Saturday, May 30, 2020

Agatha Christie's The Crooked House

Agatha Christie's Crooked House is a TV film adaptation of the book. I can't remember where I saw this (Netflix? Amazon Prime?), and I don't see it available anywhere now, but it's worth seeking out. It stars Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, and Gillian Anderson.


Friday, May 29, 2020

The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss is a 2006 novel by Kiran Desai. It won multiple awards, and I read it because it won the Booker Prize.

from the back of the book:
In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjuuga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge's cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desai's brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.
The Guardian calls it "bleak but compelling". NPR has a positive review. The Independent concludes, "Desai's bold, original voice, and her ability to deal in grand narratives with a deft comic touch that affectionately recalls some of the masters of Indian fiction, make hers a novel to be reread and remembered."

Publishers Weekly says, "In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a "better life..." Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "Less a compelling narrative than a rich stew of ironies and contradictions. Desai’s eye for the ridiculous is as keen as ever."

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Tarzan Triumphs

Image from Wikipedia

Tarzan Triumphs is a 1943 Johnny Weissmuller film in which Tarzan fights Nazis. You can watch it here, but honestly unless you're a completist I don't know why you would.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Sycamore and the Sybil

The Sycamore and the Sybil is a short story by Alix E. Harrow. I came across it on Twitter. You can read it online here. It begins,
Before I was a sycamore I was a woman, and before I was a woman I was a girl, and before I was a girl I was a wet seed wild in the hot-pulp belly of my mother. I remember it: a pulsing blackness, veins unfurling in the dark like roots spreading through the hidden places of the earth. You remember things different, once you’re a tree.

Of course that’s about all trees can do: stand there and remember. We can’t run or spit or sing; we can’t fuck or dance or get good and drunk on a full moon; we can’t hold our mother’s hands or stroke the cheek of a fevered child. We’re towers without any doors or windows; we are prisons and prisoners both, impregnable and alone.

But they can’t hurt us any-damn-more, at least not without working up a sweat, and that’s not nothing.

(If you’re wondering why a woman would trade her limbs and her beating heart for a little slice of safety, well—maybe you’re young. Maybe the world has changed. Maybe you’re dumb as a moss-eaten stump.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the Garden:

by Beryl Cook, who died on May 28, 2008, at the age of 81. She had no formal training. Isn't this piece delightful? Now I'm not suggesting we enjoy our T Stands for Tuesday gathering in the nude -although who would know, I ask you- but that we wear hats. Yes, hats.



Monday, May 25, 2020

Wicked Woman

Wicked Woman is a 1953 film noir. Percy Helton and Richard Egan are the actors most familiar to me. I kept getting interrupted by real life while I was watching this and still haven't finished it.

Noir of the Week calls it a "tawdry but sobering slice of femme fatale film noir".

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hands of a Gunfighter

Hands of a Gunfighter is a 1965 spaghetti western. There are two separate plots in this one, connected only by the main character. In one, the former gunfighter, who has settled down with a family, has his infant son killed in his arms by a sheriff who is attempting to execute a warrant for his arrest. The other plot centers around the former gunfighter's desire for revenge against four brothers who kill a friend of his. It's unusual to have two such disconnected plots. It was almost like watching two different movies at the same time.


full film:

Reviews are scarce.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Paper Menagerie

Image from the Flickr Stéphane Gérard account

The Paper Menagerie is a short story in the collection The Paper Menagerie and other stories by Ken Liu. Simon & Schuster says of the collection:
With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.
You can read this first story online here or here. It begins,
One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

“Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

“Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Study in Scarlet (1933)

In observance of Sherlock Holmes Day I watched A Study in Scarlet, a 1933 film starring Reginald Owen as Sherlock Holmes. Anna May Wong also stars, though she doesn't get much screen time. Owen was one of only five actors to play both Holmes and Watson. It is based on Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name. This book is Holmes' first appearance.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Interval

photo from Antique-Gown

The Interval is a 1917 horror/ghost story by Vincent O'Sullivan.You can read it online here. You can have it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
Mrs. Wilton passed through a little alley leading from one of the gates which are around Regent's Park, and came out on the wide and quiet street. She walked along slowly, peering anxiously from side to side so as not to overlook the number. She pulled her furs closer round her; after her years in India this London damp seemed very harsh. Still, it was not a fog to-day. A dense haze, gray and tinged ruddy, lay between the houses, sometimes blowing with a little wet kiss against the face. Mrs. Wilton's hair and eyelashes and her furs were powdered with tiny drops. But there was nothing in the weather to blur the sight; she could see the faces of people some distance off and read the signs on the shops.

