Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Case of the Velvet Claws

image from Wikipedia

I recently watched the new HBO Perry Mason series, and that sent me to the original Raymond Burr series (found at IMDb TV). Then I realized I'd never read the original books and found the first one online, or you can listen to it at the bottom of this post. The Case of the Velvet Claws is by Erle Stanley Gardner. It begins,
Chapter 1

Autumn sun beat against the window.

Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

Book cases, filled with leather-backed books, lined the walls of the room. A big safe was in one corner. There were two chairs, in addition to the swivel chair which Perry Mason occupied. The office held an atmosphere of plain, rugged efficiency, as though it had absorbed something of the personality of the man who occupied it.

The door to the outer office opened, and Della Street, his secretary, eased her way into the room and closed the door behind her.

“A woman,” she said, “who claims to be a Mrs. Eva Griffin.” Perry Mason looked at the girl with level eyes.

“And you don’t think she is?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“She looks phony to me,” she said. “I’ve looked up the Griffins in the telephone book. And there isn’t any Griffin who has an address like the one she gave. I looked in the City Directory, and got the same result. There are a lot of Griffins, but I don’t find any Eva Griffin. And I don’t find any at her address.”

“What was the address?” asked Mason.

“2271 Grove Street,” she said.

Perry Mason made a notation on a slip of paper.

“I’ll see her,” he said.

“Okay,” said Della Street. “I just wanted you to know that she looks phony to me.”

Della Street was slim of figure, steady of eye; a young woman of approximately twenty-seven, who gave the impression of watching life with keenly appreciative eyes and seeing far below the surface.

She remained standing in the doorway eyeing Perry Mason with quiet insistence. “I wish,” she said, “that you’d find out who she really is before we do anything for her.”

“A hunch?” asked Perry Mason.

“You might call it that,” she said, smiling.

Perry Mason nodded. His face had not changed expression. Only his eyes had become warily watchful.

“All right, send her in, and I’ll take a look at her myself.”

Della Street closed the door as she went out, keeping a hand on the knob, however. Within a few seconds, the knob turned the door opened, and a woman walked into the room with an air of easy assurance.

She was in her early thirties, or perhaps, her late twenties—well groomed, and giving an appearance of being exceedingly well cared for. She flashed a swiftly appraising glance about the office before she looked at the man seated behind the desk.

“Come in and sit down,” said Perry Mason.

She looked at him then, and there was a faint expression of annoyance upon her face. ...

Friday, July 30, 2021


Viridiana is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican film directed by Luis Bunuel. It won the Palme d'Or. I watched it on Youtube, but it's not there any more. In fact I can't find it available free-to-me in English anywhere.

This trailer has had playback blocked on other platforms, but you can click "watch on Youtube" and watch the trailer there:

It's included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. The Guardian has a positive review. Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 96%.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Passion in the Desert

A Passion in the Desert is a short story by Honore de Balzac. It is told in the first person, with the narrator being the teller of the story. You can read it online in English translation at the links here or here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. The audio book uses a different translation. It begins,
"The whole show is dreadful," she cried, coming out of the menagerie of M. Martin. She had just been looking at that daring speculator "working with his hyena"--to speak in the style of the program.

"By what means," she continued, "can he have tamed these animals to such a point as to be certain of their affection for----."

"What seems to you a problem," said I, interrupting, "is really quite natural."

"Oh!" she cried, letting an incredulous smile wander over her lips.

"You think that beasts are wholly without passions?" I asked her. "Quite the reverse; we can communicate to them all the vices arising in our own state of civilization."

She looked at me with an air of astonishment.

