Tuesday, March 31, 2020



by Richard Diebenkorn, who died on March 30, 1993, at 70 years of age due to complications from emphysema. That's my drink reference for the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Spring has come to Memphis. I cut back all the wild coleus I had let stand through the winter so the birds could use them for the seeds and for perching. I pulled out the dead leaves so the black-eyed susans, bee balm, and wild sunflower could get the warming sun. It's been rainier than usual, but we've had a couple of days of sunshine with a high reaching up even into the 80s F one day.

On the patio I have native honeysuckle:

and pink dogwood:

The dogwood is in a pot:

Last week on my way to the grocery store I got photos of the tulips planted at the corner outside the Dixon Gallery and Gardens:

and the cherry trees on the road that leads to the Memphis Botanic Gardens:

Both gardens are closed now.

Monday, March 30, 2020


Sandcastles is a 1972 made-for-tv supernatural romance movie. Not my thing -that's what you're thinking- and you'd be right. But this film stars Jan Michael Vincent, poor lost soul that he was, and how can you not watch him in one of his earlier works.

TCM has some information.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Woman's Ghost Story

The Woman's Ghost Story is a 1907 ghost story, by Algernon Blackwood (pictured above). You can read it online here. It begins,
"Yes," she said, from her seat in the dark corner, "I'll tell you an experience if you care to listen. And, what's more, I'll tell it briefly, without trimmings -I mean without unessentials. That's a thing story-tellers never do, you know," she laughed. "They drag in all the unessentials and leave their listeners to disentangle; but I'll give you just the essentials, and you can make of it what you please. But on one condition: that at the end you ask no questions, because I can't explain it and have no wish to."

We agreed. We were all serious. After listening to a dozen prolix stories from people who merely wished to "talk" but had nothing to tell, we wanted "essentials."

"In those days," she began, feeling from the quality of our silence that we were with her, "in those days I was interested in psychic things, and had arranged to sit up alone in a haunted house in the middle of London. It was a cheap and dingy lodging-house in a mean street, unfurnished. I had already made a preliminary examination in daylight that afternoon, and the keys from the caretaker, who lived next door, were in my pocket. The story was a good one—satisfied me, at any rate, that it was worth investigating; and I won't weary you with details as to the woman's murder and all the tiresome elaboration as to why the place was alive. Enough that it was.

"I was a good deal bored, therefore, to see a man, whom I took to be the talkative old caretaker, waiting for me on the steps when I went in at 11 p.m., for I had sufficiently explained that I wished to be there alone for the night. [Pg 109]

"'I wished to show you the room,' he mumbled, and of course I couldn't exactly refuse, having tipped him for the temporary loan of a chair and table.

"'Come in, then, and let's be quick,' I said.

"We went in, he shuffling after me through the unlighted hall up to the first floor where the murder had taken place, and I prepared myself to hear his inevitable account before turning him out with the half-crown his persistence had earned. After lighting the gas I sat down in the arm-chair he had provided—a faded, brown plush arm-chair—and turned for the first time to face him and get through with the performance as quickly as possible. And it was in that instant I got my first shock. The man was not the caretaker. It was not the old fool, Carey, I had interviewed earlier in the day and made my plans with. My heart gave a horrid jump.

"'Now who are you, pray?' I said. 'You're not Carey, the man I arranged with this afternoon. Who are you?'

"I felt uncomfortable, as you may imagine. I was a 'psychical researcher,' and a young woman of new tendencies, and proud of my liberty, but I did not care to find myself in an empty house with a stranger. Something of my confidence left me. Confidence with women, you know, is all humbug after a certain point. Or perhaps you don't know, for most of you are men. But anyhow my pluck ebbed in a quick rush, and I felt afraid.

"'Who are you?' I repeated quickly and nervously. The fellow was well dressed, youngish and good-looking, but with a face of great sadness. I myself was barely thirty. I am giving you essentials, or I would not mention it. Out of quite ordinary things comes this story. I think that's why it has value.

"'No,' he said; 'I'm the man who was frightened to death.'
You can have it read to you below:

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 thriller directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. Peter Graves is also in this. I have a low tolerance for child endangerment plots and had never seen this movie because of that. The children's plight is hard to watch, but this film is a masterpiece. Mitchum is a national treasure.


