Friday, January 31, 2020

Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian is a 1985 epic Western novel by Cormac McCarthy based on historical events involving the Glanton gang. A bleaker picture of life in the West you could never hope to read. I read it because it is considered this author's masterpiece. I found it on a list of greatest American novels. It leaves a definite impression. It's not an easy read.

from the back of the book:
By the author of the critically acclaimed Border Trilogy, Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "Wild West." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
The Guardian says, "Blood Meridian is the Inferno of our time, though the architecture has changed. Hell here is an open desert landscape, an endless journey past demonic shapes and beings living and dead." The New Canon includes it in its consideration of great works of fiction since 1985. Harold Bloom calls it the "ultimate Western" and says, "It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have. I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it, that it essentially closes out the tradition."

NPR calls it "the authentic American apocalyptic novel" and "a canonical imaginative achievement, both an American and a universal tragedy of blood" and offers a short excerpt. Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Grandiose, feverish, opaque."

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Voice Over

Voice Over is a 2011 award-winning short film. Imdb has this plot synopsis: "Three extreme situations that are actually the same."

Film Shortage says, "Simply dazzling and captivating story! It just indulges you deeper and deeper as you watch and listen, and then suddenly just spits you out, just to suck you right back in!" Short of the Week says, "Voice Over may not have had the largest budget for a short film ever, but it sure looks it. ... Voice Over‘s very strong script makes sure that you remember the story and not just the gloss of the filmmaking."

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Derelict

The Derelict is a 1912 short story by William Hope Hodgson. It's about a ship's crew who discovers a derelict vessel after a storm. You can read it online here or here or here. You can listen to the Librivox recording here. Here's a short excerpt from the tale:
“The storm carried us northward for several hundred miles, and when it dropped us finally, we found ourselves in a very bad state. The ship had been strained, and had taken some three feet of water through her seams; the maintopmast had been sprung, in addition to the jibboom and foret’gallantmast, two of our boats had gone, as also one of the pigstys, with three fine pigs, these latter having been washed overboard but some half-hour before the wind began to ease, which it did very quickly, though a very ugly sea ran for some hours after.

“The wind left us just before dark, and when morning came it brought splendid weather — a calm, mildly undulating sea, and a brilliant sun, with no wind. It showed us also that we were not alone, for about two miles away to the westward was another vessel, which Mr. Selvern, the second mate, pointed out to me.

“‘That’s a pretty rum-looking, packet, doctor,’ he said, and handed me his glass.

“I looked through it at the other vessel, and saw what he meant; at least, I thought I did.

“‘Yes, Mr. Selvern,’ I said. ‘She’s got a pretty old-fashioned look about her.’

“He laughed at me in his pleasant way.

“‘It’s easy to see you’re not a sailor, doctor,’ he remarked. ‘There’s a dozen rum things about her. She’s a derelict, and has been floating round, by the look of her, for many a score of years. Look at the shape of her counter, and the bows and cutwater. She’s as old as the hills ...

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hard Boiled

Hard Boiled is a 1992 Hong Kong action film directed by John Woo and starring Chow Yun-fat. Many guns, many bullets, many explosions, many deaths as is typical of modern action movies. This one has the police up against rival gangs.

The opening scene shows a man called Tequila fixing a drink with Tequila:

I always have coffee in the mornings, and that's what I'm having now. I may have tequila the next time I have Mexican food. I've never made a Slammer. Looks messy. I'm bringing my drink to the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Empire Online describes it as
an explosively visceral, operatic tour de force of breath-takingly choreographed violence and blistering ballistic pyrotechnics that begins over-the-top with a tea-house shoot-out that leaves at least 30 people dead, and then escalates into a succession of even more outrageous action set pieces.
Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says it "remains one of [the director's] finer moments". Criterion says, "Violence as poetry, rendered by a master—brilliant and passionate". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 94%.

Monday, January 27, 2020


image from

Lilith is an 1895 George MacDonald fantasy novel. Wikipedia says it is considered among the darkest and most profound of MacDonald's works, a story concerning the nature of life, death, and salvation. You can read it online here. You can listen to the Librivox recording here. It begins,
Chapter I 
The Library 
I had just finished my studies at Oxford, and was taking a brief holiday from work before assuming definitely the management of the estate. My father died when I was yet a child; my mother followed him within a year; and I was nearly as much alone in the world as a man might find himself.