"Nevertheless," I continued, "the first time I saw M. Martin, I admit, like you, I did give vent to an exclamation of surprise. I found myself next to an old soldier with the right leg amputated, who had come in with me. His face had struck me. He had one of those intrepid heads, stamped with the seal of warfare, and on which the battles of Napoleon are written. Besides, he had that frank good-humored expression which always impresses me favorably. He was without doubt one of those troopers who are surprised at nothing, who find matter for laughter in the contortions of a dying comrade, who bury or plunder him quite lightheartedly, who stand intrepidly in the way of bullets; in fact, one of those men who waste no time in deliberation, and would not hesitate to make friends with the devil himself. After looking very attentively at the proprietor of the menagerie getting out of his box, my companion pursed up his lips with an air of mockery and contempt, with that peculiar and expressive twist which superior people assume to show they are not taken in. Then when I was expatiating on the courage of M. Martin, he smiled, shook his head knowingly, and said, `Well known.'

"How `well known'? I said. `If you would only explain to me the mystery I should be vastly obliged.'

"After a few minutes, during which we made acquaintance, we went to dine at the first restaurateur's whose shop caught our eye. At dessert a bottle of champagne completely refreshed and brightened up the memories of this odd old soldier. He told me his story, and I said he had every reason to exclaim, `Well known.'"

When she got home, she teased me to that extent and made so many promises that I consented to communicate to her the old soldier's confidences. Next day she received the following episode of an epic which one might call "The Frenchman in Egypt."


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Godzilla vs. Gigan

Godzilla vs. Gigan, the 12th film in this Godzilla franchise, is a 1972 Japanese monster movie. I watched it on HBO MAX.

via Internet Archive:

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is a 1939 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. It is about an actor in 1888 Japan who is praised only because he's the son of a great actor. You can watch it online here.


It is included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Please join me in a cuppa:

at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Gangs of Chicago

Gangs of Chicago is a 1940 crime film. Dwight Frye -one of my favorites- is in this, and Alan Ladd has an uncredited role. It's just over an hour long, and it has Dwight Frye in it. What more do you need?

I watched it on Youtube, but I can't find it anywhere now. I couldn't even find a trailer. Here's one scene:

TCM has an overview.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Horseman in the Sky

A Horseman in the Sky is a Civil War short story by Ambrose Bierce. You can read it online here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
One sunny afternoon in the autumn of the year 1861, a soldier lay in a clump of laurel by the side of a road in Western Virginia. He lay at full length, upon his stomach, his feet resting upon the toes, his head upon the left forearm. His extended right hand loosely grasped his rifle. But for the somewhat methodical disposition of his limbs and a slight rhythmic movement of the cartridge-box at the back of his belt, he might have been thought to be dead. He was asleep at his post of duty. But if detected he would be dead shortly afterward, that being the just and legal penalty of his crime.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Force of Evil

Force of Evil is a 1948 crime film starring John Garfield. Paul Fix is in this, and Beau Bridges has an uncredited role in his first on-screen appearance.

It's included in the book 1001 Movies You must See Before You Die. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 100%.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A Midsummer Knight's Dream

A Midsummer Knight's Dream is a short story by O. Henry. You can read it online here at this link, or listen to it read to you at the bottom of the post. It begins,
"The knights are dead; Their swords are rust.
Except a few who have to hust-
Le all the time
To raise the dust."

Dear Reader: It was summertime. The sun glared down upon the city with pitiless ferocity. It is difficult for the sun to be ferocious and exhibit compunction simultaneously. The heat was--oh, bother thermometers!--who cares for standard measures, anyhow? It was so hot that--


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Deep End (1970)

Deep End is a 1970 British–West German drama film.

Slant Magazine has a positive review. Roger Ebert says it deserved a better ending. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 85%. It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Furry Sings the Blues

Furry Sings the Blues:

by Joni Mitchell. Furry Lewis, a Memphis musician, was not best pleased by how he was portrayed in this song.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a 2008 "rockumentary" about a Canadian heavy metal band. I watched it here.


