Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Another List of Must-See SFF Films

The Mary Sue has a list of "13 INDEPENDENT SCI-FI/FANTASY MOVIES YOU NEED TO WATCH":
ATTACK THE BLOCK
THE FALL
PRIMER
SUNSHINE
IRON SKY
MOON
BYZANTIUM
ANOTHER EARTH AND SOUND OF MY VOICE
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
LA JETÉE
THE SECRET OF KELLS
CUBE
I've seen 7 of the 13. I liked The Fall, Primer, Iron Sky, Moon, La Jette and Cube, but Sunshine had me beating my head against the wall before it was done. I'll keep the others in mind as I'm browsing the racks at Spin Street.

HT: SF Signal

The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder is a 1965 John Wayne Western also starring Dean Martin. Also in this are Martha Hyer, Earl Holliman, Paul Fix, George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, and Rhys Williams. This is a wonderful Western, with great characters and setting and fine acting.

trailer:



DVD Talk calls it "a pretty good film". TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

image from Amazon.com

from page 7 in volume one of the Otherland tetralogy, by Tad Williams:
He was dead, of course, and he knew it. How could he be anything else?
This post is inspired by the Should Be Reading blog, but I break too many rules to post there. For one thing, this isn't my current read. I did dearly love this series when I read it back in 2004, and I really should re-read them.



Chocolate Hazelnut Tea?


I think I could love chocolate hazelnut coffee, but tea? No, thank you. This is not at all to my taste.

The cup is new this year, bought at our local bookseller. I like those cheerful flowers and will keep this with my Summertime mugs.

(inspired by Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T is for Tuesday weekly event)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Message from The Old Reader

I've been singing the praises of The Old Reader ever since I discovered it, but I just opened it up to find this message waiting for me:
We have disabled user registration at The Old Reader, and we might be making the website private. If we do, unfortunately your account will not be transferred to the private site, so you might want to export your subscriptions as OPML and start looking for an alternative solution. More details are in available in our blog: http://blog.theoldreader.com
from their blog:
We started working on this project for ourselves and our friends, and we use The Old Reader on a daily basis, so we will launch a separate private site that will keep running.
...
We will whitelist everybody we know personally, along with all active accounts that were registered before March 13, 2013 — those are the people who had consciously signed up for The Old Reader rather than were simply looking for “a Google Reader replacement”. And of course, we will migrate all our awesome supporters and people who donated to keep the project running
...
Our team will stay together, and will keep working on making the private version of The Old Reader awesome.
and it's signed, "All the love,"

Now that's a cryin' shame. I can't tell you how disappointed I am. It never once occurred to me that something like this would happen. I feel like they actively recruited us and then kicked us out.

Well, back to the drawing board. Only, this time I just get 2 weeks to switch. Bummer.

I'm currently checking out InoReader, which gets some love in the comments from people who are now having to migrate from The Old Reader.

Despicable Me

Despicable Me is a 2010 animated comedy. What a delight! All of us like this so much I regret it wasn't around when the kids were young. I can hardly wait for the sequel.

trailer:



Moria loves it and says,
The appeal of Despicable Me lies not in the question of whether the character and his arc are original (as other critics knocked it for), the effect lies in the strength with which it is played and the downright hilarity and sweetness of everything that comes in between.
Slant Magazine calls it "a perfect, though unambitious, diversion". Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars and closes by saying it "puts a smile on your face that will last all the way home." Roger Ebert calls it " funny, energetic, teeth-gnashingly venomous". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 81%.

I'm Going to Memphis

I'm Going to Memphis:



by Johnny Cash.

Lyrics:
Bring a drink of water, Leroy,
Bring a drink of water,. No.
If I could get to the mercy man
He'd give me some I know.

I got a gal in Vicksburg.
Bertha is her name.
Lord, I wish I was tied to Bertha
Instead of this ball and chain.

I'm goin' to Memphis
I'm goin' to Memphis

But like a bitter weed I'm a bad seed
But when that levee's through and I am too
Let the honky tonk roll on
Come mornin' I'll be gone.

I'm goin' to Memphis

Well I've never been to Chicago,
But it must be a mighty fine place.
I couldn't get past Tennessee
With Mississippi all over my face.

I'm goin' to Memphis
I'm goin' to Memphis

Just like a bitter weed I'm a bad seed
But when that levee's through and I am too
Let the honky tonk roll on
Come mornin' I'll be gone

I'm goin' to Memphis

Well I brought me a little water
In a Mr. Prince Albert can,
But the boss man caught me drinkin' it
And I believe he broke my hand

Another boy is down.
The shovel burned him out.
Let me stand on his body
To see what the shoutin's about.

