Saturday, November 30, 2019

Kyoikusenga Ubasuteyama

Kyoikusenga Ubasuteyama is a 1925 Japanese animated short film about a feudal lord who hates the elderly and so decides to exile each person once they reach their 60th birthday. On the island where they are sent there is a predatory bird that eats them. One young man tries to save his mother from her fate. (click the little CC in the bottom right corner of the video for English intertitles.)

Friday, November 29, 2019

An Inspector Calls (2015)

An Inspector Calls is a 2015 TV film adaptation of the J. B. Priestly play with the same name. David Thewlis plays the Inspector.

trailer:



It got excellent reviews and is well worth watching.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Broken Lance

Broken Lance is a 1954 western starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner.Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Hugh O'Brian, Earl Holliman, and E.G. Marshall. It's a western re-make (1880s Arizona) of the 1949 Edward G. Robinson film noir House of Strangers. They are both adapted from the same novel.

You can watch it online here.

trailer:



83% of Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews were positive.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Shimmer


Shimmer is a 10-page long story by Claudette Menalson about star-crossed faerie love ruined by human contact. I went into it expecting a book-length story and was surprised when it was just over. There's really not much to this, but it's a fine enough little story. I read it at ManyBooks.net.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

They Live By Night

They Live By Night is a 1948 film noir directed by Nicholas Ray in his first feature film. Farley Granger stars.



Here's the young couple at the coffee shop:


as he looks over his shoulder at the neon "Weddings Performed" sign. I'll have a cuppa, too,


to join the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

This will even count as a Christmas movie as you look for something different for the holiday season:


The leader of this little gang insists the kid join them in another bank robbery as he pokes at the ornaments the kid has just put on his and his new bride's Christmas tree.

Here's another screenshot of the tree and one of the tinsel decorating the mantle:


Depending on how non-traditional you like your Christmas movies, this one might do.

The New York Times review from the time of the film's release praises it saying,
A commonplace little story about a young escaped convict "on the lam" and his romance with a nice girl whom he picks up and marries is told with pictorial sincerity and uncommon emotional thrust ... this crime-and-compassion melodrama has the virtues of vigor and restraint.
Slant Magazine concludes, "Simultaneously tough-minded and delicate, the film is an exquisite stage-setter for Nicholas Ray’s career". Time Out closes with this: "Passionate, lyrical, and imaginative, it's a remarkably assured debut, from the astonishing opening helicopter shot that follows the escaped convicts' car to freedom, to the final, inexorably tragic climax."

Variety says, "Underneath They Live By Night is a moving, somber story of hopeless young love. There’s no attempt at sugarcoating a happy ending, and yarn moves towards its inevitable, tragic climax without compromise." Senses of Cinema says, "They Live By Night is regularly cited as the most significant progenitor of the ‘outlaw lovers on the run’ narrative. Succeeded by films as diverse as Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) and Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994), Ray’s film remains the standard bearer for the genre."

100% of Rotten Tomatoes critics like it.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Legacy Human


The Legacy Human is yet another book I found free online via BookBub. I read it through Google Play on my laptop, and can't be happier with having had BookBub recommended to me. I can't remember who suggested it -several sources for free books were suggested, and this is the first one I've tried- but Thanks! This is an excellent way to try new-to-me authors. This is a young adult book, which I wouldn't ordinarily read. I am so glad I read this, though, and I never would have if I hadn't found it free. I recommend it, especially if you're looking for mind-expanding reading for teens. Books suitable for that purpose aren't as common as you might think. I wish this had been available when I had teens at home.

The Legacy Human, by Susan Kaye Quinn, is first in the Singularity series. Her website says,
What would you give to live forever? Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender —a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid— after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in Susan Kaye Quinn’s new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Murder She Said (1961)

Murder She Said is a 1961 movie based on an Agatha Christie mystery novel. It stars Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. Joan Hickson has a role in this one. They take many liberties with the plot of the book, but it's a fun film anyway.



It got good reviews, but Christie herself didn't approve of all the changes.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Night Train to Memphis

Night Train to Memphis:



sung by Roy Acuff, who was born in Tennessee and died there on this date in 1992 at the age of 89.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Nerves

Nerves is a 1919 silent German expressionist film.


Stranger on the 3rd Floor says,
Here’s what [German] Wikipedia has to say about Reinert’s depiction of a “nervous epidemic” sweeping the nation ...:

“Nerven opened in Munich in 1919. People were hospitalized after watching the movie and one woman, after seeing it, woke up one night, went out on the street in her nightshirt and screamed ‘Now I am going to die! Now I am going to die!’ About Nerven, one recent critic wrote ‘Nerven is a disorienting, highly experimental work. Released in 1919, before The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (early 1920), it might have become a prototype of German Expressionist cinema if it had been widely seen.’
Cambridge closes by saying, "Robert Reinert's largely unknown Nerven is notable for its role in recording the frenzy of illness following the First World War."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Rowan Tree

image from Amazon.com

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.

from RowanTreeNovel.com:
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.

trailer:



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


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:
ENTER A WORLD WHERE BETRAYAL
IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR HONESTY

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.

trailer:



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.

1900s

The Haunted House (1908)

1930s

The Dybbuk (1937)

1940s

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)

1950s

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

1960s

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)

1970s

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

1980s

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

1990s

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

2000s

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)

2010+

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

November


November


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!