Monday, December 31, 2018

Kiss of Death (1947)

Kiss of Death is an award-nominated 1947 noir film starring Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, and Richard Widmark. This was Widmark's film debut. It begins on Christmas Eve.

via Youtube:

The New York Times calls it "a pip of a melodrama" and calls this role "Victor Mature's best character".

DVD Talk says, "the whole cast -including Karl Malden in a billed bit part- does strong work here" and closes with this: "a film noir classic. Richard Widmark's gleeful psychopath is iconic and unforgettable, while Victor Mature's soulful lead performance proves he was more than just a handsome beefcake. Highly Recommended." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 86%.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Bah, Humbug

Bah, Humbug is a season 3 episode of the WKRP in Cincinnati TV series. It casts Gordon Jump's Arthur Carlson in the role of Scrooge. I was a huge fan of this series.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Happy Birthday, Marianne Faithfull

As Tears Go By:

sung by Marianne Faithfull, who was born on this date in 1946.

Her voice changed though the years. Here she is singing that same song in 1987:

Here is her singing Sister Morphine in 1969:

and again in 1989:

Sparrows Will Sing (2014):

Because we are still in the Christmas season, here she is on an album from this year singing I Saw Three Ships:

You can listen to more of her work at Spotify:

Happy Birthday, and may she have many more!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Chukon giretsu: Jitsuroku Chushingura

Chūkon giretsu: Jitsuroku Chūshingura is a 1928 Japanese silent film directed by Shozo Makino. It's based on the legend of the 47 ronin.

I can't find a version that has subtitles, but I enjoyed watching it anyway. Familiarizing yourself with the story beforehand helps. You can read the Wikipedia summary of the legend:
The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless (becoming rōnin) after their daimyō (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka, whose title was Kōzuke no suke. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master's honor by killing Kira. In turn, they were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for committing the crime of murder. This true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era, in which Japan underwent rapid modernization, and the legend became entrenched within discourses of national heritage and identity.

Fictionalized accounts of the tale of the Forty-seven Rōnin are known as Chūshingura. The story was popularized in numerous plays, including bunraku and kabuki. Because of the censorship laws of the shogunate in the Genroku era, which forbade portrayal of current events, the names were changed. While the version given by the playwrights may have come to be accepted as historical fact by some, the first Chūshingura was written some 50 years after the event, and numerous historical records about the actual events that predate the Chūshingura survive.

The bakufu's censorship laws had relaxed somewhat 75 years later in the late 18th century, when Japanologist Isaac Titsingh first recorded the story of the forty-seven rōnin as one of the significant events of the Genroku era. To this day, the story continues to be popular in Japan, and each year on December 14, Sengakuji Temple, where Asano Naganori and the rōnin are buried, holds a festival commemorating the event.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Memphis in June

Memphis in June:

sung by Hoagy Carmichael in the 1940s. He died on this date in 1981 of heart failure at the age of 82.

lyric excerpt:
Memphis in June
A shady veranda under a Sunday blue sky

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ebenezer Sanford

Ebenezer Sanford is a season 5 episode of the Sanford and Son television series from the 1970s. I didn't watch this show when it was on and had never seen this Christmas episode.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Music

There is Christmas music galore out there. We used to have Christmas LPs, then we moved to tapes, and now we have CDs. We each have our own Christmas playlists, and I'd like to share mine with you. It's at Spotify, which I find hard to use on my phone but an easy delight on my computer. My playlist is almost 23 hours long, because even though I take some songs out every year I add even more. I've included a wide variety of types of music, but none of it -well, almost none of it- is instrumental. I hope you enjoy my eclectic Christmas music selection:

You can sign up for Spotify free here.

I'm joining those of the regular T Stands for Tuesday bloggers who can make it today, and if you'd like to join in I'd like to welcome you. Please share a drink in your post if you'd like to link up. Here's mine:

Can I interest you in a sausage ball with that? This is a recipe I've used from back in the olden days when sausage balls were invented:

Now that you have a drink in hand and have tried and perhaps decided against Spotify, prop your feet up -see my festive footies?

and consider some of the numerous nice playlists on Youtube. Here's one with pretty scenes:

Here's one with a lovely roaring fireplace and Christmas tree scene:

Here's one that shows a fire burning and crackling in the fireplace while the music plays:

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Your Luck Is About To Change