I'm goin' to Memphis
I'm goin' to Memphis

Like a bitter weed I'm a bad seed
But when that levee's through and I am too
Let the honky tonk roll on
Come mornin' I'll be gone

I'm goin' to Memphis
Yeah, Memphis bound
I'm goin' to Memphis

Sunday, July 28, 2013

SFF Book Suggestions for Folks Who Don't Read SFF

John E. O. Stevens has a list of "Five Books For “Non-Genre” Readers":
1) Megan Lindholm: Wizard of the Pigeons
2) Ben Aaronovitch: Midnight Riot (aka Rivers of London)
3) Lois McMaster Bujold: Paladin of Souls
4) Kim Stanley Robinson, The Wild Shore
5) N. K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Bummer. I haven't read any of these. That makes me question the list, to be honest, although the Bujold has been on my to-buy list for ages.

HT: SF Signal

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dysfunctional Families in Books

The Huffington Post has a list of the most dysfunctional families in literature:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz’
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, by Ann Tyler
The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy
Faithful Place, by Tana French
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
Oedipus the King, by Sophocles
August: Osage County, by Tracy Lett
Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
Ones I've read are in bold print -6 out of 10.

I just have one thing to say: Out of all of children's literature you pick Amelia Bedelia??? Surely we can do better than that!

Let's see.... How about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where the boy's 4 grandparents live together in the same bed. Or Peter Pan, where poor Father ends up literally living in the doghouse? Or Harry Potter, where Harry lives in a cupboard under the stairs while the "real" son gets 2 bedrooms? Or Grimm's fairy tales, where stepmothers regularly try to kill their stepchildren?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese Toho film best known as the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven. Actually The Magnificent Seven is a remarkably faithful remake, just translated into the Western genre. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai features Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune, both favorites of ours. I've seen this several times and never tire of it. It is universally acknowledged as a film classic.

view online:



The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die includes this film. Salon.com speaks highly of the audio commentary by Japanese film scholar Michael Jeck which is on the Criterion edition. Bright Lights Film Journal says it "is as riveting today as it was when it was released, an annihilating melodrama that works equally well on the epic and the intimate scale." Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and says, "In his staging of sword duels and mass battles, Kurosawa changed the way action scenes were shot." DVD Talk opens with this:
When I find out that someone hasn't seen Seven Samurai, I almost feel sorry for them. How could they have missed out on one of the biggest crowd pleasers of cinema? That fades rather fast, however, when I realize that means I will get the pleasure of introducing them to the film, that I will be making way for something that can't fail to be a positive stop on their movie-going journey.
Slant Magazine says,
The great irony regarding Akira Kurosawa's seminal masterpiece Seven Samurai is how much it reveals about this widening rift between classic and modern action films. Seven Samurai's plethora of once-groundbreaking action aesthetics have now become seamlessly and organically ingrained into mainstream genre filmmaking, yet its strikingly pure themes of sacrifice, friendship, and camaraderie seem downright radical by today's action-film standards.
Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%. There is some background historical information here. CNN.com has an article on "How 'Seven Samurai' was saved".

Thursday, July 25, 2013

SFF Books That Inspired Change

Business Insider has a list of 7 science fiction books that changed the world, saying
The great geek works of fiction inspire engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to dream their biggest dreams — or at least to muster the courage to light the way toward the future. These great books deserve to be celebrated. If you haven't read all of them, you should.
Here's their list:
1. Neuromancer
2. The Shockwave Rider
3. Stranger In A Strange Land
4. The Fountains of Paradise
5. Hyperion
6. I, Robot
7. Cryptonomicon (Begun 3 times, I never finished it. I recently gave it away.)
I've read the ones in bold print and loved each one. I've added Shockwave Rider to my Amazon list. That list is reaching astronomical proportions!

I've forgotten how I came across this link. I don't usually read Business Insider.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hondo

Hondo is a 1953 John Wayne Western. I could've sworn I had seen this one, but it didn't take me long to realize I hadn't. This is one in the must-see category of Westerns. It has an interesting view of the local native tribe; great characters that can be identified with; good acting/directing; on-location action sequences as well as smaller, more intimate scenes... Very enjoyable.

trailer:



Images Journal has it on their list of 30 Great Westerns and they close their article with this:
Hondo is the most domestic of Wayne’s Westerns and director John Farrow brings out gently nuanced performances from the two leads.
Slant Magazine concludes, "Put your feet up, open a beer, and enjoy Al Bundy's all-time favorite movie." DVD Talk calls it "a terrific movie, and perhaps the perfect non- John Ford Wayne western". Time Out notes it was "John Wayne's favourite John Wayne movie." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 86%.

Hanging Art


I tend to hang wall art low, at eye level for me (and I'm short). I've never hung anything as low as Apartment Therapy's post suggests. Now that's low! I prefer not to have my art sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, and I don't want it placed so low that I have to look down at a painting while I'm seated.

Decorate It Online wants things centered on the wall, which places everything much too high to suit me. HouseAndHome.com thinks pieces should be centered 5' off the floor, which makes some pieces too high for me if they are hung where they are primarily seen from a chair. EHow says,
Determine the gallery level. ... a rule of thumb is to go by the eye level as determined by the height of the property owner or gallery owner. When you hang the painting, the focal point should be at gallery level. If the painting is off balance to the right or left, the focal point can be moved slightly to the right or left to make up the difference.
Even the Wall Street Journal weighs in on the subject:
To a certain extent, there is an intuitive aspect to picture hanging. Don't let it hang way, way up by the ceiling, and don't let it hug the floor—unless you are extremely tall or extremely short, in which case you are justified in your extreme choices.
I eye the space and put the art work where it looks best to me. I've never been too concerned about decorating rules, and my family has not complained.

