Friday, May 31, 2019

The House Surgeon

photo from Wikipedia

The House Surgeon is a Rudyard Kipling detective story. You can read it online here. It begins,
On an evening after Easter Day, I sat at a table in a homeward bound steamer’s smoking-room, where half a dozen of us told ghost stories. As our party broke up a man, playing Patience in the next alcove, said to me: “I didn’t quite catch the end of that last story about the Curse on the family’s first-born.”

“It turned out to be drains,” I explained. “As soon as new ones were put into the house the Curse was lifted, I believe. I never knew the people myself.”

“Ah! I’ve had my drains up twice; I’m on gravel too.”

“You don’t mean to say you’ve a ghost in your house? Why didn’t you join our party?”

“Any more orders, gentlemen, before the bar closes?” the steward interrupted.

“Sit down again, and have one with me,” said the Patience player. “No, it isn’t a ghost. Our trouble is more depression than anything else.”

“How interesting? Then it’s nothing any one can see?”

“It’s - it’s nothing worse than a little depression. And the odd part is that there hasn’t been a death in the house since it was built - in 1863. The lawyer said so. That decided me - my good lady, rather and he made me pay an extra thousand for it.”

“How curious. Unusual, too!” I said.

“Yes; ain’t it? It was built for three sisters -Moultrie was the name- three old maids. They all lived together; the eldest owned it. I bought it from her lawyer a few years ago, and if I’ve spent a pound on the place first and last, I must have spent five thousand. Electric light, new servants’ wing, garden - all that sort of thing. A man and his family ought to be happy after so much expense, ain’t it?” He looked at me through the bottom of his glass.

“Does it affect your family much?”

“My good lady -she’s a Greek, by the way- and myself are middle-aged. We can bear up against depression; but it’s hard on my little girl. I say little; but she’s twenty. We send her visiting to escape it. She almost lived at hotels and hydros, last year, but that isn’t pleasant for her. She used to be a canary -a perfect canary- always singing. You ought to hear her. She doesn’t sing now. That sort of thing’s unwholesome for the young, ain’t it?”

“Can’t you get rid of the place?” I suggested.

“Not except at a sacrifice, and we are fond of it. Just suits us three. We’d love it if we were allowed.”

“What do you mean by not being allowed?”

“I mean because of the depression. It spoils everything.”

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers is a 1980 musical comedy film, a work of genius. How I had not yet seen it is a wonder best not dwelt on. I've seen it now, though, and it's a riot.


Part of the soundtrack is available on Spotify:

The Telegraph says it "is a comedy classic with some of the finest car chase scenes in the history of movies." Empire Online says, "Funny as hell with lots of cool action and lots of cool lines." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 92%.

Roger Ebert concludes:
What's a little startling about this movie is that all of this works. The Blues Brothers cost untold millions of dollars and kept threatening to grow completely out of control. But director John Landis (of “Animal House”) has somehow pulled it together, with a good deal of help from the strongly defined personalities of the title characters. Belushi and Aykroyd come over as hard-boiled city guys, total cynics with a world-view of sublime simplicity, and that all fits perfectly with the movie's other parts. There's even room, in the midst of the carnage and mayhem, for a surprising amount of grace, humor, and whimsy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps is a 1915 suspense adventure novel by John Buchan. Wikipedia says,
The Thirty-Nine Steps is one of the earliest examples of the 'man-on-the-run' thriller archetype subsequently adopted by film makers as an often-used plot device. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan holds up Richard Hannay as an example to his readers of an ordinary man who puts his country's interests before his own safety. The story was a great success with the men in the First World War trenches. One soldier wrote to Buchan, "The story is greatly appreciated in the midst of mud and rain and shells, and all that could make trench life depressing."
You can read it online here or here. It begins,
I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn’t get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun. ‘Richard Hannay,’ I kept telling myself, ‘you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.’

It made me bite my lips to think of the plans I had been building up those last years in Bulawayo. I had got my pile — not one of the big ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways of enjoying myself. My father had brought me out from Scotland at the age of six, and I had never been home since; so England was a sort of Arabian Nights to me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of my days.

But from the first I was disappointed with it. In about a week I was tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of restaurants and theatres and race-meetings. I had no real pal to go about with, which probably explains things. Plenty of people invited me to their houses, but they didn’t seem much interested in me. They would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on their own affairs. A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet schoolmasters from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was the dismalest business of all. Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day. I had just about settled to clear out and get back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom.