Roger Ebert has a positive review focusing on hope. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 98%. It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Monday, July 19, 2021

One of These Days

One of These Days is a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian journalist and writer. I've read a few of his works and have always enjoyed the experience. This story is quite short. You can read it online here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
Monday dawned warm and rainless. Aurelio Escovar, a dentist without a degree, and a very early riser, opened his office at six. He took some false teeth, still mounted in their plaster mold, out of the glass case and put on the table a fistful of instruments which he arranged in size order, as if they were on display. He wore a collarless striped shirt, closed at the neck with a golden stud, and pants held up by suspenders He was erect and skinny, with a look that rarely corresponded to the situation, the way deaf people have of looking.

When he had things arranged on the table, he pulled the drill toward the dental chair and sat down to polish the false teeth. He seemed not to be thinking about what he was doing, but worked steadily, pumping the drill with his feet, even when he didn't need it.

After eight he stopped for a while to look at the sky through the window, and he saw two pensive buzzards who were drying themselves in the sun on the ridgepole of the house next door. He went on working with the idea that before lunch it would rain again. The shrill voice of his eleven year-old son interrupted his concentration.



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Zombies of Mora Tau

Zombies of Mora Tau is a 1957 horror movie about a team of deep sea divers who try to salvage a fortune in diamonds from the wreckage of a ship that sunk 60 years earlier off the coast of Africa but discover the diamonds are protected by the ship's zombie crew.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit:

sung by Billie Holiday, who died on this date in 1959 -the same year this video is from- of cirrhosis at the age of 44. from Wikipedia: "The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, under the order of the openly racist Harry J. Anslinger, had been targeting Holiday since at least 1939, when she started to perform "Strange Fruit". She was arrested and handcuffed for drug possession. As she lay dying, her hospital room was raided, and she was placed under police guard."

Friday, July 16, 2021

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Lady with the Dog

The Lady with the Dog is a short story by Anton Chekhov, who died on this date in 1904 of tuberculosis at the age of 44. This particular story is considered one of his best. You can read it online here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins:
IT was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney's pavilion, he saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium height, wearing a béret; a white Pomeranian dog was running behind her.

And afterwards he met her in the public gardens and in the square several times a day. She was walking alone, always wearing the same béret, and always with the same white dog; no one knew who she was, and every one called her simply "the lady with the dog."

"If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn't be amiss to make her acquaintance," Gurov reflected.

He was under forty, but he had a daughter already twelve years old, and two sons at school. He had been married young, when he was a student in his second year, and by now his wife seemed half as old again as he. She was a tall, erect woman with dark eyebrows, staid and dignified, and, as she said of herself, intellectual. She read a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called her husband, not Dmitri, but Dimitri, and he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home. He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago—had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them "the lower race."

It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days together without "the lower race." In the society of men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was in the company of women he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was silent. In his appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them.

Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him long ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people—always slow to move and irresolute—every intimacy, which at first so agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure, inevitably grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy, and in the long run the situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh meeting with an interesting woman this experience seemed to slip out of his memory, and he was eager for life, and everything seemed simple and amusing.

One evening he was dining in the gardens, and the lady in the béret came up slowly to take the next table. Her expression, her gait, her dress, and the way she did her hair told him that she was a lady, that she was married, that she was in Yalta for the first time and alone, and that she was dull there.... The stories told of the immorality in such places as Yalta are to a great extent untrue; he despised them, and knew that such stories were for the most part made up by persons who would themselves have been glad to sin if they had been able; but when the lady sat down at the next table three paces from him, he remembered these tales of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains, and the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown woman, whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of him.

He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian, and when the dog came up to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian growled: Gurov shook his finger at it again.

The lady looked at him and at once dropped her eyes.

"He doesn't bite," she said, and blushed.

"May I give him a bone?" he asked; and when she nodded he asked courteously, "Have you been long in Yalta?"

"Five days."

"And I have already dragged out a fortnight here."

There was a brief silence.

"Time goes fast, and yet it is so dull here!" she said, not looking at him.

"That's only the fashion to say it is dull here. A provincial will live in Belyov or Zhidra and not be dull, and when he comes here it's 'Oh, the dulness! Oh, the dust!' One would think he came from Grenada."

