Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Who's Making Love

Who's Making Love:

by Johnnie Taylor, who grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas (right across the river from Memphis, TN) and who died on this date in 2000. This song was recorded at Stax Records in Memphis.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Drinks in Art

Daily Art Magazine has an article on Drinks in Art which introduces its images with this:
What matters is always having a good drink within your reach. And there were a few painters who represented delicious (and dangerous) drinks in their artworks. So, prepare your tea, (or get a beer), sit back, and relax while I show you some of the most interesting drinks in art.

Click through and enjoy those lovely paintings. Such a variety! I'll be having tea:

Please share your own drink-related post and join us at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a 2023 American fantasy heist comedy film based on the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. I know nothing about the game, though back in the '70s I tried without success to find somebody to play with. The movie is a straight-up adventure film, needing no knowledge at all of the game. Great fun, this movie. Nicely done, with good action sequences and comic elements that aren't detracting from the quest. Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant star. I watched it on Paramount+.


The Guardian calls it a "riotously enjoyable fantasy adventure." NPR has a positive review. 93% of Rotten Tomatoes audience reviewers loved it.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Boogie Disease

The Boogie Disease:

recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis by Doctor Ross, who died on this date in 1993

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Bon Cop, Bad Cop

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is an award-winning 2006 Canadian dark comedy-thriller buddy cop film about two police officers –one Ontarian and one Québécois– who reluctantly join forces to solve a murder. I watched it on Netflix at The Younger Son's recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it.


82% of audience members at Rotten Tomatoes loved it.

There's a sequel -Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2- that is also worth seeing. We watched both on the same night.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a 2022 Marvel superhero film. I confess I only watched it because I'm watching all of them. The Black Panther world is my least favorite of them all. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes. Critics loved it. I watched it on Disney+.


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Christopher Robin (2018)

Christopher Robin is a 2018 live-action Disney film starring Ewan McGregor as the title character now all grown up with a wife and daughter. We've always been Winnie the Pooh fans, and we even play Pooh Sticks every chance we get, and we thought this was delightful! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. They did a great job of taking the Winnie the Pooh characters and back story seriously while also giving grown-up Christopher Robin a solid reality we can get behind. I watched it on Disney+.


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Fear Street

Fear Street is a Netflix film trilogy. It's based on the R.L. Stine book. I was pleasantly surprised. You can watch part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here. I made a marathon of it and watched them back to back.


Reviews were positive. All 3 films get great scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Green Tea: An Overview

Just One Cookbook has thorough and interesting information on green tea. They begin with this:
Green tea is synonymous with Japanese tea. It is the most consumed beverage in Japan, valued for its health and restorative properties. Drinking green tea (緑茶) is a custom that has been interwoven into Japanese culture, with almost every meal in Japan accompanied by a freshly brewed pot of green tea. It is a way of life and an embodiment of Japanese hospitality.

Before taking your next sip, let’s discuss the history of green tea, types of green tea, and the best way of drinking green tea for optimal health benefits.

Included are sections on history, types, health benefits and more. Most of this information was new to me, but I confess I don't drink green tea at all. I've had it in the past and enjoyed it, but I never included it as part of my life.

Please share your own drink-related post and join us at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Sherlock Holmes Day

Have a Happy Sherlock Holmes Day! Perhaps you might want to read about him at this Wikipedia article. From that article:
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, deduction, forensic science and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.

First appearing in print in 1887's A Study in Scarlet, the character's popularity became widespread with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with "A Scandal in Bohemia" in 1891...

You could read one of the short stories online. An early one -A Scandal in Bohemia- can be read here. It begins,
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

Or perhaps you might want to watch one of the many adaptations. Wikipedia says, "It has been estimated that Sherlock Holmes is the most prolific screen character in the history of cinema." My personal favorite of the adaptations is the Jeremy Brett Holmes. You can watch The Speckled Band here via YouTube:

Enjoy the day!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

La Cabina

La Cabina (The Telephone Box) is an award-winning 1972 horror short film. In the 35-minute film, a man becomes trapped in a telephone booth, while passersby seem unable to help him.

