Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Raise the Red Lantern

Raise the Red Lantern is a 1991 award-winning Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou. Set in the 1920s, the film tells the story of a young woman who becomes one of the concubines of a wealthy man during the Warlord Era.

You can watch the film at Youtube at this link.


The New York Times calls it "as visually striking as it is dramatically effective". The Guardian says, "No film had a more startling effect in the west than Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern".

Senses of Cinema discusses the film's meaning and says, "It is no wonder that Raise the Red Lantern was banned in China when it was released in 1991 and was never screened in cinemas." Rolling Stone calls it "a magnificent film that confirms Zhang as a world-class director". Empire Online closes with this: "A haunting, beautiful film ably led by the perfectly understated performances of the main actors. A delight."

Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 96%.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Japanese Fan

The Japanese Fan:

was painted around 1865 by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, a Belgian painter best known for his portraits, who died on January 28 in 1893. His career ended when he became blind in 1882.

You can see more of his work here, but I chose the one at the top of the post because I see a teapot on that table and found it suitable to share for T Stands for Tuesday. There's an article on his life and work here. Here's a slideshow of some of his paintings:

There's a peaceful feel to his work that I find calming. I offer it for you on this day if politics upsets you. Me? I'm looking forward to the State of the Uniom Address tonight! I'll be watching it on cable and posting my thoughts on Facebook and eating popcorn. I love politics.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 re-imagining of King Kong. I was fully prepared to hate this and hadn't planned on watching it, but The Husband put the disc in while I was sitting there.... And I liked it. It's great fun, mindless action, and explosions. What's to complain about? There's a sequel being discussed, and I'll plan on seeing it in the theater.

This movie has what may be the best ending in cinematic history.


The New York Times doesn't like it. The Telegraph gives it 4 out of 5 stars and closes by saying, "the whole film is a kind of eccentric retro-artefact with fun at the forefront of its mind: less Heart of Darkness than darkness with heart."

Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars and calls it "damn near irresistible". Variety says, " if the upcoming films prove to be as winning as this one, then audiences eager to get their old giant movie monster on should have nothing to fear." Empire Online says, "This is an uneven adventure that’s saved by the spectacle of its towering title character and the various beasts with whom he shares his island home."

Roger Ebert's site gives it 3 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 76%.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Military Road Trail

The Military Road Trail Loop at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas is a continuation of the Lake Austell Trail but can also be reached by way of a separate trailhead at the boat dock pictured above.

I took the upper loop, and The Younger Son took the lower loop.

There were interpretive signs at the beginning of the upper section.

This is part of the Trail of Tears. A tragedy in our nation's history, the Trail of Tears resulted from Andrew Jackson's policies. I'm ashamed that Jackson was a Tennessean, and I'm horrified that our current president has chosen to lift him up with honor.

This trail follows some of the actual route.

Remember the "popular" swinging bridge that was supposed to be on the other trail but which we could never find? Well, at the juncture of upper and lower loop The Younger Son and I met up and saw this sign:

So, instead of me continuing back along the lower loop and The Younger Son going back along the route I had just come along, we joined forces in search of the fabled bridge.

And there it was:

I have to tell you I have never been as disappointed in a trail feature -ever- as I was in this "popular swinging bridge". Bummer.

The trail itself was a good experience. I think I'd quit hyping that bridge if I were them.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh is a 2011 movie that I wasn't enthusiastic about watching. I'm not sure why -maybe because I have such fond memories of the books and some of the earlier animated shows. I was wrong to have doubted. This is a delight!


The New York Times says, "“Winnie the Pooh” may not be a movie that grown-ups seek out on their own, but it may make some of them jealous of the 4-year-olds who are making the noble bear’s acquaintance for the first time." The Guardian describes it: "A bright and snuggly new version of the childhood perennial stays faithful to AA Milne and to EH Shepard's drawings". Rolling Stone closes with this: "Lovely. Just lovely."

Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "As jolly as Tigger, as sweet as honey and as undemanding as a balloon ride, this will delight the wee'uns and put a smile on the face of animation fans of all ages." Roger Ebert calls it "a sweet and innocuous children's movie" and concludes it "could make a nice introduction to moviegoing for a small child." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 91%.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Embers is a 1942 novel by Sandor Marai. A beautiful, lyrical, flowing novel of the lives of two friends. I loved this one.

from the back of the book:
In this magnificent rediscovered masterpiece of world literature, the Hungarian writer Sandor Marai conjures the mournful glamour of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire and the distilled wisdom of its last heirs.