Apartment Therapy has a post sharing instructional videos on the subject.

Now, if I can just get the pictures I want to put up framed....

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Misalliance


The Misalliance is a 1986 novel by Anita Brookner. I like Brookner's writing style and enjoy reading about the characters she chooses.

favorite quote:
"I incline to think that there are no bad. Indifference to the good is all that is needed."
from the back of the book:
The Misalliance is one of those rare books -both highly praised by the critics and an immediate best-seller in England.

As in Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner has created a wonderfully eccentric heroine. Blache Vernon is one of those discreet, smart women one sees alone in restaurants. Recently divorced, she considers it a matter of honor to keep herself busy,scrupulously carrying out ordinary tasks as if they mattered, until darkness falls. She will then open a bottle of good wine (which she does with increasing regularity) and cook herself a simple, nourishing meal. She can still expect the occasional visit from her husband, Bertie, who a year ago defected to a capricious, childishly demanding computer expert called Mousie.

Blanche is convinced that it is her own misguided sense of stability, gentility, and fair play that has led to this state of affairs, and that things might have turned out differently if only she could have cultivated a more voluble, petulant nature. Oddly, mutual friends do noy see it this way: rather than considering Blanche "too sensible," general opinion has it that she has recently been insupportably eccentric -overly fond on literary allusions and piquant non sequiturs- and, most irritating, she doesn't allow anyone to properly pity her.

Just as some women turn in loneliness to drink, to food, or to shoplifting, Blanche notes with some irony that she has turned to other lives, to good works, and to uplifting pastimes. Here is a memorable portait of a woman living alone -a woman with the wit and the means to step forward and grasp what has previously eluded her but who is puzzled by the prospect. Anita Brookner's beautifully crafted novel is raw and painful, yet as graceful and perceptive as anything she has written.

The Paris Review has an interview with Brookner in which they discuss how this book differs from her others in being longer and more sentimental.

How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

Still Life with Teapot, Cup and Fruit, by Émile Bernard, 1890

Open Culture has a post quoting George Orwell and Douglas Adams giving advice on tea.

Orwell has an 11-point process from 1:
First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.
to 11:
Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
and he concludes:
It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.
Douglas Adams explains "The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea. That's why they don't understand" and has much simpler advice that begins with this:
Go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea. Go back to where you're staying and boil a kettle of water. While it is coming to the boil, open the sealed packet and sniff. Careful - you may feel a bit dizzy,
People can be serious about their tea!

[Bleubeard and Elizabeth are hosting T Stands for Tuesday, a regular event.]

Monday, July 22, 2013

People Get Ready

People Get Ready:



sung by Lester Chambers, 73 year old Mississippi-born soul singer. He was attacked on the stage, on the day Zimmerman's "not guilty" verdict was handed down, by a woman shouting: "It's all your fault." She was angry because of sympathy expressed about Trayvon Martin's killing.

Lyrics:
People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

People get ready for the train to Jordan
It's picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board 'em
There's hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the Kingdom's throne

So people get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is part 1 of a projected trilogy of films based on a book that I didn't think could support a trilogy of long movies. Now that I've seen this one, I know that it can be done while being fairly true to the plot and characters in the book. I'm impressed and look forward to the next installments.

trailer:



Slant Magazine has a critical review that still yields 3 out of 4 stars and a positive recommendation. Empire Online calls it "a treasure". Salon.com thinks it's bloated. Rolling Stone closes with this:
Serkis helps turn The Hobbit into everything you wished for – a fantasy with the power to haunt your dreams. Too bad it takes the movie so damn long to get there.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 65%, but the audience score is 82%.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Greatest Pain in Life


If this is his greatest pain in life, he's been truly fortunate. Either that, or karma hasn't gotten to him yet.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lichterman Nature Center Lake


I went to the Lichterman Nature Center a few days ago and walked the lake trail. It was a pleasant day, with a high in the 80s, sunshine and a pleasant breeze. The Lichterman has its own Wikipedia entry and Facebook page.






I saw plants and flowers. There were a lot of geese. I saw and heard animals, including a small, dark heron and some frogs I didn't get pictures of and red-eared sliders, which I did:


Most of what I saw around the lake was water lilies:


Millions of water lilies!

