to watch any horror films except for the old monster movies until The Elder Son decided I needed to broaden my film horizons. I started watching ones he suggested and looking at top-10 and best-of lists, and I've liked much of what I've seen. I'm still don't like torture porn and slasher movies, but now I have experience to back my opinion. Somehow, though, I never got around to seeing The Exorcist. Seeing it this long after its release takes the edge off of the effect, I'm sure, but I'm still glad I've seen it.

The movie stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Jack MacGowran, and Linda Blair.


Deep Focus Review has a lengthy article which includes this: "The film opened to largely positive reviews, many declaring it a benchmark of horror filmmaking. Its detractors voiced their negative assessments even louder, however, as the potent subject matter seemed to enrage certain sensibilities" and concludes,
How else but through the film’s profound spirituality—achieved via the combination of shocking visuals, the dismissal of other explanations (i.e. medical or psychiatric), and the terrifying reality of the horrors of evil—does one explain such extreme responses over the years? The Exorcist continues to affect audiences, transcending what it means to be “a horror film” through its unparalleled construction, and the balance of visceral imagery designating the resonant emotional and spiritual questions therein. Other filmmakers have attempted to out-do Friedkin’s work, but the horror genre almost never allows for the degree of insight or good intentions that is accomplished through such graphic content. The Exorcist realizes a unique stability between image and substance that audiences cannot disregard, and which has established the picture as an indisputable classic of its genre.
Rolling Stone gives it 4 out of 4 stars. Empire Online concludes, "Fans should see it again, first-timers should believe the hype. Non-believers should suffer eternal damnation." Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 86%.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ride in the Whirlwind

Ride in the Whirlwind is a 1966 western starring Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, Cameron Mitchell, and Harry Dean Stanton. This is a traditional western with a solid plot and good acting -all in all a very nice film. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

via Youtube:

Slant Magazine says, "Ride in the Whirlwind is unquestionably a great movie, with its direct performances, gorgeous imagery, literate, densely jargoned dialogue, and inventively bifurcated duel-siege structure." Criterion calls it "moody and tense". DVD Talk compares it to The Shooting which was jointly released with it by Criterion and says, "their unique charms and timeless appeal still make these unconventional Westerns accessible almost half a century later."

Roger Ebert calls it a must-see. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Inside the Mafia

Inside the Mafia is a 1959 crime film starring Cameron Mitchell, Robert Strauss, and Edward Platt. I watched it for Cameron Mitchell, but if you like old-style crime dramas this one is a fine example and just over an hour long.

TCM has an overview.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Haunted (1995)

Haunted is a 1995 ghost story based on a James Herbert novel by the same name. It stars Aidan Quinn (who plays Captain Tommy Gregson in the tv series Elementary), Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews, Sir John Gielgud, and Anna Massey. In it a young man is haunted by the memory of his twin sister, who died as a child. Or is it more than a memory that haunts him? I tend to like ghost stories, and this one is well done if you don't mind the deliberate pace which I think adds to its effect.


quote: "If you want my opinion, there are no ghosts, no spirits, no angels. There is only the longing that there should be to ease our pain and our fears."

Moria gives it a mixed review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80%.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

San Miguel Coffee Co

Back during the summer we took a vacation to a state park near Winchester, TN, and while we were there we discovered the San Miguel Coffee Co and had dessert there one day. They have a Facebook page.

See the painting of Saint Michael on the wall on the right side of the photo below:

The menu was recently changed and they didn't have either of the first two desserts The Husband ordered, but I ordered their apple turnover:

I thought the Winchester town square was pretty, an attractive centerpiece to the town with interesting architecture.

Bluebeard and Elizabeth host a weekly blogger gathering where we share a post that includes a beverage. Please join us.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Yoga Classes on Youtube

In celebration of National Yoga Month: These videos include both floor and standing poses in well-balanced routines.

The Do Yoga With Me Youtube channel has an hour-long chair yoga video for seniors that emphasizes arm and wrist strengthening but includes some stretches and some leg and ankle strengthening. I do it standing and add a bit of weights to some of the activities. They also have a 23-minute "Yoga with Ron Stewart: Morning Wake Up and Move!" video that I've liked.

Yoga with Adriene has many wonderful videos, including this 40-minute Vinyasa for strength:

Full Length Gentle Yoga Class for Beginners and Seniors, parts 1, 2, and 3, from The Mat Project:

Those videos above are not a sequence but are separate routines that can be practiced independently of one another. The second one is perhaps a bit more advanced.

