Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Rowan Tree

image from

Several people have suggested options for free books online, and I'm exploring what seems to me to be a wealth of choices. The Rowan Tree, by Robert W. Fuller, is available free for now on Google Play, and I'm reading it on my computer. You can read it here while it's free. I found it searching for free books in the literary fiction category at BookBub.

Rowan Ellway is a young college president; Easter Blue, an impassioned student leader. Upon graduation, she takes a fellowship to Africa, and they lose touch. When, decades later, they meet again, they discover that their prior bond was but a rehearsal for the world stage.

The Rowan Tree reaches from the tumultuous 1960s into humanity’s future, encompassing the worlds of politics, sport, ballet, presidential leadership, and world governance. An international cast of characters personifies the catalytic role of love in political change.

Replete with illicit loves, quixotic quests, and inextinguishable hope, The Rowan Tree foretells a dignitarian world much as the story of King Arthur and the round table sowed the seeds of democracy.
It's quite the romantic, illicit affair-driven narrative and not my cup of tea. I won't seek out more by this author.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Still Life

A silver bowl, a lemon, a knife, a bottle and a glass on a salver on a draped marble ledge:

by Louise De Hem, who died on November 22, 1922, at the age of 55. How did she make that lemon look like a real lemon? It looks more "real" than some photos I've taken. The skill and eye of artists are awe-inspiring as I look at paintings I come across.

Please join me in a cuppa

while I admire the art in this painting and in the posts of folks participating in the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Some of you were kind enough to suggest sources for free books online, and I'd like to share one of my favorites: the University of Adelaide online books library. I also find good things at Online Literature, at the Internet Archive and at Project Gutenberg.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Proud Rebel

The Proud Rebel is a 1958 western directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland. John Carradine, Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway, and Harry Dean Stanton co-star.

Variety says, "Warmth of a father's love and faith, and the devotion of a boy for his dog, are the stand- out ingredients of this suspenseful and fast-action post-Civil War yarn." TCM has information.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Roman Hat Mystery

The Roman Hat Mystery is the first of the Ellery Queen detective/mystery series. This writer knows his stuff. It was written in 1928 but is still easy and interesting to read. The book was a birthday present.

from the Wikipedia article:
The novel deals with the poisoning of a disreputable lawyer named Monte Field in the Roman Theater in New York City during a performance of a play called "Gunplay!" Although the play is a sold-out hit, the corpse is discovered seated surrounded by empty seats. A number of suspects whose pasts had made them potentially susceptible to blackmail are in the theater at the time, some connected with the Roman Theater and some audience members.

The case is investigated by Inspector Richard Queen of the Homicide Squad with the assistance of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and author. The principal clue in the mystery is the disappearance of the victim's top hat, and it is suspected that the hat may have contained papers with which the victim was blackmailing the murderer. A number of suspects are considered, but nothing can be proved until Ellery performs an extended piece of logical deduction based on the missing hat and thus identifies the murderer.
You can read it online here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thieves' Highway

Thieves' Highway is a 1949 film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, and Barbara Lawrence.

part 1:

part 2:

Slant Magazine says "Jules Dassin’s 1949 melodrama about long-haul truckers —the director’s final (and finest) film made in America before the House Un-American Committee exiled him to Europe— is ... a bleak portrait of post-WWII despair, corrupt capitalism, and idealistic disillusionment." The New York Times review from the time calls it "One of Best Melodramas of the Year". DVD Talk says it "bares some honest truths about making a living at the lower end of the entrepreneurial scale. Firebrand writer A.I. Bezzerides all but indicts the American system of business".

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Extended Advent

I'm trying a new-to-me thing this year. One of the earliest of Advent traditions has the observance beginning on the Feast of St. Martin, which is November 11, and there was no determined, consistent practice of shortening it to four weeks until much later and never in the Orthodox tradition. I'm observing Advent beginning with the second week in November, so this past Sunday was the first week in Advent in this practice. I'll be following what this United Methodist Church page calls Restorationist Advent. Their page says, "Advent used to be a season of seven Sundays until Pope Gregory VI shortened it to four in the eleventh century."

The Advent Project is "committed to working ecumenically to restore Advent from four (4) to seven (7) weeks". They have some resources, including O Antiphons for seven weeks and candle-lighting devotions for home use. There's another service for home use here.

Yes, this made my Advent wreath useless, but I've made one with more candles, pictured above, that will serve. The color of the candles is irrelevant, except the Christ candle in the center -which I haven't added yet- should be white.

I have never found the time of preparation for Christmas to be stressful as some seem to, and I've always enjoyed a bit of the hustle and bustle that goes with this season, so my reasons for joining this movement have nothing to do with a reaction to commercialization or secular concerns. I'm interested in exploring this older tradition of a longer Advent as an end in itself, as a way of deepening my experience of Advent.