In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but whom he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General's beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together following a hunt in the nearby forest -a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever.
favorite quotes:
No, the secret is that there's no reward and we have to endure our characters and our natures as best we can, because no amount of experience or insight is going to rectify our deficiencies, our self-regard, or our cupidity. We have to learn that our desires do not find any real echo in the world. We have to accept that the people we love do not love us, or not in the way we hope. We have to accept betrayal and disloyalty, and, hardest of all, that someone is finer than we are in character or intelligence.
Do you also believe that what gives our lives their meaning is the passion that suddenly invades us heart, soul, and body, and burns in us forever, no matter what else happens in our lives? And that if we have experienced this much, then perhaps we haven’t lived in vain? Is passion so deep and terrible and magnificent and inhuman? Is it indeed about desiring any one person, or is it about desiring desire itself? That is the question. Or perhaps, is it indeed about desiring a particular person, a single, mysterious other, once and for always, no matter whether that person is good or bad, and the intensity of our feelings bears no relation to that individual’s qualities or behavior?
I am thinking that people find truth and collect experiences in vain, for they cannot change their fundamental natures. And perhaps the only thing in life one can do is to take the givens of one’s fundamental nature and tailor them to reality as cleverly and carefully as one can. That is the most we can accomplish.

The Guardian describes it:
Published in 1942, Embers is a product of Márai's most fertile period, the second world war, when he emigrated into himself as Hungary was destroyed by the Germans and Soviets. It has been a bestseller in Europe and the US, and it's easy to see why: there's a smidgen of Agatha Christie, a soupçon of Mills and Boon, topped off with graceful prose and a hint of Beckett avant la lettre.
The New York Times calls it lustrous. Publishers Weekly concludes, "Capturing the glamour of the fin de siècle era, as well as its bitter aftermath, Márai eloquently explores the tight and twisted bonds of friendship." Kirkus Reviews closes by calling it "A small, beautifully fashioned masterpiece."

There is a Reading Group Guide here.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dead Birds

Dead Birds is a 2004 horror western, an underappreciated sub-genre. I like this one more than The Younger Son did. I'm keeping the DVD for re-watching while he's holding onto Bone Tomahawk.


DVD Talk concludes,
Dead Birds has it all -body count, blood, creeps, ghouls and ghosts, and a major chill factor. Well, it doesn't have dead birds -oh wait, there is ONE- which makes the title the only real issue. While the tension builds quite slowly, it's well worth the wait, because this one is haunting.
Dread Central says,
Dead Birds has atmosphere thick enough to cut with a knife. Something is very wrong in this plantation, and director Turner wants us to experience every claustrophobic moment of it. Solid acting, at times brilliant camera work, and superb sound design all contribute to make this a truly frightening winner.
Reel Film says, "the film does deserve kudos for the simple fact that it's a horror movie that's actually scary". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 50%.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Walking Tour

The Walking Tour is a 2000 novel by Kathryn Davis. This one took effort. I kept thinking I'd missed something, but going back through what I'd already read proved that wasn't the case. Not a typical novel in characters or structure, but an interesting read. Just don't expect it to be an easy one. There's a Reader's Guide here.

from the back of the book:
Two couples -businessman Bobby Rose and his artist wife, Carole Ridingham; his partner, Coleman Snow, and Snow's wife, Ruth Farr- have gone on a walking tour in Wales, during which a fatal accident occurs. The question of what happened preoccupies not only an ensuing negligence trial but also the narrator, Bobby and Carole's daughter, Susan, who lives alone in her parents' house near the coast of Maine. Assisted by court transcripts, a notebook computer containing Ruth Farr's journal, and a young vagrant who has taken to camping on her doorstep. Susan lays open the moral predicament at the heart of the book: we are culpable beings, even though we live in a world of imperfect knowledge.
I got a kick out of this quote: "Was David by chance a Methodist? Fairies hated Methodists even more than they hated rowan trees." There's reference to one of my favorite fairy tales, The Fisherman and His Wife; you can you can read that folk tale online here.

The New York Times concludes,
''The Walking Tour'' is brilliant and sometimes unbearable and leaves almost no room for readers to insert themselves into its text. Wherever you go on this trip, you feel that the author has been there before you and built a dolmen, which is exactly what postmodern types criticize modernists for -- as Davis knows, and lets you know she knows. She also, charmingly, lets you know that she doesn't give a damn.
Salon says,
The effect of the two intertwining narratives is an epistemological hide-and-seek in which the storytelling often conceals as much as it reveals. But it's well worth embracing the book's intricacies: Though Davis takes obvious pleasure in playing out her novel's dense setup, there is nothing rarefied about her precise and often epigrammatic prose.
The Boston Review concludes, ""Modern poetry," E. M. Forster once remarked, "is obscure and minatory." Much the same could be said of Davis’s intricate and bracingly poetic novel. ... Her new book is like a strange glittering weapon hanging in the void. It’s hard to know what to do with it, but it’s impossible to ignore." Publishers Weekly calls it "a witty blend of genres: mystery, courtroom drama, futuristic tale and a reworking of Welsh myth" and says, "The playfulness of Davis's writing is irresistible. Laced with fairy tales, neologisms and poems, her prose is clever, sometimes dazzling, skating lightly over complex ideas that otherwise might bog down the narrative."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hot Stone Pizza

It was hard to leave the Village Creek State Park cabin:

but snow and ice was predicted so we headed home a few hours early. On our way home we stopped for lunch in Wynne, Arkansas, at Hot Stone Pizza, Pasta, Salads, Subs and had pizza.