Yoga with Tim has a 1-hour class: has a video with clear instruction for 20 postures:

Melissa West spends a lot more time talking before she starts the actual yoga poses to suit me, but I like some of her videos.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Precious and Grace

Precious and Grace is the 17th book in Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I enjoy these and pick them up as they become available in paperback.

from the back of the book:
In the latest installment of this beloved and bestselling series, changes are afoot at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Mma Makutsi, who has recently been promoted to co-director, has been encouraging Mma Ramotswe to updateto more modern office practices. An unusual case, however, will require both of them to turn their attention firmly to the past. A young Canadian woman who spent her early childhood in Botswana requests the agency's help in recalling her life there. Precious and Grace set out to locate the house that the woman lived in and the caretaker who looked after her many years ago. But when the journey takes an unexpected turn, they are forced to consider whether some things are better left in the past.

Mma Remotswe dispenses help and sympathy with the graciousness and warmth for which she is so well known, and everyone involved is led to surprising isights into the healing power of compassion, forgiveness, and new beginnings.
favorite quotes:
Tall people could forget that the world might look quite different if you were short; and of course well-off people had a marked tendency to forget how things might look if you were poor. We have to remind ourselves, she thought. We have to remind ourselves how the world looked when viewed from elsewhere.
Marriage was all about honesty, and being open, but she had always felt that just about every married person had something, some sorrow or secret, that was not shared, that was a private area of their lives that might not be shared with a spouse. It could be something sad or painful, or it could be something just mildly embarrassing, some tiny failing or silliness, some moment of mild shame, but it was no reflection on the marriage that this thing should be kept tucked away. We are the people we want ourselves to be, and then there are the people we actually are: sometimes it is easier to be the people we want ourselves to be if we keep at least some things to ourselves.

Kirkus Reviews concludes, "More than ever, the rewards are local and properly humble, as in every moment experience and wisdom triumph over the blinkered clichés they regularly confront." Publishers Weekly closes by saying, "As ever, Smith adroitly mixes gentle humor with important life lessons."

I've read the others:

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
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

Saturday, September 09, 2017

They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable is a 1945 Academy Award-nominated war film directed by John Ford and starring Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, and Cameron Mitchell. I don't really care for war movies and watched this for Cameron Mitchell, but I dare say if war movies are your thing you'll like this one. I mean how can you go wrong with that director and cast?

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

The NYT at the time of its release called it "a stirring picture of a small but vital aspect of the war and ... it is a moving remembrance of things past". DVD Talk concludes, "They Were Expendable gives you John Wayne, John Ford in a World War II movie, so in and of itself it should be something on your watch list. But it goes a little deeper and a little more nuanced in the component of the war that they tell the story about". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 89%.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Chessmen

The Chessmen by Peter May is the third book in the Lewis Trilogy, a popular and well-received series which takes place on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of northern Scotland. I'm sorry to finish these but am looking forward to checking out this author's other work.

from the back of the book:
Now permanently resettled on the island of his birth in the Outer Hebrides, ex-Detective Inspector Fin Macleod has been employed by a local landowner to oversee security on a sizeable estate. His security detail at the Red River Estate brings Fin into contact with elusive local poacher and former school friend Whistler Macaskill.

As Fin pursues Whistler across the moors, they are forced into temporary shelter by a massive storm. When they emerge the next morning,
they are greeted by the aftermath of a freak natural phenomena -a "bog burst"- that has drained an entire loch of its water, revealing a mud-encased light aircraft in its wake. Struggling through the muck, Fin and Whistler are appalled by what they find inside: the body of their friend and former bandmate Roddy Mackenzie, whose single-prop plane disappeared in the area more than seventeen years earlier -just as Roddy was becoming an international rock star. Worse, the condition of the skeletal remains makes it clear Roddy was murdered rather than killed in the crash.

As he closes in on the truth behind the death of Roddy Mcknzie, Fin is confronted by the ghosts of his youth -and by the painful and unexpected ways in which the events of the past have warped the contours of the present.
Eurocrime calls it "an atmospheric novel" and "a good, solid mystery novel" and says, "The main strength of the novel is the wonderful depiction of the island, and the love which the men (mainly) have for it." The Independent says, "The Chessmen offers an almost visceral experience: we, too, are walking these windy cliffs and peat bogs".