You can read another person's reasoning for this practice in this article from last year in The Atlantic. It begins, "Reclaiming the Calm of Christmas by Expanding Advent, By celebrating for nearly two months, one family basks in the season’s peacefulness, rather than its frenzy," and goes on to explain,
For the last two years my family has been observing Advent, the season when Christians celebrate Jesus’s birth and await his second coming, for three additional Sundays; instead of starting in December, we start in early November. This puts our family’s emphasis on the sense of expectation that defines Advent, and less so on the letters to Santa and mountains of presents that attend Christmas.
I'm finding an expanded Advent to be helpful in my personal devotions.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Little Prince

The Little Prince is a 1943 book, which I read in French back in the days when I knew some French. I have read it several times in the English translation. This book is a treasure, and I'd recommend it to anyone of any age. You can read it online here.

I've seen two of the many adaptations. The 1974 version is a musical starring Gene Wilder as the Fox. I saw it when it was first released to theaters and love it dearly even now.

Here's a trailer:

I recently watched the 2015 adaptation on Netflix. It's quite different, being an animation, but every bit as delightful.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Tempest (1960)

The Tempest is a 1960 television adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Directed by George Schaefer, it stars Maurice Evans as Prospero, Richard Burton as Caliban, Lee Remick as Miranda, Roddy McDowall as Ariel, and Tom Poston as Trinculo. Edited for time, this is still the best adaptation I've found.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ether Breather

Ether Breather (1939) is the first published science fiction story of Theodore Sturgeon. You can read it online here or here. It begins,
It was "The Seashell." It would have to be "The Seashell." I wrote it first as a short story, and it was turned down. Then I made a novelette nut of if and then a novel. Then a short short. Then a three-line gag. And it still wouldn't sell. It got to be a fetish with me, rewriting that "Seashell." After a while editors got so used to it that they turned it down on sight. I had enough rejection slips from that number alone to paper every room in the house of tomorrow. So when it sold -well, it was like the death of a friend. It hit me. I hated to see it go.

It was a play by that time, but I hadn't changed it much. Still the same pastel, froo-froo old "Seashell" story, about two children who grew up and met each other only three times as the years went on, and a little seashell that changed hands each time they met. The plot, if any, doesn't matter. The dialogue was -well, pastel. Naive. Unsophisticated. Very pretty, and practically salesproof. But it just happened to ring the bell with an earnest, young reader for Associated Television, Inc., who was looking for something about that length that could be dubbed "artistic"; something that would not require too much cerebration on the part of an audience, so that said audience could relax and appreciate the new polychrome technique of television transmission. You know; pastel.

As I leaned back in my old relic of an armchair that night, and watched the streamlined version of my slow-moving brainchild, I had to admire the way they put it over. In spots it was almost good, that "Seashell." Well suited for the occasion, too. It was a full-hour program given free to a perfume house by Associated, to try out the new color transmission as an advertising medium. I liked the first two acts, if I do say so as shouldn't. It was at the half-hour mark that I got my first kick on the chin. It was a two-minute skit for the advertising plug.

A tall and elegant couple were seen standing on marble steps in an elaborate theater lobby. Says she to he:

"And how do you like the play, Mr. Robinson?"

Says he to she: "It stinks."

Just like that. Like any radio-television listener, I was used to paying little, if any, attention to a plug. That certainly snapped me up in my chair. After all, it was my play, even if it was "The Seashell." They couldn't do that to me.

I've been enjoying looking for short stories to read online as I try to spend less money on books, and I always have a cup of coffee in hand:

as I sit with my patio view, raining here:

and do my googling.

Please join me as I visit the folks who participate in the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Birthday 42

What a delightful birthday present for my recent special day!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Cucuy: The Boogeyman

Cucuy: The Boogeyman is a 2018 horror film. The IMDb site describes it: "When children start disappearing, a rebellious teen under house arrest starts to suspect that a legendary evil, a boogeyman known as the Cucuy, might be responsible." I find child endangerment scary in a movie. Frightened children under threat, now that's horrifying. On the other hand, when kids take such careless risks my sympathy for them is tinged with my mom-sense saying, "Don't do that! Don't go there! What are you thinking?!" All said, this is very run-of-the-mill, and I'd suggest looking for something better unless you've already seen all the better ones. Why haven't you already seen all the better ones?!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Way Station

Way Station is an award-winning 1963 science fiction book by Clifford D. Simak. I discovered this author in high school, and he's always worth reading. This is probably my third or fourth time to read this book, as I make a final pass through the books on my shelves. I look forward to the upcoming Netflix adaptation.

from the back of the book:
Galactic Station Master

Neighbors saw Enoch Wallace as an ageless hermit, striding across his untended farm as he had done for over a century, still carrying the gun with which he had served in the Civil War. They must never know that inside his unchanging house, he met and conversed with a host of unimaginable friends from the farthest stars.