Before the door of a dealer in antiques and second-hand furniture she paused and looked through the shabby uncleaned window at an unassorted heap of things, many of them of great value. She read the Polish name fastened on the pane in white letters.

"Yes; this is the place."

She opened the door, which met her entrance with an ill-tempered jangle. From somewhere in the black depths of the shop the dealer came forward. He had a clammy white face, with a sparse black beard, and wore a skull cap and spectacles. Mrs. Wilton spoke to him in a low voice.

A look of complicity, of cunning, perhaps of irony, passed through the dealer's cynical and sad eyes. But he bowed gravely and respectfully.

"Yes, she is here, madam. Whether she will see you or not I do not know. She is not always well; she has her moods. And then, we have to be so careful. The police—Not that they would touch a lady like you. But the poor alien has not much chance these days."

Mrs. Wilton followed him to the back of the shop, where there was a winding staircase. She knocked over a few things in her passage and stooped to pick them up, but the dealer kept muttering, "It does not matter—surely it does not matter." He lit a candle.

"You must go up these stairs. They are very dark; be careful. When you come to a door, open it and go straight in."

He stood at the foot of the stairs holding the light high above his head and she ascended.

The room was not very large, and it seemed very ordinary. There were some flimsy, uncomfortable chairs in gilt and red. Two large palms were in corners. Under a glass cover on the table was a view of Rome. The room had not a business-like look, thought Mrs. Wilton; there was no suggestion of the office or waiting-room where people came and went all day; yet you would not say that it was a private room which was lived in. There were no books or papers about; every chair was in the place it had been placed when the room was last swept; there was no fire and it was very cold.

To the right of the window was a door covered with a plush curtain. Mrs. Wilton sat down near the table and watched this door. She thought it must be through it that the soothsayer would come forth. She laid her hands listlessly one on top of the other on the table. This must be the tenth seer she had consulted since Hugh had been killed. She thought them over. No, this must be the eleventh. She had forgotten that frightening man in Paris who said he had been a priest. Yet of them all it was only he who had told her anything definite. But even he could do no more than tell the past. He told of her marriage; he even had the duration of it right—twenty-one months. He told too of their time in India—at least, he knew that her husband had been a soldier, and said he had been on service in the "colonies." On the whole, though, he had been as unsatisfactory as the others. None of them had given her the consolation she sought. She did not want to be told of the past. If Hugh was gone forever, then with him had gone all her love of living, her courage, all her better self. She wanted to be lifted out of the despair, the dazed aimless drifting from day to day, longing at night for the morning, and in the morning for the fall of night, which had been her life since his death. If somebody could assure her that it was not all over, that he was somewhere, not too far away, unchanged from what he had been here, with his crisp hair and rather slow smile and lean brown face, that he saw her sometimes, that he had not forgotten her. . . .

"Oh, Hugh, darling!"

When she looked up again the woman was sitting there before her. Mrs. Wilton had not heard her come in. With her experience, wide enough now, of seers and fortune-tellers of all kinds, she saw at once that this woman was different from the others. She was used to the quick appraising look, the attempts, sometimes clumsy, but often cleverly disguised, to collect some fragments of information whereupon to erect a plausible vision. But this woman looked as if she took it out of herself.

Not that her appearance suggested intercourse with the spiritual world more than the others had done; it suggested that, in fact, considerably less. Some of the others were frail, yearning, evaporated creatures, and the ex-priest in Paris had something terrible and condemned in his look. He might well sup with the devil, that man, and probably did in some way or other.

