Friday, February 28, 2020

The Lady and the Beard

The Lady and the Beard is a 1931 Japanese comedy. The Imdb has this plot synopsis: "A bearded kendo champion has difficulties in life because of his conservative ways and his unusual beard."

Click the little "CC" at the bottom right of the video to get the English subtitles.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Purple Cloud

The Purple Cloud is a 1901 science fiction novel by M. P. Shiel. I love these old science fiction stories. To see what these people thought the future would bring is interesting. The plots themselves vary, but this one's a keeper. It was recommended by M. John Harrison. You can read it online here. It begins, not including an introduction that's part of the story,
Well, the memory seems to be getting rather impaired now, rather weak. What, for instance, was the name of that parson who preached, just before the Boreal set out, about the wickedness of any further attempt to reach the North Pole? I have forgotten! Yet four years ago it was familiar to me as my own name.

Things which took place before the voyage seem to be getting a little cloudy in the memory now. I have sat here, in the loggia of this Cornish villa, to write down some sort of account of what has happened—God knows why, since no eye can ever read it—and at the very beginning I cannot remember the parson's name.

He was a strange sort of man surely, a Scotchman from Ayrshire, big and gaunt, with tawny hair. He used to go about London streets in shough and rough-spun clothes, a plaid flung from one shoulder. Once I saw him in Holborn with his rather wild stalk, frowning and muttering to himself. He had no sooner come to London, and opened chapel (I think in Fetter Lane), than the little room began to be crowded; and when, some years afterwards, he moved to a big establishment in Kensington, all sorts of men, even from America and Australia, flocked to hear the thunderstorms that he talked, though certainly it was not an age apt to fly into enthusiasms over that species of pulpit prophets and prophecies. But this particular man undoubtedly did wake the strong dark feelings that sleep in the heart; his eyes were very singular and powerful; his voice from a whisper ran gathering, like snow-balls, and crashed, as I have heard the pack-ice in commotion far yonder in the North; while his gestures were as uncouth and gawky as some wild man's of the primitive ages.

Well, this man—what was his name?—Macintosh? Mackay? I think—yes, that was it! Mackay. Mackay saw fit to take offence at the new attempt to reach the Pole in the Boreal; and for three Sundays, when the preparations were nearing completion, stormed against it at Kensington.

The excitement of the world with regard to the North Pole had at this date reached a pitch which can only be described as fevered, though that word hardly expresses the strange ecstasy and unrest which prevailed: for the abstract interest which mankind, in mere desire for knowledge, had always felt in this unknown region, was now, suddenly, a thousand and a thousand times intensified by a new, concrete interest—a tremendous money interest.

And the new zeal had ceased to be healthy in its tone as the old zeal was: for now the fierce demon Mammon was making his voice heard in this matter.

Within the ten years preceding the Boreal expedition, no less than twenty-seven expeditions had set out, and failed.

The secret of this new rage lay in the last will and testament of Mr. Charles P. Stickney of Chicago, that king of faddists, supposed to be the richest individual who ever lived: he, just ten years before the Boreal undertaking, had died, bequeathing 175 million dollars to the man, of whatever nationality, who first reached the Pole.

Such was the actual wording of the will—'the man who first reached': and from this loose method of designating the person intended had immediately burst forth a prolonged heat of controversy in Europe and America as to whether or no the testator meant the Chief of the first expedition which reached: but it was finally decided, on the highest legal authority, that, in any case, the actual wording of the document held good: and that it was the individual, whatever his station in the expedition, whose foot first reached the 90th degree of north latitude, who would have title to the fortune.

At all events, the public ferment had risen, as I say, to a pitch of positive fever; and as to the Boreal in particular, the daily progress of her preparations was minutely discussed in the newspapers, everyone was an authority on her fitting, and she was in every mouth a bet, a hope, a jest, or a sneer: for now, at last, it was felt that success was probable. So this Mackay had an acutely interested audience, if a somewhat startled, and a somewhat cynical, one.

A truly lion-hearted man this must have been, after all, to dare proclaim a point-of-view so at variance with the spirit of his age! One against four hundred millions, they bent one way, he the opposite, saying that they were wrong, all wrong! People used to call him 'John the Baptist Redivivus': and without doubt he did suggest something of that sort. I suppose that at the time when he had the face to denounce the Boreal there was not a sovereign on any throne in Europe who, but for shame, would have been glad of a subordinate post on board.