Your Luck Is About To Change is a poem by Susan Elizabeth Howe. You can read it here. It begins
“Your Luck Is About To Change”
by Susan Elizabeth Howe
(A fortune cookie)

Ominous inscrutable Chinese news
to get just before Christmas,
considering my reasonable health,
marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,
career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.
Not bad, considering what can go wrong:
You'll need to read the entire poem to understand why it reminds me of this story I recently saw about a dragon nativity scene. There's more coverage of the story at BoingBoing.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Jetson Christmas Carol

A Jetson Christmas Carol is a 1985 Christmas special. The Jetsons is a 1960s series I remember fondly from my childhood, but this special is from the second incarnation of the show which I'd never seen.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Admiral's Caravan

The Admiral's Caravan by Charles E. Carryl is an 1891 fantasy novel about a young girl and her companion statues. The statues come to life on Christmas Eve. You can read it online here. It begins,
Chapter I. Dorothy and the Admiral.

The Blue Admiral Inn stood on the edge of the shore, with its red brick walls, and its gabled roof, and the old willow-trees that overhung it, all reflected in the quiet water as if the harbor had been a great mirror lying upon its back in the sun. This made it a most attractive place to look at. Then there were crisp little dimity curtains hanging in the windows of the coffee-room and giving great promise of tidiness and comfort within, and this made it a most delightful place to think about. And then there was a certain suggestion of savory cooking in the swirl of the smoke that came out of the tall, old-fashioned chimneys, and this made it a most difficult place to stay away from. In fact, if any ships had chanced to come into the little harbor, I believe everybody on board of them, from the captains down to the cabin-boys, would have scrambled into the boats the moment the anchors were down and pulled away for the Blue Admiral Inn.

But, so far as ships were concerned, the harbor was as dead as a door-nail, and poor old Uncle Porticle, who kept the inn, had long ago given up all idea of expecting them, and had fallen into a melancholy habit of standing in the little porch that opened on the village street, gazing first to the right and then to the left, and lastly at the opposite side of the way, as if he had a faint hope that certain seafaring men were about to steal a march upon him from the land-side of the town. And Dorothy, who was a lonely little child, with no one in the world to care for but Uncle Porticle, had also fallen into a habit of sitting on the step of the porch by way of keeping him company; and here they passed many quiet hours together, with the big robin hopping about in his cage, and with the Admiral himself, on his pedestal beside the porch, keeping watch and ward over the fortunes of the inn.

Now the Admiral was only a yard high, and was made of wood into the bargain; but he was a fine figure of a man for all that, being dressed in a very beautiful blue coat (as befitted his name) and canary-colored knee-breeches, and wearing a fore-and-aft hat rakishly perched on the back of his head. On the other hand, he had sundry stray cracks in the calves of his legs, and was badly battered about the nose; but, after all, this only gave him a certain weather-beaten appearance as if he had been around the world any number of times in all sorts of company; and for as long as Dorothy could remember he had been standing on his pedestal beside the porch, enjoying the sunshine and defying the rain, as a gallant officer should, and earnestly gazing at the opposite side of the street through a spy-glass.

Now, what the Admiral was staring at was a mystery.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Ref

The Ref is a 1994 black comedy, chosen because I'm looking to add some variety to my holiday viewing. It was fine enough but won't make it onto the watch-every-year list.


The New York Times opens a positive review with this:
Set on Christmas Eve, "The Ref" evokes a familiar kind of holiday feeling: the high anxiety and claustrophobia of spending a long dinner with feuding relatives. The plot sounds hopeless, but the film is handled with gleeful irreverence, dark wit and cynicism.
Rolling Stone concludes, "The script is crass; the actors never. They keep The Ref from going down for the count." Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and calls it "fun". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 73%.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Kidnapped Santa Claus

L. Frank Baum c. 1911

A Kidnapped Santa Claus is a 1904 L. Frank Baum short story, which can be read online here or here.. This story is based in the same mythological creation as Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which is much-beloved at our house. It begins,
Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, nooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can be from one year's end to another.

It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.

On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.

One would thing that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.

But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.
Listen to it read to you:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

3 Godfathers

3 Godfathers is a 1948 western movie. It's directed by John Ford and stars John Wayne. Ward Bond is the sheriff. Referring to the story of the three wise men in the Christian nativity story, John Wayne and his two companions take on the care of a fatherless baby whose mother dies in childbirth.