But this was a little fat, weary-faced woman about fifty, who only did not look like a cook because she looked more like a sempstress. Her black dress was all covered with white threads. Mrs. Wilton looked at her with some embarrassment. It seemed more reasonable to be asking a woman like this about altering a gown than about intercourse with the dead. That seemed even absurd in such a very commonplace presence. The woman seemed timid and oppressed: she breathed heavily and kept rubbing her dingy hands, which looked moist, one over the other; she was always wetting her lips, and coughed with a little dry cough. But in her these signs of nervous exhaustion suggested overwork in a close atmosphere, bending too close over the sewing-machine. Her uninteresting hair, like a rat's pelt, was eked out with a false addition of another color. Some threads had got into her hair too.

Her harried, uneasy look caused Mrs. Wilton to ask compassionately: "Are you much worried by the police?"

"Oh, the police! Why don't they leave us alone? You never know who comes to see you. Why don't they leave me alone? I'm a good woman. I only think. What I do is no harm to any one." . . .

She continued in an uneven querulous voice, always rubbing her hands together nervously. She seemed to the visitor to be talking at random, just gabbling, like children do sometimes before they fall asleep.

"I wanted to explain——" hesitated Mrs. Wilton.

But the woman, with her head pressed close against the back of the chair, was staring beyond her at the wall. Her face had lost whatever little expression it had; it was blank and stupid. When she spoke it was very slowly and her voice was guttural.

"Can't you see him? It seems strange to me that you can't see him. He is so near you. He is passing his arm round your shoulders."

This was a frequent gesture of Hugh's. And indeed at that moment she felt that somebody was very near her, bending over her. She was enveloped in tenderness. Only a very thin veil, she felt, prevented her from seeing. But the woman saw. She was describing Hugh minutely, even the little things like the burn on his right hand.

"Is he happy? Oh, ask him does he love me?"

The result was so far beyond anything she had hoped for that she was stunned. She could only stammer the first thing that came into her head. "Does he love me?"

"He loves you. He won't answer, but he loves you. He wants me to make you see him; he is disappointed, I think, because I can't. But I can't unless you do it yourself."

After a while she said:

"I think you will see him again. You think of nothing else. He is very close to us now."

Then she collapsed, and fell into a heavy sleep and lay there motionless, hardly breathing. Mrs. Wilton put some notes on the table and stole out on tip-toe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Death Kiss

The Death Kiss is a 1932 mystery film starring Bela Lugosi. There's a thorough spoiler-filled plot description in the Wikipedia article.

DVD Talk calls it "an okay whodunnit in a backstage Hollywood setting" of spcial interest to Lugosi fans.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

An Old Friend Failing

An Old Friend Failing (1880):

by Haynes King, who died on May 17 in 1904. After long months of ill-health he committed suicide ... at the Swiss Cottage station of the Metropolitan railway, London.

See those pretty cups on the table? That's my ticked to the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth at the Altered Book Lovers blog.




This is my patio after the rain on Sunday:

left, center, and right as I'm looking from the house.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Wolfhound (2006)

Wolfhound is a 2006 Russian fantasy film. Hugely successful in Russia, it was released dubbed in English here to positive reviews. I found it slow but pretty enough to watch. There were several sub-plots that I thought interfered with enjoyment of the film, contributing nothing at all to the plot. It's available on Amazon Prime.

You can watch it online here.


60% of the audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are positive.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Samantha 42

This screen shot is from an episode of the Foyle's War TV series, showing Sam Stewart coming out of her house.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Twice a Judas

Twice a Judas is a 1968 spaghetti western starring Klaus Kinski and Antonio Sabato. I watched it on Amazon Prime in Italian with English subtitles. [edited: I've found it on Youtube and embedded it below the trailer.]

trailer: has a review.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Your God Is Too Small

Your God Is Too Small is a non-fiction 1953 book by J.B. Phillips. You can read it online here. It begins,
No one is ever really at ease in facing what we call “life” and “death” without a religious faith. The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions, and their mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and by scientific discoveries, their ideas of God have remained largely static.