That afternoon I had been worrying my brokers about investments to give my mind something to work on, and on my way home I turned into my club — rather a pot-house, which took in Colonial members. I had a long drink, and read the evening papers. They were full of the row in the Near East, and there was an article about Karolides, the Greek Premier. I rather fancied the chap. From all accounts he seemed the one big man in the show; and he played a straight game too, which was more than could be said for most of them. I gathered that they hated him pretty blackly in Berlin and Vienna, but that we were going to stick by him, and one paper said that he was the only barrier between Europe and Armageddon. I remember wondering if I could get a job in those parts. It struck me that Albania was the sort of place that might keep a man from yawning.

About six o’clock I went home, dressed, dined at the Café Royal, and turned into a music-hall. It was a silly show, all capering women and monkey-faced men, and I did not stay long. The night was fine and clear as I walked back to the flat I had hired near Portland Place. The crowd surged past me on the pavements, busy and chattering, and I envied the people for having something to do. These shop-girls and clerks and dandies and policemen had some interest in life that kept them going. I gave half-a-crown to a beggar because I saw him yawn; he was a fellow-sufferer. At Oxford Circus I looked up into the spring sky and I made a vow. I would give the Old Country another day to fit me into something; if nothing happened, I would take the next boat for the Cape.

My flat was the first floor in a new block behind Langham Place. There was a common staircase, with a porter and a liftman at the entrance, but there was no restaurant or anything of that sort, and each flat was quite shut off from the others. I hate servants on the premises, so I had a fellow to look after me who came in by the day. He arrived before eight o’clock every morning and used to depart at seven, for I never dined at home.

I was just fitting my key into the door when I noticed a man at my elbow. I had not seen him approach, and the sudden appearance made me start. He was a slim man, with a short brown beard and small, gimlety blue eyes. I recognized him as the occupant of a flat on the top floor, with whom I had passed the time of day on the stairs.

‘Can I speak to you?’ he said. ‘May I come in for a minute?’ He was steadying his voice with an effort, and his hand was pawing my arm.

I got my door open and motioned him in. No sooner was he over the threshold than he made a dash for my back room, where I used to smoke and write my letters. Then he bolted back.

‘Is the door locked?’ he asked feverishly, and he fastened the chain with his own hand.

‘I’m very sorry,’ he said humbly. ‘It’s a mighty liberty, but you looked the kind of man who would understand. I’ve had you in my mind all this week when things got troublesome. Say, will you do me a good turn?’

‘I’ll listen to you,’ I said. ‘That’s all I’ll promise.’ I was getting worried by the antics of this nervous little chap.

There was a tray of drinks on a table beside him, from which he filled himself a stiff whisky-and-soda. He drank it off in three gulps, and cracked the glass as he set it down.

‘Pardon,’ he said, ‘I’m a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at this moment to be dead.’
It has been adapted for film 4 times. The first of these was the 1935 The 39 Steps, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Robert Donat. Highly praised and generally considered a masterpiece, you can watch it online here:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Leptirica (or The She-Butterfly) is a 1973 Yugoslav horror film, the first Serbian horror movie. A type of vampire movie, it is nicely done and has aged well. It's only an hour long, too, so it's easy enough to check out if you don't mind sub-titles.

Here's a screen shot from about 2 1/2 minutes in:

Can I offer you a drink while you watch the film?

Please share a post with a drink in it and join us at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.


ATCs (with the inspiration prompt named before each one):

Found Object:



Mother and Child:

Little Girl:


Book It:



Random (not from a prompt):

Most important lesson learned this week: Padded envelopes are not my friends.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Happy Belated World Paloma Day and Patio Blooms

May 22 was World Paloma Day. I'm not much of a drinker (and when I say that I mean that the last tequila I had was in a Tequila Sunrise back in the 70s when I was in college). I had never heard of the Paloma, but I did a bit of research and decided to observe the day. I had to do some preparation, as I had no alcohol at all in the house. As a matter of fact I had none of the ingredients. You may remember that this, for us, is the year of frugality and cutting back, but I do still have some disposable monies, and I decided to use some of it towards this as a splurge.

Here's the recipe I used:
2 ounces tequila (blanco or reposado) (I used Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver)
1/2 ounce lime juice (I used fresh limes)
7 ounces grapefruit soda (or enough to top off the glass) (I used Squirt)

Fill the glass with ice and add the tequila and lime juice.