More than a hundred years before, an lien being named Ulysses had recruited Enoch as the keeper of Earth's only galactic transfer station. Now he studied the progress of Earth as he tended the tanks where the aliens appeared, and the charts he made indicated that his world was doomed to destruction. His alien friends could only offer help that seemed worse than the dreaded disaster.

Then he discovered the horror that lay across the Galaxy...

Friday, November 08, 2019

Decision at Sundown

Decision at Sundown is a 1957 Randolph Scott western. Noah Beery and Andrew Duggan are also in this. Randolph Scott finds the man he blames for the death of his wife and for ruining his life, and he announces his intent to kill him.

You can watch the movie at Tubi TV or Daily Motion or via Youtube:

Senses of Cinema calls it "a brutal study of a Western hero’s retribution turned to psychotic obsession".

Thursday, November 07, 2019


Finch is a 2009 detective mystery/dark fantasy novel by Jeff Vandermeer. This is my second time to read this as I go through my shelves. I'm always impressed by this author.

from the back of the book:

Tasked with solving an impossible double murder, detective John Finch searches for the truth among the war-weary ruins of the once-mighty city of Ambergris. Under the six-year rule of its inhuman gray cap masters, Ambergris is slowly crumbling into anarchy. The remnants of a rebel force are dispersed, their leader, the mysterious Lady in Blue, missing. Citizens are being interned in camps. Collaborators roam the streets keeping brutal order. But Finch also has to contend with new forces rising, like the enigmatic Ethan Bliss, and the contamination of his partner, Wyte, who is literally disintegrating under the strain.

In this powerful and poignant novel, the past and the future, the cosmic and the gritty, collide. What will happen if Finch solves the case? What will happen if he doesn't? And will Ambergris ever be the same?
The Guardian calls it "a compelling experience". The Independent says it "cleaves to the conventions of the traditional noir thriller." SF Site says, "VanderMeer's fungal milieu is still in full, fantastic flower, complimented by the many bizarre characters and creatures that Finch encounters". Publishers Weekly calls it "an engrossing recasting of the hard-boiled detective novel".

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Earth: Final Conflict

Earth: Final Conflict was a 1997-2002 science fiction television series. I watched this when it was on first-run. At least I tried to, but it was like playing hide and seek. It changed time slots a lot. From Wikipedia:
The story begins three years after the Taelons arrived on Earth. The Taelons have used their advanced technology to help humanity achieve a better quality of life. However, the North American Taelon Companion, Da'an, is targeted by an assassin while making a speech. Jonathan Doors, a businessman with close ties to the Taelons, is killed while Da'an is unharmed. Da'an is impressed by Police Commander Boone's work in protecting him from the assassination attempt, and offers him a spot as a Taelon Protector, a personal bodyguard and envoy for a particular Taelon.

Boone politely refuses because he wants to start a family with his wife. Also, deep down, he doesn't trust the Taelons fully. Subsequently, Boone's wife is killed in a mysterious automobile accident and Boone finds out that Jonathan Doors faked his own death so that he could focus on an underground resistance movement that he founded in secret. Doors believes the Taelons have sinister intentions, and wants to find out their true motives. ...
Season 1, episode 1:

Other episodes are randomly available, and if you like this one you'll like the rest of them.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Blue Pitcher

Blue Pitcher:

by Henri Matisse, who died on November 3, in 1954, at age 84. There's an hour-long educational documentary here:

Here's the Hudson Library Historical Society series episode on Matisse:

There's a short biography and information on 100 of his paintings here. There's information on his life and work with photographs here.

Please join me over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog for the weekly T Stands for Tuesday gathering. Post a drink and join the party.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a 2019 horror/monster/science fiction film. We didn't see it in the theater but bought the DVD and watched it not long ago. It's a big, splashy, fun film.


It got mixed reviews, and I'd guess people who like this kind of thing will like this but that it won't convert the naysayers.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Movies with Ghosts

I've made a list with zombie movies and another with vampires and thought I'd gather together the ghosts in one list. There are so many horror movies that a single list which includes all types can be intimidating, but separated by sub-genre you can better find the type of horror you prefer. Some of these films are serious horror movies, while others are comedies or films where what's suspected to be a ghost turns out to be nothing of the sort. Variety is the spice of life -even within the sub-genres. I don't include adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, even though they are ghost stories.