On the third Sunday night of his denunciation I was there in that Kensington chapel, and I heard him. And the wild talk he talked! He seemed like a man delirious with inspiration.

The people sat quite spell-bound, while Mackay's prophesying voice ranged up and down through all the modulations of thunder, from the hurrying mutter to the reverberant shock and climax: and those who came to scoff remained to wonder.

Put simply, what he said was this: That there was undoubtedly some sort of Fate, or Doom, connected with the Poles of the earth in reference to the human race: that man's continued failure, in spite of continual efforts, to reach them, abundantly and super-abundantly proved this; and that this failure constituted a lesson—and a warning—which the race disregarded at its peril.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Girl Who Dared

The Girl Who Dared is a 1944 mystery film starring Lorna Gray. from the Imdb site: "A young woman seeking adventure, and several other people have to outwit a mysterious killer on a remote island."

TCM has information.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

My Last Story

My Last Story is a 1951 short story by Janet Frame. You can read it online here. It begins,
I'm never going to write another story. I don’t like writing stories. I don’t like putting he said she said he did she did, and telling about people, the small dark woman who coughs into a silk handkerchief and says excuse me would you like another soda cracker Mary, and the men with grease all over their clothes and lunch tins in their hands, the Hillside men who get into the tram at four forty-five, and hang on to the straps so the ladies can sit down comfortably, and stare out of the window and you never know what they’re thinking, perhaps about their sons in Standard two, who are going to work at Hillside when it’s time for them to leave school, and that’s called work and earning a living, well I’m not going to write any more stories like that. I’m not going to write about the snow and the curly chrysanthemums peeping out of the snow and the women saying how lovely every cloud has a silver lining, and I’m not going to write about my grandmother sitting in a black dress at the back door and having her photo taken with Dad because he loved her best and Uncle Charlie broke her heart because he drank beer. I’m never going to write another story after this one. This is my last story.
The life story of this author is interesting, as she had a history of repeated admissions to mental hospitals and was saved from a lobotomy when her story collection was published and won an award.


I won some Happy Mail from CJ:

Have you ever seen such delights? I'm excited about all these. I've never used watercolor crayons before, just as one example, and all these sweet things will be such fun!

There's a cup in the photo at the top of the page. It's a public domain picture from Pixabay, and it's my beverage reference for the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Pot

The Pot is a 1925 Japanese short animated film. It combines two stories into one seventeen-minute movie: 1) The Fisherman and the Jinni from One Thousand and One Nights, and 2) the story of the fox and the lion from Machiavelli's The Prince. You can watch it online here.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Division by Zero

Division by Zero is a 1991 short story by Ted Chiang. You can read it online here. It begins,

Dividing a number by zero doesn’t produce an infinitely large number as an answer. The reason is that division is defined as the inverse of multiplication; if you divide by zero, and then multiply by zero, you should regain the number you started with. However, multiplying infinity by zero produces only zero, not any other number. There is nothing which can be multiplied by zero to produce a nonzero result; therefore, the result of a division by zero is literally “undefined.”


Renee was looking out the window when Mrs. Rivas approached.

“Leaving after only a week? Hardly a real stay at all. Lord knows I won’t be leaving for a long time.”

Renee forced a polite smile. “I’m sure it won’t be long for you.” Mrs. Rivas was the manipulator in the ward; everyone knew that her attempts were merely gestures, but the aides wearily paid attention to her lest she succeed accidentally.

“Ha. They wish I’d leave. You know what kind of liability they face if you die while you’re on status?”

“Yes, I know.”

“That’s all they’re worried about, you can tell. Always their liability—”

Renee tuned out and returned her attention to the window, watching a contrail extrude itself across the sky.

“Mrs. Norwood?” a nurse called. “Your husband’s here.”

Renee gave Mrs. Rivas another polite smile and left.


Carl signed his name yet another time, and finally the nurses took away the forms for processing.

He remembered when he had brought Renee in to be admitted, and thought of all the stock questions at the first interview. He had answered them all stoically.

“Yes, she’s a professor of mathematics. You can find her in Who’s Who.”

“No, I’m in biology.”


“I had left behind a box of slides that I needed.”

“No, she couldn’t have known.”

And, just as expected:

“Yes, I have. It was about twenty years ago, when I was a grad student.”

“No, I tried jumping.”

“No, Renee and I didn’t know each other then.”