Criterion says,
The Night of the Hunter —incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed— is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.
Film Site calls it "a truly compelling, haunting, and frightening classic masterpiece thriller". Roger Ebert calls it a Great Movie. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 99%.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hell Is the Absence of God

Hell Is the Absence of God is a 2001 award-winning theological fantasy story by Ted Chiang. You can read it online here. It begins,
This is the story of a man named Neil Fisk, and how he came to love God. The pivotal event in Neil’s life was an occurrence both terrible and ordinary: the death of his wife, Sarah. Neil was consumed with grief after she died, a grief that was excruciating not only because of its intrinsic magnitude, but because it also renewed and emphasized the previous pains of his life. Her death forced him to reexamine his relationship with God, and in doing so he began a journey that would change him forever.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Yangsan Province

Yangsan Province is a 1955 Korean historical melodrama film.

KMDb has a plot description.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Stone Animals

Stone Animals is a short story by Kelly Link. You can read it online here. It begins,
Henry asked a question. He was joking.

“As a matter of fact,” the real estate agent snapped, “it is.”

It was not a question she had expected to be asked. She gave Henry a goofy, appeasing smile and yanked at the hem of the skirt of her pink linen suit, which seemed as if it might, at any moment, go rolling up her knees like a window shade. She was younger than Henry, and sold houses that she couldn’t afford to buy.

“It’s reflected in the asking price, of course,” she said. “Like you said.”

Henry stared at her. She blushed.

“I’ve never seen anything,” she said. “But there are stories. Not stories that I know. I just know there are stories. If you believe that sort of thing.”

“I don’t,” Henry said. When he looked over to see if Catherine had heard, she had her head up the tiled fireplace, as if she were trying it on, to see whether it fit. Catherine was six months pregnant. Nothing fit her except for Henry’s baseball caps, his sweatpants, his T-shirts. But she liked the fireplace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Danger: Diabolik

Danger: Diabolik is described by Wikipedia:
a 1968 action film directed and co-written by Mario Bava, based on the Italian comic series Diabolik ... The film is about a criminal named Diabolik (John Phillip Law), who plans large-scale heists for his girlfriend Eva Kant (Marisa Mell). Diabolik is pursued by Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli), who blackmails the gangster Ralph Valmont (Adolfo Celi) into catching Diabolik for him.
Terry-Thomas is Minister of the Interior, then Minister of Finance. Ennio Morricone did the music.

DVD Talk has a positive review. Time Out calls it "A delightfully outlandish comic strip directed by the master of the Italian B movie". Roger Ebert says, ""Danger: Diabolik" is a superior example of its type. Law is Diabolik, a supercriminal who lives underground in his electronic hideout with a sexy blond (Marisa Mell) and millions of dollars worth of gadgets."

As we settle into our social distancing, I'm thinking this looks like a good idea:

I'm not personally going to that extreme, but I am staying home except for weekly grocery trips. The online communities I'm a part of -blogging, FB, Twitter...- increase in significance in my life as this thing drags out. We're now under a shelter-in-place order here in Memphis, TN. Please join the T Stands for Tuesday gathering. We're naturally well over the recommended 6 feet apart.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Other End of the Line

The Other End of the Line is the 24th book in the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. Camilleri sadly died in July of last year of a heart attack at the age of 93. I will sorely miss looking forward to new books in this series.

from the back of the book:
A wave of refugees has arrived on the Sicilian coast, and Inspector Montalbano and his team have been stationed at the port to manage the chaos. Meanwhile, Montalbano's long-time girlfriend, Livia, has promised their presence at a friend's wedding, and the inspector, agreeing to get a new suit tailored, meets the charming master seamstress Elena Biasini. But with the police force busy at the dock late one night, tragedy strikes in town, and a woman is found gruesomely murdered. In between managing the scene at the landing, Montalbano delves into the garment business in the company of an orphaned cat, as he works to weave together the loose threads of the unsolved crime.
I've read the earlier books in the series:
1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
3. The Snack Thief
4. Voice of the Violin
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
7. Rounding the Mark
8. The Patience of the Spider
9. The Paper Moon
10. August Heat
11. The Wings of the Sphinx
12. The Track of Sand
13. The Potter's Field
14. The Age of Doubt
15. Dance of the Seagull
16. Treasure Hunt
17. Angelica's Smile
18. A Game of Mirrors
19. A Beam of Light
20. A Voice in the Night
21. A Nest of Vipers
22. The Pyramid of Mud

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Lost Moment

The Lost Moment is a 1947 film, part melodrama and part psychological thriller. It stars Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead. From Wikipedia:
A publisher, Lewis Venable, travels from New York to Venice, seeking to buy the 19th-century love letters of the late poet Jeffrey Ashton to a woman named Juliana Bordereau. He learns from a living poet, Charles Russell, that Juliana is still alive at 105.