The Haunted House (1908)


The Dybbuk (1937)


The Ghost Train (1941)
The Uninvited (1944)
Blithe Spirit (1945)
Dead of Night (1945)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
The Ghosts of Berkeley Square (1947)
Hamlet (Lawrence Olivier, 1948)
The Queen of Spades (1949)


The Lost Will of Dr Rant (1951)
Ugetsu (1953)
Ghost in the Well (1957)
Ghost of Chibusa Enoki (1958)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)


13 Ghosts (1960)
Tormented (1960)
Ghost of Oiwa (1961)
The Innocents (1961)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
The Ghost (1963)
The Terror (1963)
The Whip and the Body (1963)
Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)
Cruel Ghost Legend (1968)
Oh Whistle, and I'll Come to You My Lad (1968)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1968)
The Snow Woman (1968)


A Warning to the Curious (1972)
Lost Hearts (1973)
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974)
The Signal-Man (1976)
Empire of Passion (1978)


The Changeling (1980)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Pale Rider (1985)
The Lady in White (1988)
The Woman in Black (1989)


Hamlet (1990)
Truly Madly Deeply (1990)
Haunted (1995)
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation (1997)


Pulse (2001)
Dark Water (2002)
The Eye (2002)
Dead Birds (2004)
A View from a Hill (2005)
Number 13 (2006)
The Bride (2007)
Carved: the Slit-Mouthed Woman (2007)
Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (2007)
The Orphanage (2007)


The Complex (2013)
Pee Mak (2013)
The Tractate Middoth (2013)
We Are What We Are (2013)
Crimson Peak (2015)
Ghostline (2015)
Tragic Theater (2015)
Boys in the Trees (2016)
The Wailing (2016)
Hamlet 360 (2019)

Saturday, November 02, 2019

The Eyes

The Eyes is a 1910 ghost story by Edith Wharton. In this tale a convivial gathering of men has already told of their ghost experiences when the story begins. At that point one of the guests asks the host to relate his own, which he does beginning in the second chapter You can read it online here or here. It begins with this first chapter:
We had been put in the mood for ghosts, that evening, after an excellent dinner at our old friend Culwin’s, by a tale of Fred Murchard’s — the narrative of a strange personal visitation.

Seen through the haze of our cigars, and by the drowsy gleam of a coal fire, Culwin’s library, with its oak walls and dark old bindings, made a good setting for such evocations; and ghostly experiences at first hand being, after Murchard’s brilliant opening, the only kind acceptable to us, we proceeded to take stock of our group and tax each member for a contribution. There were eight of us, and seven contrived, in a manner more or less adequate, to fulfil the condition imposed. It surprised us all to find that we could muster such a show of supernatural impressions, for none of us, excepting Murchard himself and young Phil Frenham — whose story was the slightest of the lot — had the habit of sending our souls into the invisible. So that, on the whole, we had every reason to be proud of our seven “exhibits,” and none of us would have dreamed of expecting an eighth from our host.

Our old friend, Mr. Andrew Culwin, who had sat back in his arm-chair, listening and blinking through the smoke circles with the cheerful tolerance of a wise old idol, was not the kind of man likely to be favoured with such contacts, though he had imagination enough to enjoy, without envying, the superior privileges of his guests. By age and by education he belonged to the stout Positivist tradition, and his habit of thought had been formed in the days of the epic struggle between physics and metaphysics. But he had been, then and always, essentially a spectator, a humorous detached observer of the immense muddled variety show of life, slipping out of his seat now and then for a brief dip into the convivialities at the back of the house, but never, as far as one knew, showing the least desire to jump on the stage and do a “turn.”

Among his contemporaries there lingered a vague tradition of his having, at a remote period, and in a romantic clime, been wounded in a duel; but this legend no more tallied with what we younger men knew of his character than my mother’s assertion that he had once been “a charming little man with nice eyes” corresponded to any possible reconstitution of his dry thwarted physiognomy.

“He never can have looked like anything but a bundle of sticks,” Murchard had once said of him. “Or a phosphorescent log, rather,” some one else amended; and we recognized the happiness of this description of his small squat trunk, with the red blink of the eyes in a face like mottled bark. He had always been possessed of a leisure which he had nursed and protected, instead of squandering it in vain activities. His carefully guarded hours had been devoted to the cultivation of a fine intelligence and a few judiciously chosen habits; and none of the disturbances common to human experience seemed to have crossed his sky. Nevertheless, his dispassionate survey of the universe had not raised his opinion of that costly experiment, and his study of the human race seemed to have resulted in the conclusion that all men were superfluous, and women necessary only because some one had to do the cooking. On the importance of this point his convictions were absolute, and gastronomy was the only science which he revered as dogma. It must be owned that his little dinners were a strong argument in favour of this view, besides being a reason — though not the main one — for the fidelity of his friends.

Mentally he exercised a hospitality less seductive but no less stimulating. His mind was like a forum, or some open meeting-place for the exchange of ideas: somewhat cold and draughty, but light, spacious and orderly — a kind of academic grove from which all the leaves had fallen. In this privileged area a dozen of us were wont to stretch our muscles and expand our lungs; and, as if to prolong as much as possible the tradition of what we felt to be a vanishing institution, one or two neophytes were now and then added to our band.