The New York Times concludes a positive review by saying, "There are humor and honest tear-jerking in this visually beautiful film." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 82%.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The O Antiphons

The O Antiphons are traditionally used during the last seven days of Advent, of which this is the second. Each of the antiphons is a name of Christ, one of his attributes as mentioned in Scripture. Today's is O Adonai, or O Lord. In English:
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Here it is chanted in Latin:

I find these kinds of chants peaceful, and have several on my Spotify Christmas playlist. Christmas isn't all about the hustle and bustle and decoration and secular Christmas songs. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year there are religious traditions, too, even if we've let some of those drop out of our practice over time. If you'd like to add these to your Advent devotions on these days, here are the English words and the dates they're attached to:

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
If this isn't your cup of tea -and let's be honest, it's not everybody's cup of tea- I offer you, yes, you guessed it:

a cup of tea. Enjoy your winter celebration, whatever your focus during these days. Please join me at this week's T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering where we share posts that include a drink.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Festival

photo from

The Festival is a 1923 short story by H.P. Lovecraft. You can read it online here or here. It begins,
I was far from home, and the spell of the eastern sea was upon me. In the twilight I heard it pounding on the rocks, and I knew it lay just over the hill where the twisting willows writhed against the clearing sky and the first stars of evening. And because my fathers had called me to the old town beyond, I pushed on through the shallow, new-fallen snow along the road that soared lonely up to where Aldebaran twinkled among the trees; on toward the very ancient town I had never seen but often dreamed of.

It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Mine were an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before. And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardens of orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers. And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living could understand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade, for only the poor and the lonely remember.
You can listen while the story is read to you:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Carol for Another Christmas

A Carol for Another Christmas is a 1964 television movie. Wikipedia says it's
scripted by Rod Serling as a modernization of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and a plea for global cooperation. It was the first in a planned series of television specials developed to promote the United Nations and educate viewers about its mission.
It is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and is the only television program he ever directed. It stars Britt Ekland, Ben Gazzara, Sterling Hayden, Steve Lawrence, Eva Marie Saint, and Peter Sellers. It was politically relevant then; sadly, it's politically relevant now.

via Youtube:

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Christmas Tree and the Wedding

A Christmas Tree and the Wedding is an 1846 short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. You can read it online here. It begins,
The other day I saw a wedding... But no! I would rather tell you about a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But the other incident was still finer. I don't know why it is that the sight of the wedding reminded me of the Christmas tree. This is the way it happened:

Exactly five years ago, on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a children's ball by a man high up in the business world, who had his connections, his circle of acquaintances, and his intrigues. So it seemed as though the children's ball was merely a pretext for the parents to come together and discuss matters of interest to themselves, quite innocently and casually.

I was an outsider, and, as I had no special matters to air, I was able to spend the evening independently of the others. There was another gentleman present who like myself had just stumbled upon this affair of domestic bliss. He was the first to attract my attention. His appearance was not that of a man of birth or high family. He was tall, rather thin, very serious, and well dressed. Apparently he had no heart for the family festivities. The instant he went off into a corner by himself the smile disappeared from his face, and his thick dark brows knitted into a frown. He knew no one except the host and showed every sign of being bored to death, though bravely sustaining the role of thorough enjoyment to the end. Later I learned that he was a provincial, had come to the capital on some important, brain-racking business, had brought a letter of recommendation to our host, and our host had taken him under his protection, not at all con amore. It was merely out of politeness that he had invited him to the children's ball.

They did not play cards with him, they did not offer him cigars. No one entered into conversation with him. Possibly they recognised the bird by its feathers from a distance. Thus, my gentleman, not knowing what to do with his hands, was compelled to spend the evening stroking his whiskers. His whiskers were really fine, but he stroked them so assiduously that one got the feeling that the whiskers had come into the world first and afterwards the man in order to stroke them.

There was another guest who interested me. But he was of quite a different order. He was a personage. They called him Julian Mastakovich. At first glance one could tell he was an honoured guest and stood in the same relation to the host as the host to the gentleman of the whiskers. The host and hostess said no end of amiable things to him, were most attentive, wining him, hovering over him, bringing guests up to be introduced, but never leading him to any one else. I noticed tears glisten in our host's eyes when Julian Mastakovich remarked that he had rarely spent such a pleasant evening. Somehow I began to feel uncomfortable in this personage's presence. So, after amusing myself with the children, five of whom, remarkably well-fed young persons, were our host's, I went into a little sitting-room, entirely unoccupied, and seated myself at the end that was a conservatory and took up almost half the room.