Without announcing his intentions, Lewis assumes a false identity. He takes lodging at Juliana's and meets her great-niece Tina, a pianist.

In time, he discovers that Juliana is in dire need of money.

Time Out calls it "remarkably effective. DVD Talk says, "Martin Gabel's Henry James-adaptation The Lost Moment may be the actor's only directorial effort, but it's a fairly strong one all the same" and concludes by describing it as "a claustrophobic film that lays on the atmosphere and the emotion". TCM has information.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Fate of the Poseidonia

image from Wikipedia

The Fate of the Poseidonia is a 1927 short story by Clare Winger Harris, who was one of the early female science fiction authors. It's interesting to read stories that place the 1940s in a future time and fascinating to see the changes they expected. You can read it online here. It begins,
The first moment I laid eyes on Martell I took a great dislike to the man. There sprang up between us an antagonism that as far as he was concerned might have remained passive, but which circumstances forced into activity on my side.

How distinctly I recall the occasion of our meeting at the home of Professor Stearns, head of the Astronomy department of Austin College. The address which the professor proposed giving before the Mentor Club of which I was a member, was to be on the subject of the planet, Mars. The spacious front rooms of the Stearns home were crowded for the occasion with rows of chairs, and at the end of the double parlors a screen was erected for the purpose of presenting telescopic views of the ruddy planet in
its various aspects.

As I entered the parlor after shaking hands wit my hostess, I felt, rather than saw, an unfamiliar presence, and the impression I received involuntarily was that of antipathy. What I saw was the professor himself engaged in earnest conversation with a stranger. Intuitively I knew that from the latter emanated the hostility of which I was definitely conscious.

He was a man of slightly less than average height. At once I noticed that he did not appear exactly normal physically and yet I could not ascertain in what way he was deficient- It was not until I had passed the entire evening in his company that I was fully aware of his bodily peculiarities. Perhaps the most striking characteristic was the swarthy, coppery hue of his flesh that was not unlike that of an American Indian. His chest and shoulders seemed abnormally developed, his limbs and features extremely slender in proportion. Another peculiar individuality was the wearing of a skull-cap pulled well down over his forehead.

Professor Stearns caught my eye, and with a friendly nod indicated his desire that I meet the new arrival.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Gregory," he said warmly as he clasped my hand. "I want you to meet Mr. Martell, a stranger in our town, but a kindred spirit, in that he is interested in Astronomy and particularly in the subject of my lecture this evening."

I extended my hand to Mr. Martell and imagined that he responded to my salutation somewhat reluctantly. Immediately I knew why. The texture of the skin was most unusual. For want of a better simile, I shall say that it felt not unlike a fine dry sponge. I do not believe that I betrayed any visible surprise, though inwardly my whole being revolted. The deep, close-set eyes of the stranger seemed searching me for any manifestation of antipathy, but I congratulate myself that my outward poise was undisturbed by the strange encounter.

The guests assembled, and I discovered to my chagrin that I was seated next to the stranger, Martell. Suddenly the lights were extinguished preparatory to the presentation of the lantern-slides. The darkness that enveloped us was intense. Supreme horror gripped me when I presently became conscious of two faint phosphorescent lights to my right. There could be no mistaking their origin. They were the eyes of Martell and they were regarding me with an enigmatical stare. Fascinated, I gazed back into those diabolical orbs with an emotion akin to terror. I felt that I should shriek and then attack their owner. But at the precise moment when my usually steady nerves threatened to betray me, the twin lights vanished. A second later the lantern light flashed on the screen. I stole a furtive glance in the direction of Martell. He was sitting with his eyes closed.

"The planet Mars should be of particular interest to us," began Professor Stearns, "not only because of its relative proximity to us, but because of the fact that there are visible upon its surface undeniable evidences of the handiwork of man, and I am inclined to believe in the existence of mankind there not unlike the humanity of the earth."