I had made little acquaintance with the history of my ancestors. Almost the only thing I knew concerning them was, that a notable number of them had been given to study. I had myself so far inherited the tendency as to devote a good deal of my time, though, I confess, after a somewhat desultory fashion, to the physical sciences. It was chiefly the wonder they woke that drew me. I was constantly seeing, and on the outlook to see, strange analogies, not only between the facts of different sciences of the same order, or between physical and metaphysical facts, but between physical hypotheses and suggestions glimmering out of the metaphysical dreams into which I was in the habit of falling. I was at the same time much given to a premature indulgence of the impulse to turn hypothesis into theory. Of my mental peculiarities there is no occasion to say more.

The house as well as the family was of some antiquity, but no description of it is necessary to the understanding of my narrative. It contained a fine library, whose growth began before the invention of printing, and had continued to my own time, greatly influenced, of course, by changes of taste and pursuit. Nothing surely can more impress upon a man the transitory nature of possession than his succeeding to an ancient property! Like a moving panorama mine has passed from before many eyes, and is now slowly flitting from before my own.

The library, although duly considered in many alterations of the house and additions to it, had nevertheless, like an encroaching state, absorbed one room after another until it occupied the greater part of the ground floor. Its chief room was large, and the walls of it were covered with books almost to the ceiling; the rooms into which it overflowed were of various sizes and shapes, and communicated in modes as various — by doors, by open arches, by short passages, by steps up and steps down.

In the great room I mainly spent my time, reading books of science, old as well as new; for the history of the human mind in relation to supposed knowledge was what most of all interested me. Ptolemy, Dante, the two Bacons, and Boyle were even more to me than Darwin or Maxwell, as so much nearer the vanished van breaking into the dark of ignorance.

In the evening of a gloomy day of August I was sitting in my usual place, my back to one of the windows, reading. It had rained the greater part of the morning and afternoon, but just as the sun was setting, the clouds parted in front of him, and he shone into the room. I rose and looked out of the window. In the centre of the great lawn the feathering top of the fountain column was filled with his red glory. I turned to resume my seat, when my eye was caught by the same glory on the one picture in the room — a portrait, in a sort of niche or little shrine sunk for it in the expanse of book-filled shelves. I knew it as the likeness of one of my ancestors, but had never even wondered why it hung there alone, and not in the gallery, or one of the great rooms, among the other family portraits. The direct sunlight brought out the painting wonderfully; for the first time I seemed to see it, and for the first time it seemed to respond to my look. With my eyes full of the light reflected from it, something, I cannot tell what, made me turn and cast a glance to the farther end of the room, when I saw, or seemed to see, a tall figure reaching up a hand to a bookshelf. The next instant, my vision apparently rectified by the comparative dusk, I saw no one, and concluded that my optic nerves had been momentarily affected from within.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Mr. Vampire

Mr. Vampire is a 1985 Hong Kong comedy horror film, the debut film of director Ricky Lau. The film was such a success that it was followed by four direct sequels and several similarly-themed enterprises. More comedy than horror, this is a great choice for folks who don't like the gore and jump scenes often found in straight horror films. I found it a bit silly for my taste and didn't finish it.


watch with English subtitles:

Horror Freak News concludes by calling it "a diamond of a film". Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars. 88% of Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews were positive.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Appointment in Samarra, by John O'Hara

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara is a 1934 novel that explores the life of a wealthy, self-destructive businessman. I read it because I saw it on a list of modern novels that might be appropriate for inclusion in an expanded Great Books program. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Appointment in Samarra 22nd on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2011, the book was placed on Time Magazine's list of top 100 novels written in English since 1923.

from the back of the book:
When it was originally published in 1934, John O'Hara's first novel was widely praised -and widely condemned for its frank language and subject matter. Appointment in Samarra is the story of three days in the lives of Julian and Caroline English, the leading couple in the smart set of Gibbsville, Pennsylvania. Although Julian loves Caroline passionately, he drinks too much and becomes involved with other women -manifestations of his growing urge toward self-destruction.
You can read it online here or here. It begins,
OUR STORY opens in the mind of Luther L. (L for LeRoy) Fliegler, who is lying in his bed, not thinking of anything, but just aware of sounds, conscious of his own breathing, and sensitive to his own heartbeats. Lying beside him is his wife, lying on her right side and enjoying her sleep. She has earned her sleep, for it is Christmas morning, strictly speaking, and all the day before she has worked like a dog, cleaning the turkey and baking things, and, until a few hours ago, trimming the tree. The awful proximity of his heartbeats makes Luther Fliegler begin to want his wife a little, but Irma can say no when she is tired. It is too much trouble, she says when she is tired, and she won’t take any chances. Three children is enough; three children in ten years. So Luther Fliegler does not reach out for her. It is Christmas morning, and he will do her the favor of letting her enjoy her sleep; a favor which she will never know he did for her. And it is a favor, all right, because Irma likes Christmas too, and on this one morning she might not mind the trouble, might be willing to take a chance. Luther Fliegler more actively stifled the little temptation and thought the hell with it, and then turned and put his hands around his wife’s waist and caressed the little rubber tire of flesh across her diaphragm. She began to stir and then she opened her eyes and said: “My God, Lute, what are you doing?”
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Don’t, will you please?” she said, but she smiled happily and put her arms around his big back. “God. you’re crazy,” she said. “Oh, but I love you.” And for a little while Gibbsville knew no happier people than Luther Fliegler and his wife, Irma.
The New York Review of Books has an article. Kirkus Reviews has a review.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Apology for Murder

