Friday, August 31, 2018

Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous is a 1937 film starring Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, and Mickey Rooney. A touching classic film, powerful and a must-see. You can rent it for about $3 here at Youtube.

trailer:



It's included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. FilmSite calls it "One of cinema's greatest classic adventure stories". DVD Talk describes it as "a warm-hearted, old-fashioned, and quaintly corny little adventure story based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 93%.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince is an Oscar Wilde short story from 1888. You can read it online here or here. It begins:
High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

He was very much admired indeed. “He is as beautiful as a weathercock,” remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; “only not quite so useful,” he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

“Why can’t you be like the Happy Prince?” asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. “The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything.”

“I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy,” muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

“How do you know?” said the Mathematical Master, “you have never seen one.”

“Ah! but we have, in our dreams,” answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

One night there flew over the city a little Swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed. He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her.

“Shall I love you?” said the Swallow, who liked to come to the point at once, and the Reed made him a low bow. So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples. This was his courtship, and it lasted all through the summer.

“It is a ridiculous attachment,” twittered the other Swallows; “she has no money, and far too many relations”; and indeed the river was quite full of Reeds. Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.

After they had gone he felt lonely, and began to tire of his lady-love. “She has no conversation,” he said, “and I am afraid that she is a coquette, for she is always flirting with the wind.” And certainly, whenever the wind blew, the Reed made the most graceful curtseys. “I admit that she is domestic,” he continued, “but I love travelling, and my wife, consequently, should love travelling also.”

“Will you come away with me?” he said finally to her; but the Reed shook her head, she was so attached to her home.

“You have been trifling with me,” he cried. “I am off to the Pyramids. Good-bye!” and he flew away.

All day long he flew, and at night-time he arrived at the city. “Where shall I put up?” he said; “I hope the town has made preparations.”

Then he saw the statue on the tall column.

“I will put up there,” he cried; “it is a fine position, with plenty of fresh air.” So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.
It was adapted as a short animated film in 1974, voiced by Glynis Johns and Christopher Plummer. You can watch it here:



The story is a classic, and the adaptation is well done.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Adventures of Gallant Bess

Adventures of Gallant Bess is a 1948 contemporary Western starring Cameron Mitchell as a man who hopes his horse's tricks will win him the big prize in a rodeo. John Harmon (Star Trek connection, appearing twice on Star Trek: The Original Series) also appears. Everybody's got an angle.

via Youtube:


This little-known film isn't much-reviewed online. I watched it for Cameron Mitchell, because of course I did.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Still Life with Coffee Pot and Fruit

Still Life with Coffee Pot and Fruit:


by Georges Braque, a French painter who died August 31, 1963, at age 81. I don't have a coffee pot that looks anything like that one, and it looks more like a pitcher to me. Shouldn't a coffee pot have a lid?

You can read more about him and see more of his work here, here at The Art Story, and at The Guggenheim site.

There's an 11-minute technical examination of four of his works -but not the one I've posted- here:



Please join the weekly blogger gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's, where all you have to do is share a drink in your post to participate.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Coffee at the Park


We've had lovely weather lately, with sunshine and highs in the 80s F, so The Husband and I took a few moments to have coffee in the park.

Audubon Park is a large park with several different areas. This time we went to the lake. A bench in the shade, a bit of a breeze, The Husband with me, and coffee. Joy.



I'm glad to have a park this pleasant so close to me.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Big Parade

The Big Parade is a 1925 silent film directed by King Vidor and starring John Gilbert. from Wikipedia: "the film is about an idle rich boy who joins the US Army's Rainbow Division and is sent to France to fight in World War I, becomes a friend of two working class men, experiences the horrors of trench warfare, and finds love with a French girl." I don't tend to like war movies, and yet this is a riveting story.

trailer:



You can watch it online at this link, or watch it here:



Senses of Cinema says,
Filmed seven years after the war when memories of the conflict were still fresh in the minds of its contemporary audiences, The Big Parade is definitely not a pro-war film but neither is it as anti-war as its director once thought.

The New York Times has a review of the DVD release that says,
the film remains a heartfelt but shrewdly judged blend of comedy, romance, action and tragedy — a movie that perfectly embodies the classical Hollywood ideal of providing something to appeal to every member of what, in the 1920s, was a wide public still unsevered by demographic categories.

It's included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%. FilmSite has background and an extensive and detailed plot description. Slant Magazine says, "For all its grandeur, The Big Parade concerns the individual response to forces bigger than any one person".


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Jokester


Jokester is a 1956 short story by Isaac Asimov. It's one of the Multivac stories, and this one is about a master scientist whose current project involves an attempt to understand humor. I remember reading this in junior high school in an anthology of Asimov's short stories. You can't ever go wrong re-reading Asimov, and if you've never read his short stories I envy you just a bit. You can read this one online here. It begins:
Noel Meyerhof consulted the list he had prepared and chose which item was to be first. As usual, he relied mainly on intuition.

He was dwarfed by the machine he faced, though only the smallest portion of the latter was in view. That didn't matter. He spoke with the offhand confidence of one who thoroughly knew he was master.

"Johnson," he said, "came home unexpectedly from a business trip to find his wife in the arms of his best friend. He staggered back and said, 'Max! I'm married to the lady so I have to. But why you?'"