In December 2021 a replica of the red phone booth was inaugurated as a tribute to the film and its director Antonio Mercero close by the filming location in Madrid.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Storm

The Storm is a short story by Kate Chopin, written in 1898 but not published 'til 1969. You can read it online here or listen to it read to you at the bottom of this post. It begins,

The leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain. Bobint, who was accustomed to converse on terms of perfect equality with his little son, called the child's attention to certain sombre clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar. They were at Friedheimer's store and decided to remain there till the storm had passed. They sat within the door on two empty kegs. Bibi was four years old and looked very wise.

"Mama'll be 'fraid, yes, he suggested with blinking eyes.

"She'll shut the house. Maybe she got Sylvie helpin' her this evenin'," Bobint responded reassuringly.

"No; she ent got Sylvie. Sylvie was helpin' her yistiday,' piped Bibi.

Bobint arose and going across to the counter purchased a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond. Then he retumed to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst. It shook the wooden store and seemed to be ripping great furrows in the distant field. Bibi laid his little hand on his father's knee and was not afraid.


Calixta, at home, felt no uneasiness for their safety. She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm. But she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads. She unfastened her white sacque at the throat. It began to grow dark, and suddenly realizing the situation she got up hurriedly and went about closing windows and doors.

Out on the small front gallery she had hung Bobint's Sunday clothes to dry and she hastened out to gather them before the rain fell. As she stepped outside, Alce Laballire rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. She stood there with Bobint's coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall. Alce rode his horse under the shelter of a side projection where the chickens had huddled and there were plows and a harrow piled up in the corner.

"May I come and wait on your gallery till the storm is over, Calixta?" he asked.

Come 'long in, M'sieur Alce."

His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance, and she seized Bobint's vest. Alce, mounting to the porch, grabbed the trousers and snatched Bibi's braided jacket that was about to be carried away by a sudden gust of wind. He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him. It was even necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out.

"My! what a rain! It's good two years sence it rain' like that," exclaimed Calixta as she rolled up a piece of bagging and Alce helped her to thrust it beneath the crack.

She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity. Her blue eyes still retained their melting quality; and her yellow hair, dishevelled by the wind and rain, kinked more stubbornly than ever about her ears and temples.

The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there. They were in the dining room the sitting room the general utility room. Adjoining was her bed room, with Bibi's couch along side her own. The door stood open, and the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious.

Alce flung himself into a rocker and Calixta nervously began to gather up from the floor the lengths of a cotton sheet which she had been sewing.

lf this keeps up, Dieu sait if the levees goin' to stan it!" she exclaimed.

"What have you got to do with the levees?"

"I got enough to do! An' there's Bobint with Bibi out in that storm if he only didn' left Friedheimer's!"

"Let us hope, Calixta, that Bobint's got sense enough to come in out of a cyclone."

She went and stood at the window with a greatly disturbed look on her face. She wiped the frame that was clouded with moisture. It was stiflingly hot. Alce got up and joined her at the window, looking over her shoulder. The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant. A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon.

Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alce's arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Dark Waters (1944)

Dark Waters is a 1944 American Gothic film noir starring Merle Oberon. I'm watching it because it has Elisha Cook, Jr. in it, and today is the anniversary of his death in 1995 at the age of 91. Before he died following a stroke he was the last surviving cast member of The Maltese Falcon, which might be his most well-known role. He's one of my favorites. I watched this movie on YouTube, embedded below. You can also watch it on Internet Archive.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Killer of Sheep

Killer of Sheep is a 1977 drama film depicting the culture of urban African-Americans in Los Angeles' Watts district.

via Internet Archive:

It's on The National Society of Film Critics list of 100 Essential Films. Roger Ebert placed it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus score of 98%.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A Brief History of Coffee and Tea

A Brief History of Coffee and Tea is an overview from the Mental Floss web site. It's adapted from this 18-minute video:

which is described on YouTube: "The history of tea and coffee touches on science, politics, culture, and more. Did you know that coffee doesn't come from beans? Or that the history of tea is directly related to the Opium Wars? Learn all about coffee and tea's fascinating history."