Young Phil Frenham was the last, and the most interesting, of these recruits, and a good example of Murchard’s somewhat morbid assertion that our old friend “liked ’em juicy.” It was indeed a fact that Culwin, for all his mental dryness, specially tasted the lyric qualities in youth. As he was far too good an Epicurean to nip the flowers of soul which he gathered for his garden, his friendship was not a disintegrating influence: on the contrary, it forced the young idea to robuster bloom. And in Phil Frenham he had a fine subject for experimentation. The boy was really intelligent, and the soundness of his nature was like the pure paste under a delicate glaze. Culwin had fished him out of a thick fog of family dulness, and pulled him up to a peak in Darien; and the adventure hadn’t hurt him a bit. Indeed, the skill with which Culwin had contrived to stimulate his curiosities without robbing them of their young bloom of awe seemed to me a sufficient answer to Murchard’s ogreish metaphor. There was nothing hectic in Frenham’s efflorescence, and his old friend had not laid even a finger-tip on the sacred stupidities. One wanted no better proof of that than the fact that Frenham still reverenced them in Culwin.

“There’s a side of him you fellows don’t see. I believe that story about the duel!” he declared; and it was of the very essence of this belief that it should impel him — just as our little party was dispersing — to turn back to our host with the absurd demand: “And now you’ve got to tell us about your ghost!”

The outer door had closed on Murchard and the others; only Frenham and I remained; and the vigilant servant who presided over Culwin’s destinies, having brought a fresh supply of soda-water, had been laconically ordered to bed.

Culwin’s sociability was a night-blooming flower, and we knew that he expected the nucleus of his group to tighten around him after midnight. But Frenham’s appeal seemed to disconcert him comically, and he rose from the chair in which he had just reseated himself after his farewells in the hall.

“My ghost? Do you suppose I’m fool enough to go to the expense of keeping one of my own, when there are so many charming ones in my friends’ closets? — Take another cigar,” he said, revolving toward me with a laugh.

Frenham laughed too, pulling up his slender height before the chimney-piece as he turned to face his short bristling friend.

“Oh,” he said, “you’d never be content to share if you met one you really liked.”

Culwin had dropped back into his armchair, his shock head embedded in its habitual hollow, his little eyes glimmering over a fresh cigar.

“Liked — liked? Good Lord!” he growled.

“Ah, you have, then!” Frenham pounced on him in the same instant, with a sidewise glance of victory at me; but Culwin cowered gnomelike among his cushions, dissembling himself in a protective cloud of smoke.

“What’s the use of denying it? You’ve seen everything, so of course you’ve seen a ghost!” his young friend persisted, talking intrepidly into the cloud. “Or, if you haven’t seen one, it’s only because you’ve seen two!”

The form of the challenge seemed to strike our host. He shot his head out of the mist with a queer tortoise-like motion he sometimes had, and blinked approvingly at Frenham.

“Yes,” he suddenly flung at us on a shrill jerk of laughter; “it’s only because I’ve seen two!”

The words were so unexpected that they dropped down and down into a fathomless silence, while we continued to stare at each other over Culwin’s head, and Culwin stared at his ghosts. At length Frenham, without speaking, threw himself into the chair on the other side of the hearth, and leaned forward with his listening smile . . .
You can have it read to you here:

Friday, November 01, 2019



Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;
Long have I listened to the wailing wind,
And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds,
For autumn charms my melancholy mind.

When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:
The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;
The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail
Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!

Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,
The holly-berries and the ivy-tree:
They weave a chaplet for the Old Year’s bier,
These waiting mourners do not sing for me!

I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,
Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;
The naked, silent trees have taught me this,—
The loss of beauty is not always loss!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Macbeth (1948)

Macbeth is the 1948 film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. This is directed by Orson Welles. Welles stars as Macbeth, and Roddy Macdowell is Malcolm. The play is abridged and altered for this movie, so this won't be a substitute for seeing the actual play performed.

Empire Online says, "A powerhouse performance from Orson Welles as the troubled Prince." Rotten Tomatoes critics average a score of 88%.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Bitter Grounds

Bitter Grounds is a 2003 Neil Gaiman short story. You can read it online here. It begins,
In every way that counted, I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the face and lips and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smiled and kept moving. If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door, I would have done. But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Poison for the Fairies

Horror movies are not dangerous or evil like I've seen some people claim. Let's just get that out there where we can see it. Some horror movies may be about evil, but so also can film noir or children's movies or Bible stories or classic literature or mystery/detective films. Horror is a film genre that dates back to the beginnings of film, as horror stories date back to the beginnings of story-telling. Horror movies range from old silent animated comedy shorts to classic films that are psychological dramas or thrillers.

All of us have film preferences, but it can be hard to know where to start with a film genre you don't like the idea of and know nothing about. As I was with romantic comedies, so many people are with horror. I'd like to give a few examples of places to start with horror.

The Husband doesn't like horror in general, but he enjoys
and old monster movies like these:
and the seasonal comedies like these:
The Daughter doesn't like horror in general but does like these:
The Younger Son doesn't like ghost stories but does like dark fantasy like these:
I might also suggest one of these, being among my personal favorites:
Whether or not you share my particular hobbies, I'll invite you to join me in a seasonal cuppa and a pleasant visit with the T Stands for Tuesday bloggers.