And on and on.

Now they were convinced that he was competent and supportive, and were ready to release Renee into an outpatient treatment program.

Looking back, Carl was surprised in an abstracted way.
It is reprinted in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Blue Gardenia

The Blue Gardenia is a 1953 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and starring Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Sothern, Raymond Burr, and George Reeves. Nat King Cole has a cameo as the house pianist in the night club.

Here's Cole:

Senses of Cinema closes its consideration with this:
What we have in The Blue Gardenia is a death-in-life in which we can no longer tell whether the life we live is our own or just an episode from a television series. In this context the closing shot of a LA freeway concrete overpass – a repetition of the film’s opening image – takes on an unexpected relevance and poignancy.
Variety's review says it's "A stock story and handling keep The Blue Gardenia from being anything more than a regulation mystery melodrama". Time Out calls it "relatively minor but still gripping". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 86%.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Haunted and the Haunters

The Haunted and the Haunters is an 1859 horror story by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. You can read it online here. It begins,
A friend of mine, who is a man of letters and a philosopher, said to me one day, as if between jest and earnest, “Fancy! since we last met I have discovered a haunted house in the midst of London.”

“Really haunted — and by what? — ghosts?”

“Well, I can’t answer that question; all I know is this: six weeks ago my wife and I were in search of a furnished apartment. Passing a quiet street, we saw on the window of one of the houses a bill, ‘Apartments, Furnished.’ The situation suited us; we entered the house, liked the rooms, engaged them by the week — and left them the third day. No power on earth could have reconciled my wife to stay longer; and I don’t wonder at it.”

“What did you see?”

“Excuse me; I have no desire to be ridiculed as a superstitious dreamer — nor, on the other hand, could I ask you to accept on my affirmation what you would hold to be incredible without the evidence of your own senses. Let me only say this, it was not so much what we saw or heard (in which you might fairly suppose that we were the dupes of our own excited fancy, or the victims of imposture in others) that drove us away, as it was an undefinable terror which seized both of us whenever we passed by the door of a certain unfurnished room, in which we neither saw nor heard anything. And the strangest marvel of all was, that for once in my life I agreed with my wife, silly woman though she be — and allowed, after the third night, that it was impossible to stay a fourth in that house. Accordingly, on the fourth morning I summoned the woman who kept the house and attended on us, and told her that the rooms did not quite suit us, and we would not stay out our week.” She said dryly, “I know why; you have stayed longer than any other lodger. Few ever stayed a second night; none before you a third. But I take it they have been very kind to you.”

“‘They — who?’ I asked, affecting to smile.

“‘Why, they who haunt the house, whoever they are. I don’t mind them. I remember them many years ago, when I lived in this house, not as a servant; but I know they will be the death of me some day. I don’t care — I’m old, and must die soon anyhow; and then I shall be with them, and in this house still.’ The woman spoke with so dreary a calmness that really it was a sort of awe that prevented my conversing with her further. I paid for my week, and too happy were my wife and I to get off so cheaply.”

“You excite my curiosity,” said I; “nothing I should like better than to sleep in a haunted house. Pray give me the address of the one which you left so ignominiously.”

My friend gave me the address; and when we parted, I walked straight towards the house thus indicated.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death

I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (also known as Sartana the Gravedigger) is a 1969 spaghetti western, 2nd in the Sartana series. Fewer people were killed in this one than in the first, not that that's saying much. The killings are bloodless affairs, though, so don't let that stop you if you're delicate about gore. One shot, one spot of blood, and we're off to the next chase. It's great fun, as spaghetti westerns usually are, and this one has the added joy of Klaus Kinski.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Glass That Laughed

The Glass That Laughed is a Dashiell Hammett short story, published in 1925 but not anthologized until 2017. You can read how that rediscovery happened here. You can read the short story here. It begins,
Moonlight, slanting through the window, became a white pattern on the floor of the room in which Norman Bacher awakened. The carafe on his bedside table was empty; he had drunk often that restless night. Fumbling for his slippers, he got out of bed. The bureau’s mirror threw a reflection at him.

In the dim light, hair rumpled, face paler than ordinary, the face in the glass was too like Eric’s not to startle Norman. He brushed a hand across his forehead and blew his breath out sharply. What had for an instant been a dark stain on the mirrored brow was only a pendant lock of hair. He studied the face in the glass until his pulse was steady. Then he went for his water and returned to bed. But he could not sleep.