Please share your own drink-related post at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Personal Shopper (2016)

Personal Shopper is a 2016 award-winning supernatural psychological thriller film starring Kristen Stewart as a young American woman in Paris who works as a personal shopper for a celebrity and tries to communicate with her deceased twin brother. I had trouble maintaining attention to it, I think because I expected more "thriller" and less haunting atmosphere. I should re-watch it. It got great reviews. I watched it on Tubi.


Roger Ebert's site gives it a glowing 4-star review that concludes,
if you want to see a movie that offers thoughtful meditations on materialism and mortality, includes a couple of sequences so quietly hypnotic and stylish that Hitchcock himself would have bowed down in sheer admiration, and is centered around what is sure to be one of the best performances to grace movie screens this year, “Personal Shopper” is an incredible work that will continue to haunt you, long after it is over.

The Guardian says, "Stewart is outstanding as a haunted fashion-biz assistant in Olivier Assayas’s enigmatic ghost story and quarterlife character study." Criterion calls it a "melancholy ghost story" and "A stirring depiction of grief in the form of a psychological thriller".

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a 1986 teen comedy film I watched because it was on a list of top 10 1980s movies and it was one of the two I'd not seen. These "teen" movies and "coming of age" films just don't appeal to me, but -hey!- I'm willing to give anything a chance. It was more fun than The Breakfast Club and was definitely cute, but one of the best 10 from the '80s? What can I say? Maybe I'm just an old fuddy duddy. Everybody _else_ seemes to like it. I watched it on Paramount+.


Spirituality and Practice closes a positive review with this:
Ferris Bueller was the Huck Finn of the 1980s. To be a teenager is to be vulnerable, raw, and anxious as well as confused about family, school, friends, and what tomorrow will bring. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a fantasy that allows us to experience the mastery, the glory, the fun, and the power of being in control of our destiny for at least one carefree day of total freedom.
Empire Online has a glowing 5 out of 5 star review and concludes,
No other teen comedy either in the 80s or beyond would serve up such an innocent, generous, upbeat cheerfulness that would become unthinkable during the cynical 90s or in the slew of OOs teen movie homages. Life, as Ferris famously remarks, moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around you might miss it. Ferris Bueller is one of the things you should definitely make some time for.
Roger Ebert opens a positive review with this: "Here is one of the most innocent movies in a long time, a sweet, warm-hearted comedy about a teenager who skips school so he can help his best friend win some self-respect." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience consensus score of 92%.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Rosemary & Thyme

That "42" address appears in the middle of the 5th episode of the 1st season of the cozy mystery series Rosemary and Thyme.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Deep Dark (2015)

Deep Dark is a 2015 horror film about a failed artist who finds a way to create award-winning sculptures. I watched it on Tubi.


Moria has a spoiler-filled review. Horror Cult Films calls it "a surreal, gripping tale of what one man will do for success and how partnerships aren’t without consequence. Dark, twisted and utterly captivating..." Bloody Disgusting says, "Boasting some excellent acting, a melding of fantastical ideas that work, and great skill behind the camera, Medaglia has crafted a strange fantasy horror film that capably uses an age-old morality tale as its base."

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Window Water Baby Moving

Window Water Baby Moving is a 1959 Stan Brakhage experimental short film. The film documents the birth of the director's first child and is one of his best-known works.

via YouTube (but it's age-restricted and you'll have to click through to view the movie):

Image Journal concludes,
Window Water Baby Moving exists, like all the best works of cinema, as a record of love. It reminds me that such tender, romantic, passionate, and quiet love, even if it changes, even if it goes away, has existed. And in that reminding—the reminding that is, for me, the heart of cinema—it manages to exist in a kind of continual, mysterious, and eternal present.
TCM has information.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Happy Birthday, Donovan!

Universal Soldier:

as sung by Donovan, who is observing a birthday today.

Sunshine Superman:

Hurdy Gurdy Man:

and, of course, Mellow Yellow, which may be my favorite:

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Still Life with Teapot and Fruits

Still Life with Teapot and Fruits:

by Paul Gauguin, who died on May 8, 1903, at the age of 54.