Here's a picture of part of the lake from the back of the Visitor Center:




List of 50 Books Everybody Ought to Read

Flavorwire has a list of "The 50 Books Everyone Needs to Read, 1963-2013" one per year:
1963 — The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
1964 — Herzog, Saul Bellow (begun but never finished)
1965 – The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
1966 – Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
1967 — The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (I've seen part of a TV series based on it.)
1968 — Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
1969 — I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
1970 – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
1971 – The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
1972 – Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
1973 – Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon (It's on my to-be-bought list.)
1974 – The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
1975 – The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
1976 – Speedboat, Renata Adler
1977 – The Shining, Stephen King (I liked the movie.)
1978 – The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch
1979 – The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter
1980 – Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
1981 – Outside Over There, Maurice Sendak
1982 – The Color Purple, Alice Walker
1983 – Cathedral, Raymond Carver
1984 – Money, Martin Amis
1985 – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
1986 – Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Art Spiegelman
1987 – Beloved, Toni Morrison
1988 – Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
1989 – Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
1990 – The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
1991 – Possession, A.S. Byatt
1992 – The Secret History, Donna Tartt
1993 – The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
1994 – The Ice Storm, Rick Moody
1995 – Sabbath’s Theater, Philip Roth
1996 – Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (on my to-be-bought list, it's #10 on the list of longest English-language novels)
1997 – Underworld, Don DeLillo
1998 – Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
1999 – Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
2000 – Pastoralia, George Saunders
2001 – Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald
2002 – Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
2003 – The Known World, Edward P. Jones
2004 – The Epicure’s Lament, Kate Christensen
2005 – Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link
2006 – The Road, Cormac McCarthy (much over-rated, imo)
2007 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz
2008 – Dangerous Laughter, Steven Millhauser
2009 – Lit: A Memoir, Mary Karr
2010 – A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
2011 – Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan
2012 – Building Stories, Chris Ware
2013 – The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner
The few I've read are in bold print. Some on this list are collections of essays or short stories, and I prefer novels.

HT: SF Signal

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Sword of Doom

The Sword of Doom is a 1966 Japanese martial arts film about an amoral swordsman and the effect his actions have. I usually like this genre. I am not especially fond of this one, but the ending fight scene is well worth watching no matter how you feel about the rest of the film. Totally insane! And you can never go wrong watching a movie with Toshiro Mifune in it. I just had some difficulty keeping the plot and characters straight.

trailer:



Toho Kingdom calls it "an excellent, very dark, film" and "one of the better movies out there, regardless of nationality" and says,
Sword of Doom really excels in a number of areas, including a well woven story, interesting character development, excellent acting which is complimented by equally impressive cinematography, and topped off by Masaru Sato's interesting score for the film.
Japan Cinema says, "It’s plot will easily slip past inattentive viewers, so prepare to be tested." DVD Talk rates it "excellent". Slant Magazine concludes, "The Sword of Doom proves itself a film defined by its meticulously precise construction." Time Out calls the climax "astonishing". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 71% and an audience score of 89%.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard is a 2013 film starring Bruce Willis. I tend to like Bruce Willis films, and I've seen all the others in this series. I wasn't expecting much, but I expected more than this. There were many explosions, and that's mainly what I was in it for. The humor wasn't as good in this one as it has been in some others, and I missed that. The bad-daddy theme (John McClane wasn't there for his kids when they were growing up *alas*) was annoying, and I do hope they don't continue that in the next one. I won't watch this again, but I'll watch any new ones that are released.

trailer:



Slant Magazine gives it 1 out of 4 stars. Rolling Stone also gives it 1 out of 4 stars, calling it "total crap." Empire Online issues this verdict: "A few reasonable action sequences are mired in family soap, making this A Good Day To Call It Quits." /Film calls it a "really bad day for fans," says it "feels dismissive, and dumb" and says, "If there’s praise to bestow, it goes to Fox’s marketing department for making this dead-eyed bore look zippy and energetic, even if that illusion can only last for bare minutes at a time." Salon.com calls it "idiotic but action-packed" and declares,
the aggressive stupidity of this movie is impressive. It’s not just that it’s an ugly fantasy of masculine dominance aimed at 11-year-old boys – or, more precisely, at adult men who wish to cling to the 11-year-old joy with which they first encountered this kind of movie – it’s also a fantasy that rests on the idea that you’re better off not knowing anything about the outside world because there’s nothing to know.
Roger Ebert says, "A quarter-century later, McClane has been stripped of any real traces of an actual three-dimensional character. We feel as if we're watching Bruce Willis in a Bruce Willis movie". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 14% critics score, and the audience score is 42%.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Urban Buzzard


Well, it wasn't really urban.... I was driving through Collierville, which is a suburb of Memphis, when I saw a big buzzard sitting on a chain link fence close to the hospital. I wish I could've gotten a picture (the one above is from Wikipedia), but there was no place to pull over.

It's been years since I last saw a buzzard!