He knew that what remained of his brother would never be found, never searched for. He knew no one could suspect him of having murdered his brother.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Visit to the Hermit and Star of India

Visit to the Hermit:

by Willy Moralt, who died on February 18, 1947.

I'm joining the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering where we share a drink-related post. See that bottle on the hermit's table? That's my drink reference.


The reading challenge I'm following this year has assigned a Romance novel for February. I don't read Romance. I read a couple some time ago just to dip my toe in, and that was more than enough. I decided not to shirk, though, and in looking for something in the public domain and available free online I found Star of India by Alice Perrin. You can read it online here. It begins,

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might.
Choose thou for me, my God,
So shall I walk aright.

The rustic portion of the congregation shouted the familiar hymn with laborious goodwill, overpowering the more cultivated voices that rose from the chancel and the front pews—almost defeating the harsh notes wrung from the harmonium by the village schoolmistress, who also led the singing in a piercing key, supported raucously by her pupils gathered about the unmusical instrument. Even in the early 'nineties nothing so ambitious as an organ or a surpliced choir had as yet been attempted in this remote west-country parish, though with the advent of the new vicar innovations had begun; actually, of late, the high oak pews had been removed to make way for shining pitch-pine seats that in the little Norman church produced much the same effect as a garish oleograph set in an antique frame. Most of the parishioners approved the change; certainly it had the advantage of permitting everyone to observe at leisure who came to church, what they wore, and how they behaved during the sermon, even if those who were somnolently inclined found the publicity disconcerting.

Stella Carrington, for one, infinitely preferred the new seats. Though no longer a child—seventeen last birthday—she could never quite forget the hours of misery she had endured in the old pew; the smell of dust and hassocks, the feeling of captivity, the desperate impulse that would assail her to kick open the door, to fling a prayer-book over the barrier, to jump up on the seat; only the fear of grandmamma's wrath had restrained her from such antics. This Sunday, as she stood between Aunt Augusta and Aunt Ellen, singing the hymn that preceded the sermon, recollections returned to her of her childhood's trials in the high pew, and with these, unaccountably, came the old sense of imprisonment. The feeling disturbed her; she searched her mind for the cause, and became conscious that it was somehow connected with the presence of Maud Verrall, seated with her parents in the religious preserve of the Squire and his family in the chancel. The Verralls had been absent from The Court for a considerable period, and now here was Maud, who when Stella last saw her had been in short petticoats with her hair down her back, transformed into a young lady; she had a curled fringe, bangles and puffed sleeves; her dress touched the ground, she had a waist, and her hat, of a fashionable sailor shape, was set well to the back of her head. And all this though she was no older than her former playmate, Stella Carrington, whose skirts even now barely reached her ankles, whose hair still hung in a plait, whose hat, in her own opinion, was more suited to a child in a perambulator than to a girl of seventeen. No wonder she felt stifled, cramped! She realised why the memory of her tortures in the old box-like pew had recurred to her mind; and then suddenly the hymn that she knew so well and had sung on such countless Sundays, paying no special heed to the words, struck her as the acme of hypocrisy. She ceased singing, amazed that the recognition had not come to her sooner. Surely whoever was responsible for the wording of this hymn could never have known the tedium for a young person of living with a stony-hearted grandmother and two maiden aunts in a small village where nothing ever happened; the author must have belonged to people like the Verralls, who were, of course, satisfied with their "lot," and did not want to change it; people who could "dare" do anything they pleased. If she, Stella Carrington, could choose her lot at this moment, she would change places with Maud Verrall; and she wondered how Maud would feel if she found herself forced to accept the lot of Stella Carrington! Would Maud still humbly proclaim that she would not change it even if she might?...

Only when Aunt Augusta, regarding her severely, touched her arm did Stella discover that the hymn was ended; that the congregation was settling down for the sermon. She sank to her seat, blushing, abashed.