Meyerhof thought: Okay, let that trickle down into its guts and gurgle about a bit.

And a voice behind him said, "Hey."

Meyerhof erased the sound of that monosyllable and put the circuit he was using into neutral. He whirled and said, "I'm working. Don't you knock?"

He did not smile as he customarily did in greeting Timothy Whistler, a senior analyst with whom he dealt as often as with any. He frowned as he would have for an interruption by a stranger, wrinkling his thin face into a distortion that seemed to extend to his hair, rumpling it more than ever.

Whistler shrugged. He wore his white lab coat with his fists pressing down within its pockets and creasing it into tense vertical lines. "I knocked. You didn't answer. The operations signal wasn't on."

Meyerhof grunted. It wasn't at that. He'd been thinking about this new project too intensively and he was forgetting little details.

And yet he could scarcely blame himself for that. This thing was important.

He didn't know why it was, of course. Grand Masters rarely did. That's what made them Grand Masters; the fact that they were beyond reason. How else could the human mind keep up with that ten-mile-long lump of solidified reason that men called Multivac, the most complex computer ever built?

Meyerhof said, "I am working. Is there something important on your mind?"

Friday, August 24, 2018

Japanese War Bride

Japanese War Bride is a 1952 drama about a Korean War vet played by Don Taylor who brings his Japanese bride home to California. Things go about like you'd expect. Cameron Mitchell plays the veteran's older brother. King Vidor directs. The movie is credited by some as having increased racial tolerance in the United States by dealing with interracial marriage.

I would say that for those people who are shocked by the way we treat the immigrants on the border and who say, "That's not who we are," I must disagree. It is who we are. It is who we've always been. Shameful, yes, but it doesn't change the fact to deny it.

part 1:



part 2:




The Densho Encyclopedia calls it "bleak" and says, "In her analysis of the film, Susan Zeiger points out that mainstream reviewers were troubled by the film's stark depiction of racism and that several critics imposed their own views on the film by reading it as a tragedy despite the apparently happy ending." TCM has information.




Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Charterhouse of Parma


The Charterhouse of Parma is an 1839 novel by Stendhal. Wikipedia says it tells "the story of an Italian nobleman in the Napoleonic era and later, it was admired by Balzac, Tolstoy, André Gide and Henry James" and "While in some respects it is a "romantic thriller", interwoven with intrigue and adventures, the novel is also an exploration of human nature, psychology, and court politics." You can read it online here. There's a guide for new readers here. It was adapted as an opera in 1939, for film in 1948, for film again in 1964, and twice for foreign television (1981 and 2012).

You can listen to it here, part 1:



part 2:



Again from Wikipedia: "The novel is cited as an early example of realism, a stark contrast to the Romantic style popular while Stendhal was writing. It is considered by many authors to be a truly revolutionary work."

It's been on my TBR shelf for ages, probably decades, and it was time I approached it. I enjoyed The Red and the Black by this same author, so I was hoping to like it and did. That said, I didn't finish it. I did enjoy it -honest- but life is short, this book is long, and I just drifted away from it somehow...

from the book jacket:
The Encyclopedia Britannica has an article. The New York Times calls it "an epic and yet intimate tale of political intrigue and erotic frustration, set in the (largely fictionalized) princely court of Parma during the author's own time" and says, "Almost since the moment it appeared, in 1839, Stendhal's last completed novel has been considered a masterpiece" and praises the translation I read (pictured at the top of the post).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Man in the Saddle

Man in the Saddle is a 1951 traditional western film starring Randolph Scott. Cameron Mitchell is also in this movie. I like that the female characters are strong women with stories of their own even though they're both involved in the romance sub-plot. Those old Randolph Scott westerns are classics.


DVD Talk says it "makes for an entertaining 88 minutes with a nice balance of action, romance, and color. The Lone Pine, California locations are put to good use ... the film offers several very good action set pieces" and "the picture is handsomely made". TCM has information.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Printed Rainbow

Printed Rainbow is an award-winning 2006 Indian animated short film. There's a hot cuppa at 1 minute 13 seconds and tea for two at 8 minutes 50 seconds so I'm sharing this for T Stands for Tuesday (a weekly blogger gathering where we share a post with a drink in it). Both the woman in this film and our host Elizabeth share their homes with cats, so that's another connection I'll point out.



It's about a woman who collects matchboxes, and who finds the color for her life there. What an imagination! She inspires me.

We had an hour of rain yesterday, and I took a video to share:



Such a peaceful sound, I think.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Romance of Certain Old Clothes

The Romance of Certain Old Clothes is an 1868 ghost story by Henry James. It begins,
1

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century there lived in the Province of Massachusetts a widowed gentlewoman, the mother of three children, by name Mrs Veronica Wingrave. She had lost her husband early in life, and had devoted herself to the care of her progeny. These young persons grew up in a manner to reward her tenderness and to gratify her highest hopes. The first-born was a son, whom she had called Bernard, in remembrance of his father. The others were daughters – born at an interval of three years apart. Good looks were traditional in the family, and this youthful trio were not likely to allow the tradition to perish. The boy was of that fair and ruddy complexion and that athletic structure which in those days (as in these) were the sign of good English descent – a frank, affectionate young fellow, a deferential son, a patronising brother, a steadfast friend. Clever, however, he was not; the wit of the family had been apportioned chiefly to his sisters. The late Mr William Wingrave had been a great reader of Shakespeare, at a time when this pursuit implied more freedom of thought than at the present day, and in a community where it required much courage to patronise the drama even in the closet; and he had wished to call attention to his admiration of the great poet by calling his daughters out of his favourite plays. Upon the elder he had bestowed the romantic name of Rosalind, and the younger he had called Perdita, in memory of a little girl born between them, who had lived but a few weeks.