Top it off with grapefruit soda.

Now is that easy or what?! And tasty. It made a tall glass, and I can't drink that much soda at one sitting. Next time I do this I'll halve the recipe and use a shorter glass.

I'll give you a moment to make your own, and then you can enjoy it while you read about the history of tequila. According to Wikipedia: Tequila "was first produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila". "When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill agave to produce one of North America's first indigenous distilled spirits." "Don Cenobio Sauza, founder of Sauza Tequila and Municipal President of the Village of Tequila from 1884–1885, was the first to export tequila to the United States, and shortened the name from "Tequila Extract" to just "Tequila" for the American markets."

I did a lot of research into tequilas before I decided which one to get. Price is a factor, after all, and I wanted to get the best bang for my buck. After poring over sites reviewing all the many different brands (I mean who knew there were so many?!), I picked the Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver. Wikipedia says it "is the best-selling tequila in the world, with a 35.1% market share of the tequila sector worldwide and a 33.66% share of the US tequila sector as of July 2013. As of 2012, Jose Cuervo sells 3.5 million cases of tequila in the US annually, and a fifth of the world's tequila by volume." It is quite the family tradition. "Jose Cuervo is family-owned and is run today by the Beckmann family of Mexico, descendants of Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo. Juan-Domingo Beckmann, son of Juan Beckmann, is the sixth-generation leader of the company."

The Paloma is said to be favored over the Margarita in Mexico.

And now I have a bottle of tequila in the fridge along with the rest of the 12-pack of Squirt (can't you buy single bottles of soft drinks any more?), and I'm wishing you could get half-bottles of liquor. Maybe I'll see if there's a Tequila Sunrise Day.... Nope, no day for that.


Just a quick look at the current state of the patio blooms:

Sunday, May 26, 2019


The Husband is a big fan of these superhero movies, and we saw Aquaman in the theater. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much, not much knowing what to expect. I ended up enjoying it but thinkingit not the best of these movies. In my opinion all of these movies could do with less posing. I mean Momoa is gorgeous, but still. My favorite parts f this film had to do with Aquaman's father, the lighthouse keeper, and that took up less time than any other element.


Rolling Stone says the movie "almost gets by on razzle dazzle". Roger Ebert's site closes with this: "For all its wild spectacle and cartoon cleverness, this is a quietly subversive movie, and an evolutionary step forward for the genre."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Scar

The Scar is a weird fantasy novel by China Mieville, an author I've grown to trust. This was my second reading of this book.

from the book cover:
A mythmaker of the highest order, China Miéville has emblazoned the fantasy novel with fresh language, startling images, and stunning originality. Set in the same sprawling world of Miéville's Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel Perdido Street Station, this latest epic introduces a whole new cast of intriguing characters and dazzling creations.

Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage -and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.

For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.

Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada's agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters -terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission....

China Miéville is a writer for a new era -and The Scar is a luminous, brilliantly imagined novel that is nothing short of spectacular.
SF Reviews praises it saying,
There can now be no doubt that there's no one in contemporary fantasy writing quite like him, and we should all be delighted that a talent like his has come along at the turn of the century to inject life into a genre stuck for so long in a creative cul-de-sac.
Fantasy Book Review calls it "a magnificent and gripping story". Strange Horizons has a glowing review.

Publishers Weekly concludes, "This is state-of-the-art dark fantasy and a likely candidate for any number of award nominations." Kirkus Reviews has a mixed review.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is the 2018 sequel to the 2014 Paddington film. We loved the first one and were afraid this one would disappoint. It did not. They are delightful films, bringing the beloved characters from Michael Bond's books to life.


The Guardian gives it 5 out of 5 stars. The NYT has a positive review.