The discourse proceeded uninterruptedly. The audience remained quiet and attentive, for Professor Stearns possessed the faculty of holding his listeners spell-bound. A large map of one hemisphere of Mars was thrown on the screen, and simultaneously the stranger Martell drew in his breath sharply with a faint whistling sound.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Dead Mine

Dead Mine is a 2012 Indonesian horror film. Quite similar to Outpost, which I liked a lot, this is not as good but still fun and watchable.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bettering Myself

Bettering Myself is a short story by Ottessa Moshfegh. You can read it online here. It begins,
My classroom was on the first floor, next to the nuns’ lounge. I used their bathroom to puke in the mornings. One nun always dusted the toilet seat with talcum powder. Another nun plugged the sink and filled it with water. I never understood the nuns. One was old and the other was young. The young one talked to me sometimes, asked me what I would do for the long weekend, if I’d see my folks over Christmas, and so forth. The old one looked the other way and twisted her robes in her fists when she saw me coming.

My classroom was the school’s old library. It was a messy old library room, with books and magazines splayed out all over the place and a whistling radiator and big fogged-up windows overlooking Sixth Street. I put two student desks together to make up my desk at the front of the room, next to the chalkboard. I kept a down-filled sleeping bag in a cardboard box in the back of the room and covered the sleeping bag with old newspapers. Between classes I took the sleeping bag out, locked the door, and napped until the bell rang. I was usually still drunk from the night before.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Warrior and the Sorceress

The Warrior and the Sorceress is a fantasy/adventure film, inspired by Kurosawa's film Yojimbo. David Carradine is our warrior/hero. I got a big kick out of this one.


1000 Misspent Hours loved this movie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Street Cafe in Paris and As a Man Thinketh

Street Cafe in Paris (1936):

by Sergius Pauser, an Austrian artist who died on March 16, 1970. No Parisian cafes for me, alas, but I'll offer this photo I found online in honor of us all as we practice social distancing and visit virtually via T Stands for Tuesday:


This month's Book Challenge was to read a self-help book. As a Man Thinketh is a 1903 book by James Allen. from Wikipedia:
It was described by Allen as "... [dealing] with the power of thought, and particularly with the use and application of thought to happy and beautiful issues. I have tried to make the book simple, so that all can easily grasp and follow its teaching, and put into practice the methods which it advises.
The title comes from the Bible: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23: 7a KJV)

You can read it online here. It begins,

THE aphorism, "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he," not only embraces the whole of a man's being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.

As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them. This applies equally to those acts called "spontaneous" and "unpremeditated" as to those, which are deliberately executed.

Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits; thus does a man garner in the sweet and bitter fruitage of his own husbandry.

"Thought in the mind hath made us, What we are
By thought was wrought and built. If a man's mind
Hath evil thoughts, pain comes on him as comes
The wheel the ox behind....
..If one endure
In purity of thought, joy follows him
As his own shadow—sure."

Man is a growth by law, and not a creation by artifice, and cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating in the hidden realm of thought as in the world of visible and material things. A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favour or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts. An ignoble and bestial character, by the same process, is the result of the continued harbouring of grovelling thoughts.

Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armoury of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character, and man is their maker and master.

Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this—that man is the master of thought, the moulder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.

As a being of Power, Intelligence, and Love, and the lord of his own thoughts, man holds the key to every situation, and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what he wills.

Man is always the master, even in his weaker and most abandoned state; but in his weakness and degradation he is the foolish master who misgoverns his "household." When he begins to reflect upon his condition, and to search diligently for the Law upon which his being is established, he then becomes the wise master, directing his energies with intelligence, and fashioning his thoughts to fruitful issues. Such is the conscious master, and man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought; which discovery is totally a matter of application, self analysis, and experience.

Only by much searching and mining, are gold and diamonds obtained, and man can find every truth connected with his being, if he will dig deep into the mine of his soul; and that he is the maker of his character, the moulder of his life, and the builder of his destiny, he may unerringly prove, if he will watch, control, and alter his thoughts, tracing their effects upon himself, upon others, and upon his life and circumstances, linking cause and effect by patient practice and investigation, and utilizing his every experience, even to the most trivial, everyday occurrence, as a means of obtaining that knowledge of himself which is Understanding, Wisdom, Power. In this direction, as in no other, is the law absolute that "He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened;" for only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the Door of the Temple of Knowledge.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Seventy-Two Letters