Apology for Murder is a 1945 film noir, a version of the plot of the previous year's Double Indemnity which is a better movie than this. This is barely over an hour long, so you won't lose much by having this on. That said, this plot is so much like Double Indemnity that I didn't finish it. It's directed by Sam Newfield and stars Ann Savage, Hugh Beaumont, Russell Hicks, and Charles D. Brown.

TCM has a plot synopsis and other information.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Apparition of Mrs. Veal

The Apparition of Mrs. Veal (1706) by Daniel Defoe is considered by many to be the first modern ghost story. It's fascinating to read these old tales, and you can read this one online here and listen to it here. It begins,
This thing is so rare in all its circumstances, and on so good authority, that my reading and conversation has not given me anything like it: it is fit to gratify the most ingenious and serious inquirer. Mrs. Bargrave is the person to whom Mrs. Veal appeared after her death; she is my intimate friend, and I can avouch for her reputation, for these last fifteen or sixteen years, on my own knowledge; and I can confirm the good character she had from her youth, to the time of my acquaintance. Though, since this relation, she is calumniated by some people, that are friends to the brother of this Mrs. Veal, who appeared; who think the relation of this appearance to be a reflection, and endeavour what they can to blast Mrs. Bargrave's reputation, and to laugh the story out of countenance. But by the circumstances thereof, and the cheerful disposition of Mrs. Bargrave, notwithstanding the ill-usage of a very wicked husband, there is not yet the least sign of dejection in her face; nor did I ever hear her let fall a desponding or murmuring expression; nay, not when actually under her husband's barbarity; which I have been witness to, and several other persons of undoubted reputation.

Now you must know, Mrs. Veal was a maiden gentlewoman of about thirty years of age, and for some years last past had been troubled with fits; which were perceived coming on her, by her going off from her discourse very abruptly to some impertinence. She was maintained by an only brother, and kept his house in Dover. She was a very pious woman, and her brother a very sober man to all appearance; but now he does all he can to null or quash the story. Mrs. Veal was intimately acquainted with Mrs. Bargrave from her childhood. Mrs. Veal's circumstances were then mean; her father did not take care of his children as he ought, so that they were exposed to hardships; and Mrs. Bargrave, in those days, had as unkind a father, though she wanted neither for food nor clothing, whilst Mrs. Veal wanted for both; insomuch that she would often say, Mrs. Bargrave, you are not only the best, but the only friend I have in the world, and no circumstance of life shall ever dissolve my friendship. They would often condole each other's adverse fortunes, and read together Drelincourt upon Death, and other good books; and so, like two Christian friends, they comforted each other under their sorrow.

Some time after, Mr. Veal's friends got him a place in the custom-house at Dover, which occasioned Mrs. Veal, by little and little, to fall off from her intimacy with Mrs. Bargrave, though there was never any such thing as a quarrel; but an indifference came on by degrees, till at last Mrs. Bargrave had not seen her in two years and a half; though above a twelvemonth of the time Mrs. Bargrave hath been absent from Dover, and this last half year has been in Canterbury about two months of the time, dwelling in a house of her own.

In this house, on the 8th of September, 1705, she was sitting alone in the forenoon, thinking over her unfortunate life, and arguing herself into a due resignation to providence, though her condition seemed hard. And, said she, I have been provided for hitherto, and doubt not but I shall be still; and am well satisfied that my afflictions shall end when it is most fit for me: and then took up her sewing-work, which she had no sooner done, but she hears a knocking at the door. She went to see who was there, and this proved to be Mrs. Veal, her old friend, who was in a riding-habit. At that moment of time the clock struck twelve at noon.