When Bernard Wingrave came to his sixteenth year his mother put a brave face upon it and prepared to execute her husband’s last injunction. This had been a formal command that, at the proper age, his son should be sent out to England, to complete his education at the university of Oxford, where he himself had acquired his taste for elegant literature. It was Mrs Wingrave’s belief that the lad’s equal was not to be found in the two hemispheres, but she had the old traditions of literal obedience. She swallowed her sobs, and made up her boy’s trunk and his simple provincial outfit, and sent him on his way across the seas. Bernard presented himself at his father’s college, and spent five years in England, without great honour, indeed, but with a vast deal of pleasure and no discredit. On leaving the university he made the journey to France. In his twenty-fourth year he took ship for home, prepared to find poor little New England (New England was very small in those days) a very dull, unfashionable residence. But there had been changes at home, as well as in Mr Bernard’s opinions. He found his mother’s house quite habitable, and his sisters grown into two very charming young ladies, with all the accomplishments and graces of the young women of Britain, and a certain native-grown originality and wildness, which, if it was not an accomplishment, was certainly a grace the more. Bernard privately assured his mother that his sisters were fully a match for the most genteel young women in the old country; whereupon poor Mrs Wingrave, you may be sure, bade them hold up their heads. Such was Bernard’s opinion, and such, in a tenfold higher degree, was the opinion of Mr Arthur Lloyd. This gentleman was a college-mate of Mr Bernard, a young man of reputable family, of a good person and a handsome inheritance; which latter appurtenance he proposed to invest in trade in the flourishing colony. He and Bernard were sworn friends; they had crossed the ocean together, and the young American had lost no time in presenting him at his mother’s house, where he had made quite as good an impression as that which he had received and of which I have just given a hint.

The two sisters were at this time in all the freshness of their youthful bloom; each wearing, of course, this natural brilliancy in the manner that became her best. They were equally dissimilar in appearance and character. Rosalind, the elder – now in her twenty-second year – was tall and white, with calm gray eyes and auburn tresses; a very faint likeness to the Rosalind of Shakespeare’s comedy, whom I imagine a brunette (if you will), but a slender, airy creature, full of the softest, quickest impulses. Miss Wingrave, with her slightly lymphatic fairness, her fine arms, her majestic height, her slow utterance, was not cut out for adventures. She would never have put on a man’s jacket and hose; and, indeed, being a very plump beauty, she may have had reasons apart from her natural dignity. Perdita, too, might very well have exchanged the sweet melancholy of her name against something more in consonance with her aspect and disposition. She had the cheek of a gipsy and the eye of an eager child, as well as the smallest waist and lightest foot in all the country of the Puritans. When you spoke to her she never made you wait, as her handsome sister was wont to do (while she looked at you with a cold fine eye), but gave you your choice of a dozen answers before you had uttered half your thought.

The young girls were very glad to see their brother once more; but they found themselves quite able to spare part of their attention for their brother’s friend. Among the young men their friends and neighbours, the belle jeunesse of the Colony, there were many excellent fellows, several devoted swains, and some two or three who enjoyed the reputation of universal charmers and conquerors. But the homebred arts and somewhat boisterous gallantry of these honest colonists were completely eclipsed by the good looks, the fine clothes, the punctilious courtesy, the perfect elegance, the immense information, of Mr Arthur Lloyd. He was in reality no paragon; he was a capable, honourable, civil youth, rich in pounds sterling, in his health and complacency and his little capital of uninvested affections. But he was a gentleman; he had a handsome person; he had studied and travelled; he spoke French, he played on the flute, and he read verses aloud with very great taste. There were a dozen reasons why Miss Wingrave and her sister should have thought their other male acquaintance made but a poor figure before such a perfect man of the world. Mr Lloyd’s anecdotes told our little New England maidens a great deal more of the ways and means of people of fashion in European capitals than he had any idea of doing. It was delightful to sit by and hear him and Bernard talk about the fine people and fine things they had seen. They would all gather round the fire after tea, in the little wainscoted parlour, and the two young men would remind each other, across the rug, of this, that and the other adventure. Rosalind and Perdita would often have given their ears to know exactly what adventure it was, and where it happened, and who was there, and what the ladies had on; but in those days a well-bred young woman was not expected to break into the conversation of her elders, or to ask too many questions; and the poor girls used therefore to sit fluttering behind the more languid – or more discreet – curiosity of their mother.