Seventy-Two Letters is a 2000 story by Ted Chiang. You can read it online here. You can have it read to you here. It begins,
When he was a child, Robert’s favorite toy was a simple one, a clay doll that could do nothing but walk forward. While his parents entertained their guests in the garden outside, discussing Victoria’s ascension to the throne or the Chartist reforms, Robert would follow the doll as it marched down the corridors of the family home, turning it around corners or back where it came from. The doll didn’t obey commands or exhibit any sense at all; if it met a wall, the diminutive clay figure would keep marching until it gradually mashed its arms and legs into misshapen flippers. Sometimes Robert would let it do that, strictly for his own amusement. Once the doll’s limbs were thoroughly distorted, he’d pick the toy up and pull the name out, stopping its motion in mid-stride. Then he’d knead the body back into a smooth lump, flatten it out into a plank, and cut out a different figure: a body with one leg crooked, or longer than the other. He would stick the name back into it, and the doll would promptly topple over and push itself around in a little circle. It wasn’t the sculpting that Robert enjoyed; it was mapping out the limits of the name. He liked to see how much variation he could impart to the body before the name could no longer animate it.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay

Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay is a 1970 Spaghetti Western, one of a series featuring the character Sartana. Spaghetti Westerns are a hoot!

Spaghetti-Western.net has a positive review.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


from Salon.com:
The last three years have been dominated by one unassailable number: 42%. That's the consistent baseline of Donald Trump's approval, and while it occasionally dips when a small percentage of conservatives are momentarily flustered by his latest act of unforgivable evil, those wafflers always come back around.

Forty-two percent is a terrifying number, because it's about more than Trump. That number represents the percentage of Americans who have, it appears, wholly rejected reasoned discourse and democratic values. Due to the quirks in our electoral system that give disproportionate power to rural and suburban areas, and due to voter suppression efforts from the GOP, that 42% will likely control the Senate for the foreseeable future and will quite possibly win the presidency again in 2020.

As the side that still believes in facts, we have to grapple with these grim facts.

Friday, March 13, 2020


Tumbleweed is a 1953 western film starring Audie Murphy and Lee Van Cleef. Chill Wills, Russell Johnson, and Lyle Talbot are also in this. Lee Van Cleef is a long-time favorite with us. You just can't go wrong with him.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sea Oak

Sea Oak is a 2000 short story by award-winning author George Saunders. You can read it online here. This one includes a club where men perform for clients, just so you're not surprised by the descriptions once you get into the story. It begins,
At Six Mr. Frendt comes on the P.A. and shouts, "Welcome to Joysticks!" Then he announces Shirts Off. We take off our flightjackets and fold them up. We take off our shirts and fold them up. Our scarves we leave on. Thomas Kirster's our beautiful boy. He's got long muscles and bright-blue eyes. The minute his shirt comes off two fat ladies hustle up the aisle and stick some money in his pants and ask will he be their Pilot. He says sure. He brings their salads. He brings their soups. My phone rings and the caller tells me to come see her in the Spitfire mock-up. Does she want me to be her Pilot? I'm hoping. Inside the Spitfire is Margie, who says she's been diagnosed with Chronic Shyness Syndrome, then hands me an Instamatic and offers me ten bucks for a close-up of Thomas's tush.

Do I do it? Yes I do.

It could be worse. It is worse for Lloyd Betts. Lately he's put on weight and his hair's gone thin. He doesn't get a call all shift and waits zero tables and winds up sitting on the P-51 wing, playing solitaire in a hunched-over position that gives him big gut rolls.

I Pilot six tables and make forty dollars in tips plus five an hour in salary.

After closing we sit on the floor for Debriefing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Henry V (1944)

Henry V is a 1944 film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. It is directed by and stars Laurence Olivier. William Walton wrote the score. I'm a firm believer in watching -not reading- plays, so I look for them and watch them when I find them online. I found this one here.


The film's opening:

St. Crispin's Day speech:

TCM has an article. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus rating of 100%.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When It Changed

When It Changed is a 1972 award-winning science fiction short story by Joanna Russ. You can read it online here. It begins,
Katy drives like a maniac; we must have been doing over 120 kilometers per hour on those turns. She’s good, though, extremely good, and I’ve seen her take the whole car apart and put it together again in a day. My birthplace on Whileaway was largely given to farm machinery and I refuse to wrestle with a five-gear shift at unholy speeds, not having been brought up to it, but even on those turns in the middle of the night, on a country road as bad as only our district can make them, Katy’s driving didn’t scare me. The funny thing about my wife, though: she will not handle guns. She has even gone hiking in the forests above the forty-eighth parallel without firearms, for days at a time. And that does scare me.