She laughed. Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers, but after dinner they walked side by side; and there sprang up between them the light jesting conversation of people who are free and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where they go or what they talk about. They walked and talked of the strange light on the sea: the water was of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden streak from the moon upon it. They talked of how sultry it was after a hot day. Gurov told her that he came from Moscow, that he had taken his degree in Arts, but had a post in a bank; that he had trained as an opera-singer, but had given it up, that he owned two houses in Moscow.... And from her he learnt that she had grown up in Petersburg, but had lived in S—— since her marriage two years before, that she was staying another month in Yalta, and that her husband, who needed a holiday too, might perhaps come and fetch her. She was not sure whether her husband had a post in a Crown Department or under the Provincial Council—and was amused by her own ignorance. And Gurov learnt, too, that she was called Anna Sergeyevna.

Afterwards he thought about her in his room at the hotel—thought she would certainly meet him next day; it would be sure to happen. As he got into bed he thought how lately she had been a girl at school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he recalled the diffidence, the angularity, that was still manifest in her laugh and her manner of talking with a stranger. This must have been the first time in her life she had been alone in surroundings in which she was followed, looked at, and spoken to merely from a secret motive which she could hardly fail to guess. He recalled her slender, delicate neck, her lovely grey eyes.

"There's something pathetic about her, anyway," he thought, and fell asleep.



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Fish Tank

Fish Tank is a 2010 award-winning British film. You can watch it free on Tubi or Youtube (embedded below) or on Amazon Prime with a subscription. I had the DVD.

It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. The Guardian has a positive review. Roger Ebert has a 4-star review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 91%.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Have a Cuppa

Please share something drink-related and join us at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Le Million

Le Million is a 1931 French musical comedy directed by Rene Clair. You can watch it with English subtitles here.


It's listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. It has a 100% critics consensus score at Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights is a 1939 film adaptation of the 1847 Emily Bronte novel. It is directed by William Wylie and stars Laurence Olivier, who died on this date in 1989. According to Wikipedia, "After being ill for the last 22 years of his life, Olivier died of kidney failure ... aged 82 at his home near Steyning, West Sussex. His cremation was held three days later; his ashes were buried in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey during a memorial service in October that year." The film also stars Merle Oberon, David Niven, and Geraldine Fitzgerald. The movie won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Film and earned nominations for eight Academy Awards. It lost the Best Director Award to Gone With the Wind, and the Best Actor Award went to Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It was a Very Good Year in film.

There's an entire Wikipedia article on Olivier's awards and award nominations.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing is a 1993 adaptation of the Shakespeare play directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, and Kate Beckinsale also star. I have the DVD, long languishing in my stack of to-be-watched films, and I'm glad I finally got around to it. 

You can read a plot description of the play itself here at the Wikipedia entry, but it's not at all necessary for understanding and enjoyment.


It's well-reviewed, though Keanu Reeves earned a nomination for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor. He is the weak link here, but I like him at the worst of times.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Tom Paine Maru

image from Amazon

Tom Paine Maru is a science fiction novel by L. Neil Smith. His Libertarian philosophy is strongly supported in his books, yet not in a way that makes them the focus. This book is quite enjoyable even for someone like me whose opinion of Libertarianism... well, let's just say I prefer a world that's not set up like that.

from the back of the book:

For the promise of a commission, Corporal Whitey O'Thraight had become Ship's Armorer on the first interstellar flight launched by the planet Vespucci.

But the Asperance's maiden voyage was also its last. And just a few hours after the crash landing, the crew was overrun by armored savages. Only Whitey and a badly wounded lieutenant survived, nd they were prisoners of the local Baron.

But before the Baron's Chief Torturer could finish them off, Whitey and the lieutenant were freed by a group of oddly combative monks. Soon the two survivors had to choose between loyalty to their homeworld and to their new friends -and siding with their rescuers would mean the destruction of Vespucci as they knew it.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1930 of Arthur Conan Doyle. He is best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who has had quite the modern resurgence. You can read Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories online. There are numerous film and TV adaptations as well as series involving characters inspired by the author's creations.