2

That they were both very fine girls Arthur Lloyd was not slow to discover; but it took him some time to make up his mind whether he liked the big sister or the little sister best. He had a strong presentiment – an emotion of a nature entirely too cheerful to be called a foreboding – that he was destined to stand up before the parson with one of them; yet he was unable to arrive at a preference, and for such a consummation a preference was certainly necessary, for Lloyd had too much young blood in his veins to make a choice by lot and be cheated of the satisfaction of falling in love. He resolved to take things as they came – to let his heart speak. Meanwhile he was on a very pleasant footing. Mrs Wingrave showed a dignified indifference to his ‘intentions’, equally remote from a carelessness of her daughter’s honour and from that sharp alacrity to make him come to the point, which, in his quality of a young man of property, he had too often encountered in the worldly matrons of his native islands. As for Bernard, all that he asked was that his friend should treat his sisters as his own; and as for the poor girls themselves, however each may have secretly longed that their visitor should do or say something ‘marked’, they kept a very modest and contented demeanour.

Towards each other, however, they were somewhat more on the offensive. They were good friends enough, and accommodating bedfellows (they shared the same four-poster), betwixt whom it would take more than a day for the seeds of jealousy to sprout and bear fruit; but they felt that the seeds had been sown on the day that Mr Lloyd came into the house. Each made up her mind that, if she should be slighted, she would bear her grief in silence, and that no one should be any the wiser; for if they had a great deal of ambition, they had also a large share of pride. But each prayed in secret, nevertheless, that upon her the selection, the distinction, might fall. They had need of a vast deal of patience, of self-control, of dissimulation. In those days a young girl of decent breeding could make no advances whatever, and barely respond, indeed, to those that were made. She was expected to sit still in her chair, with her eyes on the carpet, watching the spot where the mystic handkerchief should fall. Poor Arthur Lloyd was obliged to carry on his wooing in the little wainscoted parlour, before the eyes of Mrs Wingrave, her son, and his prospective sister-in-law. But youth and love are so cunning that a hundred signs and tokens might travel to and fro, and not one of these three pairs of eyes detect them in their passage. The two maidens were almost always together, and had plenty of chances to betray themselves. That each knew she was being watched, however, made not a grain of difference in the little offices they mutually rendered, or in the various household tasks they performed in common. Neither flinched nor fluttered beneath the silent battery of her sister’s eyes. The only apparent change in their habits was that they had less to say to each other. It was impossible to talk about Mr Lloyd, and it was ridiculous to talk about anything else. By tacit agreement they began to wear all their choice finery, and to devise such little implements of conquest, in the way of ribbons and top-knots and kerchiefs, as were sanctioned by indubitable modesty. They executed in the same inarticulate fashion a contract of fair play in this exciting game. “Is it better so?” Rosalind would ask, tying a bunch of ribbons on her bosom, and turning about from her glass to her sister. Perdita would look up gravely from her work and examine the decoration. “I think you had better give it another loop,” she would say, with great solemnity, looking hard at her sister with eyes that added, ‘upon my honour!’ So they were for ever stitching and trimming their petticoats, and pressing out their muslins, and contriving washes and ointments and cosmetics, like the ladies in the household of the vicar of Wakefield. Some three or four months went by; it grew to be midwinter, and as yet Rosalind knew that if Perdita had nothing more to boast of than she, there was not much to be feared from her rivalry. But Perdita by this time – the charming Perdita – felt that her secret had grown to be tenfold more precious than her sister’s.

One afternoon Miss Wingrave sat alone – that was a rare accident – before her toilet-glass, combing out her long hair. It was getting too dark to see; she lit the two candles in their sockets, on the frame of her mirror, and then went to the window to draw her curtains. It was a gray December evening; the landscape was bare and bleak, and the sky heavy with snow-clouds. At the end of the large garden into which her window looked was a wall with a little postern door, opening into a lane. The door stood ajar, as she could vaguely see in the gathering darkness, and moved slowly to and fro, as if some one were swaying it from the lane without. It was doubtless a servant-maid who had been having a tryst with her sweetheart. But as she was about to drop her curtain Rosalind saw her sister step into the garden and hurry along the path which led to the house. She dropped the curtain, all save a little crevice for her eyes. As Perdita came up the path she seemed to be examining something in her hand, holding it close to her eyes. When she reached the house she stopped a moment, looked intently at the object, and pressed it to her lips.

Poor Rosalind slowly came back to her chair and sat down before her glass, where, if she had looked at it less abstractedly, she would have seen her handsome features sadly disfigured by jealousy. A moment afterwards the door opened behind her and her sister came into the room, out of breath, and her cheeks aglow with the chilly air.

Perdita started. “Ah,” said she, “I thought you were with our mother.” The ladies were to go to a tea-party, and on such occasions it was the habit of one of the young girls to help their mother to dress. Instead of coming in, Perdita lingered at the door.

“Come in, come in,” said Rosalind. “We have more than an hour yet. I should like you very much to give a few strokes to my hair.” She knew that her sister wished to retreat, and that she could see in the glass all her movements in the room. “Nay, just help me with my hair,” she said, “and I will go to mamma.”

Perdita came reluctantly, and took the brush. She saw her sister’s eyes, in the glass, fastened hard upon her hands. She had not made three passes when Rosalind clapped her own right hand upon her sister’s left, and started out of her chair. “Whose ring is that?” she cried, passionately, drawing her towards the light.

On the young girl’s third finger glistened a little gold ring, adorned with a very small sapphire. Perdita felt that she need no longer keep her secret, yet that she must put a bold face on her avowal. “It’s mine,” she said proudly.

“Who gave it to you?” cried the other.

Perdita hesitated a moment. “Mr Lloyd.”

“Mr Lloyd is generous, all of a sudden.”