Madam, says Mrs. Bargrave, I am surprised to see you, you have been so long a stranger; but told her, she was glad to see her, and offered to salute her; which Mrs. Veal complied with, till their lips almost touched; and then Mrs. Veal drew her hand across her own eyes, and said, I am not very well, and so waived it. She told Mrs. Bargrave, she was going a journey, and had a great mind to see her first. But, says Mrs. Bargrave, how came you to take a journey alone?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Zardoz is a 1974 Irish-American science fantasy film directed by John Boorman and starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling, and Sara Kestelman. This must be seen to be believed. And, in fact, having seen it I'm still finding it difficult to believe. You can watch it online here.


Tor has an article explaining "Why Zardoz Isn’t the Kitsch Disaster You Think It Is". Roger Ebert says it "is a genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators. It’s set in an Ireland of 2293 that looks exactly like the Ireland of today, until you get inside the Vortex."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Child and Cats and Sybil

Child and Cats:

is a painting by Pierre Bonnard, who died on January 23, 1947, at age 79.

What a pretty silver cup the little girl has! I'm joining the weekly T Stands for Tuesday gathering where we share a post with a drink reference in it.


I'm participating in a reading challenge where the January book was to be historical fiction. (Patio Postcards talks about her choice of historical fiction here.) I chose Sybil, an 1845 novel by Benjamin Disraeli. It's wordy, but that was the style at the time if my reading experience is anything to go by. You can read it online here. It begins,

Book 1 Chapter 1

“I’ll take the odds against Caravan.”

“In poneys?”


And Lord Milford, a young noble, entered in his book the bet which he had just made with Mr Latour, a grey headed member of the Jockey Club.

It was the eve of the Derby of 1837. In a vast and golden saloon, that in its decorations would have become, and in its splendour would not have disgraced, Versailles in the days of the grand monarch, were assembled many whose hearts beat at the thought of the morrow, and whose brains still laboured to control its fortunes to their advantage.

“They say that Caravan looks puffy,” lisped in a low voice a young man, lounging on the edge of a buhl table that had once belonged to a Mortemart, and dangling a rich cane with affected indifference in order to conceal his anxiety from all, except the person whom he addressed.

“They are taking seven to two against him freely over the way,” was the reply. “I believe it’s all right.”

“Do you know I dreamed last night something about Mango,” continued the gentleman with the cane, and with a look of uneasy superstition.

His companion shook his head.

“Well,” continued the gentleman with the cane, “I have no opinion of him. I gave Charles Egremont the odds against Mango this morning; he goes with us, you know. By the bye, who is our fourth?”

“I thought of Milford,” was the reply in an under tone. “What say you?”

“Milford is going with St James and Punch Hughes.”

“Well, let us come into supper, and we shall see some fellow we like.”

So saying, the companions, taking their course through more than one chamber, entered an apartment of less dimensions than the principal saloon, but not less sumptuous in its general appearance. The gleaming lustres poured a flood of soft yet brilliant light over a plateau glittering with gold plate, and fragrant with exotics embedded in vases of rare porcelain. The seats on each side of the table were occupied by persons consuming, with a heedless air, delicacies for which they had no appetite; while the conversation in general consisted of flying phrases referring to the impending event of the great day that had already dawned.

“Come from Lady St Julian’s, Fitz?” said a youth of very tender years, and whose fair visage was as downy and as blooming as the peach from which with a languid air he withdrew his lips to make this inquiry of the gentleman with the cane.

“Yes; why were not you there?”

“I never go anywhere,” replied the melancholy Cupid, “everything bores me so.”

“Well, will you go to Epsom with us to-morrow, Alfred?” said Lord Fitzheron. “I take Berners and Charles Egremont, and with you our party will be perfect.”

“I feel so cursed blase!” exclaimed the boy in a tone of elegant anguish.

“It will give you a fillip, Alfred,” said Mr Berners; “do you all the good in the world.”

“Nothing can do me good,” said Alfred, throwing away his almost untasted peach, “I should be quite content if anything could do me harm. Waiter, bring me a tumbler of Badminton.”

“And bring me one too,” sighed out Lord Eugene De Vere, who was a year older than Alfred Mountchesney, his companion and brother in listlessness. Both had exhausted life in their teens, and all that remained for them was to mourn, amid the ruins of their reminiscences, over the extinction of excitement.

“Well, Eugene, suppose you come with us.” said Lord Fitzheron.

“I think I shall go down to Hampton Court and play tennis,” said Lord Eugene. “As it is the Derby, nobody will be there.”

“And I will go with you, Eugene,” said Alfred Mountchesney, “and we will dine together afterwards at the Toy. Anything is better than dining in this infernal London.”