Here's a 35-minute overview of the man and his work:

Please share your own drink-related post and join us at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Shanghai Noon

Shanghai Noon is a 2000 martial arts western action comedy film starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu. According to Wikipedia,
The film, set in Nevada and other parts of the American West in the 19th century, is a juxtaposition of a Western with a kung fu action film with extended martial arts sequences, as reflected by its title, which is a wordplay on the iconic western High Noon. It also has elements of comedy and the "Buddy cop film" genre, featuring two vastly different heroes (a Chinese Imperial Guard and an American Western outlaw) who team up to stop a crime. It is reminiscent of the iconic drama film of the genre from which it is largely inspired: Red Sun, with Charles Bronson (Wanted Cowboy) and Toshiro Mifune (Imperial Samuraï), but in the comedy register.

This is laugh-out-loud funny. You can watch it free if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.


Roger Ebert's site concludes a glowing review with this:
Chan, who does his own stunts, creates moments of physical comedy so pure, it's no wonder he has been compared with Buster Keaton. If you see only one martial arts Western this year (and there is probably an excellent chance of that), this is the one.

Empire Online says, "A no-frills, unpretentious mixture of cowboy clichés, martial arts licks, buddy-buddy movies and low comedy, Shanghai Noon is the kind of fun flick that will never generate tons of hype or expectation, but is all the more refreshing for it" and says it "really works".

The sequel Shanghai Knights is also woth watching if you like this first one.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Conan the Barbarian is a 1982 sword and sorcery movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Robert E. Howard's Conan hero. James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow are also in this film. I re-watch this every once in a while. I enjoy the sword and sorcery film subgenre. I got introduced to it through those old Steve Reeves *sigh* Hercules movies I saw on late-night TV. Great fun! Right now this Conan movie is playing on Netflix.


There's a sequel film starring Schwarzenegger -Conan the Destroyer- that is also a lot of fun. A third film was planned but never made.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

With the Night Mail

With the Night Mail is a 1905 science fiction story by Rudyard Kipling. You can read it online here or listen to it at the bottom of this post. It begins,
At nine o'clock of a gusty winter night I stood on the lower stages of one of the G. P. O. outward mail towers. My purpose was a run to Quebec in "Postal Packet 162 or such other as may be appointed"; and the Postmaster-General himself countersigned the order. This talisman opened all doors, even those in the despatching-caisson at the foot of the tower, where they were delivering the sorted Continental mail. The bags lay packed close as herrings in the long gray under-bodies which our G. P. O. still calls "coaches." Five such coaches were filled as I watched, and were shot up the guides to be locked on to their waiting packets three hundred feet nearer the stars.

From the despatching-caisson I was conducted by a courteous and wonderfully learned official—Mr. L. L. Geary, Second Despatcher of the Western Route—to the Captains' Room (this wakes an echo of old romance), where the mail captains come on for their turn of duty. He introduces me to the Captain of "162"—Captain Purnall, and his relief, Captain Hodgson. The one is small and dark; the other large and red; but each has the brooding sheathed glance characteristic of eagles and aëronauts. You can see it in the pictures of our racing professionals, from L. V. Rautsch to little Ada Warrleigh—that fathomless abstraction of eyes habitually turned through naked space.

On the notice-board in the Captains' Room, the pulsing arrows of some twenty indicators register, degree by geographical degree, the progress of as many homeward-bound packets. The word "Cape" rises across the face of a dial; a gong strikes: the South African mid-weekly mail is in at the Highgate Receiving Towers. That is all. It reminds one comically of the traitorous little bell which in pigeon-fanciers' lofts notifies the return of a homer.

"Time for us to be on the move," says Captain Purnall, and we are shot up by the passenger-lift to the top of the despatch-towers. "Our coach will lock on when it is filled and the clerks are aboard."...

"No. 162" waits for us in Slip E of the topmost stage. The great curve of her back shines frostily under the lights, and some minute alteration of trim makes her rock a little in her holding-down slips.

Captain Purnall frowns and dives inside. Hissing softly, "162" comes to rest as level as a rule. From her North Atlantic Winter nose-cap (worn bright as diamond with boring through uncounted leagues of hail, snow, and ice) to the inset of her three built-out propeller-shafts is some two hundred and forty feet. Her extreme diameter, carried well forward, is thirty-seven. Contrast this with the nine hundred by ninety-five of any crack liner and you will realize the power that must drive a hull through all weathers at more than the emergency-speed of the "Cyclonic"!