Summer had set in early that year, and the sun poured through the stained glass window subscribed for by the parish to a former Squire Verrall, casting kaleidoscopic patterns of purple and crimson on to grandmamma's brown silk bonnet; a premature bumble-bee droned and bumped up and down the panes, the atmosphere felt airless, and Aunt Ellen sniffed elegantly at her green salts-bottle. Stella grew drowsy; she could not attend to the sermon, and her thoughts strayed on in confusion.... Would Canon Grass, the vicar, dare to change his lot if he might? Perhaps he would like to change Mrs. Grass, who was older than himself, for the pretty visitor who was one of The Court party in the chancel pew.... And how about Mrs. Daw, who was so artistic, and considered her talents wasted in her position as wife to a country doctor; who complained that no one in the village really understood or appreciated "Art".... How much happier Mrs. Daw would be in London had she the opportunity of changing her lot—of converting her husband into a West End physician. And as to the villagers; everyone knew that they were never contented, no matter what was done for them. At this point in her reflections Stella fell asleep.

The service over, she followed grandmamma and the aunts slowly down the aisle, while the school children clattered through the porch. The Court party left the building by the chancel door, and Stella saw them pace down the slope of the churchyard between the tombstones and the yew trees to where a carriage and pair of horses awaited them at the gates. Squire Verrall went first, in a black coat and a square hat like a box, his whiskers were brushed smartly aside from his ruddy cheeks, his large nose shone in the sun, he waved his malacca cane to the school children marshalled on either side of the pathway; Mrs. Verrall followed, delicate, smiling, sweet, in dark green satin, and a white ostrich feather floating from a boat-shaped hat; with her came the pretty visitor, who walked with a Grecian bend ... and Maud. Stella observed that Maud was "showing off"; that she minced and looked down her nose as she passed between the rows of bobbing, saluting children and villagers. Stella was filled with an envious contempt for such conceit; such airs and graces! Three maid-servants completed the procession; even they would drive back to The Court, on the rumble of the big carriage, while Stella Carrington would walk through the lanes to The Chestnuts pulling her grandmother's chair, Aunt Augusta pushing behind, Aunt Ellen shielding the old lady with a green-lined umbrella. They would wait on themselves at luncheon; probably there would be boiled mutton and a milk pudding....

There was: in her present rebellious mood, the sight of the plain, wholesome food was to Stella as the proverbial last straw. Aunt Augusta carved the mutton; a watery red stream issued from the joint, mingling with the caper sauce that surrounded it.

"None for me, thank you," said Stella, with suppressed fury.

"My dear, why not?" It was grandmamma who made the inquiry, and Stella thought the old lady looked like a sea-gull, seated at the end of the table in her close white cap, her snowy hair looped on either side of her curved nose.

"I hate boiled mutton!" Beneath her rising defiance the girl was conscious of amazement at her own temerity. She pushed back her chair and stood up, quivering—a slim young beauty, giving promise of fine development, though neither beauty nor promise had as yet been recognised by herself or by her guardians.

"Yes, I do hate it!" she cried, and her eyes, the colour of burnt sienna, filled with rebellious tears, "and I hate milk puddings and babyish clothes, and getting up in the morning and going to bed at night with nothing in between—the same every day. How you could all stand up and sing that hymn, 'I dare not choose my lot,'" she mocked, "'I would not if I might,' as if you meant it! Why, for most of us, it was simply a lie!"

For a space there was a shocked silence. Augusta, the carving knife poised in her hand, looked at her mother; Ellen stared at her plate and extracted her salts-bottle with stealth from her pocket; Stella found her own gaze drawn helplessly to the expressionless old countenance at the end of the table, and, despite her new-born courage, she quailed.

"My dear," said grandmamma smoothly, "you had better go and lie down. The weather has upset you. I think you require a powder."

Stella burst into something between laughter and tears; she made a childish dash for the door and ran noisily up the stairs.

The meal in the dining-room continued as though nothing had happened.
You can find more romance linked here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Swan as a Metaphor for Love

The Swan as a Metaphor for Love is a short story by Amelia Gray. You can read it online here. It begins,
A swan’s foot, like a duck’s, is a webbed claw. In traversing swan shit and mud, these claws naturally gunk up and reek. Nobody in the history of the world, save another swan, has licked a swan’s foot while that foot was still attached to the swan.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Dark Waves

Dark Waves is a 2015 Italian dark fantasy film. Dread Central has a plot summary. They promised us zombie pirates, but those don't show up until an hour and 8 minutes into the less-than 90-minute movie.

Even then they don't figure much in whatever is going on here.