Nabokov's List of Best Short Stories

Brain Pickings has an article which includes a list of "Six Short Stories Everyone Should Read":
John Cheever’s “The Country Husband”
John Updike’s “The Happiest I’ve Been” (New Yorker subscription required)
J. D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
Herbert Gold’s “Death in Miami Beach”
John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse”
Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”

The links are to the stories online if I could find them. As far as I can recall, the one by Salinger is the only one I've read. I read a book of his short stories late last year.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

For a Few Dollars More

For a Few Dollars More is a 1965 Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Gian Maria Volonté is the main villain, and Klaus Kinski does his crazy villain best as another of the bandits. The score is by Ennio Morricone. I love the Man with No Name Trilogy -of which this film is the 2nd- and Lee Van Cleef is a favorite with us. You cannot go wrong with this film. A classic.

trailer:



Salon.com names it the 3rd greatest sequel of all time, behind the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein and The Godfather: Part 2. Spaghetti-Western.net says, "Leone's tense, tight closeups, pregnant pauses and significant silences have since been absorbed into the standard spaghetti-western lexicon; likewise, Ennio Morricone's haunting musical score has been endlessly imitated and parodied." DVD Talk says, "Everything about For a Few Dollars More is excessive and over-the-top, but so evidently done with so much personal passion and such a clear, specific vision that its decadence becomes not a fault, but a defining virtue." Empire Online gives this verdict: "Doesn't have the narrative strength of the first in the trilogy but individual scenes are still brilliant and each ingredient in just perfect, cast, score, tone..." Roger Ebert calls it "delicious". The Rotten Tomatoes critics score is 94%.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Teaser Tuesday


from page 7 of Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart:
"It has never happened!" cannot be construed to mean, "It can never happen!" -as well say, "Because I have never broken my leg, my leg is unbreakable," or "Because I have never died, I am immortal."

image from Amazon.com

This is not my current read, but it was handy and I've always liked it.

for Teaser Tuesday, via the 50 Year Project blog.

The Ice Princess


The Ice Princess is the Swedish crime writer Camilla Lackberg's 2003 debut novel. The English translation came in 2008. I liked this one. It was an easy read and had likble, interesting characters. The setting is well-described so that I felt I could actually picture everything in my mind. I thought the plot devoted too much energy to the growing romantic relationship between 2 of the main characters, but that's just my personal preference. I didn't like it well enough to seek out more of the author's work.

from the dust jacket:
Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life.

Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their own shared past. While her interest grows into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past....

Already a sensation across the globe, Camilla Lackberg and her penetrating portrayal of human nature at its darkest are sure to place her alongside Scandinavian greats like Henning Mankel and Stieg Larsson.
Euro Crime calls it "a comfortable, cosy read" and says, "I shall definitely read the next one and maybe the personal relationship side between Erica and Patrik will have moved to the background a little and the mystery angle will be to the fore." Kirkus Reviews calls it "rather formulaic" but "Still, good reading for the beach, if not the sauna."

Eight O'Clock Coffee


We're still looking for a coffee we like as well as Peet's, and we're having limited success. This time we are half-way through a bag of Eight O'Clock Dark Italian Roast. Consumer Reports likes it in their taste test, but we aren't feelin' the love. It's an OK coffee, but it isn't something we would ever choose over Peet's. What we want is just a bit of variety -a choice among equals. This isn't it. That's a shame, because it's right there on the shelf at the grocery store. Don't get me wrong; there's absolutely nothing wrong with this coffee. It's just that we don't like it nearly as much as we like Peet's, and at this point in our coffee-drinking lives, that just won't do. Gettin' picky in our old age? Maybe.

The cup has been around so long I've forgotten where I got it. It has Hartstone USA on the bottom. It seems the pattern has been discontinued, and a quick search doesn't get me anywhere towards finding the pattern name. I wish I could remember where I got it -I do remember I bought it new- because that might help narrow the search results. I use this mug in the Summertime. It's a nice weight, it's thick enough to keep coffee warm while I drink a cup, it has a comfortable handle, I like the decoration on it, it's a good size... Perfect!

Monday, July 15, 2013

High Plains Invaders

High Plains Invaders is a 2009 SyFy channel science fiction/western film starring James Marsters (Spike from the Buffy TV series). Not a high point in Western civilization but it was fun nonetheless. Like cotton candy. Except cotton candy may actually be a high point in Western civilization.

trailer:



Moria says it "works its way towards a modestly effective and convincing climax and is far better than one might think." DVD Talk hates the woman bounty hunter character (as do I) and calls the film "a fun, albeit clichéd, genre-hopping entry in the Maneater Series". FearNet says, "It's little more than War of the Worlds meets High Noon, only a whole lot goofier and quite a bit gorier than that description implies." Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score, but the audience score is 12%. 12%! I don't think I've seen a lower score.

A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes

A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes:



by Jim White

lyrics:
Way down south I know a girl who is blind.
She walks alone along a lonely highway each day.
She dreams that one day a man will pull up in a car.
He'll open up the door, she'll climb in and he will say:
"Hey babe, whatcha know? Hope you're ready to go...
'cause today's a perfect day
to chase tornados."
Yeah when the wild wind whips around your head you know,
that you have found a perfect day to chase tornados.

And what about that preacher man on the run from the law?
He killed a girl in Memphis and ran 'till the dogs tracked him down.
They shot him by the river and as he lay dying in the mud,
well someone asked him, hey Preacher, where's your soul going now?
And Preacher said, "Well, I do not know, but wherever it is I'll gladly go...
cause today's a perfect day
to chase tornados."
Yeah when the wild wind kicks around your head you know,
that you have found a perfect day to chase tornados.