Roger Ebert's site says, "“Paddington 2” proves the smart-but-sweet combination that marked the first live-action film was no fluke." Rotten Tomatoes critics have a 100% positive consensus.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Fearsome Doubt

A Fearsome Doubt is the 6th book in the Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd. I'm reading these in mostly publication order as I can. I'm quite taken with the main character. There are 21 books so far, and this writing team shows no signs of stopping. What a joy it is to find a pleasing ongoing series of such length!

from the back of the book:
In 1912 Ian Rutledge helped gather the evidence that sent Ben Shaw to the gallows. Now, seven years later, Ben Shaw's widow brings Rutledge evidence she's convinced proves her husband's innocence. Ben Shaw's past is a tangle of unsettling secrets that may or may not be true. And it grows only more twisted when a seemingly unrelated murder brings Rutledge back to Kent. There an unexpected encounter revives his painful memories of war -and the voice of Hamish MacLeod, the soldier Rutledge was forced to execute. Two elusive killers are on the loose at the same time... and to catch them before they catch him, Rutledge will be forced to question everything he believes about right, wrong -and murder.
Publishers Weekly opens with this: "This brilliant and gripping whodunit may well be the best of Todd's six Rutledge novels". Kirkus Reviews concludes, "If everyone would read just one book, any book, by Todd ..., and pay close attention to what he’s saying, there would never be another war."

I have also read the following from this series:
#1 A Test of Wills
#2 Wings of Fire
#3 Search the Dark
#4 Legacy of the Dead
#5 Watchers of Time

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Cat Soup

Cat Soup is an award-winning 2001 Japanese short film. I can't make heads or tails of it, but it made for interesting viewing.

Full Metal Narcissist calls it a "surrealist masterpiece". T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews says, "Though short, this is an interesting little surreal ride for anybody looking for vivid graphics or wanting to have their mind played with for half an hour." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 89%.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Burning Girls

Burning Girls is an award-winning novella by Veronica Schanoes. You can read it online here. It begins,
In America, they don’t let you burn. My mother told me that.

When we came to America, we brought anger and socialism and hunger. We also brought our demons. They stowed away on the ships with us, curled up in the small sacks we slung over our shoulders, crept under our skirts. When we passed the medical examinations and stepped for the first time out onto the streets of granite we would call home, they were waiting for us, as though they’d been there the whole time.

The streets were full of girls like us at every hour of day and night. We worked, took classes, organized for the unions, talked revolution at the top of our voices in the streets and in the shops. When we went out on strike, they called us the fabrente maydlakh, the burning girls, for our bravery and dedication and ardor, and the whole city ground to a halt as the society ladies who wore the clothing we stitched came downtown and walked our lines with us. I remember little Clara Lemlich, leaping to her feet at a general meeting and yelling, “What are we waiting for? Strike! Strike! Strike!” Her curly hair strained at its pins as if it might burst out in flames, the fire that burns without consuming.

I was raised in Bialystok. I was no stranger to city life, not like those girls from the shtetls who grew up surrounded by cows and chickens and dirt. Though I had my fair share of that as well, spending months at a time with my bubbe, who lived in a village too small to bother with a real name, three days’ journey from the city.

My sister, Shayna, she stayed in the city with our dressmaker mother and shoemaker father, and learned to stitch so fine it was as though spiders themselves danced and spun at her command. Not me, though. I learned how to run up a seam, of course, so that I could be a help to Mama when I was home, but my apprenticeship was not in dressmaking. Mama could see from the beginning that I was no seamstress.

Mama didn’t have the power herself, but she could find it in others. Eyes like awls, my mama had. Sharp black eyes that went right through you. When I was born she took one look at me and pronounced, “Deborah—the judge.”

When Mama saw what I was going to be, she knew that I would have to spend as much time with my grandmother as I did with her, and so when I was four years old, my father rented a horse and cart and drove me out to my bubbe’s village.

ATCs (with the inspirational prompt named before each card):

Hot Cuppa (for my T Stands for Tuesday connection. Our host Elizabeth will have a live link as soon as her electricity comes back on -those Kansas storms don't play around- and I'll add a link to the post then. edit: Here's this week's T link.):


Just One Word:

In the Sky/In the Air:






Random (not from a prompt):

Monday, May 20, 2019

Audubon Park Lake and the Patio

Coffee at Audubon Park Lake with The Husband:

There was a family of Mallard ducks, but I couldn't get a photo of them. There were several families of skittish geese, and I got a photo but not close up:

It is something I'm always thankful for that I live so close to such a pleasant park.

Back at home, my little patio has some buds:

is set up for hummingbirds:

and is ready for lemonade-drinking:

This year's chipmunk crop is a brave bunch:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Valley of Gwangi

The Valley of Gwangi is a 1969 horror western starring James Franciscus. It features dinosaur effects by Ray Harryhausen, the last dinosaur effects he did. Harryhausen's work is not to be missed.