The eye detects no joint in her skin plating save the sweeping hair-crack of the bow-rudder—Magniac's rudder that assured us the dominion of the unstable air and left its inventor penniless and half-blind. It is calculated to Castelli's "gull-wing" curve. Raise a few feet of that all but invisible plate three-eighths of an inch and she will yaw five miles to port or starboard ere she is under control again. Give her full helm and she returns on her track like a whip-lash. Cant the whole forward—a touch on the wheel will suffice—and she sweeps at your good direction up or down. Open the complete circle and she presents to the air a mushroom-head that will bring her up all standing within a half mile.

"Yes," says Captain Hodgson, answering my thought, "Castelli thought he'd discovered the secret of controlling aëroplanes when he'd only found out how to steer dirigible balloons. Magniac invented his rudder to help war-boats ram each other; and war went out of fashion and Magniac he went out of his mind because he said he couldn't serve his country any more. I wonder if any of us ever know what we're really doing."

"If you want to see the coach locked you'd better go aboard. It's due now," says Mr. Geary. I enter through the door amidships. There is nothing here for display. The inner skin of the gas-tanks comes down to within a foot or two of my head and turns over just short of the turn of the bilges. Liners and yachts disguise their tanks with decoration, but the G. P. O. serves them raw under a lick of gray official paint. The inner skin shuts off fifty feet of the bow and as much of the stern, but the bow-bulkhead is recessed for the lift-shunting apparatus as the stern is pierced for the shaft-tunnels. The engine-room lies almost amidships. Forward of it, extending to the turn of the bow tanks, is an aperture—a bottomless hatch at present—into which our coach will be locked. One looks down over the coamings three hundred feet to the despatching-caisson whence voices boom upward. The light below is obscured to a sound of thunder, as our coach rises on its guides. It enlarges rapidly from a postage-stamp to a playing-card; to a punt and last a pontoon. The two clerks, its crew, do not even look up as it comes into place. The Quebec letters fly under their fingers and leap into the docketed racks, while both captains and Mr. Geary satisfy themselves that the coach is locked home. A clerk passes the waybill over the hatch-coaming. Captain Purnall thumb-marks and passes it to Mr. Geary. Receipt has been given and taken. "Pleasant run," says Mr. Geary, and disappears through the door which a foot-high pneumatic compressor locks after him.

"A-ah!" sighs the compressor released. Our holding-down clips part with a tang. We are clear.

Captain Hodgson opens the great colloid underbody-porthole through which I watch million-lighted London slide eastward as the gale gets hold of us. The first of the low winter clouds cuts off the well-known view and darkens Middlesex. On the south edge of it I can see a postal packet's light ploughing through the white fleece. For an instant she gleams like a star ere she drops toward the Highgate Receiving Towers. "The Bombay Mail," says Captain Hodgson, and looks at his watch. "She's forty minutes late."

"What's our level?" I ask.

"Four thousand. Aren't you coming up on the bridge?"

The bridge (let us ever bless the G. P. O. as a repository of ancientest tradition!) is represented by a view of Captain Hodgson's legs where he stands on the control platform that runs thwartships overhead. The bow colloid is unshuttered and Captain Purnall, one hand on the wheel, is feeling for a fair slant. The dial shows 4,300 feet.

"It's steep to-night," he mutters, as tier on tier of cloud drops under. "We generally pick up an easterly draught below three thousand at this time o' the year. I hate slathering through fluff."

"So does Van Cutsem. Look at him huntin' for a slant!" says Captain Hodgson. A fog-light breaks cloud a hundred fathoms below. The Antwerp Night Mail makes her signal and rises between two racing clouds far to port, her flanks blood-red in the glare of Sheerness Double Light. The gale will have us over the North Sea in half an hour, but Captain Purnall lets her go composedly—nosing to every point of the compass as she rises.