Sometimes I think that the sky is a prison and the earth is a grave.
And sometimes I feel like Jesus, in some Chinese opera.
And sometimes I'm glad I built my mansion from crazy little stones.
But sometimes I feel so goddamned trapped by everything that I know.
And I wish it wasn't so, cause the only thing that anyone should ever know
is that today's a perfect day
to chase tornados.
Yeah, when the wild wind whips around your head you know,
that you have found a perfect day to chase tornados. © 1995 Mike Pratt/Jim White

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Paid Subscriptions to YouTube channels?

I subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels, all for free, but today I have learned that some channels actually charge a monthly fee. In particular, Roger Corman has a YouTube channel, and it costs $3.99 a month to subscribe.

On the other hand MUBI is $4.99, Hulu Plus is $7.99, Netflix is $7.99 and Amazon Prime is $6.58 ($79 per year).

I don't subscribe to any of them, but if I were to pick one I can't imagine selecting 1 YouTube channel over, oh, say MUBI, which is about the same price.

Memphis-Style Ribs Recipe


We don't cook our own ribs, preferring to have somebody like Central BBQ cook them for us, but the recipe at MemphisConnect sounds tempting. Very tempting. It emphasizes searing the meat and then very long, slow cooking.

The picture at the top of the post is from the Central BBQ website. Best Ribs Ever.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

DIY Water Feature


I took a large plant saucer, propped it up on one side and placed the hose so it would drip just enough to stir the water and replace water loss due to evaporation but not so much that it would overflow. I did it to attract birds, and we've had mostly sparrows take an interest.

What's been really fun is the chipmunks. I'm not a fan of the chipmunks, because I think they are undermining the structural integrity of our patio, but they are so cute! They put their little front paws up on the edge and stretch out their little necks to drink the water. Ya gotta find your entertainment where you can, folks!

Friday, July 12, 2013

An Inn in Tokyo

An Inn in Tokyo is a 1936 silent Japanese film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. Much too depressing to suit me. Filled with unrelieved, sad desperation.

via youtube:



Senses of Cinema calls it "one of Ozu’s most moving pictures." Time Out calls it "beautifully achieved". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 93% but no critics score.

World's Smallest Museum


So cool! The world's smallest museum is in Manhattan. Their permanent collection is detailed at the museum web site, where it is described this way: "These objects have been collected over the past 10 years from cities around the world. The are artifacts. They are items lost and found in the cracks and corners of cultures around the world." Their current exhibit is described this way:
It features 15 new and unique exhibitions including Personal Ephemera from Al Goldstein, The Rocks and Tools from Tom Sach's Mars expedition, Objects Made For Prisoners or by Prisoners in US Prisons, Fake Vomit from Around the World, Tip Jars collected by Jim Walrod, Surf and Turf Potato Chips, and more.
The NY Times has an article on it. Apartment Therapy noticed it.

I'm tempted to open my own museum. No telling what strange little exhibits I could come up with.

HT: Collectors Weekly, and that is where I got the photo at the top of this post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sacred

Sacred is a 1997 book by Dennis Lehane 3rd in the Kenzie/Gennaro series. It won the Nero Award, which is probably why I have it on my shelf. I like to pick up award-winners as I come across them to get an idea of what type of writing is getting accolades. I'm not a fan and am not finishing this one. It's fine enough, but I keep eyeing other books on my TBR shelf and wondering if they would captivate me more.

from the back of the book:
A beautiful, grief-stricken woman has vanished without a trace. So has the detective hired to find her. And a lot of money. Enter saavy, tough-nosed private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Rooted in the no-nonsense streets of Boston's blue-collar Dorchester, they've seen it all —and survived. But this case leads them into unexpected territory where nothing is sacred —a land of lies and corruption where trusting anyone could get them killed . . . where taking any step could be their last.
It gets good reviews. Kirkus Reviews says it "packs enough beatings, betrayals, unmaskings, resurrections, smart talk, and untrustworthy people for the most jaded palate." Spinetingler Magazine describes it as "an over the top jaunt that is told with tongue planted firmly in cheek" and calls the story "solid".

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a 2007 Western starring Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as his killer. Also in this are Sam Shepard, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel and Nick Cave. It is long. Too long. There's a narrator's voice scattered throughout the film -I'm not sure why. It is filled with scenery and long pauses. Everybody else seems to love it, though. Most reviews are positive.

trailer:



I loved Salon.com's review. They hated it, opening by saying, "If you care only about whodunit and not about how and why, “The Assassination of Jesse James” isn’t for you. Then again, if you care even remotely about how and why — or even just about staying awake — “The Assassination of Jesse James” really isn’t for you. There’s so much process here that there’s barely a story," calling it "so finicky it feels more like a doily than a western" and closing with this: "It may be the first time we’ve been asked to watch a book on tape."

Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars and condemns those who say it's too long with this:
That Jesse James, brazenly affected and acutely interested in investigating the notion of personal and collective myths, doesn't resound with full, heartbreaking intensity until its climax and coda will likely prove too long a wait for those less enamored than Dominik with the seminal, plaintive, demanding westerns of Robert Altman and Terrence Malick, among others. To this impatience, the film has an apt reply, courtesy of Schneider's Dick: "Poetry doesn't work on whores."
Rolling Stone gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and says, "this quiet wow of a Western sneaks up as one hell of a satisfying surprise. Artfully exciting and compulsively watchable even at a butt-numbing 152 minutes". Slate titles their review, "You Can Give a Movie a Long Title but That Doesn't Mean It's Good". Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it "An extraordinary and visionary study of a legendary murderer’s famous fate". Time Out calls it "stunning" and closes by saying, "it’s a journey of immense emotional foreboding and, flabby coda aside, a red-raw classic." Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, opens by commenting on the "homosexual undertones" and closes by defending its length: "Yes, it is long, at 160 minutes. There is a sense that an epic must have duration to have importance." The Rotten Tomatoes critics score is 76%.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Teaser Tuesday


I found out about Teaser Tuesday from Bleubeard and Elizabeth, who made it sound fun. Here's my teaser:

photo from Amazon.com
She reminded herself that his name was Jorge and he had a grandmother who loved him. That seemed impossible; he could have popped from a gliss-wrapped package like the holiday gifts of her childhood, brightly colored and smooth all over. Surely he had not been born in blood and mess like real children.
from page 7 of Remnant Population, a science fiction book by Elizabeth Moon. Just 2 sentences is hard, though, and doesn't seem enough to be much of a "teaser". It seems more like an orphan text to me, so I took 3 sentences, which is clearly cheating. It's also not one of my current reads -I read it back in 2005- but it was close at hand. I'm just breaking the rules right and left here!

In Blu?


"In Blu" is what the can says. It's a fine coffee, but we don't like it as well as Peet's. I've had Lavazza ground espresso and liked it better than this, so I'm not sure how it differs. I'm getting tired of fine coffees we don't like as well as Peet's. It's one of those first world problems I'm grateful I have.

We bought the coffee at our local bookseller (The Booksellers at Laurelwood, formerly known as Davis-Kidd), although it was an odd purchase.

The coffee display is at the back of the store close to the "bistro" area. There are non-book items scattered throughout the store, including both food and non-food wares. I've bought this kind of thing before and never had any difficulty. Sometimes an employee will ask if they can hold something for me at the register until I'm ready to check out, and that's handy. This trip was more awkward.

I was at the book store with The Husband, and I picked up the can right quick with the intent of re-joining him for some leisurely book shopping. As I headed back to join him (coffee in hand) I heard people yelling at me. It seems you have to buy the coffee in the section of the store where the coffee is displayed. Yikes! How embarrassing! After I had paid for the coffee, I had to specifically request a bag to carry it in. But if they think I'm going to carry a paid-for but un-bagged can of coffee around with me and try to keep up with a receipt while I shop for books for who-knows-how-long, they are nuts. I can picture myself leaving the store, searching through my mess of a purse for the receipt to prove I paid for the damn thing.

They sell this same coffee at a local grocer where they've never had to yell at me to tell me where to check out. Guess where I'll buy Lavazza coffee from now on?

The cup is Fiestaware, and I think this is a vintage item. The shape isn't quite like what's currently available. I don't know anything about Fiesta dinnerware, but I love this yellow color. I picked it up at a local antique mall but don't remember which one.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The King Knows How to Take Me All the Way to Memphis

The King Knows How to Take Me All the Way to Memphis:



by Over the Rhine from the album The Long Surrender.

Lyrics:
I feel as lonely, as anybody
As crying on the Friday night,
Once in a while, on my radio dial,
I accidentally get it right.

Chorus:
I’m thinking I might be tempted to slide on over,
Slide on over!
I’m thinking I need a little something to tide me over,
Tide me over,
Till Memphis!

You know that lonesome whipporwill
I know a girl who is bluer still

It’s that a jukebox altar call?
Or just a soft, smoking place to fall?

[Chorus]

Cause the king knows how
to take me all the way!
Yeah the king knows how
(the king knows how)
To take me all the way
To Memphis!

I feel as lonely, as anybody
Who's crying on a Friday night.
I’m not laughing,
Because it’s funny,
Hank is laughing cause he’s always right!

[Chorus]

You strike a match boy
But do you know how
To burn it all the way
Down to Memphis

Cause the king knows how
The king knows how
To take me all the way
Yeah the king knows how,
To take me all the way
To Memphis!
...