I watched it on Amazon Prime, if I recall correctly, but it's not there now.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Cattle Haul

Cattle Haul is a 2012 short story by Jesmyn Ward. You can read it online here. It begins,
It's easier driving through the country, especially when you doing a cattle haul. Two lanes on one side and two lanes on the other. Switch lanes and pass. At night, like now, the signs sharp and clear. The trees like waves at the side of the road, all black and blue, coming in and going back out like a tide. Ain’t no lights to distract me, to crowd up around me. Just taillights, red lights, like ants, leading me in a line westward.

Part of me want to stop. Part of me want to pull over on the side of the road and turn the rig off and start walking back to where I come from; want to get out the rig and leave it all here in the dark. But I press the gas hard and daydream about flying past the flatlands, speeding to dry, parched Texas, and through the desert to Phoenix to drop these cattle off, but they got weigh stations and state troopers, and cars and rigs like bad potholes: they waiting just to slow you down and fuck you up. I see a deer by the side of the road, two of them, night-feeding by the pines. They don’t even flinch when I pass by.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020


image from

Understand is a 1991 story by Ted Chiang. There's a Memphis mention, and I love when that happens. You can read it online here. You can have it read to you here. from Wikipedia:
The story follows a man who is given an experimental drug to heal brain damage caused by anoxia after he nearly drowns. The drug regenerates his damaged neurons and has the unintended side effect of exponentially improving his intellect and motor skills. As he gets smarter and smarter, he is pursued by several government agencies and eventually receives a message from -and then enters into conflict with- another super-intelligent test subject.
This story is included in the anthology book Stories of Your Life and Others

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Tomorrow Is Another Day is a 1951 film noir. To be honest, I'm not impressed and didn't finish it. You can watch it here. Oddly, I can't find a trailer.

The New York Times in a review from the time of the film's release says, ""Tomorrow Is Another Day" follows an ancient formula. Its tensions are manufactured and apparent. List "Tomorrow Is Another Day" as just another picture."

Noir of the Week calls it "an intelligent, very well acted film that explores paths to redemption — whether or not change is possible, if people are damned by their pasts, if grace even exists." DVD Beaver has a summary and screenshots. DVD Talk has a review.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


Here's my pour-over morning coffee. Please join the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering where we share a post with a drink in it and visit with one another. All are welcome.

Bloodchild is a science fiction short story by Octavia Butler. You can read it online here. It begins,
My last night of childhood began with a visit home. T’Gatoi’s sister had given us two sterile eggs. T’Gatoi gave one to my mother, brother, and sisters. She insisted that I eat the other one alone. It didn’t matter. There was still enough to leave everyone feeling good. Almost everyone. My mother wouldn’t take any. She sat, watching everyone drifting and dreaming without her. Most of the time she watched me.

I lay against T’Gatoi’s long, velvet underside, sipping from my egg now and then, wondering why my mother denied herself such a harmless pleasure. Less of her hair would be gray if she indulged now and then. The eggs prolonged life, prolonged vigor. My father, who had never refused one in his life, had lived more than twice as long as he should have. And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children.

But my mother seemed content to age before she had to.

The rains came back Sunday night and are still adding to our unusually high rain amounts. The patio suffered from the recent sudden freeze (not the snow, because it didn't get cold enough to hurt anything, but the actual hard freeze before that). My poor hydrangea!

The honeysuckle is showing signs of blooming:

The mint is coming back nicely:

I'm hoping the Dogwood tree (left below) survived in its pot. It wasn't happy being moved. The rosemary has over-wintered well this year.

I'll be happy when it's dry enough and warm enough to have morning coffee out on the patio, but for now I'm enjoying my view looking out at it.

Monday, February 10, 2020

If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death

If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death is a 1968 spaghetti western, first in a series featuring the Sartana character. 91 killed, if our count was correct. I always enjoy the spaghetti westerns. And, of course, I never say no to Klaus Kinski. opens their review with this: "Made on a shoestring, this became one of the most lucrative and influential ventures in the history of the spaghetti western."

Sunday, February 09, 2020

The White Tiger

The White Tiger is a 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Aravind Adiga. It was his first novel. I enjoy reading the Booker Prize winners. I gave the book away before I copied the blurb from the back, but Wikipedia says,
The novel provides a darkly humorous perspective of India's class struggle in a globalized world as told through a retrospective narration from Balram Halwai, a village boy. In detailing Balram's journey first to Delhi, where he works as a chauffeur to a rich landlord, and then to Bangalore, the place to which he flees after killing his master and stealing his money, the novel examines issues of religion, caste, loyalty, corruption and poverty in India.[2] Ultimately, Balram transcends his sweet-maker caste and becomes a successful entrepreneur, establishing his own taxi service. In a nation proudly shedding a history of poverty and underdevelopment, he represents, as he himself says, "tomorrow."