“Ah no,” cried Perdita, with spirit, “not all of a sudden! He offered it to me a month ago.”

“And you needed a month’s begging to take it?” said Rosalind, looking at the little trinket, which indeed was not especially elegant, although it was the best that the jeweller of the Province could furnish. “I wouldn’t have taken it in less than two.”

“It isn’t the ring,” Perdita answered, “it’s what it means!”

“It means that you are not a modest girl!” cried Rosalind. “Pray, does your mother know of your intrigue? does Bernard?”

“My mother has approved my ‘intrigue’, as you call it. Mr Lloyd has asked for my hand, and mamma has given it. Would you have had him apply to you, dearest sister?”

Rosalind gave her companion a long look, full of passionate envy and sorrow. Then she dropped her lashes on her pale cheeks and turned away. Perdita felt that it had not been a pretty scene; but it was her sister’s fault. However, the elder girl rapidly called back her pride, and turned herself about again. “You have my very best wishes,” she said, with a low curtsey. “I wish you every happiness, and a very long life.”

Perdita gave a bitter laugh. “Don’t speak in that tone!” she cried. “I would rather you should curse me outright. Come, Rosy,” she added, “he couldn’t marry both of us.”

“I wish you very great joy,” Rosalind repeated, mechanically, sitting down to her glass again, “and a very long life, and plenty of children.”

There was something in the sound of these words not at all to Perdita’s taste. “Will you give me a year to live at least?” she said. “In a year I can have one little boy – or one little girl at least...”
You can read the original here. You can read his 1885 version, which has minor changes to a few of the names, here and here.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Code 46

Code 46 is a British science fiction film from 2003. Tim Robbins stars. This is a love story in a future dystopian world where travel is regulated and severely restricted. Code 46 is the rule prohibiting genetically incestuous reproduction as genetic relationships are so often unknown due to cloning being a common procedure. I had not heard of this film before coming across it online, and I'm not a fan of romance, but this view of a possible future is striking.

via Youtube:


The New York Times calls it "a somber new dystopian romance" and says,
In the end ''Code 46'' proposes a stark choice between comfort and freedom, between the managed abundance of Shanghai (and Seattle, where William lives with his wife and son) and the anarchy and danger of afuera. It is also a choice between the luxury of forgetting and the keenness of memory.
Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and describes it as "a 92-minute, color-coded mood enhancer boiling over with provocative ideas and unsettling imagery." The Guardian calls it "an eerie fantasy, set not so much in the generic "future" of sci-fi but in an alternative present" and a "resounding, success for this uniquely talented director."

Empire Online closes with this: "An understated yet oddly affecting sci-fi romance which offers a glimpse of a disturbing and all-too-credible future." Roger Ebert gives it a mixed review and concludes, "the movie is more successful at introducing the slang and science of the future than incorporating it into a story." Rotten Tomatoes critics rating is 51%.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Moontide

Moontide is a 1942 crime film, a type of precursor to film noir. It stars Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell and Claude Rains. The cast is wonderful. I'm particularly a fan of both Gabin and Rains. Gabin hated our studio system so much he took himself back to France and focused his career there.

via Youtube:


The New York Times in a review at the time of the film's release, opens with this:
The strapping masculine charm of tough Jean Gabin, oft-time called "the Spencer Tracy of French pictures," which heretofore has been limited to his native Gallic films, is now being wholesaled to American audiences by Twentieth Century-Fox in the actor's first Hollywood venture, "Moontide," which came last night to the Rivoli. And "wholesaled" is just the participle, for seldom has an actor's frank allure been quite as deliberately and as obviously dished up in amplitude as is Mr. Gabin's strange enchantment in this ponderously moody film.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin

Update: R.I.P Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin is reported to be on hospice, although I'm hearing that she is alert and enjoying her family and friends. I'd just like to lift up a few videos as a tribute to this Memphis-born musician. Enjoy these offerings from The Queen of Soul while you wish her well.

Respect (1967):



Chain of Fools (1967):



(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (1967):



Think (1968):



A Rose Is Still a Rose (1998):



Here she is performing at the White House in 2015:



Wikipedia says she is "the most charted female artist in the [Billboard] chart's history" and that "Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time".


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Justice League

Justice League is a 2017 superhero movie, the next in a series following Batman v Superman. I liked this one better than the previous effort. The acting is just as good, and the action sequences and music are better. It also has more -and more awkward- humor, I think because of complaints of the lack of funny lines in its predecessor. It won't become my favorite superhero movie, but it's certainly better than the one it followed and a lot of fun to watch.

trailer:



Roger Ebert's site calls it "light on its feet, sprinting through a super-group's origin story in less than two hours, giving its ensemble lots to do, and mostly avoiding the self-importance that damaged previous entries in this franchise" and "an ensemble adventure that’s nearly as satisfying (and humble in its aims) as the “Avengers” movies". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 74%.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Dining Room

The Dining Room (1886-1887):


by Paul Signac, who died from septicemia on August 15, 1935, at 71 years of age. I would love to have coffee out of one of those lovely cups and sit by the light of that window. I'd be uncomfortable having a servant like that. I've never been part of a family -or even visited one- that had someone who served at meals.

You can see more of his work here, and his work is worth any time you spend looking at it.