Katy and I have three children between us, one of hers and two of mine. Yuriko, myeldest, was asleep in the back seat, dreaming twelve-year-old dreams of love and war: running away to sea, hunting in the North, dreams of strangely beautiful people in strangely beautiful places, all the wonderful guff you think up when you’re turning twelve and the glands start going. Some day soon, like all of them, she will disappear for weeks on end to come back grimy and proud, having knifed her first cougar or shot her first bear, dragging some abominably dangerous dead beastie behind her, which I will never forgive for what it might have done to my daughter. Yuriko says Katy’s driving puts her to sleep.

For someone who has fought three duels, I am afraid of far, far too much. I’m getting old. I told this to my wife.

“You’re thirty-four,” she said. Laconic to the point of silence, that one. She flipped the lights on, on the dash—three kilometers to go and the road getting worse all the time. Far out in the country. Electric-green trees rushed into our headlights and around the car. I reached down next to me where we bolt the carrier panel to the door and eased my rifle into my lap. Yuriko stirred in the back. My height but Katy’s eyes, Katy’s face. The car engine is so quiet, Katy says, that you can hear breathing in the back seat. Yuki had been alone in the car when the message came, enthusiastically decoding her dot-dashes (silly to mount a wide frequency transceiver near an I. C. engine, but most of Whileaway is on steam). She had thrown herself out of the car, my gangly and gaudy offspring, shouting at the top of her lungs, so of course she had had to come along. We’ve been intellectually prepared for this ever since the Colony was founded, ever since it was abandoned, but this is different. This is awful.

“Men!” Yuki had screamed, leaping over the car door. “They’ve come back! Real Earth men!”

Join me as I visit the T Stands for Tuesday bloggers and have a cup of coffee:

and enjoy the First Robin of Spring:

Of course robins are year 'round birds here, but we still set up a cry of "First Robin of Spring" every time we see one on a pretty day. It's a family tradition that predates me.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Great Breteche

The Great Breteche is an 1831 short story by Honoré de Balzac. It is the story behind the abandonment of a manor house. You can read it online here. It begins,
“Ah! madame,” replied the doctor, “I have some appalling stories in my collection. But each one has its proper hour in a conversation—you know the pretty jest recorded by Chamfort, and said to the Duc de Fronsac: ‘Between your sally and the present moment lie ten bottles of champagne.’”

“But it is two in the morning, and the story of Rosina has prepared us,” said the mistress of the house.

“Tell us, Monsieur Bianchon!” was the cry on every side.

The obliging doctor bowed, and silence reigned.

“At about a hundred paces from Vendôme, on the banks of the Loir,” said he, “stands an old brown house, crowned with very high roofs, and so completely isolated that there is nothing near it, not even a fetid tannery or a squalid tavern, such as are commonly seen outside small towns. In front of this house is a garden down to the river, where the box shrubs, formerly clipped close to edge the walks, now straggle at their own will. A few willows, rooted in the stream, have grown up quickly like an enclosing fence, and half hide the house. The wild plants we call weeds have clothed the bank with their beautiful luxuriance. The fruit-trees, neglected for these ten years past, no longer bear a crop, and their suckers have formed a thicket. The espaliers are like a copse. The paths, once graveled, are overgrown with purslane; but, to be accurate there is no trace of a path.

“Looking down from the hilltop, to which cling the ruins of the old castle of the Dukes of Vendôme, the only spot whence the eye can see into this enclosure, we think that at a time, difficult now to determine, this spot of earth must have been the joy of some country gentleman devoted to roses and tulips, in a word, to horticulture, but above all a lover of choice fruit. An arbor is visible, or rather the wreck of an arbor, and under it a table still stands not entirely destroyed by time. At the aspect of this garden that is no more, the negative joys of the peaceful life of the provinces may be divined as we divine the history of a worthy tradesman when we read the epitaph on his tomb. To complete the mournful and tender impressions which seize the soul, on one of the walls there is a sundial graced with this homely Christian motto, ‘Ultimam cogita.’

“The roof of this house is dreadfully dilapidated; the outside shutters are always closed; the balconies are hung with swallows’ nests; the doors are for ever shut. Straggling grasses have outlined the flagstones of the steps with green; the ironwork is rusty. Moon and sun, winter, summer, and snow have eaten into the wood, warped the boards, peeled off the paint. The dreary silence is broken only by birds and cats, polecats, rats, and mice, free to scamper round, and fight, and eat each other. An invisible hand has written over it all: ‘Mystery.’