He wrote other stories, but they are not nearly so well known. In fact, truth be told, they're hardly known at all. In his memory on this the anniversary of his death I'd like to suggest the 1884 short story J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement. It is told as a first-person testimony by a survivor of the Marie Celeste, a fictionalised version of the Mary Celeste. The story popularized the real-life story of that ship, which was found mysteriously abandoned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872.

You can read the story online here or here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,
In the month of December in the year 1873 the British ship ‘Dei Gratia’ steered into Gibraltar, having in tow the derelict brigantine, ‘Marie Celeste,’ which had been picked up in latitude 38° 40', longitude 17° 15' West. There were several circumstances in connection with the condition and appearance of this abandoned vessel which excited considerable comment at the time, and aroused a curiosity which has never been satisfied. What these circumstances were was summed up in an able article which appeared in the ‘Gibraltar Gazette.’ The curious can find it in the issue for January 4, 1874, unless my memory deceives me. For the benefit of those, however, who may be unable to refer to the paper in question, I shall subjoin a few extracts which touch upon the leading features of the case.

‘We have ourselves,’ says the anonymous writer in the ‘Gazette,’ ‘been over the derelict “Marie Celeste,” and have closely questioned the officers of the “Dei Gratia” on every point which might throw light on the affair. They are of opinion that she had been abandoned several days, or perhaps weeks, before being picked up. The official log, which was found in the cabin, states that the vessel sailed from Boston to Lisbon, starting upon October 16. It is, however, most imperfectly kept, and affords little information. There is no reference to rough weather, and, indeed, the state of the vessel’s paint and rigging excludes the idea that she was abandoned for any such reason. She is perfectly water-tight. No signs of a struggle or of violence are to be detected, and there is absolutely nothing to account for the disappearance of the crew. There are several indications that a lady was present on board, a sewing-machine being found in the cabin and some articles of female attire. These probably belonged to the captain’s wife, who is mentioned in the log as having accompanied her husband. As an instance of the mildness of the weather, it may be remarked that a bobbin of silk was found standing upon the sewing-machine, though the least roll of the vessel would have precipitated it to the floor. The boats were intact, and slung upon the davits, and the cargo, consisting of tallow and American clocks, was untouched.1 An old-fashioned sword of curious workmanship was discovered among some lumber in the forecastle, and this weapon is said to exhibit a longitudinal striation on the steel, as if it had been recently wiped. It has been placed in the hands of the police, and submitted to Dr. Monaghan, the analyst, for inspection. The result of his examination has not yet been published. We may remark, in conclusion, that Captain Dalton, of the “Dei Gratia,” an able and intelligent seaman, is of opinion that the “Marie Celeste” may have been abandoned a considerable distance from the spot at which she was picked up, since a powerful current runs up in that latitude from the African coast. He confesses his inability, however, to advance any hypothesis which can reconcile all the facts of the case. In the utter absence of a clue or grain of evidence, it is to be feared that the fate of the crew of the “Marie Celeste” will be added to those numerous mysteries of the deep which will never be solved until the great day when the sea shall give up its dead. If crime has been committed, as is much to be suspected, there is little hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice.’


Tuesday, July 06, 2021

My Man Godfrey

My Man Godfrey is a 1936 screwball comedy starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. I watched it on TubiTV. You can also see it on Amazon Prime.

on Youtube:

Here's a screen shot for T Stands for Tuesday:

"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

It's included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a 97% critics consensus score.