"Five thousand—six, six thousand eight hundred"—the dip-dial reads ere we find the easterly drift, heralded by a flurry of snow at the thousand-fathom level. Captain Purnall rings up the engines and keys down the governor on the switch before him. There is no sense in urging machinery when Æolus himself gives you good knots for nothing. We are away in earnest now—our nose notched home on our chosen star. At this level the lower clouds are laid out all neatly combed by the dry fingers of the East. Below that again is the strong westerly blow through which we rose. Overhead, a film of southerly drifting mist draws a theatrical gauze across the firmament. The moonlight turns the lower strata to silver without a stain except where our shadow underruns us. Bristol and Cardiff Double Lights (those statelily inclined beams over Severnmouth) are dead ahead of us; for we keep the Southern Winter Route. Coventry Central, the pivot of the English system, stabs upward once in ten seconds its spear of diamond light to the north; and a point or two off our starboard bow The Leek, the great cloud-breaker of Saint David's Head, swings its unmistakable green beam twenty-five degrees each way. There must be half a mile of fluff over it in this weather, but it does not affect The Leek.

"Our planet's overlighted if anything," says Captain Purnall at the wheel, as Cardiff-Bristol slides under. "I remember the old days of common white verticals that 'ud show two or three thousand feet up in a mist, if you knew where to look for 'em. In really fluffy weather they might as well have been under your hat. One could get lost coming home then, an' have some fun. Now, it's like driving down Piccadilly."

He points to the pillars of light where the cloud-breakers bore through the cloud-floor. We see nothing of England's outlines: only a white pavement pierced in all directions by these manholes of variously coloured fire—Holy Island's white and red—St. Bee's interrupted white, and so on as far as the eye can reach. Blessed be Sargent, Ahrens, and the Dubois brothers, who invented the cloud-breakers of the world whereby we travel in security!

"Are you going to lift for The Shamrock?" asks Captain Hodgson. Cork Light (green, fixed) enlarges as we rush to it. Captain Purnall nods. There is heavy traffic hereabouts—the cloud-bank beneath us is streaked with running fissures of flame where the Atlantic boats are hurrying Londonward just clear of the fluff. Mail-packets are supposed, under the Conference rules, to have the five-thousand-foot lanes to themselves, but the foreigner in a hurry is apt to take liberties with English air. "No. 162" lifts to a long-drawn wail of the breeze in the fore-flange of the rudder and we make Valencia (white, green, white) at a safe 7,000 feet, dipping our beam to an incoming Washington packet.

There is no cloud on the Atlantic, and faint streaks of cream round Dingle Bay show where the driven seas hammer the coast. A big S. A. T. A. liner (Société Anonyme des Transports Aëriens) is diving and lifting half a mile below us in search of some break in the solid west wind. Lower still lies a disabled Dane: she is telling the liner all about it in International. Our General Communication dial has caught her talk and begins to eavesdrop. Captain Hodgson makes a motion to shut it off but checks himself. "Perhaps you'd like to listen," he says.

"'Argol' of St. Thomas," the Dane whimpers. "Report owners three starboard shaft collar-bearings fused. Can make Flores as we are, but impossible further. Shall we buy spares at Fayal?"

The liner acknowledges and recommends inverting the bearings. The "Argol" answers that she has already done so without effect, and begins to relieve her mind about cheap German enamels for collar-bearings. The Frenchman assents cordially, cries "Courage, mon ami," and switches off.

Their lights sink under the curve of the ocean.

"That's one of Lundt & Bleamers's boats," says Captain Hodgson. "Serves 'em right for putting German compos in their thrust-blocks. She won't be in Fayal to-night! By the way, wouldn't you like to look round the engine-room?"

I have been waiting eagerly for this invitation and I follow Captain Hodgson from the control-platform, stooping low to avoid the bulge of the tanks. We know that Fleury's gas can lift anything, as the world-famous trials of '89 showed, but its almost indefinite powers of expansion necessitate vast tank room. Even in this thin air the lift-shunts are busy taking out one-third of its normal lift, and still "162" must be checked by an occasional downdraw of the rudder or our flight would become a climb to the stars. Captain Purnall prefers an overlifted to an underlifted ship; but no two captains trim ship alike. "When I take the bridge," says Captain Hodgson, "you'll see me shunt forty per cent. of the lift out of the gas and run her on the upper rudder. With a swoop upwards instead of a swoop downwards, as you say. Either way will do. It's only habit. Watch our dip-dial! Tim fetches her down once every thirty knots as regularly as breathing."