I'm linking this post at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly blogger gathering, where all you need is a drink reference to participate.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Two Eyes, Twelve Hands


Two Eyes, Twelve Hands is a 1957 award-winning Hindi film about a prison guard who takes six murderers from the prison where he works and attempts to rehabilitate them. His superior has agreed to the experiment, but if he fails everything he has will be forfeit to the state. This is an inspiring story of faith in human nature, and it's worth watching if just for the music.

You can watch it online with English subtitles at this link. I can't find clips or a trailer to embed.

The Hindustan Times calls it "An inspirational film endorsing prison reform and propounding the philosophy that even the most hardened, seemingly soul dead criminal can be softened, rectified, amended, and thus rehabilitated." Prison Movies calls it "a blithely optimistic film".

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Our Fledgling Finch

Note:
I've started getting spam. 
This has never been a problem before,
but now when I check my "dashboard" for comments
I'm seeing spam comments by the dozens
on posts I've made throughout the history of my blog.
For the time being I've changed my comment setting to be moderated.
*******


We keep society fiches as pets, and in the Spring, Summer, and Fall we keep them on the patio. We had thought all our finches were male, having lost our two females to death some years back, but we were wrong. Their first attempt to raise babies failed, I believe because we didn't realize we had a female so hadn't provided nesting material and the nest bottom had a big gap in it. Once we realized what was going on, we replaced the nest and put some nesting material in the cage. Now we have two babies, one of which has been in and out of the nest several times. They look just like their mother. Sweet things.

The patio is looking bedraggled, more like September than summertime. This is my lavender behind my woodpile:


You can see our new dogwood tree in the back left of that photo. The rue is to the left of the lavender. Here are some more photos:


And here's a visitor that came yesterday afternoon:


Friday, August 10, 2018

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman vs. Superman is a 2016 superhero movie. I wasn't interested and passed on the chance to see it in the theater. When The Husband picked up a used copy cheap I sat down to watch it with him. I'm not a big fan of the concept of the superheroes fighting each other, and that's the whole idea here according to the title. I don't regret having seen it, but I won't sit through it again. So many movies, so little time. Wikipedia says it's "the first live-action film to feature Batman and Superman together, as well as the first live-action cinematic portrayal of Wonder Woman."

Trailer:


The Atlantic concludes,
the central flaw of Batman v Superman is [director] Snyder’s trademark tone, which alternates between angry and maudlin with little in between. Almost the entire film seems to be set at night, as if it were taking place in Mordor, or perhaps Anchorage in December. And Hans Zimmer’s clamorous, punishing score was still reverberating in my fillings for hours after the movie was over. In the end, Batman v Superman is a tiresome, ill-tempered film, and one too lazy even to earn its dismal outlook.

Empire Online closes by saying, "There are moments that make the whole enterprise worthwhile". Roger Ebert's site has a mixed review, praising the acting and mourning lost opportunities. It has an average critics score of 27% at Rotten Tomatoes, but audience ratings are much higher at 67%.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

First World Problems


We're having to cut back -way, way back- but we're not homeless or hungry or lacking in anything really. We just have less than we're used to. Perspective is important.

Regarding cable: As we decided to drop the $20 a month cable package that gave us better access to world soccer games, we realized that we were able to keep some cable channels so we could better follow news, election coverage, and sports. Then we realized that we don't actually need cable for news and election coverage because we get BBC, Google News, and other alerts on our phones that keep us updated. We'll miss the sports on cable, but them's the breaks. We have decided to cut that cord completely, though right now we've just cut back to basic cable since they were going to charge us more for internet access alone than for this package. Isn't that nuts? Right now we're researching our internet options. This just shouldn't be so complicated.

Regarding utilities: We have a two-story townhouse with a single central unit for heating and cooling, which makes it hard to set the thermostat so that it's comfortable both upstairs and down. We're testing how warm we can keep the house so we save money but can still sleep, and we're using 72 as our night setting and 78 during the day. So far, so good. It's amazing how much difference a box fan makes.

Eating out: We're cutting back eating out to once a month, but that still means we're able to eat out once a month. Our July restaurant was the Route 64 Diner in Bolivar, TN. This month is my baptismal anniversary, and I'm still deciding where I want to go for that. It'll probably be one of the local pizza places we've been meaning to try.

The concept of frugality means we have enough so that cutting back is an option.

from The Atlantic:
Frugality is about appreciating simple pleasures and generally easing up in a society that encourages materialism and competitiveness.

...individuals’ frugality at the margins -one fewer latte here or there- matters less as the basic costs of living march ever higher. With that in mind, Ben Franklin comes off as a little naive when he wrote, “Beware of little expenses; A small leak will sink a great ship.” Small costs do add up, but they rarely amount to anything close to the big ones.

A lot also depends on the economic conditions people find themselves in. The U.S.’s median household income has been stagnant -even a recent uptick couldn’t bring the figure up to where it was back in 1999, after adjusting for inflation. And even moving up the earnings spectrum, families are feeling squeezed as they pour their time and money into housing and education -their best shot at providing their children with long-term financial security in an economy that can be cruel to the less-educated. In other words, pinching pennies is of limited value when there aren’t enough pennies to pinch in the first place.

Living a pared-down lifestyle necessarily means having a lifestyle to pare down.
I guess in trying to cut back because we have to unless we want to live on borrowed money we're not really living frugally in the sense some people mean it.