Poison for the Fairies is a 1984 Mexican horror film. It has fairies, witches, and children, with a child being the most horrifying.


The Spinning Image says, "This is an eerie and poetic children’s horror that really gets under your skin." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 78%, so over 3/4 of critics gave it a positive review.

Monday, October 28, 2019

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides is an award-winning 2013 horror short story by Sam J. Miller. You can read it online here. It begins,
1. Because it would take the patience of a saint or Dalai Lama to smilingly turn the other cheek to those six savage boys day after day, to emerge unembittered from each new round of psychological and physical assaults; whereas I, Jared Shumsky, aged sixteen, have many things, like pimples and the bottom bunk bed in a trailer, and clothes that smell like cherry car air fresheners, but no particular strength or patience.

2. Because God, or the universe, or karma, or Charles Darwin, gave me a different strength, one that terrified me until I learned what it was, and how to control it, and how to use it as the instrument of my brutal and magnificent and long-postponed vengeance.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Viktor Frankenstein is a 2015 film. It's the Frankenstein story told from the perspective of Igor, who is played by Daniel Radcliffe. We picked up the DVD used, because we're always up for another look at Frankenstein. Radcliffe does a wonderful job.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Lady's Maid's Bell

Edith Wharton (c. 1895)

The Lady's Maid's Bell is a 1902 short story, the first ghost story written by Edith Wharton. The story takes place beginning in October. You can read it online here. It begins with this,
It was the autumn after I had the typhoid. I'd been three months in hospital, and when I came out I looked so weak and tottery that the two or three ladies I applied to were afraid to engage me. Most of my money was gone, and after I'd boarded for two months, hanging about the employment-agencies, and answering any advertisement that looked any way respectable, I pretty nearly lost heart, for fretting hadn't made me fatter, and I didn't see why my luck should ever turn. It did though—or I thought so at the time. A Mrs. Railton, a friend of the lady that first brought me out to the States, met me one day and stopped to speak to me: she was one that had always a friendly way with her. She asked me what ailed me to look so white, and when I told her, "Why, Hartley," says she, "I believe I've got the very place for you. Come in to-morrow and we'll talk about it."

The next day, when I called, she told me the lady she'd in mind was a niece of hers, a Mrs. Brympton, a youngish lady, but something of an invalid, who lived all the year round at her country-place on the Hudson, owing to not being able to stand the fatigue of town life.

"Now, Hartley," Mrs. Railton said, in that cheery way that always made me feel things must be going to take a turn for the better—"now understand me; it's not a cheerful place i'm sending you to. The house is big and gloomy; my niece is nervous, vaporish; her husband—well, he's generally away; and the two children are dead.
You can have it read to you:

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Bay of Blood

A Bay of Blood (a.k.a. Carnage, Twitch of the Death Nerve, and Blood Bath) is a 1971 thriller/horror film directed by Mario Bava. There's an inheritance of land, fraud, and murder. This one is violent in a 1970s way -a machete-in-the-face way- so if you're squeamish take a pass. Also, there's some nudity.

Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars. Horror News calls it "a “bridge film” as it bridged the gap between European thrillers and contemporary horror." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80%.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Breakfast

After Breakfast, by Elin Danielson-Gambogi

The Breakfast is a 1961 short story by Amparo Dávila. You can read it online here. It begins,
When Carmen came down to breakfast at the family’s usual hour of seven thirty, she hadn’t dressed yet, but was wrapped in her navy-blue bathrobe with her hair in disarray. This wasn’t all that caught the attention of her parents and her brother, though; it was her haggard face, with hollows around the eyes, like the face of someone who’s had a bad night or is very ill. She said good morning in an automatic way and sat at the table, nearly collapsing into her chair.

“What happened to you?” her father asked, studying her carefully.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Mill of the Stone Women

Mill of the Stone Women is a 1960 Italian horror film, the first filmed in color. It's about a 19th century art professor in Holland who is trying to keep his sick daughter alive. She falls in love with a visiting assistant who rejects her in favor of his childhood sweetheart.

Moria says,
What makes Mill of the Stone Women stand out is the colour photography and the production design. The mill’s most striking set-piece is the carousel where we see mannequins moving around in a circuit depicting various tableaux of witches at the stake, women being hung, poisoners and a representation of Kali. These are vivid and striking.
DVD Talk calls it "an artfully contrived horror concoction". says, "This neglected gem is a masterwork of gothic terror that deserves to be ranked among the highlights of a decade filled with macabre Italian delights."