It is obviously impossible for an adult to worship the conception of God that exists in the mind of a child of Sunday-school age, unless he is prepared to deny his own experience of life. If, by a great effort of will, he does do this he will always be secretly afraid lest some new truth may expose the juvenility of his faith. And it will always be by such an effort that he either worships or serves a God who is really too small to command his adult loyalty and cooperation.

It often appears to those outside the Churches that this is precisely the attitude of Christian people. If they are not strenuously defending an outgrown conception of God, then they are cherishing a hothouse God who could only exist between the pages of the Bible or inside the four walls of a Church. Therefore to join in with the worship of a Church would be to become a party to a piece of mass-hypocrisy and to buy a sense of security at the price of the sense of truth, and many men of goodwill will not consent to such a transaction.

It cannot be denied that there is a little truth in this criticism. There are undoubtedly professing Christians with childish conceptions of God which could not stand up to the winds of real life for five minutes. But Christians are by no means always unintelligent, naive, or immature. Many of them hold a faith in God that has been both purged and developed by the strains and perplexities of modern times, as well as by a small but by no means negligible direct experience of God Himself. They have seen enough to know that God is immeasurably “bigger” than our forefathers imagined, and modern scientific discovery only confirms their belief that man has only just begun to comprehend the incredibly complex Being who is behind what we call “life.”

Many men and women today are living, often with inner dissatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. This is not because they are particularly wicked or selfish or, as the old-fashioned would say, “godless,” but because they have not found with their adult minds a God big enough to “account for” life, big enough to “fit in with” the new scientific age, big enough to command their highest admiration and respect, and consequently their willing co-operation.

It is the purpose of this book to attempt two things: first to expose the inadequate conceptions of God which still linger unconsciously in many minds, and which prevent our catching a glimpse of the true God; and secondly to suggest ways in which we can find the real God for ourselves. If it is true that there is Someone in charge of the whole mystery of life and death, we can hardly expect to escape a sense of futility and frustration until we begin to see what He is like and what His purposes are.

I would disagree with that first sentence, but the rest of this, dated somewhat though it is, is helpful especially as we seek reassurance that the King James Only cultists, the Dominionists, the Fundamentalists, and such like are not the true holders to the Christian Faith but just a tiny minority of it-seems-to-me adherents.

His scholarly paraphrase of the New Testament of the Christian Bible is available online here.


The reading challenge selection for June is non-fiction, so this is early. Not that anybody cares. This is an individual internet challenge, after all, so flexible is the word.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Macbeth (Shakespeare: The Animated Tales)

This animated adaptation of Macbeth is part of the award-winning Shakespeare: The Animated Tales television series from the early 1990s. They are heavily condensed to fit into the 30-minute time period, but "The episodes continue to be used in schools as teaching aids, especially when introducing children to Shakespeare for the first time." [Wikipedia]. They make wonderful introductions to Shakespeare for all ages. This episode is narrated by Alec McCowen and stars Brian Cox and Zoë Wanamaker.

If you're wondering why you should read/watch Shakespeare:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

After the Fox

After the Fox is a 1966 British–Italian heist comedy film directed by Vittorio De Sica and starring Peter Sellers, Victor Mature and Britt Ekland. The English-language screenplay is by Neil Simon and De Sica's longtime collaborator Cesare Zavattini. What fun! I'm grateful for all the in-home entertainment options available in these days. Pop some popcorn and join me?

I watched it on Amazon Prime. It's also available on the Roku channel.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Slow Tuesday Night

Slow Tuesday Night is a science fiction short story by R. A. Lafferty. You can read it online here or here. It begins,
A panhandler intercepted the young couple as they strolled down the night street.

“Preserve us this night,” he said as he touched his hat to them, “and could you good people advance me a thousand dollars to be about the recouping of my fortunes?”

“I gave you a thousand last Friday,” said the young man.

“Indeed you did,” the panhandler replied, “and I paid you back tenfold by messenger before midnight.”

“That’s right, George, he did,” said the young woman. “Give it to him, dear. I believe he’s a good sort.”

So the young man gave the panhandler a thousand dollars, and the panhandler touched his hat to them in thanks and went on to the recouping of his fortunes.