“Well, for my part,” said Mr Berners. “I do not like your suburban dinners. You always get something you can’t eat, and cursed bad wine.”

“I rather like bad wine,” said Mr Mountchesney; “one gets so bored with good wine.”

“Do you want the odds against Hybiscus, Berners?” said a guardsman looking up from his book, which he had been very intently studying.

“All I want is some supper, and as you are not using your place—”

“You shall have it. Oh! here’s Milford, he will give them me.”

And at this moment entered the room the young nobleman whom we have before mentioned, accompanied by an individual who was approaching perhaps the termination of his fifth lustre but whose general air rather betokened even a less experienced time of life. Tall, with a well-proportioned figure and a graceful carriage, his countenance touched with a sensibility that at once engages the affections. Charles Egremont was not only admired by that sex, whose approval generally secures men enemies among their fellows, but was at the same time the favourite of his own.

“Ah, Egremont! come and sit here,” exclaimed more than one banqueter.

“I saw you waltzing with the little Bertie, old fellow,” said Lord Fitzheron, “and therefore did not stay to speak to you, as I thought we should meet here. I am to call for you, mind.”

“How shall we all feel this time to-morrow?” said Egremont, smiling.

“The happiest fellow at this moment must be Cockie Graves,” said Lord Milford. “He can have no suspense. I have been looking over his book, and I defy him, whatever happens, not to lose.”

“Poor Cockie.” said Mr Berners; “he has asked me to dine with him at the Clarendon on Saturday.”

“Cockie is a very good Cockie,” said Lord Milford, “and Caravan is a very good horse; and if any gentleman sportsman present wishes to give seven to two, I will take him to any amount.”

“My book is made up,” said Egremont; “and I stand or fall by Caravan.”

“And I.”

“And I.”

“And I.”

“Well, mark my words,” said a fourth, rather solemnly, “Rat-trap wins.”

“There is not a horse except Caravan,” said Lord Milford, “fit for a borough stake.”

“You used to be all for Phosphorus, Egremont,” said Lord Eugene de Vere.

“Yes; but fortunately I have got out of that scrape. I owe Phip Dormer a good turn for that. I was the third man who knew he had gone lame.”

“And what are the odds against him now.”

“Oh! nominal; forty to one,—what you please.”

“He won’t run,” said Mr Berners, “John Day told me he had refused to ride him.”

“I believe Cockie Graves might win something if Phosphorus came in first,” said Lord Milford, laughing.

“How close it is to-night!” said Egremont. “Waiter, give me some Seltzer water; and open another window; open them all.”

At this moment an influx of guests intimated that the assembly at Lady St Julian’s was broken up. Many at the table rose and yielded their places, clustering round the chimney-piece, or forming in various groups, and discussing the great question. Several of those who had recently entered were votaries of Rat-trap, the favourite, and quite prepared, from all the information that had reached them, to back their opinions valiantly. The conversation had now become general and animated, or rather there was a medley of voices in which little was distinguished except the names of horses and the amount of odds. In the midst of all this, waiters glided about handing incomprehensible mixtures bearing aristocratic names; mystical combinations of French wines and German waters, flavoured with slices of Portugal fruits, and cooled with lumps of American ice, compositions which immortalized the creative genius of some high patrician name.

“By Jove! that’s a flash,” exclaimed Lord Milford, as a blaze of lightning seemed to suffuse the chamber, and the beaming lustres turned white and ghastly in the glare.

The thunder rolled over the building. There was a dead silence. Was it going to rain? Was it going to pour? Was the storm confined to the metropolis? Would it reach Epsom? A deluge, and the course would be a quagmire, and strength might baffle speed.

Another flash, another explosion, the hissing noise of rain. Lord Milford moved aside, and jealous of the eye of another, read a letter from Chifney, and in a few minutes afterwards offered to take the odds against Pocket Hercules. Mr Latour walked to the window, surveyed the heavens, sighed that there was not time to send his tiger from the door to Epsom, and get information whether the storm had reached the Surrey hills, for to-night’s operations. It was too late. So he took a rusk and a glass of lemonade, and retired to rest with a cool head and a cooler heart.

The storm raged, the incessant flash played as it were round the burnished cornice of the chamber, and threw a lurid hue on the scenes of Watteau and Boucher that sparkled in the medallions over the lofty doors. The thunderbolts seemed to descend in clattering confusion upon the roof. Sometimes there was a moment of dead silence, broken only by the pattering of the rain in the street without, or the pattering of the dice in a chamber at hand. Then horses were backed, bets made, and there were loud and frequent calls for brimming goblets from hurrying waiters, distracted by the lightning and deafened by the peal. It seemed a scene and a supper where the marble guest of Juan might have been expected, and had he arrived, he would have found probably hearts as bold and spirits as reckless as he encountered in Andalusia.
You can have it read to you in a Librivox recording.