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Wizard of Oz

I remember the first time I saw this movie. I was quite young, sitting next to my younger sister in Daddy's brown Naugahyde (remember Naugahyde?) recliner in front of the television. I didn't make it past the wicked witch's ride past the window:

It was years before I made it through the entire film. It's definitely a horror movie, and you'll not convince me otherwise. The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 film very loosely based on the L. Frank Baum book. 17-year-old Judy Garland was much too old to play 11-year-old Dorothy as she's depicted in the book. You can read it online or listen to it read to you. The book begins,
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cooking stove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar—except a small hole, dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap-door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.
Here's the film's trailer:

We have this on DVD, and I don't know if they still broadcast it on TV every year. It looks like it can be rented on Youtube and Google Play. Everyone should see it at least once, and October's a good month for horror.

I think I'll have a cozy cuppa while I watch a seasonal flick:

Please join me over at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering, where we share a drink.

Monday, October 21, 2019


Dracula is a book written by Bram Stoker. It has inspired many another book and countless films. You can read it online here. It begins,

(Kept in shorthand.)

3 May. Bistritz.—Left Munich at 8:35 P. M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here; indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.

Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country. I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe. I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place. I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.

In the population of Transylvania there are four distinct nationalities: Saxons in the South, and mixed with them the Wallachs, who are the descendants of the Dacians; Magyars in the West, and Szekelys in the East and North. I am going among the latter, who claim to be descended from Attila and the Huns. This may be so, for when the Magyars conquered the country in the eleventh century they found the Huns settled in it. I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)

I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window...
Here's a list of the vampire- and Dracula-related movies I have blog posts on:

Le Manior du Diable (1886)

A Fool There Was (1915)

Nosferatu (1922)

Dracula (Bela Lugosi, 1931)
Vampyr (1932)
The Vampire Bat (1933)
Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Dead Men Walk (1943)
House of Dracula (1945)

Dracula in Istanbul (1953)
The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Curse of the Undead (1959)

Blood and Roses (1960)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)
Samson vs the Vampire Women (1962)
Blood is the Color of Night (1964)
Planet of the Vampires (1964)
Dark Shadows (1966)
Queen of Blood (1966)
Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Count Dracula (1970)
Daughters of Darkness (1971)
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
The Night Stalker (1972)
Crypt of the Living Dead (1973)
Leptirica (1973)
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Blood for Dracula (1974)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1975)
Dracula (Louis Jourdan, 1977)
Martin (1977)
Fascination (1979)
Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)

The Hunger (1983)
Lifeforce (1985)
Vampire Hunter D (1985)
Near Dark (1987)

Bloodletting, the Vampire Song (1990)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Chronos (1993)
Nadja (1994)
The Addiction (1995)
From Dusk Til Dawn (1996)

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Trouble Every Day (2001)
Underworld (2003)
Van Helsing (2004)
30 Days of Night (2007)
The Burrowers (2008)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Blood Creek (2009)

Priest (2011)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Harbinger Down

Harbinger Down is a 2015 science fiction/horror film. Following a pod of beluga whales in the Bering Sea, scientists discover a downed Soviet spacecraft that was part of a failed experiment to radiation-proof their cosmonauts. The creature effects were a nice change from all the digital effects I see. This film gets to the point and tells its story without getting bogged down in too much interpersonal drama. I like my science fiction/horror to have enough relationship exploration so that the characters are real people without so much that it distracts from the reason I'm watching this kind of movie to begin with. This has a nice balance.

You can watch it at tubi tv or here via Youtube:

Here's a trailer:

Horror Freak News calls it "a fun pic". Moria says, "[Director] Gillis is operating with a modest budget, nevertheless manages to produce a film that captures the essence of Carpenter’s The Thing far more so than any other challenger to date." Modern Horrors calls it "a solid film".

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle is an 1819 short story by Washington Irving. This is one of those stories I assume everyone has read, yet I find many people are only familiar with it through video adaptations or abridged re-tellings. It's worth reading the story itself. You can read it online here, or here, or here. It begins,

By Woden, God of Saxons, 
From whence comes Wensday, that is Wodensday,
Truth is a thing that ever I will keep
Unto thylke day in which I creep into
My sepulchre—

[The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the Dutch History of the province and the manners of the descendants from its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably scanty on his favorite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still more, their wives, rich in that legendary lore, so invaluable to true history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family, snugly shut up in its low–roofed farm–house, under a spreading sycamore, he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black–letter, and studied it with the zeal of a bookworm.

The result of all these researches was a history of the province, during the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since. There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as a book of unquestionable authority.

The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work; and now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his neighbors, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt the truest deference and affection, yet his errors and follies are remembered "more in sorrow than in anger," and it begins to be suspected, that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear among many folks, whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain biscuit–bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their new–year cakes, and have thus given him a chance for immortality, almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo medal, or a Queen Anne's farthing.]

Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains; and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.

At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a Village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!), and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks, brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.