Kirkus Reviews concludes, "The mystery—really, the mysteries—are untidy, but the atmosphere is altogether magical." Publishers Weekly has a review, saying it works fine as a stand-alone but is disappointing after the first two in the trilogy.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Minnesota Clay

Minnesota Clay is a 1964 spaghetti western directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell was a prolific actor and is a long-time favorite. You can watch it online at here.

Fistful of Pasta says, "It's beautifully shot, hiding the film's reduced budget very well, and Mitchell adds a distinctive melancholic touch to his character of the aging gunslinger-with-a-past." says, "Cameron Mitchell as Clay lends the film a certain gravitas and weight where it desperately needs it and turns in a good piece of acting; if he had had a better screenplay to work from, Clay might have become one of the more famous characters in the world of the Spaghetti Western."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ways to Disappear

Ways to Disappear is a novel by Idra Novey. A poet and translator, this is Novey's only novel. Well, so far. Surely there'll be more. I'm keeping this one, certain I'll re-read it at some point.

from the dust jacket:
Deep in gambling debt, the celebrated Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda is last seen in Copacabana, holding a suitcase and a cigar and climbing into an almond tree. She abruptly vanishes, seemingly without a trace.

In snowy Pittsburgh, her devoted American translator, Emma, hears the news and, against all common sense, flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio de Janeiro, Emma and the author's children conspire to solve the mystery of Yagoda's curious disappearance and stanch the demands of the colorful characters left in her wake, including a rapacious loan shark with a zeal for severing body parts and the washed-up editor who launched Yagoda's career years earlier.

Idra Novey's exhilarating debut is a madcap blend of mystery, romance, noir, and humor that flirts with the absurd while remaining deeply rooted in the devious heearts of its characters.
The New York Times has a positive review and says,
Novey has wholly eluded the hazards of writing about writers. Instead, this lush and tightly woven novel manages to be a meditation on all forms of translation while still charging forward with the momentum of a bullet
SF Gate calls it "a novel whose powers of enchantment rival those of its fictional author". The New Yorker says, "Novey’s fleet and vivid novel examines the nature of personal agency in life and in fiction, challenging the notion that we “honor what we recall by accepting that we cannot change it.”" Poets & Writers has a 5 minute audio of the author reading an excerpt.

NPR concludes a positive review with this:
Ways to Disappear is concerned not just with truth and the risks of its misplacement and misinterpretation, but with the importance of close reading. It's a delightful, inventive paean to writing that generates "real emotion" and "genuine unease." At one point Beatriz's publisher likens literature to steaks on a grill, testing both "for density" as well as "for something tender in the middle yet still heavy enough to blacken the air." This book is seared to perfection, medium rare.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "Delightful and original." Publishers Weekly says it's a "briskly paced first novel" and calls it "a clever literary mystery and a playful portrait of the artist as a young translator."

I read this book as part of my book challenge for this year. It is on NPR's list of best books of 2016.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Maciel's Tortas & Tacos

People-watching on Main Street in downtown Memphis, Maciel's Tortas & Tacos is the perfect place! Here's the menu. The Daughter and I thought the food was great and the prices reasonable. There was a line when we got there, but it moved quickly. It seems to get a lot of take-out business from locals. We sat outside:

This was back in June, I think, but even when it's hot outside there's shade downtown to make it pleasant.

I'm linking with the bloggers who join the T Stands for Tuesday gathering. Share a drink with us!

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I picked it up because it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. It deserved it. This book is good reading -an interesting and unusual setting with interesting and unusual characters. This is the point where I wish I wrote actual reviews instead of just noting a bit about what I've read. I can't praise it highly enough, but I'll be quoting reviewers who'll do a good job of explaining the attractions this book has to offer.

from the back of the book:


across the heart of the world's sole continent,
spewing ash that blots out the sun.

with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

and long-dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land familiar with catastrophe,
where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon.
And where there is no mercy.

The New York Times
concludes a positive review with this:
“The Fifth Season” invites us to imagine a dismantling of the earth in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, and suggests the possibility of a richer and more fundamental escape. The end of the world becomes a triumph when the world is monstrous, even if what lies beyond is difficult to conceive for those who are trapped inside it.
NPR has a positive review and an excerpt from the book. Strange Horizons has a positive review. SFF World opens by saying the book "has remarkable writing and intriguing characters. It is the sort of book you will re-read, the sort you will think about well after you are finished, the sort that will leave a mark."