Part 1:

Part 2:

There are plenty of other public domain historical fiction books available free online, and Project Gutenberg has a list divided by time period here at this link.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar is a 1954 Western film directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady, Ward Bond, Ben Cooper, Ernest Borgnine, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Paul Fix, Rhys Williams, Frank Ferguson, and Ian MacDonald It shares a name with the song by Peggy Lee and features music from the song. This isn't your typical western and has obsessed women as main characters. It shows up on several best-of lists and is worth seeing even if you're not a fan of Joan Crawford. We saw it on Amazon Prime. It can be rented on Youtube for $2.99.


Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "It’s a film that’s many things to many people, from camp spectacular to revisionist genre epic, and nearly every reading seems viable. Was it Nicholas Ray’s intention to subvert every expectation, to undermine the conventions of the most American of genres? "

The Guardian calls it an "unforgettably strange, brilliant western". IndieWire concludes, "Ray made a completely over the top film that evokes the gender inequality, witch hunt sensibility and civic timidity within the mid-50’s culture that produced it more memorably than any other western movie of its era." The New Yorker calls it "miraculous" and says, "Nicholas Ray is Hollywood’s most emotionally furious, extreme, and sensitive director, and, in a career of eliciting uniquely impassioned performances, those he coaxes from Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden are two of the greatest he ever got—therefore, two of the best ever recorded on film."

Roger Ebert counts it as a "Great Movie" and says it
is surely one of the most blatant psychosexual melodramas ever to disguise itself in that most commodious of genres, the Western. ... A cheap Western from Republic Pictures, yes. And also one of the boldest and most stylized films of its time, quirky, political, twisted. ... The dynamic of their investigation and their attempts to force townsfolk to testify against one another form an allegory squarely aimed at the House Un-American Activities Committee, which in 1954 was trying to force alleged communists to "name names" of other alleged communists
Time Out gives it 5 out of 5 stars, calling it a "heady, Freudian western masterpiece" and "a rip-snorting yarn". 95% of Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it positive reviews.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Saturday, January 18, 2020

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

I Spit on Your Grave is a graphic rape revenge film from 1978. You've been warned. I didn't finish this one. A quick search will find it online, but you're on your own for that.

trailer: says it's "a deeply disturbing film, but is not worth the time nor the effort of tracking down on DVD. It will not leave viewers satisfied with seeing a highly controversial film but will instead leave them perturbed at how moronic it is."

Roger Ebert describes it as "A vile bag of garbage," "sick, reprehensible and contemptible," and "an expression of the most diseased and perverted darker human natures," and says that after the movie he "walked out of the theater quickly, feeling unclean, ashamed and depressed." says "if you can make it past the first half (it is brutal and only gets worse)" which includes several graphic and violent rape scenes, then we should like the revenge that follows. I can only assume that reviewer is male.

DVD Talk says, "Look, you will probably be wholly and completely repulsed by I Spit on Your Grave. This is one of the most polarizing exploitation films I've ever stumbled across". Oh the Horror calls it "Quite possibly the most notorious title in exploitation horror history". Rotten Tomatoes has a surprisingly depressing number of positive reviews. People like it.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Jar

Screen Shot from Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Jar is a 1944 short story by Ray Bradbury. It was adapted for television in 1964 as an episode of  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. You can read it online here. It begins,
It was one of .those things they keep in a jar in the tent of a sideshow on the outskirts of a little, drowsy town. One of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling, with its peeled dead eyes staring out at you -and never seeing you. It went with the noiselessness of late night, and only the crickets chirping, the frogs sobbing off in the moist swampland. One of those things in a big jar that makes your stomach jump like it does when you see an amputated arm in a laboratory vat.

Charlie stared back at it for a long time
Bradbury was always one of my favorite authors, and I've kept a few of his books even as I purge my shelves.