In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time–worn and weather–beaten), there lived, many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple, good–natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple, good–natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient henpecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation, and a curtain–lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long–suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing, and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.
Listen to the story read to you here:

This is the 1921 film adaptation:

Friday, October 18, 2019

Son of Frankenstein

Son of Frankenstein is a 1939 horror film, the third in the Boris Karloff Frankenstein franchise. Boris Karloff makes his last appearance as The Monster in this film. Bela Lugosi is wonderful as Ygor. Basil Rathbone plays Baron Frankenstein, Lionel Atwill is Inspector Krogh, and Ward Bond has an uncredited role. Donnie Dunagan, a noted child actor who was the voice of Disney's Bambi, plays the youngest Frankenstein. Dunagan has a Memphis connection.


Variety has a review from the time of the film's original release, as does the New York Times.

Classic Horror says, "It's a solid chiller from the studio that really knew solid chillers." Den of Geek says, "Simply put – an absolute delight." DVD Talk opens with this: "This first non-James Whale Frankenstein film has a lot going for it, besides its powerhouse cast." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 91%.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Marjorie Bowen (1922)

Kecksies is a horror short story by Marjorie Bowen (1885-1952), who was a prolific author. It was written in the 1940s but not published until the collection Kecksies and Other Twilight Tales was released in 1976. You can read it online here. It begins,
Two young esquires were riding from Canterbury, jolly and drunk, they shouted and trolled and rolled in their saddles as they followed the winding road across the downs.

A dim sky was overhead and shut in the wide expanse of open country that one side stretched to the sea and the other to the Kentish Weald.

The primroses grew in thick posies in the ditches, the hedges were full of fresh hawthorn green, and the new grey leaves of eglantine and honeysuckle, the long boughs of ash with the hard black buds, and the wand-like shoots of sallow willow hung with catkins and the smaller red tassels of the nut and birch; little the two young men heeded of any of these things, for they were in their own country that was thrice familiar; but Nick Bateup blinked across to the distant purple hills, and cursed the gathering rain. “Ten miles more of the open,” he muttered, “and a great storm blackening upon us.”

Young Crediton, who was more full of wine, laughed drowsily. “We’ll lie at a cottage on the way, Nick — think you I’ve never a tenant who’ll let me share board and bed?”

He maundered into singing,

“There’s a light in the old mill, Where the witch weaves her charms; But dark is the chamber, Where you sleep in my arms. Now came you by magic, by trick or by spell, I have you and hold you, And love you right well!”

The clouds overtook them like an advancing army; the wayside green looked livid under the purplish threat of the heavens, and the birds were all still and silent.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Bride of Frankenstein is the 1935 sequel to the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie. We have this in a box set that was issued on one of the anniversaries. I often see this mentioned as the best of this franchise, but I much prefer the original.

You can watch it online at Internet Archive. Here's a trailer:

It's #18 on The Guardian's list of best horror films of all time. Variety has a review from the time of the film's release, as does the New York Times.

Film Site calls it a "classic masterpiece". Horror News says, "Bride Of Frankenstein is one of the few genuine classics of the genre." Classic Horror says it's "the best horror film of the 1930s".

Roger Ebert has it on his Great Movie list. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 100%.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Scoured Silk

Scoured Silk is a horror story written in the 1940s by Marjorie Bowen. During Octobers I focus on horror films and stories, and I'd like to share this one for T Stands for Tuesday, a blogger gathering where the posts must contain a drink reference. This is an excerpt from the story:
Her thoughts were quite vague and amounted to no more than a confused sense that something was wrong, but she lost her satisfaction in the tea-drinking and the pleasant company, and the warm room with the drawn curtains, and the bright fire, and rose up saying they must be returning
I'm having a seasonal hot beverage while I read these spooky stories. Join me? Perhaps the company will take the edge off the horror to come.

You can read the story online here. It begins:
This is a tale that might be told in many ways and from various points of view; it has to be gathered from here and there — a letter, a report, a diary, a casual reference; in its day the thing was more than a passing wonder, and it left a mark of abiding horror on the neighborhood.

The house in which Mr. Orford lived has finally been destroyed, the mural tablet in St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, may be sought for in vain by the curious, but little remains of the old piazza where the quiet scholar passed on his daily walks, the very records of what was once so real have become blurred, almost incoherent in their pleadings with things forgotten; but this thing happened to real people, in a real London, not so long ago that the generation had not spoken with those who remembered some of the actors in this terrible drama.

It is round the person of Humphrey Orford that this tale turns, as, at the time, all the mystery and horror centered; yet until his personality was brought thus tragically into fame, he had not been an object of much interest to many; he had, perhaps, a mild reputation for eccentricity, but this was founded merely on the fact that he refused to partake of the amusements of his neighbors, and showed a dislike for much company.
I'm typing on a new computer, and I can't tell you how happy I am we were able to take care of this issue without too much stress. I think I've managed to find everybody again, but I doubt I'll ever catch up *sigh*