U.S. News and World Report illustrates this when they say,
Being frugal actually allows consumers to spend money on what they truly value while saving on the things they don't.
We're cutting back on things we want because we just don't have the money any more. There's a difference between that and getting rid of expenses so you can afford other things you'd rather have. We're cutting back to avoid debt. That article assumes you have the money but have decided to re-allocate it. That's not what's going on with us.

The Simple Dollar talks about frugality being motivated by choice or necessity:
sometimes frugality is a choice and sometimes it isn’t, but knowing how to do it well is helpful in both situations.

All I can say is this: a lot of the best strategies I’ve used to help myself stay afloat and get ahead in life worked (in some form) whether I was dirt poor or doing well. The big difference was in the results – sometimes it was needed to keep us afloat; other times it was useful to help us get ahead.

The core skillset and mindset of getting the most bang for the buck for everything and knowing how to cut corners has been helpful whether or not we were struggling to survive until the next paycheck or we were trying to stretch a moderate income to cover a lot of bills or we were trying to overcome a big pile of debt on a decent income or we were leveraging ourselves toward complete financial independence and early income on a debt-free life with a solid income. The same strategies worked.

I’m not going to pretend that frugal tactics are a magical wand that fixes all financial problems in individual lives or in society. It’s not.

Instead, think of frugality as a basic tool. It’s a claw hammer or a flat screwdriver. It’s something that can be used in a lot of different situations. Sure, some people will have much better tools for some jobs, but the reality is that frugality is an effective tool in a lot of situations. Like a flat-head screwdriver can open a bucket of paint or repair a bike or install a thermostat, frugality can step up whether you’re struggling to afford a basic grocery list or you’re just trying to figure out how to take the edge off of your $200,000 a year lifestyle.

In both cases, the principle is the same.
TreeHugger agrees with The Simple Dollar:
regardless of where you're at financially, frugal strategies always have a place.
The reason for the frugality isn't as important as the commitment to it. I'm grateful I've never been used to fine dining, designer clothes, and expensive vacations. I'm grateful that, though I'm missing some things, I'm enjoying what I have. I'm grateful we are debt free and have simple tastes. I can laugh at my first world problems, knowing how much worse off I could be. We have enough so that cutting back solves our financial issue without causing actual deprivation, and that's a blessing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Black Noon

Black Noon is a 1971 made-for-tv horror western movie starring Roy Thinnes, Yvette Mimieux, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame, and Leif Garrett. Slow. Very slow. But oh, that cast!

via Youtube:



Moria gives it 2 out of 5 stars. TCM has information.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Still Life with Yellow Tulips

Still Life with Yellow Tulips (1912):


by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who died on August 10 in 1976. The work is at the Albertina museum in Vienna, Austria. You can see more of his work here. I'm joining the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering with the cups in this painting.

I'm no judge, but those don't look like either yellow or tulips to me. This one, now this is a painting with yellow tulips:

Charles Kay Robertson, Still Life of Tulips (or Spring Tulips) 1897


Monday, August 06, 2018

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel is the third in the xXx franchise. I'll watch Vin Diesel in anything, but I probably won't watch this one again. It does work fine as a stand-alone, so don't feel like you must see the earlier films first.

trailer:



Rolling Stone gives it one out of 4 stars calls it the "cinematic equivalent of drool". Hollywood Reporter says, "the beefy Diesel makes xXx: Return of Xander Cage a reasonably entertaining popcorn movie experience". Entertainment Weekly calls it "a rollicking shot of adrenaline".

Roger Ebert's site concludes, "And of course the whole thing ends with a setup for a sequel, which I hope gets to screens before Vin Diesel is about to hit sixty, although seeing him on a skateboard at that age might be pretty diverting." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics average rating of 45%.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Cleopatra's Sister


Cleopatra's Sister is a 1993 novel by Penelope Lively. I pick up this author's work whenever I come across it, and I love this book. It's a love story but not in any sense a romance. Delightful!

from the back of the book:
A paleontologist by choice -and perhaps also due to the accidental discovery of a fossil fragment on Blue Anchor Beach on the north Somerset coast when he was six years old- Howard Beamish is flying to Nairobi on a professional mission when his plane is forced to land in Callimbia. On assignment to write a travel piece for a Sunday magazine, journalist Lucy Faulkner is embarked on the same flight. What happens to Howard and Lucy in Callimbia is one of those accidents that determine fate, that bring love and can take away joy, that reveal to us the precariousness of our existence and the trajectory of our lives.

The imaginary country of Callimbia, which lies between Egypt and Libya on the Mediterranean Sea, has its own history whose narrative unfolds alongside those of Howard and Lucy in the first half of Penelope Lively's new novel. Callimbia's existence depends on an alternative account of ancient history in which the charismatic Berenice, sister of Cleopatra, flees Egypt to escape execution and eventually takes over the throne of neighboring Callimbia. Berenice's subsequent adventure with Antony, her sister's lover, and indeed the history of Callimbia down through the ages are no less real, perhaps, than the stories representing Howard's and Lucy's respective pasts in our own era.

All three narratives converge in the second half of Cleopatra's Sister, which takes place in Marsopolis, the capital of Callimbia. The suspenseful tale of what happens to the British passengers of Capricorn Flight 500, at the mercy of a capricious new ruler in violence-torn Callimbia, illustrates yet again the randomness of events that make up both history and a human being's life.