Thursday, January 16, 2020


Andromeda was a 2000-2005 science fiction television series based on unused material left by Gene Roddenbury. I'd never watched this but decided to check it out as I could find it online. So far it's dated, maybe too dated to be enjoyed for me. from Wikipedia:
The long night has come. The Systems Commonwealth, the greatest civilization in history, has fallen. But now, one ship, one crew have vowed to drive back the night and rekindle the light of civilization. On the starship Andromeda, hope lives again.
The series is set thousands of years in the future, and revolves around the Systems Commonwealth, a republic based in a distant star system called Tarn-Vedra. Humankind is a part of The Commonwealth, having been discovered by its members thousands of years before. The Commonwealth spreads across three galaxies: the Milky Way, Triangulum, and Andromeda, with Tarn-Vedra near its core. Ships travel from one end of the Commonwealth to the other through slipstreams, following roller coaster-like pathways through the cosmos to and from their destination.

The Commonwealth claims to be a utopian society, but it is actually in a state of war with the Magog, a predatory humanoid species with bat-like faces that is dedicated to war.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Central 42

Thinking back to warmer days, I remember eating BBQ out on the deck at Central BBQ. I saw the 42 right next to our table overlooking the Tiger and Central Avenue. I ate a BBQ sandwich and onion rings.

Here's a video that shows the energy at this place. Watch them plate up some of that great food:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Rachel In Love

Rachel In Love is a science fiction short story by Pat Murphy. This is a fascinating story. You can read it online here. It begins,
It is a Sunday morning in summer and a small brown chimpanzee named Rachel sits on the living room floor of a remote ranch house on the edge of the Painted Desert. She is watching a Tarzan movie on television. Her hairy arms are wrapped around her knees and she rocks back and forth with suppressed excitement. She knows that her father would say that she's too old for such childish amusements — but since Aaron is still sleeping, he can't chastise her.

On the television, Tarzan has been trapped in a bamboo cage by a band of wicked Pygmies. Rachel is afraid that he won't escape in time to save Jane from the ivory smugglers who hold her captive. The movie cuts to Jane, who is tied up in the back of a jeep, and Rachel whimpers softly to herself. She knows better than to howl: she peeked into her father's bedroom earlier, and he was still in bed. Aaron doesn't like her to howl when he is sleeping.

When the movie breaks for a commercial, Rachel goes to her father's room. She is ready for breakfast and she wants him to get up. She tiptoes to the bed to see if he is awake.

His eyes are open and he is staring at nothing. His face is pale and his lips are a purplish color. Dr. Aaron Jacobs, the man Rachel calls father, is not asleep. He is dead, having died in the night of a heart attack.

I'm having some espresso:

That adorable cup came from Tuesday Morning. I'll be taking coffee with me as I visit the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, January 13, 2020


Vengeance is a spaghetti western directed by Antonio Margheriti and starring Richard Harrison as a man set on revenge for the killing of his friend and the theft of their gold. Great cast, great soundtrack. If you like spaghetti westerns you'll like this. You can watch it here at TubiTV or via Youtube:'s review here has a thorough plot description and another positive review here.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a 1943 Powell and Pressburger comedy film. It stars Roger Livesey and Deborah Kerr.


It's on Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies. BFI says, "Powell & Pressburger’s 74-year-old classic hasn’t aged a day". The Guardian gives it 5 out of 5 stars and says, "This glorious film gets more fascinating and moving each time its seen".

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 96%.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Taking Down the Tree

Taking Down the Tree is a poem by Jane Kenyon. You can read it here. It begins
"Give me some light!" cries Hamlet's
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. "Light! Light!" cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it's dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
We leave our tree up through the 12 Days of Christmas, so most people have all but forgotten about Christmas by the time we have our un-trimming of the tree.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello is an award-winning 2005 Australian animated short film about a world where dirigibles are the main transportation. There's a flesh-eating plague responsible for increasing numbers of death. Our hero is a conflicted navigator who left his wife at home caring for plague victims when he is assigned to another exploratory voyage to look for a cure. says, "From the first sepia-toned images of a smokey cityscape through which industrial-chic ironclads glide, you know you’re seeing something special." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 89%.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

The Red Bow

The Red Bow is an award-winning 2004 short story by George Saunders. I'd had this author recommended to me and so jumped at the chance to read this story when I discovered it free online. This is a tragic tale, and isn't at all about what you think it is. You can read it online here. It begins,
Next night, walking out where it happened, I found her little red bow.

I brought it in, threw it down on the table, said: My God my God.

Take a good look at it and also I'm looking at it, said Uncle Matt. And we won't ever forget it, am I right?

First thing of course was to find the dogs. Which turns out, they were holed up back of the--the place where the little kids go, with the plastic balls in cages, they have birthday parties and so forth--holed up in this sort of nest of tree debris dragged there by the Village.