So is it shown on the dip-dial. For five or six minutes the arrow creeps from 6,700 to 7,300. There is the faint "szgee" of the rudder, and back slides the arrow to 6,500 on a falling slant of ten or fifteen knots.

"In heavy weather you jockey her with the screws as well," says Captain Hodgson, and, unclipping the jointed bar which divides the engine-room from the bare deck, he leads me on to the floor.

Here we find Fleury's Paradox of the Bulkheaded Vacuum—which we accept now without thought—literally in full blast. The three engines are H. T. &. T. assisted-vacuo Fleury turbines running from 3,000 to the Limit—that is to say, up to the point when the blades make the air "bell"—cut out a vacuum for themselves precisely as over-driven marine propellers used to do. "162's" Limit is low on account of the small size of her nine screws, which, though handier than the old colloid Thelussons, "bell" sooner. The midships engine, generally used as a reinforce, is not running; so the port and starboard turbine vacuum-chambers draw direct into the return-mains.

The turbines whistle reflectively. From the low-arched expansion-tanks on either side the valves descend pillarwise to the turbine-chests, and thence the obedient gas whirls through the spirals of blades with a force that would whip the teeth out of a power-saw. Behind, is its own pressure held in leash or spurred on by the lift-shunts; before it, the vacuum where Fleury's Ray dances in violet-green bands and whirled turbillions of flame. The jointed U-tubes of the vacuum-chamber are pressure-tempered colloid (no glass would endure the strain for an instant) and a junior engineer with tinted spectacles watches the Ray intently. It is the very heart of the machine—a mystery to this day. Even Fleury who begat it and, unlike Magniac, died a multi-millionaire, could not explain how the restless little imp shuddering in the U-tube can, in the fractional fraction of a second, strike the furious blast of gas into a chill grayish-green liquid that drains (you can hear it trickle) from the far end of the vacuum through the eduction-pipes and the mains back to the bilges. Here it returns to its gaseous, one had almost written sagacious, state and climbs to work afresh. Bilge-tank, upper tank, dorsal-tank, expansion-chamber, vacuum, main-return (as a liquid), and bilge-tank once more is the ordained cycle. Fleury's Ray sees to that; and the engineer with the tinted spectacles sees to Fleury's Ray. If a speck of oil, if even the natural grease of the human finger touch the hooded terminals Fleury's Ray will wink and disappear and must be laboriously built up again. This means half a day's work for all hands and an expense of one hundred and seventy-odd pounds to the G. P. O. for radium-salts and such trifles.

"Now look at our thrust-collars. You won't find much German compo there. Full-jewelled, you see," says Captain Hodgson as the engineer shunts open the top of a cap. Our shaft-bearings are C. M. C. (Commercial Minerals Company) stones, ground with as much care as the lens of a telescope. They cost £37 apiece. So far we have not arrived at their term of life. These bearings came from "No. 97," which took them over from the old "Dominion of Light," which had them out of the wreck of the "Perseus" aëroplane in the years when men still flew linen kites over thorium engines!

They are a shining reproof to all low-grade German "ruby" enamels, so-called "boort" facings, and the dangerous and unsatisfactory alumina compounds which please dividend-hunting owners and turn skippers crazy.

The rudder-gear and the gas lift-shunt, seated side by side under the engine-room dials, are the only machines in visible motion. The former sighs from time to time as the oil plunger rises and falls half an inch. The latter, cased and guarded like the U-tube aft, exhibits another Fleury Ray, but inverted and more green than violet. Its function is to shunt the lift out of the gas, and this it will do without watching. That is all! A tiny pump-rod wheezing and whining to itself beside a sputtering green lamp. A hundred and fifty feet aft down the flat-topped tunnel of the tanks a violet light, restless and irresolute. Between the two, three white-painted turbine-trunks, like eel-baskets laid on their side, accentuate the empty perspectives. You can hear the trickle of the liquefied gas flowing from the vacuum into the bilge-tanks and the soft gluck-glock of gas-locks closing as Captain Purnall brings "162" down by the head. The hum of the turbines and the boom of the air on our skin is no more than a cotton-wool wrapping to the universal stillness. And we are running an eighteen-second mile.