Kirkus Reviews closes with this:
Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain. With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.
Publishers Review says, "Readers hungry for the next installment will also find ample satisfaction in rereading this one." Eyrie says, "It's gritty, textured, emotional, and furious, and very much worth reading." New York Journal of Books says, "The book starts with a devastatingly personal murder and ends with a world-changing request, and everything in between is fascinating, unexpected, and impressively well-rendered. It's also a stunningly diverse book."

Sunday, September 03, 2017


Frenzy is a 1972 Hitchcock movie about a serial killer. Do I have to say anything else? Isn't that enough?


The NYT opens a positive review with this: "Alfred Hitchcock will be seventy-three on August 13, but like Luis Bunüuel, whom he otherwise resembles but slightly, his talent is only enriched by the advancing years that make most directors fearful and insecure." The Guardian has a review that calls it "a complex and gripping thriller". Slant Magazine calls it "easily the strongest of the master’s final works".

Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars and a glowing review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 87%.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Drawing Conclusions

Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon is #20 in the Commissario Guido Brunetti detective mystery series. I like these. I enjoy the descriptions of the Venice setting, I like the characters, I appreciate the plots and how they're developed.... I'm not reading these in publication order but just as I come across them.

This book takes place in the Autumn.

from the dust jacket:
Nearly twenty years ago, when a conductor was poisoned and the Questura sent a man to investigate, readers first met the Ventian Commissario Guido Brunetti. Since Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon and her shrewd, sophisticated, and compassionate investigator have been delighting readers around the world. For her millions of fans, Leon's novels have opened a window into the private Venice of her citizens, a world of incomparable beauty, high culture, family intimacy, and delicious food. But, unknown to the crowds of toursts who flock to Serenissima each year, it is also beset by shocking crime, intractable social and environmental problems, and far-reaching, insidious corruption.

In Drawing Conclusions, the twentieth novel in the celebrated series, Commissario Guido Brunetti is called away from dinner late one night to investigate the death of a widow in her modest apartment. Though there are some signs of a struggle, the medical examiner rules that she died of a heart attack. It seems there is nothing for Brunetti to investigate, no crime to solve. But he can't shake the feeling that something or someone may have triggered the heart attack, that perhaps she was threatened. Conversations with the woman's veterinarian son, her younger upstairs neighbor, and the tight-lipped nun in charge of the old-age home where she volunteered do little to satify Brunetti's nagging curiosity.
With the help of Inspctor Vianello and the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra, perhaps Brunetti can get to the truth -and find some measure of justice.

Insightful, emotionally powerful, and a superb addition to this cherished series, Drawing Conclusions reaffirms Donna Leon's status as one of the masters of literary crime fiction.
Kirkus Reviews concludes with this: "As languid in its movement as a gondola ride. Yet none of Brunetti’s earlier cases (About Face, 2009, etc.) is as remorselessly clear in connecting the delicately comic anti-authoritarian gestures Brunetti winks at to the miasma of corruption that hangs over his beloved Venice." Publishers Weekly closes a positive review by saying, "Compassionate yet incorruptible, Brunetti knows that true justice doesn't always end in an arrest or a trial." has a positive review which says, "Like the best of her beloved novels, Drawing Conclusions is insightful and emotionally powerful, and it reaffirms her status as one of the masters of literary crime fiction." Eurocrime says, "The twentieth novel in the acclaimed series about Venice policeman Commissario Brunetti is enjoyable whether or not you have read any of the previous volumes."

This is part of my book challenge to read a certain number from my To-Be-Read shelf.

I've also read these from this series:
#1 Death at La Fenice (1992)
#2 Death in a Strange Country (1993)
#3 Dressed for Death (1994)
#4 Death and Judgment (1995)
#18 About Face (2009)
#19 A Question of Belief

Friday, September 01, 2017

Three Came to Kill

Three Came to Kill is a 1960 neo-noir thriller starring Cameron Mitchell. It's just over an hour long and is an interesting political/crime thriller. I watched it for Cameron Mitchell and found it worth my time.

via Youtube:

DVD Talk recommends it, opening a positive review with this:
An efficient little thriller from the team of producer Robert E. Kent, writer Orville Hampton, and director Edward L. Cahn ... , Three Came to Kill (1960) offers a tautly-told, intriguing little story perfectly suited to its limited budget. Though a bit flamboyant, Cameron Mitchell is excellent in the leading role, and like other Kent/Hampton/Cahn collaborations the climax is violent and action-packed.
TCM has an overview.