Well we lit up the debris and then shot the three of them as they ran out.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

An inspector Calls (1954)

An Inspector Calls is a 1954 film adaptation of the J. B. Priestly play with the same name. This is directed by Guy Hamilton and stars Alastair Sim as the inspector.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tower of Babylon

Tower of Babylon is a 1990 story, his first published work, by Ted Chiang. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. You can read it online here. It begins,
A tower reaches for the vault of heaven, and its builders discover that the wrath of God is the least of their worries.

It takes a full month and a half to climb to the towers


Were the power to be laid down across the plain of Shinar, it would be two days journey to walk from one end to the other. While the tower stands, it takes a month and a half to climb from its base to its summit, is a man walks underburdened. But few men climb the tower with empty hands; the pace of most men is much slowed by the cart of bricks that they pull behind them. Four months passed before the day a brick is loaded onto a cart of and the day it is taken off to form a part of the tower.

Hillalum had spent all his life in Elam and knew babylon only as a buyer of Elam's copper. The copper ingots were carried on boats that traveled down the Karun to the Lower Sea, headed for the Eupherates. Hillalum and the other miners traveled overland, alongside of merchant's caravan of loaded onagers. They walked along a dusty path leading down the plataeu, across the plains, to the green fields sectioned by canals and dikes.

None of them had seen the tower before. It became visible when they were still leagues away: a line as thin as a strand of flax, wavering in the shimmering air, rising up from the crust of mud that was Babylon itself
It is included in the anthology Stories of Your Life and Others.

I always have a glass of water and usually also a cup of coffee or tea beside me while I read. Join me?

I'm sharing at the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth at the Altered Book Lovers blog.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is a 2018 animated film directed by Wes Anderson, a director I always enjoy. The voice actors include Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, Anjelica Huston, and F. Murray Abraham. The Younger Son gave me this for Christmas.


4-minute video on how the puppets were made:

The New York Times has a plot summary and review. The New Yorker has a review. IndieWire describes how the sets were created. The Guardian has two positive reviews: One from February and one from April of 2018.

AV Club calls it one of Anderson's "most wondrous worlds". Rolling Stone praises the movie, but they also discuss the cultural appropriation issue that arose after it was released.

Rotten Tomatoes has a 90% critic consensus rating.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Her Solitary Domain

Her Solitary Domain is a short story by Jenny Bhatt. You can read it online here. It begins,
Messages had been sidewinding their way to her till she could no longer ignore them. The old hill-bound boarding school was shutting down because of “an epidemic of snakes.” Local Hindu authorities, believing it was ancient Naga ground, would not allow any killing. They had proposed buying the premises for loose change to develop a temple complex. The longstanding Board of Trustees, which had replaced the school’s colonial British owners a few years after Independence, had accepted with the relief of a prisoner escaping a harsh sentence.

On the school’s Facebook page, familiar names shared nostalgia-drenched memories of precious childhoods. After they had all scattered across the world, she had remained in her separate orbit. Even now, the excited chatter and uploaded photos meant little.

In her present life, many dues were demanded: love, duty, responsibility, desire, ambition, compliance. They all grabbed at fragments of her constantly so that she never managed to gather herself whole together. Only in the midnight’s deep stillness, with the precision of a preying bird, she was able to claw out one careful recollection from her mind’s shattered mosaic.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Friday, January 03, 2020

The Concordia Deception

The Concordia Deception is a science fiction novel by J.J. Green. I found the Big Reveals no surprise at all, and had guessed them long before they were overtly stated. I wish I had realized this was part 1 in a series before I started it, but I might have read it anyway. I enjoyed it but won't read more from this series. You can read it online here.

description from Google:
Facing the enemy at the gates

All her life Cariad had one dream: to take part in humankind’s colonization of deep space. After topping her field as a geneticist, and then spending 184 years in cryonic suspension, she’s achieved her goal.

But the new planet is not the paradise the scientists predicted. Alien predators come out at night, ready to feast on the new arrivals. What’s more, Cariad discovers that saboteurs have stowed away aboard the ship and are determined to destroy the new colony.

To defeat the settlers’ enemies, she must enlist the help of the disgruntled Gens. These men and women are last in the line of generational colonists who lived and died on the long journey to the stars. And they want their freedom.

Infighting and strife plague Cariad’s efforts. If the colony’s factions don’t pull together, the flame of hope for humanity will be snuffed out.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Monkey and the Crabs

Monkey and the Crabs is a 1927 Japanese animated short film that adapts the folktale about the monkey that kills the crab. The crab's son then gets help to avenge the death.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Lines for Winter

Lines for Winter is a 1979 poem by Mark Strand. You can read it here. It begins
Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—

Happy New Year!