As he went into Money Market, the panhandler passed Ildefonsa Impala, the most beautiful woman in the city.

“Will you marry me this night, Ildy?” he asked cheerfully.

“Oh, I don’t believe so, Basil,” she said. “I marry you pretty often, but tonight I don’t seem to have any plans at all. You may make me a gift on your first or second, however. I always like that.”

But when they had parted she asked herself: “But whom will I marry tonight?”

The panhandler was Basil Bagelbaker, who would be the richest man in the world within an hour and a half. He would make and lose four fortunes within eight hours; and these not the little fortunes that ordinary men acquire, but titanic things.

When the Abebaios block had been removed from human minds, people began to make decisions faster, and often better. It had been the mental stutter. When it was understood what it was, and that it had no useful function, it was removed by simple childhood metasurgery.

Transportation and manufacturing had then become practically instantaneous. Things that had once taken months and years now took only minutes and hours. A person could have one or several pretty intricate careers within an eight-hour period.

Businesses are beginning to open back up around here, but except for once every two to three week grocery trips I'm still staying at home. I saw this the other day, and I thought of my T Tuesday companions:

Perhaps some art is what I want!

Most of these were in various stages of the process when I just shut down doing the ATCs late last year.


I did all that and then forgot to put in a drink reference... Here's one from years ago I'm guessing nobody remembers:

My poor mind has gone on vacation even if the rest of me can't join in.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sugar and Other Stories

Sugar and Other Stories is a short story collection by A.S. Byatt. I like this author and look for her books whenever I'm where books are. She always impresses me, and I'd recommend her.

from the back of the book:
It should come as no surprise that short stories by the author of the magical Possession are populated by erudite paranoiacs, witches, changelings, and the ghost of a dead child. But these otherworldly beings move through landscapes that are as respectable as a London square and as tangible as the well-furnished drawing room of an English country house. A. S. Byatt's short fictions, collected for the first time, explore the fragile ties between generations, the dizzying abyss of loss and the elaborate memories we construct against it, resulting in a book that compels us to inhabit other lives and returns us to our own with new knowledge, compassion, and a sense of wonder.
Racine and the Tablecloth is the first story and begins,
When was it clear that Martha Crichton-Walker was the antagonist? Emily found this word for her much later, when she was a grown woman. How can a child, undersized and fearful, have enough of a self to recognize an antagonist? She might imagine the malice of a cruel stepmother or a jealous sister, but not the clash of principle, the essential denial of an antagonist. She was too young to have thought-out beliefs. It was Miss Crichton-Walker’s task, after all, to form and guide the unformed personality of Emily Bray. Emily Bray’s ideas might have been thought to have been imparted by Martha Crichton-Walker, and this was in part the case, which made the recognition of antagonism peculiarly difficult, certainly for Emily, possibly for both of them.

The first time Emily saw Miss Crichton-Walker in action was the first evening of her time at the school.
Publishers Weekly opens a positive review with this: "In a uniquely expressive and sensuous response to life's enduring ambiguities, Byatt... unfolds the ll stories that make up this collection. The tales are long, for the most part, and intricately constructed..."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Blood Moon (2014)

Blood Moon is a 2014 low-budget western horror film in the werewolf/skin-walker/shape-shifter sub-genre. This is delightful. You can tell they took the story seriously and made an effort to put heart into it. I'd watch this one again.

trailer: concludes,
With a delightful cast, brilliant cinematography, some shocking moments of true violence, and sets and locations that belie the film’s relatively small budget, Blood Moon is truly a great film. It lives up to the promise of its premise, and doesn’t cheat with digital monster effects. Considering the number of horrible “found footage” films made with twice the budget, this movie is a victory for traditional filmmaking and shows what can be done a director truly cares about the story he is telling. This is a movie that fans of the weird west must certainly not miss.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

The Great Silence

The Great Silence is a short story by Ted Chiang. You can read it online here. It begins,
The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?


The reading challenge I'm involved in calls for science fiction for May.