I peer from the fore end of the engine-room over the hatch-coamings into the coach. The mail-clerks are sorting the Winnipeg, Calgary, and Medicine Hat bags: but there is a pack of cards ready on the table.

Suddenly a bell thrills; the engineers run to the turbine-valves and stand by; but the spectacled slave of the Ray in the U-tube never lifts his head. He must watch where he is. We are hard-braked and going astern; there is language from the control-platform.

"Tim's sparking badly about something," says the unruffled Captain Hodgson. "Let's look."



Friday, May 05, 2023

Black Angel (1946)

Black Angel is a 1946 film noir directed as his final feature by Roy William Neill and starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre, with Broderick Crawford. The director died of a heart attack at the age of 59 later that same year. I saw this movie recommended on a list of little-known films noir one should make time for, so I made time. Peter Lorre is always an attraction.

via YouTube:

Slant Magazine says it "plumbs a world rife with deviousness, desperation, greed, and betrayal..." TCM has information. DVD Talk says, "If not a classic, it's still a good picture that provided Dan Duryea with a chance at stardom, for the first time playing the pivotal role..."

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Seconds (1966)

Seconds directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson. What happens when you don't know what you want, and then you get it? I had never heard of it until I came across it on a list of 100 Best Science Fiction films, which describes it as "one of the most radical, disturbing and downright terrifying thrillers ever released by a major Hollywood studio". I agree it's disturbing in its way, though not as much now as it must've been at the time. It's considered a cult film. I watched it at Internet Archive:

Deep Focus Review concludes, "Seconds holds a deeply human message and marvelous cautionary tale, ever hopeful to viewers who heed its warning." Criterion opens with this: "Rock Hudson is a revelation in this sinister, science-fiction-inflected dispatch from the fractured 1960s." Slate says, "Oh my God, Seconds" and "Seconds is one of those movies that has somehow held on to permanent cult status."

Moria says, "Seconds is an astonishingly bleak film. The deliberation of John Frankenheimer’s storytelling and the dispassionate arm’s length he places himself at leads to something cold and chilling." 366 Weird Movies says, "Dramatic and disturbing, Seconds is a dark, brooding predecessor to middle-class America mid-life crisis films..."

Roger Ebert says it "will linger a lot longer than the title suggests in the mind of anyone who chooses to watch it. In fact, it might be one of the most haunting American films to come out of the 1960s, or any decade for that matter." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience consensus score of 87%.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 coming-of-age comedy drama. I watched it because it was on a list of top 10 films of the 1980s and I'd seen all but two. This was one I hadn't seen, and it was available on Amazon Prime. Now I've seen it. I have to say I think maybe I'm too old to be watching it for the first time. My opinion isn't shared by most; it gets great reviews and appears on multiple "best" lists.


Roger Ebert says, "The performances are wonderful, but then this is an all-star cast". Empire Online calls it "iconic" and calls it "the definitive '80s teen movie". Spirituality and Practice says it "Offers a breakthrough portrait of the pain and miunderstanding which result from demeaning social hierarchies set up by teenagers." Rotten Tomatoes has a 92% audience consensus score.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Ballet Mécanique

Ballet Mécanique is a 1924 short film described by Wikipedia as a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy with cinematographic input from Man Ray. It is considered one of the masterpieces of early experimental filmmaking. This one's 20 minutes long, and I'll admit to investing 20 minutes in anything described in such glowing terms. You can watch it here or via YouTube.

via YouTube:



I'm drinking a cuppa:

while I watch. Please share your own drink-related post at the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Monday, May 01, 2023

As You Like It (2006)

As You Like It is a 2006 film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. This is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who moves the action to Japan. There's even a sumo wrestler, which I quite enjoyed. Kevin Kline won a SAG Award for his performance. Overall, though, I'm not a fan of this adaptation. I watched it on HBO Max.

Professional reviewers were generally unkind.