The novel has been well-received, making the New York Times bestseller list
Publishers Weekly says, "It's the perfect antidote to lyrical India." Kirkus Reviews concludes, "An undisciplined debut, but one with plenty of vitality."

Saturday, February 08, 2020


Creature is a 1985 science fiction/horror film. Klaus Kinski is in this one, and I don't need a better reason to watch a movie. It's slow. The acting certainly isn't the movie's strongest point. I had it on while I washed the dishes and did a few other things, and it was a fine choice for that.

1000 Misspent Hours says, "I thought it was a fun little movie". Million Monkey Theater says, "It's no better or worse than any of the other half-million Alien rip-offs, but it does have a few good moments worth remembering".

Friday, February 07, 2020

A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room

Image from page 9 of "Students' furniture : rugs and draperies." (1903)

A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room is a 1986 short story by George Saunders, his first published story. You can read it online here. It begins,
It’s like this, and it is no dream: First off, a plastic palomino and its stiff-armed rider float above a toybox. The rider is a dyed Custer, and everything’s red. I mean boots and kerchief and holster and eyebrows even. He is one ruined and reduced cavalryman, he was poured and solidified with horribly bowed legs, simply because his only reason for existence is to straddle the palomino. Denied Comanches. But the horse and rider float and revolve anyway, on the lookout for marauders. They rotate at about a revolution a minute, as per specs. Also: a velour basketball, half the size of a real basketball, hangs mid-aired over a crib. In the closet, the arms of tiny jackets and sweaters wave and salute wildly. The threads of the carpet flatten out like grass under a helicopter, and then circular waves run outward from the middle of the room. When the waves die down, it’s just a regular carpet again. The whole cycle takes three and a half minutes. An empty rocking chair rocks faster than any mortal granny could.

Out the wide window across the room, it’s a crescent moon in bough-crook kind of thing; caramel lights through sectioned panes in houses of white wood, trees blown and slanting like smoke. Windows and doors of the houses wide open with Trust. Children breathe pillow air. Hills roll away behind the row of houses in a fairly pastoral manner. It is a kind of smooth blue Ireland. And the blue is in the room too. It is the blue of night scenes in animation. The cloak of night and all that. It is very much like the nights when little kids point at the moon and say odd things.
It is a memorable story. Tobias Wolff says,
So what did I see in this story? I saw the future, nothing less—the writer destined to be the consummate poet of American corporate-speak (“They rotate at about a revolution per minute, as per specs”), a great chronicler of human desire struggling to define itself against a world of manufactured, themed, reality—life subsumed by franchises and doled out in market-friendly dollops drenched in novocaine language: “This is an Employee Objective Assessment Evening.” And the story was really, really funny. What did it all mean? Search me. The thrill was in the ride, not in the arriving. Later he’d work out the destination piece, plenty of time for that. And so he did, again and again. He has become a writer of masterpieces.

So what a joy it is to read this again, and feel the renegade heart beating against the ribs of the story, and know that I am a prophet.

And we had a bit of snow last night! Snow! That's quite unusual here in Memphis.

The streets are clear, though there was a bit of ice at some places earlier.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

The Happiness Cage

The Happiness Cage  (also known as The Mind Snatchers) is a 1972 science fiction film, Christopher Walken's first starring role. In this film Walken plays the sociopathic soldier guinea pig who finds himself an inmate in an experimental medical facility. It was the 70s; what can I say. I came across it online. It's worth looking for if you're a Walken completist or a big 70s film buff. It's an adaptation of a play, and I think it would work better as a play.

DVD Talk says,
Generally good performances highlight a genre hybrid that brings credibility to ideas previously limited to mad doctor movies, and the result is modest but effective.
TCM has an overview.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

George Dobson's Expedition to Hell

George Dobson's Expedition to Hell is an 1827 story by James Hogg in which a coachman gets a fare who expects more than most and a toll that was harder to pay than he expected. You can read it online here. It begins,
There is no phenomenon in nature less understood, and about which greater nonsense is written, than dreaming. It is a strange thing. For my part, I do not understand it, nor have I any desire to do so; and I firmly believe that no philosopher that ever wrote knows a particle more about it than I do, however elaborate and subtle the theories he may advance concerning it. He knows not even what sleep is, nor can he define its nature, so as to enable any common mind to comprehend him; and how, then, can he define that ethereal part of it, wherein the soul holds intercourse with the external world?—how, in that state of abstraction, some ideas force themselves upon us, in spite of all our efforts to get rid of them; while others, which we have resolved to bear about with us by night as well as by day, refuse us their fellowship, even at periods when we most require their aid?