Friday, May 08, 2020

13 Was a Judas

13 Was a Judas is a 1971 spaghetti western about Civil War gold. Quite talky to start with it gets to the action soon enough. If you like spaghetti westerns as I do, then this is one. If you're not already a fan, don't start here. says it's average for the genre and notes the interesting plot developments.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Damned Thing

The Damned Thing is an 1893 short story by Ambrose Bierce (pictured above), whose own end would make a good horror tale.

You can read this short story online here. You can have it read to you by David McCallum at the bottom of this post. It begins,


By the light of a tallow candle which had been placed on one end of a rough table a man was reading something written in a book. It was an old account book, greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently, very legible, for the man sometimes held the page close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light on it. The shadow of the book would then throw into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a number of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight other men were present. Seven of them sat against the rough log walls, silent, motionless, and the room being small, not very far from the table. By extending an arm any one of them could have touched the eighth man, who lay on the table, face upward, partly covered by a sheet, his arms at his sides. He was dead.

The man with the book was not reading aloud, and no one spoke; all seemed to be waiting for something to occur; the dead man only was without expectation. From the blank darkness outside came in, through the aperture that served for a window, all the ever unfamiliar noises of night in the wilderness—the long nameless note of a distant coyote; the stilly pulsing thrill of tireless insects in trees; strange cries of night birds, so different from those of the birds of day; the drone of great blundering beetles, and all that mysterious chorus of small sounds that seem always to have been but half heard when they have suddenly ceased, as if conscious of an indiscretion. But nothing of all this was noted in that company; its members were not overmuch addicted to idle interest in matters of no practical [Pg 161]importance; that was obvious in every line of their rugged faces—obvious even in the dim light of the single candle. They were evidently men of the vicinity—farmers and woodsmen.

The person reading was a trifle different; one would have said of him that he was of the world, worldly, albeit there was that in his attire which attested a certain fellowship with the organisms of his environment. His coat would hardly have passed muster in San Francisco; his foot-gear was not of urban origin, and the hat that lay by him on the floor (he was the only one uncovered) was such that if one had considered it as an article of mere personal adornment he would have missed its meaning. In countenance the man was rather prepossessing, with just a hint of sternness; though that he may have assumed or cultivated, as appropriate to one in authority. For he was a coroner. It was by virtue of his office that he had possession of the book in which he was reading; it had been found among the dead man's effects—in his cabin, where the inquest was now taking place.

When the coroner had finished reading he put the book into his breast pocket. At that moment the door was pushed open and a young man entered. He, clearly, was not of mountain birth and breeding: he was clad as those who dwell in cities. His clothing was dusty, however, as from travel. He had, in fact, been riding hard to attend the inquest.

The coroner nodded; no one else greeted him.

"We have waited for you," said the coroner. "It is necessary to have done with this business to-night."

The young man smiled. "I am sorry to have kept you," he said. "I went away, not to evade your summons, but to post to my newspaper an account of what I suppose I am called back to relate."

The coroner smiled.

"The account that you posted to your newspaper," he said, "differs, probably, from that which you will give here under oath."

"That," replied the other, rather hotly and with a visible flush, "is as you please. I used manifold paper and have [Pg 162]a copy of what I sent. It was not written as news, for it is incredible, but as fiction. It may go as a part of my testimony under oath."

"But you say it is incredible."

"That is nothing to you, sir, if I also swear that it is true."

The coroner was silent for a time, his eyes upon the floor. The men about the sides of the cabin talked in whispers, but seldom withdrew their gaze from the face of the corpse. Presently the coroner lifted his eyes and said: "We will resume the inquest."

The men removed their hats. The witness was sworn.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Namakura Gatana (The Dull Sword)

Namakura Gatana dates back to 1917 and is reportedly the oldest surviving anime film. It was discovered in an antique shop in 2007.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a collection of sketches of the author's life in Paris in the 1920s, a sort of memoir of the time and place. It can be read online. It begins,
Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. We would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside. It was a sad, evilly run café where the drunkards of the quarter crowded together and I kept away from it because of the smell of dirty bodies and the sour smell of drunkenness. The men and women who frequented the Amateurs stayed drunk all of the time, or all of the time they could afford it, mostly on wine which they bought by the half-liter or liter. Many strangely named apéritifs were advertised, but few people could afford them except as a foundation to build their wine drunks on. The women drunkards were called _poivrottes_ which meant female rummies.
There are plenty of drink references throughout the book, but alas no pictures. I'll share some coffee for T Stands for Tuesday, though:

If you'd like to join me, the patio is inviting:

I got a few photos of some of the birds that come. Blue Jay:


The cardinals can hold their own at the feeder, but so can the sparrows:

Carolina Wren:

The Mockingbird is the Tennessee state bird:

I wish I could get better photos, but these will just hafta do... The birds don't stay still long, and my cell phone and my inability to hold it steady enough limit what I can do.


from Martin Luther on How Not to Tempt God in a Plague:
Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. That is not trusting God but tempting him. . . .

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places where your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid persons and places where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.”
Give that some thought when you decide not to wear a mask.

Here's what a face mask can do:

It's not about keeping you safe but about the health of those you come into contact with. My store-bought masks have come, and I wore one of those at the grocery store yesterday. I'm glad I can retire the bandana. I felt like I was 8 years old playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians when I wore it. Fond memories, but I doubt it was doing much good.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Showdown at Boot Hill

Showdown at Boot Hill is a 1958 character-driven Western film starring Charles Bronson and John Carradine.

DVD Talk says it's Bronson's "first starring credit, in a low budget western that's nevertheless put together with some care and thought."

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Swimmer

The Swimmer is a 1964 short story by John Cheever. It was adapted for film in 1968 with Burt Lancaster starring. You can read the story online here. It begins,
It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium, heard it from the golf links and the tennis courts, heard it from the wildlife preserve where the leader of the Audubon group was suffering from a terrible hangover. "I drank too much," said Donald Westerhazy. "We all drank too much," said Lucinda Merrill. "It must have been the wine," said Helen Westerhazy. "I drank too much of that claret."

This was at the edge of the Westerhazys' pool. The pool, fed by an artesian well with a high iron content, was a pale shade of green. It was a fine day. In the west there was a massive stand of cumulus cloud so like a city seen from a distance—from the bow of an approaching ship—that it might have had a name. Lisbon. Hackensack. The sun was hot. Neddy Merrill sat by the green water, one hand in it, one around a glass of gin. He was a slender man—he seemed to have the especial slenderness of youth—and while he was far from young he had slid down his banister that morning and given the bronze backside of Aphrodite on the hall table a smack, as he jogged toward the smell of coffee in his dining room. He might have been compared to a summer's day
John Cheever will read it to you:

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Hoodlum

At 1 hour in length, The Hoodlum -a 1951 crime/noir- is barely long enough to be considered a feature-length film. If you want a taste of film noir without any cost either in time or finances then you can't beat an hour for free. It never ceases to surprise me when these old low-budget films remain shocking.

Noir of the Week says, "It’s hard to imagine a more bleak, depressing, or unrelenting film than The Hoodlum." TCM has an article.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Anarchy and Old Dogs

Anarchy and Old Dogs is the 4th book in the Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series by Colin Cotterill. I've started asking for books from this series as presents. I've enjoyed them all so far.

from the back of the book:
When a blind former dentist is run over by a truck, Dr. Siri Paiboun, the reluctant national coroner of Laos, suspects that this was no traffic accident. A coded message in invisible ink is recovered from the dentist's body, and Dr. Siri begins to follow clues that hint at deep -and dangerous- political intrigue. Dr. Siri only intended to investigate a murder; is he now being drawn into an insurrection? Will he, as a fortune teller predicts, betray his country?
Publishers Weekly calls it "delightful" and closes by saying this "always lively mystery is sure to bring the author many new readers." Euro Crime calls it "An entertaining read that is thoroughly recommended." The Historical Novel Society calls it "A lovely read—entertaining, thoughtful and full of style. Recommended." CurledUp has a positive review that concludes, "Colin Cotterill weaves a complex tale of political intrigue, friendship, dreams, and disappointments. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future."

I've also read these:
  1. The Coroner's Lunch
  2. Thirty-Three Teeth
  3. Disco for the Departed