“If, prompted by curiosity, you go to look at this house from the street, you will see a large gate, with a round-arched top; the children have made many holes in it. I learned later that this door had been blocked for ten years. Through these irregular breaches you will see that the side towards the courtyard is in perfect harmony with the side towards the garden. The same ruin prevails. Tufts of weeds outline the paving-stones; the walls are scored by enormous cracks, and the blackened coping is laced with a thousand festoons of pellitory. The stone steps are disjointed; the bell-cord is rotten; the gutter-spouts broken. What fire from heaven could have fallen there? By what decree has salt been sown on this dwelling? Has God been mocked here? Or was France betrayed? These are the questions we ask ourselves. Reptiles crawl over it, but give no reply. This empty and deserted house is a vast enigma of which the answer is known to none.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

42 Anniversary!

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the first episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was first broadcast on Radio 4 on March 8, 1978.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

A Noble Radiance

A Noble Radiance is the 7th book in the Donna Leon Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series. It takes place in the early Spring.

from the back of the book:
In a small village at the foot of the Italian Dolomites, not far from Venice, the gardens of a deserted farmhouse have lain untouched for decades. But the new owner, eager for renovations to begin, is summoned to the house when his workmen disturb a macabre grave. Nearby, a valuable signet ring is found, reigniting an infamous cold case of kidnapping and diappearance involving one of Venice's oldest, most aristocratic families. The victim's cousin, next in line to inherit the family business and fortune, is the logical suspect, but Brunetti senses something more insidious at play. Only Commissario Guido Brunetti can unravel the clues and find his way into the heart of patrician Venice and that of a family grieving for their lost son.
I've read the following from this series:
#1 Death at La Fenice (1992)
#2 Death in a Strange Country (1993)
#3 Dressed for Death (1994)
#4 Death and Judgment (1995)
#5 Acqua Alta (1996)
#6 Quietly in Their Sleep (1997)
#13 Doctored Evidence (2004)
#18 About Face (2009)
#19 A Question of Belief
Drawing Conclusions
#22 The Golden Egg

Friday, March 06, 2020

Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin

Sartana's Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin is a 1970 spaghetti western, the 3rd in the Sartana series. George Hilton takes over the title role.

You can watch it at TubiTV here or below in two parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Spaghetti-Western.net calls it "surprisingly well-made and entertaining".

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Quietly in Their Sleep

Quietly in their Sleep is the 6th novel in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery/detective series by Donna Leon. This is a long-running series, and I'm working my way through them as I find or are gifted them. The book order doesn't seem to matter with these. I've enjoyed them all and look forward to more. This one takes place in the early spring.

from the back of the book:
In the sixth novel featuring Donna Leon's ever-charming and sympathetic protagonist, Commissario Guido Brunetti comes to the aid of a young nun, a nurse who has five patients unexpectedly die and decides to leave her convent. In the course of his inquiries, Brunetti encounters an unusual cast of characters but discovers nothing that seems criminal. Is the nun simply creating a justification for abandoning her vocation? Or has she stumbled onto something very real and very sinister -something that places her own life in imminent danger? A beautiful, suspense-filled novel, Quietly in Their Sleep is Donna Leon at the top of her form.
I've read the following from this series:
#1 Death at La Fenice (1992)
#2 Death in a Strange Country (1993)
#3 Dressed for Death (1994)
#4 Death and Judgment (1995)
#5 Acqua Alta (1996)
#13 Doctored Evidence (2004)
#18 About Face (2009)
#19 A Question of Belief
Drawing Conclusions
#22 The Golden Egg

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

The Night Flier (1997)

The Night Flier is a 1997 film adaptation of the Stephen King short story. This is another one I didn't finish. It's a modern vampire story so should've been right down my alley, but there's just too much of the doomed hard-bitten reporter here for my taste.

HorrorFreakNews calls it "an Original Vampire Movie with a Great Story." Moria praises it saying, "What keeps the film going is an original story, which comes as a well structured mystery where the piecing together of the puzzle gives the story an intriguing drive."

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Knowers

The Knowers is a science fiction short story by Helen Philips. You can read it online here. It begins,
There are those who wish to know, and there are those who don’t wish to know. At first Tem made fun of me in that condescending way of his (a flick of my nipple, a grape tossed at my nose) when I claimed to be among the former; when he realized I meant it, he grew anxious, and when he realized I really did mean it, his anxiety morphed into terror.