It hasn't been open long, but they're doing a great job! The interior is comfortable:

You walk along a counter and choose size, white or wheat crust, and toppings. I chose a 6" wheat crust with basil, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms:

Service was helpful, and the pizza was tasty. I'd be a near-weekly regular if I lived there.

On the highway on the way home we saw the most beautiful, fullest, brightest double rainbow we had ever seen. My poor cell phone didn't do it justice, but you can get an idea:

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. Share a drink and make some new friends.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is a 2015 award-winning horror western starring Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, David Arquette, Sid Haig, and Sean Young. This is an underappreciated sub-genre, and I love seeing good ones released.


The New York Times has a positive review. The Guardian gives it 4 out of 5 stars and describes it as a "twist on John Ford’s The Searchers". Variety describes it: "a gleefully grisly genre gazpacho that matches a rousing sense of Old West derring-do to a comic sensibility as dark as chewing tobacco —and at least as much of an acquired taste. But for those with a head for loopily discursive humor (not to mention a stomach for some inspired grotesquerie), S. Craig Zahler’s debut feature will come as a most violent delight."

Empire Online says, "A mash-up of The Searchers and Cannibal Ferox, this is a pretty strong prairie stew." Roger Ebert's site calls it "a surprisingly sturdy Western" and concludes, "[Director] Zahler and his talented cast are willing to take this journey deep into the heart of darkness, and it’s their commitment that makes the entire project more than skin-deep." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 90%.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

42 on a Post

This 42 is on a post close to the used bookstore on McLean.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Children of Time

Children of Time is a 2015 award-winning science fiction novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I read it because it won the Arthur C. Clarke award, and I was not disappointed. I was enthralled by this story of the end of the human race and the attempt to make a place on another planet. You might think it would be hard to draw fully formed characters when the scope of the novel covers such a long period of time, but you'd be wrong. The world-building is also good, envisioning an alien culture in a way that draws you in. This author is better known for his fantasy works, but as I prefer science fiction I hadn't read anything by him.

from the back of the book:
Who will inherit this new earth?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home. Following their ancestors' star maps, they discovered the greatest treasure of a past age -a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course and must fight to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?
The Guardian has a review which quotes the Clarke Awards director as saying the book "has a universal scale and sense of wonder reminiscent of Clarke himself, combined with one of the best science fictional extrapolations of a not-so-alien species and their evolving society". Financial Times says, "This is superior stuff, tackling big themes — gods, messiahs, artificial intelligence, alienness — with brio."

SF Signal says, "BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining and thought provoking novel of post humanity, survival and legacy." SFF World closes a positive review (and detailed plot description) by calling it "A pleasingly, entertainingly solid read." SF Books concludes, "Children of Time has that essence of the classic science fiction novels, that sense of wonder and unfettered imagination but combined with this is the charm of a writer who really knows how to entertain, how to spin a good story. Essential science fiction, a book not to be missed."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 1998 movie based on Hunter Thompson's book. It's directed by Terry Gilliam and stars Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. I know it's got a great reputation, but I found this tedious.


The New York Times has a negative review. Roger Ebert gives it 1 out of 4 stars and says, "The result is a horrible mess of a movie, without shape, trajectory or purpose--a one joke movie, if it had one joke." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 49%.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lake Austell Trail

The Lake Austell Trail begins at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is not -for us, anyway- within walking distance from the cabins. One striking thing about this state park is that walking trails are not generally within walking distance of the cabins. This is a problem for me that will keep me from going back to this park. I can't drive The Husband's car, and he does not hike, so that leaves me needing him to drive me to a trailhead and then pick me up afterwards in an area where cell phone coverage is spotty at best.

It is a pretty trail.

It's a fairly easy hike but has some steep sections and some sections with steep steps.

There was a bench:

but I'll admit a few more benches would've been welcome.

There's another entrance to this trail at a lovely picnic area overlooking lake and woodland. You can see a pavilion over this rise:

The Lake Austell Trail connects to the Military Road Trail, which will be a post for another day.