No, no; the philosopher knows nothing about either; and if he says he does, I entreat you not to believe him. He does not know what mind is; even his own mind, to which one would think he has the most direct access: far less can he estimate the operations and powers of that of any other intelligent being. He does not even know, with all his subtlety, whether it be a power distinct from his body, or essentially the same, and only incidentally and temporarily endowed with different qualities. He sets himself to discover at what period of his existence the union was established. He is baffled; for Consciousness refuses the intelligence, declaring, that she cannot carry him far enough back to ascertain it. He tries to discover the precise moment when it is dissolved, but on this Consciousness is altogether silent; and all is darkness and mystery; for the origin, the manner of continuance, and the time and mode of breaking up of the union between soul and body, are in reality undiscoverable by our natural faculties—are not patent, beyond the possibility of mistake: but whosoever can read his Bible, and solve a dream, can do either, without being subjected to any material error.

It is on this ground that I like to contemplate, not the theory of dreams, but the dreams themselves; because they prove to the unlettered man, in a very forcible manner, a distinct existence of the soul, and its lively and rapid intelligence with external nature, as well as with a world of spirits with which it has no acquaintance, when the body is lying dormant, and the same to the soul as if sleeping in death.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Railrodder

The Railrodder is a 1965 short film (24 minutes) starring Buster Keaton. This was Keaton's last silent film performance. He died of lung cancer on February 1, 1966, at the age of 70. Wikipedia says, "Despite being diagnosed with cancer in January 1966, he was never told that he was terminally ill or that he had cancer; Keaton thought that he was recovering from a severe case of bronchitis."

You can watch it here:

Here's a screenshot I offer for the bloggers participating in the T is for Tuesday gathering:

Please join us!

Monday, February 03, 2020

Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book

photo by Thierry de Villepin

Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book is an 1895 ghost story by M.R. James. You can read it online here. It begins,
St Bertrand de Comminges is a decayed town on the spurs of the Pyrenees, not very far from Toulouse, and still nearer to Bagnères-deLuchon. It was the site of a bishopric until the Revolution, and has a cathedral which is visited by a certain number of tourists. In the spring of 1883 an Englishman arrived at this old-world place — I can hardly dignify it with the name of city, for there are not a thousand inhabitants. He was a Cambridge man, who had come specially from Toulouse to see St Bertrand’s Church, and had left two friends, who were less keen archaeologists than himself, in their hotel at Toulouse, under promise to join him on the following morning. Half an hour at the church would satisfy them , and all three could then pursue their journey in the direction of Auch. But our Englishman had come early on the day in question, and proposed to himself to fill a note-book and to use several dozens of plates in the process of describing and photographing every corner of the wonderful church that dominates the little hill of Comminges. In order to carry out this design satisfactorily, it was necessary to monopolize the verger of the church for the day. The verger or sacristan (I prefer the latter appellation, inaccurate as it may be) was accordingly sent for by the somewhat brusque lady who keeps the inn of the Chapeau Rouge; and when he came, the Englishman found him an unexpectedly interesting object of study. It was not in the personal appearance of the little, dry, wizened old man that the interest lay, for he was precisely like dozens of other church-guardians in France, but in a curious furtive or rather hunted and oppressed air which he had. He was perpetually half glancing behind him; the muscles of his back and shoulders seemed to be hunched in a continual nervous contraction, as if he were expecting every moment to find himself in the clutch of an enemy. The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a termagant wife.
You can have it read to you:

This was inspired by the story:

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Julius Caesar (Shakespeare: The Animated Tales)

Julius Caesar is a 1994 part of the Shakespeare: The Animated Tales series. At just 25 minutes, it leaves out a lot, but what's there maintains the play's language and order. It'd be a good first introduction, I think.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Emmonsail's Heath In Winter

Emmonsail's Heath In Winter
by John Clare

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps its melancholy wing,
An oddling crow in idle motion swing
On the half-rotten ash-tree's topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the haw round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.