The children were charming. They absolutely refused to resemble their elders, notwithstanding the efforts of mothers and governesses. In a jiffy they had denuded the Christmas tree down to the very last sweet and had already succeeded in breaking half of their playthings before they even found out which belonged to whom.
You can listen while it's read to you:

Friday, December 14, 2018

Scrooge Gets an Oscar

Scrooge Gets an Oscar is an episode of the 1970s Odd Couple TV series. I enjoy it when a TV series has an episode devoted to the Scrooge story.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas on Ganymede

photo from

Christmas on Ganymede is a 1940 short story by Isaac Asimov, which first appeared in the January 1942 issue of Startling Stories. You can read it here or here. It begins,
Olaf Johnson hummed nasally to himself and his china-blue eyes were dreamy as he surveyed the stately fir tree in the corner of the library. Though the library was the largest single room in the Dome, Olaf felt it none too spacious for the occasion. Enthusiastically he dipped into the huge crate at his side and took out the first roll of red-and-green crepe paper.

What sudden burst of sentiment had inspired the Ganymedan Products Corporation, Inc. to ship a complete collection of Christmas decorations to the Dome, he did not pause to inquire. Olaf’s was a placid disposition, and in his self-imposed job as chief Christmas decorator, he was content with his lot.

He frowned suddenly and muttered a curse. The General Assembly signal light was Hashing on and off hysterically. With a hurt air Olaf laid down the tack-hammer he had just lifted, then the roll of crepe paper, picked some tinsel out of his hair and left for officers quarters.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Mickey's Christmas Carol is a 1983 animated version with Mickey Mouse as Cratchit, Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge, and Donald Duck as Fred. I don't know how many adaptations there have been for A Christmas Carol, but sometimes I think there's one for every television show and character. This one is fun if you like these characters.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Happy Birthday, Brenda Lee!

Brenda Lee is celebrating her 73rd birthday today, and in honor of her and of the season I give you what has become a Christmas standard:

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree came out in 1958, and although I don't remember that, I hear this song every year and keep it on my playlist. Lee was 13 years old when she recorded it. She's also known for I'm Sorry, which came out in 1960 when she was 15:


Losing You came out in 1963:

Johnny One Time from 1969:

She was born in Georgia, and the Georgia Encyclopedia site says, "She is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the only female to be so honored." She currently lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband of over 50 years and continues to be active.

As today is Tuesday and I enjoy participating in the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering where we include a drink in our post, I offer Hallelujah I Love You So (1984) which she sings as a duet with George Jones:

lyrics excerpt:
Let me tell you 'bout a girl I know
She is my baby and she lives next door
Every mornin' 'fore the sun comes up
She brings me coffee in my favorite cup
That's why I know, yes, I know
Hallelujah, I just love her so

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Fir Tree

The Fir Tree is an 1844 short story by Hans Christian Andersen. I imagine everyone is familiar with this tale of the little fir tree so completely focused on the future that the present is lost to it. You can read it online here. It begins,
Out in the woods stood such a pretty little fir tree. It grew in a good place, where it had plenty of sun and plenty of fresh air. Around it stood many tall comrades, both fir trees and pines.

The little fir tree was in a headlong hurry to grow up. It didn't care a thing for the warm sunshine, or the fresh air, and it took no interest in the peasant children who ran about chattering when they came to pick strawberries or raspberries. Often when the children had picked their pails full, or had gathered long strings of berries threaded on straws, they would sit down to rest near the little fir. "Oh, isn't it a nice little tree?" they would say. "It's the baby of the woods." The little tree didn't like their remarks at all.

Next year it shot up a long joint of new growth, and the following year another joint, still longer. You can always tell how old a fir tree is by counting the number of joints it has.

"I wish I were a grown-up tree, like my comrades," the little tree sighed. "Then I could stretch out my branches and see from my top what the world is like. The birds would make me their nesting place, and when the wind blew I could bow back and forth with all the great trees."