That Howard and Lucy find each other in Marsopolis is more or less fateful than Howard's finding that piece of ammonite on Blue Anchor Beach many years earlier. Indeed, one event would never have happened without the other.

While the past has always seemed to haunt the present in Penelope Lively's novels -from the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger to the more recent City of the Mind- her newest book explores the role of choice and contingency in human life and in the stories we construct about our lives and the world. With the intelligence, gracefulness, and gentle irony we have come to expect of Penelope Lively's fiction, Cleopatra's Sister illuminates the age-old dance of myth and reality in a novel that sparkles with wit, humor, and keen insight into the storytelling faculty of the human mind.
Favorite quote:

it is always perceived as offensive to prefer to read a book than to talk to someone.
*******

The Independent says, "even if it fails to be one of Penelope Lively's most resonant books, Cleopatra's Sister still figures emphatically as one of her most engaging." The LA Times closes with this: "Although Lively's light touch enhances the situation, she doesn't attempt to neutralize it. We're amused and entertained, but our delight is tinged with an increasing frisson of discomfort, a dimension that makes "Cleopatra's Sister" a special sort of diversion."

Publishers Weekly opens with this:
Surely this authoritatively controlled, highly accomplished novel, British author Lively's 10th (her Moon Tiger won the Booker), will increase her audience of discriminating readers here. Written with grace and clarity, and luminous with insights about the human condition, it is as timely as the evening news and as eternal as the most classic love story.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "This is amusing in the urbane British way, satiric without ever testing the limits of credibility, larkish but not fluffy--in short, more of the Lively right stuff."

I have blog posts on these other of her books:
1989 Passing On
1991 City of the Mind
2003 The Photograph
2007 Consequences

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven is a 2016 remake of the 1960 classic. It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio. It's fun enough, I guess, but just watch the original. Or the movie The Seven Samurai on which the original is based. They are each much better, and are acknowledged classics.

trailer:



Variety concludes that it "would have been more aptly called “The Adequate Seven.”" Rolling Stone says, "The new Seven isn’t aiming for cinema immortality. It’s two hours of hardcore, shoot-em-up pow and it’s entertaining as hell."

Roger Ebert's site opens a 2-star review with this: "Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of “The Magnificent Seven.”" Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 72%.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Memphis Botanic Gardens Delta Heritage Garden


The Delta Heritage Garden is a relatively recent addition to the Botanic Gardens and seems to be getting regular attention and improvement.


Here's a close-up of the interpretive sign:


It's not a large area, but it has pathways you can walk along. This is the view from the shelter:


There are signs throughout the space:




It's a good reminder to those of us who remember what gardening used to be like and an education of what gardening could be like again for those who don't remember.



Thursday, August 02, 2018

The Complex

The Complex is a 2013 Japanese ghost story horror film directed by Hideo Nakata. This is a slow-moving, steadily building story. If you like ghost stories, which I do, this one is worth trying.

You can watch it via Youtube here, but embedding is disabled. here's a trailer:



Variety says it "looks cheap and lifeless". The Japan Times says it "feels formulaic" and that "Nakata is not striking out for new territory, but rather returning to all-too familiar ground, where surface modernity masks a traditional belief structure that has proven remarkably durable." HorrorNews.net says, "Overall, The Complex is a serviceable movie that’s overshadowed by much greater, and better attempts."

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Doctored Evidence


Doctored Evidence is the 13th book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series by Donna Leon. I'm enjoying working my way through these books as I come across them. The setting is Venice, and I feel like I'm actually there. The detective is a joy, a family man whose private life and thoughts fill out the story and add to the plot. You can't go wrong here.

from the dust jacket:
The New York Times Book Review has raved that Donna Leon's evocative, riveting crime novels "shimmer in the grace of their setting and are warmed by the charm of their characters." Her highly anticipated new novel once again follows Commissario Guido Brunetti through the winding streets of contemporary Venice as he throws open the doors to a case his fellow policemen would rather leave closed.

After the body of a wealthy elderly woman is found brutally murdered in her Venetian apartment, the police suspect her maid, who has disappeared and is heading for her native Romania. When the woman is approached by the border police as her train is leaving Italy, she makes a run for it and is killed as she crosses the tracks. She has a considerable sum of money on her and her papers are obvious forgeries. Case closed.

But when the old woman's neighbor returns from a business in London, it becomes clear that the maid could not have had time to kill the old woman before catching her train and that the money on her was not stolen. Commissario Guido Brunetti decides -unofficially- to take on the case himself.

At home, Brunetti's loving wife, Paola, reads the chapter in her daughter's religious instruction book about the Seven Deadly Sins. As he investigates the case, Brunetti realizes that this is probably not a crime motivated by Greed, rather that the motive may have more to do with the temptations of Lust. But perhaps Brunetti is following a false trail and thinking of the wrong sin altogether.

Doctored Evidence is an impeccable novel of suspense that once more finds Commissario Brunetti and his indispensable aid, Signorina Elettra, navigating the murky backwaters of Venetian society. Donna Leon brilliantly recreates contemporary Venice, showing why she has been praised around the world as a masterful storyteller.
I have also read these:
#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
#20 Drawing Conclusions