Monday, July 05, 2021

The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun is an 1860 fantasy/romance Gothic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I found Hawthorne incredibly boring in school and decided to give him another chance. You can read it online here or listen to it being read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,

Volume I



Four individuals, in whose fortunes we should be glad to interest the reader, happened to be standing in one of the saloons of the sculpture-gallery in the Capitol at Rome. It was that room (the first, after ascending the staircase) in the centre of which reclines the noble and most pathetic figure of the Dying Gladiator, just sinking into his death-swoon. Around the walls stand the Antinous, the Amazon, the Lycian Apollo, the Juno; all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life, although the marble that embodies them is yellow with time, and perhaps corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here, likewise, is seen a symbol (as apt at this moment as it was two thousand years ago) of the Human Soul, with its choice of Innocence or Evil close at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom, but assaulted by a snake.

From one of the windows of this saloon, we may see a flight of broad stone steps, descending alongside the antique and massive foundation of the Capitol, towards the battered triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, right below. Farther on, the eye skirts along the edge of the desolate Forum (where Roman washerwomen hang out their linen to the sun), passing over a shapeless confusion of modern edifices, piled rudely up with ancient brick and stone, and over the domes of Christian churches, built on the old pavements of heathen temples, and supported by the very pillars that once upheld them. At a distance beyond—yet but a little way, considering how much history is heaped into the intervening space—rises the great sweep of the Coliseum, with the blue sky brightening through its upper tier of arches. Far off, the view is shut in by the Alban Mountains, looking just the same, amid all this decay and change, as when Romulus gazed thitherward over his half finished wall.

We glance hastily at these things,—at this bright sky, and those blue distant mountains, and at the ruins, Etruscan, Roman, Christian, venerable with a threefold antiquity, and at the company of world-famous statues in the saloon,—in the hope of putting the reader into that state of feeling which is experienced oftenest at Rome. It is a vague sense of ponderous remembrances; a perception of such weight and density in a bygone life, of which this spot was the centre, that the present moment is pressed down or crowded out, and our individual affairs and interests are but half as real here as elsewhere. Viewed through this medium, our narrative—into which are woven some airy and unsubstantial threads, intermixed with others, twisted out of the commonest stuff of human existence—may seem not widely different from the texture of all our lives.

Side by side with the massiveness of the Roman Past, all matters that we handle or dream of nowadays look evanescent and visionary alike.

It might be that the four persons whom we are seeking to introduce were conscious of this dreamy character of the present, as compared with the square blocks of granite wherewith the Romans built their lives. Perhaps it even contributed to the fanciful merriment which was just now their mood. When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it seems hardly worth while to be sad, but rather to laugh as gayly as we may, and ask little reason wherefore.

Of these four friends of ours, three were artists, or connected with art; and, at this moment, they had been simultaneously struck by a resemblance between one of the antique statues, a well-known masterpiece of Grecian sculpture, and a young Italian, the fourth member of their party.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Return of Ringo

The Return of Ringo is a 1965 spaghetti western. I watched it here at this link on tubitv. It's also on Amazon Prime. This is a retelling of the Odysseus story.


Spaghetti-Western opens a positive review with this: "The only 'official' sequel to Tessari's very popular A Pistol For Ringo, also starring Giuliano Gemma, this film is a loose re-telling of the ancient Greek story of The Odyssey."

My post on the first Ringo film is here.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Going Down To The River

Going Down To The River:

by Mississippi Fred McDowell, who died in Memphis on this date in 1972 of cancer at the age of 66.

Friday, July 02, 2021

The Secret Adversary (1983)

The Secret Adversary is the 1983 adaptation of an Agatha Christie's detective novel. It is the first episode in the Partners in Crime television series. I watched it on Britbox through Amazon Prime. It's great fun.

part 1:

part 2:

Published in 1922, the novel can be read online here, or you can have it read to you here.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Copote is a 1966 true crime novelized account of the Clutter family murders. It's the 2nd-best-selling true crime book in history (after Helter Skelter). It has been adapted for film, but I've never seen them. This book has been in my to-be-read stack for literally decades, and I finally decided to read it. It was a page-turner, I'll say that for it, even knowing how it ends. Or maybe especially knowing how it ends.

from the back of the book:
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, tial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moments, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.