It took no pleasure in the sunshine, nor in the birds. The glowing clouds, that sailed overhead at sunrise and sunset, meant nothing to it.
You can listen to a Librivox recording of the story:

Sunday, December 09, 2018

A Christmas Carol (1959)

A Christmas Carol is the 1959 adaptation aired on the TV series Fredric March Presents Tales from Dickens. This stars Basil Rathbone as Ebenezer Scrooge. Fredric March narrates. This is a bare-bones, much-condensed version.

via Youtube:

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Battle of Life: A Love Story

The Battle of Life: A Love Story is a short 1846 novel by Charles Dickens. One scene takes place on Christmas:
So, guests were bidden, and musicians were engaged, and tables spread, and floors prepared for active feet, and bountiful provision made, of every hospitable kind. Because it was the Christmas season, and his eyes were all unused to English holly, and its sturdy green, the dancing room was garlanded and hung with it; and the red berries gleamed an English welcome to him, peeping from among the leaves.
You can read it online here or here. It begins,
Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower formed by the Almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup fill high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate color from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses’ hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun.

Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field, when, coming up above the black line of distant rising-ground, softened and blurred at the edge by trees, she rose into the sky and looked upon the plain, strewn with upturned faces that had once at mothers’ breasts sought mothers’ eyes, or slumbered happily. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the secrets whispered afterwards upon the tainted wind that blew across the scene of that day’s work and that night’s death and suffering! Many a lonely moon was bright upon the battle-ground, and many a star kept mournful watch upon it, and many a wind from every quarter of the earth blew over it, before the traces of the fight were worn away.

They lurked and lingered for a long time, but survived in little things, for Nature, far above the evil passions of men, soon recovered Her serenity, and smiled upon the guilty battle-ground as she had done before, when it was innocent. The larks sang high above it, the swallows skimmed and dipped and flitted to and fro, the shadows of the flying clouds pursued each other swiftly, over grass and corn and turnip-field and wood, and over roof and church-spire in the nestling town among the trees, away into the bright distance on the borders of the sky and earth, where the red sunsets faded. Crops were sown, and grew up, and were gathered in; the stream that had been crimsoned, turned a watermill; men whistled at the plough; gleaners and haymakers were seen in quiet groups at work; sheep and oxen pastured; boys whooped and called, in fields, to scare away the birds; smoke rose from cottage chimneys; sabbath bells rang peacefully; old people lived and died; the timid creatures of the field, and simple flowers of the bush and garden, grew and withered in their destined terms: and all upon the fierce and bloody battle-ground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight.

But there were deep green patches in the growing corn at first, that people looked at awfully. Year after year they re-appeared; and it was known that underneath those fertile spots, heaps of men and horses lay buried, indiscriminately, enriching the ground. The husbandmen who ploughed those places, shrunk from the great worms abounding there; and the sheaves they yielded, were, for many a long year, called the Battle Sheaves, and set apart; and no one ever knew a Battle Sheaf to be among the last load at a Harvest Home. For a long time, every furrow that was turned, revealed some fragments of the fight. For a long time, there were wounded trees upon the battle-ground; and scraps of hacked and broken fence and wall, where deadly struggles had been made; and trampled parts where not a leaf or blade would grow. For a long time, no village-girl would dress her hair or bosom with the sweetest flower from that field of death: and after many a year had come and gone, the berries growing there, were still believed to leave too deep a stain upon the hand that plucked them.

The Seasons in their course, however, though they passed as lightly as the summer clouds themselves, obliterated, in the lapse of time, even these remains of the old conflict; and wore away such legendary traces of it as the neighbouring people carried in their minds, until they dwindled into old wives’ tales, dimly remembered round the winter fire, and waning every year.
You can listen to it read to you:

Friday, December 07, 2018


2046 is a 2004 science fiction film, or -if you prefer- a romantic drama with science fiction elements, directed by Wong Kar-wai. This is so beautiful to watch.

Parts of it take place on Christmas Eve. "All memories are traces of tears." "Love is all a matter of timing. It's no good meeting the right person too soon or too late."

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The soundtrack is wonderful. This song plays in the background during part of the movie:

The New York Times opens with this: "IN "2046," a story of longing and loss, the passage of time is marked not by the hands of a clock, but by the women who pass through one man's life" and says, "Mr. Wong is one of the few filmmakers working in commercial cinema who refuse to be enslaved by traditional storytelling. ... Mr. Wong makes movies, still a young art, that create meaning through visual images, not just words."