The New York Times has a mixed review from the time of the film's release. Moria gives it 3 out of 5 stars and says, "What makes the rehashed story worthwhile is Ray Harryhausen’s stunning animation work". Stomp Tokyo says, "In our minds this film is a Ray Harryhausen film. Just about everything in the film that isn't stop-motion animated is window dressing. And unlike most special effects today, these were really the work of one man with a recognizable style." 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "an entertaining little exercise in genre-juggling."

DVD Talk says, "The Valley of Gwangi delivers the best of several worlds." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 75%.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Temperature 42

C J Kennedy, one of my blogging friends, noticed a 42 and shared it on her blog.

Another blogger I follow found several 42s recently. You can see them here.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne

The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne is a 22-episode science fiction television series based on the idea that there was more fact than fiction in Verne's novels. The first episode features David Warner, a favorite of ours, which made it an easy choice to try this series.

I can't find DVDs for sale right now, but you can watch episodes online. It got good reviews and is great fun.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Nest of Vipers

A Nest of Vipers is the 21st book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano detective series.

from the back of the book:
Inspector montalbano enjoys simple pleasures, delicious food, walks along the water, the occasional smole -yet these are just the backdrop to his duties as a detective.

His latest case is the killing of the wealthy Cosimo Barletta. Thought to be a widower living out a quiet life by the sea, Cosimo’s sudden death, by gunshot to the neck, opens up his past to scrutiny. What Montalbano uncovers is Cosimo’s trove of salacious photographs, used to extort young women, and a history full of greed and corruption. Montalbano, though resolved to find the killer, muses on where justice lies —in his pursuit of a suspect or with one of Cosimo’s innumerable victims taking their revenge?
Kirkus Reviews has a positive review, as does Publishers Weekly. AustCrimeFiction says, "there are reasons to spend time with these books over and above the mystery elements."

I've read the earlier books in the series:
1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
3. The Snack Thief
4. Voice of the Violin
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
7. Rounding the Mark
8. The Patience of the Spider
9. The Paper Moon
10. August Heat
11. The Wings of the Sphinx
12. The Track of Sand
13. The Potter's Field
14. The Age of Doubt
15. Dance of the Seagull
16. Treasure Hunt
17. Angelica's Smile
18. A Game of Mirrors
19. A Beam of Light
20. A Voice in the Night

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

King Solomon's Mines (1950)

King Solomon's Mines is a 1950 adventure film, one of several adaptations of H. Rider Haggard's novel by the same name. You can read the book online here. I enjoyed this movie, and the scenery and animals are wonderful.


DVD Talk says,
the 1950 Hollywood adaptation jettisons just about everything from Haggard's book, keeping only the title, the character of Alan Quartermain, and a few bones from the skeleton of the book's plot. ... King Solomon's Mines is quite an interesting film, one that is half adventure story and half wildlife documentary.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Peabody Afternoon Tea

photo from Trip Advisor

The Daughter treated me to The Peabody Tea at Chez Philippe in the Peabody Hotel downtown. This is an elegant restaurant in one of the region's most elegant and storied hotels. I've been to the hotel for sight-seeing, the ducks, people-watching, photo-ops on the roof, and coffee and tea in the lobby many times but had never been to this restaurant.

We had a choice of teas, and I chose the Emperor's Pu-erh tea. It was purple and fruity. The Daughter selected Earl Grey.

The tea had three courses. The appetizer course:

the scone course:

and the dessert course:

I was overwhelmed by the tasty treats. Such delights! The staff couldn't have been more helpful and welcoming.

I took this photo from our table looking past the restaurant entrance into the lobby just to give an example of the detail:

In the photo above you can see tourists on the mezzanine waiting for the Duck March.

This 3-minute video is from a Travel Channel episode:

If you're ever in Memphis, and you want an enjoyable experience, I'd highly recommend this. Because we're currently in the middle of our annual Memphis in May celebration there were tourists everywhere. I have a special place in my heart for people who like us well enough to spend their vacations here.

I'm linking to the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Elizabeth from Altered Book Lover.

ATCs (with the prompt that inspired them listed above each one):

No Focal Image:

Two (a Couple, a Pair, a Duo):





Street View:


Things with Wings:


Art lesson learned this week: Those tubes of acrylic paints at the dollar store are a dollar for a reason.