“Why?” he demanded tearfully in the middle of the night. “Why why why?”

I couldn’t answer. I had no answer.

“This isn’t only about you, you know,” he scolded. “It affects me too. Hell, maybe it affects me more than it affects you. I don’t want to sit around for a bunch of decades awaiting the worst day of my life.”

Touched, I reached out to squeeze his hand in the dark. Grudgingly, he squeezed back. I would have preferred to be like Tem, of course I would have! If only I could have known it was possible to know and still have been fine with ignorance. But now that the technology had been mastered, the knowledge was available to every citizen for a nominal fee.

Tem stood in the doorway as I buttoned the blue wool coat he’d given me for, I think, our four-year anniversary a couple years back.

“I don’t want to know where you’re going,” he said. He glared.
To honor T Stands for Tuesday I'm offering this quote from the story and a public domain illustration:

We sat drinking coffee in rocking chairs on the front porch of a bed-and-breakfast on a hill in the chill of early spring. Tem was generous to me; it was his least favorite day of the year, but he managed to pretend; we’d stroll. We’d eat ice cream. The silly little band-aids.

My life would seem normal — bland, really — to an outside observer, but I tell you that for me it has been rich, layered and rich.

Monday, March 02, 2020

The Dark Mirror

The Dark Mirror is a 1946 film noir psychological thriller film directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Olivia de Havilland as twins and Lew Ayres as their psychiatrist. It also stars Richard Long and Thomas Mitchell.

Senses of Cinema has an interesting article. Time Out calls it an "Impressively unusual thriller". Noir of the Week says, "I don't know much about de Havilland (this being her only walk into the back alley of noir) but she's more than excellent in this." DVD Talk says, "the fine cast and Siodmak's excellent pacing keep the story moving and hold the audience's attention."

Sunday, March 01, 2020

The Man Who Went Too Far

image from Flickr

The Man Who Went Too Far is a 1912 ghost story by E.F. Benson. You can read it online here or here. You can listen to it here. It begins,
The little village of St. Faith’s nestles in a hollow of wooded till up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire, huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and “little people,” who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight of another human being.

Shaggy wild ponies may stop their feeding for a moment as you pass, the white scuts of rabbits will vanish into their burrows, a brown viper perhaps will glide from your path into a clump of heather, and unseen birds will chuckle in the bushes, but it may easily happen that for a long day you will see nothing human. But you will not feel in the least lonely; in summer, at any rate, the sunlight will be gay with butterflies, and the air thick with all those woodland sounds which like instruments in an orchestra combine to play the great symphony of the yearly festival of June.

Winds whisper in the birches, and sigh among the firs; bees are busy with their redolent labour among the heather, a myriad birds chirp in the green temples of the forest trees, and the voice of the river prattling over stony places, bubbling into pools, chuckling and gulping round corners, gives you the sense that many presences and companions are near at hand.

Yet, oddly enough, though one would have thought that these benign and cheerful influences of wholesome air and spaciousness of forest were very healthful comrades for a man, in so far as Nature can really influence this wonderful human genus which has in these centuries learned to defy her most violent storms in its well-established houses, to bridle her torrents and make them light its streets, to tunnel her mountains and plough her seas, the inhabitants of St. Faith’s will not willingly venture into the forest after dark. For in spite of the silence and loneliness of the hooded night it seems that a man is not sure in what company he may suddenly find himself, and though it is difficult to get from these villagers any very clear story of occult appearances, the feeling is widespread. One story indeed I have heard with some definiteness, the tale of a monstrous goat that has been seen to skip with hellish glee about the woods and shady places, and this perhaps is connected with the story which I have here attempted to piece together. It too is well-known to them; for all remember the young artist who died here not long ago, a young man, or so he struck the beholder, of great personal beauty, with something about him that made men’s faces to smile and brighten when they looked on him. His ghost they will tell you “walks” constantly by the stream and through the woods which he loved so, and in especial it haunts a certain house, the last of the village, where he lived, and its garden in which he was done to death. For my part I am inclined to think that the terror of the forest dates chiefly from that day.

So, such as the story is, I have set it forth in connected form. It is based partly on the accounts of the villagers, but mainly on that of Darcy, a friend of mine and a friend of the man with whom these events were chiefly concerned.