Roger Ebert says, "Since it is by Wong Kar Wai, "2046" is visually stunning" and calls it "a lovely meander". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 85%.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Chaparral Christmas Gift

A Chaparral Christmas Gift is a short story by O. Henry. You can read it online here. It begins,
The original cause of the trouble was about twenty years in growing.

At the end of that time it was worth it.

Had you lived anywhere within fifty miles of Sundown Ranch you would have heard of it. It possessed a quantity of jet-black hair, a pair of extremely frank, deep-brown eyes and a laugh that rippled across the prairie like the sound of a hidden brook. The name of it was Rosita McMullen; and she was the daughter of old man McMullen of the Sundown Sheep Ranch.

There came riding on red roan steeds -or, to be more explicit, on a paint and a flea-bitten sorrel- two wooers. One was Madison Lane, and the other was the Frio Kid, But at that time they did not call him the Frio Kid, for he had not earned the honours of special nomenclature- His name was simply Johnny McRoy.

It must not be supposed that these two were the sum of the agreeable Rosita's admirers. The bronchos of a dozen others champed their bits at the long hitching rack of the Sundown Ranch. Many were the sheeps'- eves that were cast in those savannas that did not belong. to the flocks of Dan McMullen. But of all the cavaliers, Madison Lane and Johnny MeRoy galloped far ahead, wherefore they are to be chronicled.

Madison Lane, a young cattleman from the Nueces country, won the race. He and Rosita were married one Christmas day. Armed, hilarious, vociferous, magnanimous, the cowmen and the sheepmen, laying aside their hereditary hatred, joined forces to celebrate the occasion.

Sundown Ranch was sonorous with the cracking of jokes and sixshooters, the shine of buckles and bright eyes, the outspoken congratulations of the herders of kine.

But while the wedding feast was at its liveliest there descended upon it Johnny MeRoy, bitten by jealousy, like one possessed.
You can listen to the story read to you:

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A Christmas Carol (1954)

This adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic is an episode from the television variety series Shower of Stars. Much condensed and faithful in parts, this is only an hour long. Fredric March is Scrooge and Basil Rathbone is Marley's Ghost.

via Youtube:

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

View from the Balcony

View from the Balcony:

by Ödön Márffy, a Hungarian painter who died December 3, 1959, 3 days after his 81st birthday. He was one of The Eight, "an avant-garde art movement of Hungarian painters active mostly in Budapest from 1909 to 1918. They were connected to Post-Impressionism and radical movements in literature and music as well, and led to the rise of modernism in art culture."

It's cold here, so even if I had a balcony I couldn't sit on it. I'll just stay all cozy inside while I drink my hot tea. Join me in a cup while we go over to the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Blue Bird

The Blue Bird is a 1940 movie. It's directed by Walter Lang and stars Shirley Temple, Spring Byington, and Nigel Bruce. The movie takes place during the Christmas season. I watched this looking for movies I hadn't seen that take place around Christmas. This is a simple, sappy story, and I can't imagine who would like it except for Shirley Temple fans. I'm not one of those people. .

via Youtube:

The NYT says, " As a children's show we suppose it is quite acceptable. At least it is edifyingly moral and moralistic and not too frightening". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 73%.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

The Elves and the Shoemaker

I can't say I've ever thought of The Elves and the Shoemaker as a Christmas story, but there it is in black and white: "Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas...". You can read this Grimms brothers tale online, including here and here. It begins,
A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes. So in the evening, he cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning, and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep. In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece. Soon after, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man. Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, "What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?"
Here's the edition of this story I had growing up:

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Apartment

The Apartment is a 1960 comedy directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen, Ray Walston, and Edie Addams. Much of the movie takes place during the Christmas holiday season. We have the DVD, but you can watch it online at Vimeo.


The New York Times calls it "a gleeful, tender and even sentimental film". The Guardian gives it 5 out of 5 stars. The BBC has a positive review.

Variety has a positive review. The Hollywood Reporter calls it "an important and provocative film". Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it "Absolutely brilliant". describes it as a
sophisticated yet cynical film of the early 60s is a bleak assessment of corporate America, big business and capitalism, success, and the work ethic, when a lowly but ambitious accountant enables his climb up the corporate ladder by ingratiating himself to his superiors
Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a 93% critics rating.