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen is a 1961 film by Czech director Karel Zeman. It mixes live action with animation, and it's interesting to see that combination.

trailer:



Spinning Image concludes, "It's lovely to look at, and one of the director's most rightly lauded works." FilmReference.com calls it "a tour de force exercise in how film form can properly illustrate the conceit of its subject." MSN has an overview. There is no critics score at Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience rating is 86%.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Darkman

Darkman is a 1990 Sam Raimi film starring Liam Nissan, Frances McDormand and Larry Drake. Raimi made up a superhero, and it turned out quite well. I enjoyed this.

trailer:



Moria calls it "fascinating but flawed". Empire Online concludes with this: "Certainly not Raimi at his best, but some knowing genre nods and an array of great effects make up much of the deficit." EW gives it a B says it's "a thrillingly demented pop spectacular". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 79%.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Kenneth Grahame

from Chapter II: The Open Road

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1932 of Kenneth Grahame. Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows (1908), which is a favorite of mine. You can read the book with its wonderful illustrations (one is pictured above) online here. The most frequently quoted line from the book is probably, "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." It has been adapted for stage/film/TV/radio. Our favorite is the 1983 version. It's at youtube divided into sections (except that part 3 has been removed). The first part is here:



He also wrote The Reluctant Dragon (1898), which is available to be read online.

There's a Kenneth Grahame Society Facebook page. The Society has a short biography on their web site.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Wasabi

Wasabi is a 2001 French film directed by Gerard Krawczyk, written and produced by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno. I've seen this before, but it's been years. It alternates violence with comic relief and relationship drama. Jean Reno is nice to watch, but there's not much else here.

via Crackle:


From Crackle: Wasabi

Roger Ebert says, "There is no artistic purpose for this movie. It is product. ... Reno does what he can in a thankless situation, the film ricochets from humor to violence and back again". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 43%.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Unless


Unless is the last book by Carol Shields, who died of breast cancer 6 months after if was published. The author writes what I myself have felt but have never put into words. It's not the specifics of the plot or the details of the characters, but I look at the words on the page and parts of my life look back. It's disconcerting. I find this a powerful book, and I'm sure I'll be re-reading it.

from the back of the book:
Forty-four-year-old Reta Winters, wife, mother, writer, and translator is living a happy life until one of her three daughters drops out of university to sit on a downtown street corner silent and cross-legged with a begging bowl in her lap and a placard round her neck that says "Goodness."

The final book from Pulitzer Prize-winner Carol Shields, Unless is a candid and deeply moving novel from one of the twentieth century's most accomplished and beloved authors.
Salon.com says,
“Unless” is this writer’s way of rooting around in her life and her life’s work, querying, however obliquely, the choices she made and the culture that shaped them, contemplating a dynamic that isn’t as simple as brute oppression, but remains achingly unfair: What does it mean to be “great”? Anything at all? Perhaps not, and perhaps something worth making a fuss about at the very least.
The Guardian calls Shields "elegist of the everyday." January Magazine says it "brims with all that is human, the hell-bent good intentions, the brokenness, the stumbling imperfection, and the gallant struggle towards anything even resembling the light". Kirkus Reviews calls it "a tale about existential disarray that’s spiked with feminist outrage and leavened with womanly wit."

There's a reading group guide here.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Professionals for a Massacre

Professionals for a Massacre is a 1967 spaghetti western starring George Hilton, who did quite a few of these types of films. Edd Byrnes, who was in the 77 Sunset Strip TV series and in Grease also stars. I enjoy Spaghetti Westerns, and this is one. There's nothing here to set it above the rest, but it's a fine enough entry in the field.

via youtube:



Reviews? I can't find them. Anywhere. Rotten Tomatoes doesn't even have a listing for it.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Ragnorak: The End of the Gods


Ragnorak: The End of the Gods is a 2011 book by A.S. Byatt, tracing the explorations of Norse mythology and Christian faith of "the thin child" -herself- living in the English countryside during the bombings of WW2. Her father is away, a fighter pilot in the North African desert, and she is certain he will never return. This is a fascinating re-telling of the Norse myths in the context of a moment in a young girl's life.

from the back of the book:
As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new life, who dark, war-ravaged days feel very removed from the peace and love being preached in church and at school. When she is given a book of ancient Norse myths -beautiful, terrifying tales of the gods meeting their cataclysmic end- she glimpses a parallel with her own suddenly precarious reality. Rapturously acclaimed, Ragnarok is a landmark piece of storytelling from the inimitable and brilliant A.S. Byatt.
The Guardian describes it this way: "Ragnarok is a clever, lucid, lovely book. But it isn't a novel, or even a story in the usual sense. It's a discourse on myth..." The Telegraph says Byatt "has entwined the epic stories with her memories of childhood reading and her love of the natural world" and that "Byatt’s writing, impassioned and liberated from the strictures of the novel, has never been so beautiful."

Whittard 1886 Blend Tea


The tea is Whittard 1886 Blend, black leaf tea, and is described on the package as "strong traditional". It certainly is strong and traditional. I like this tea. It's not at all bitter and has no aftertaste. Just a smooth, hearty tea. It was a gift from The Daughter, who knows we like such things.

The cup is quite large and is the Belvedere pattern fromWilliams-Sonoma. I have another cup and saucer in this pattern in blue.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again:



by Bob Dylan. The song is from 1966.

Lyrics excerpt from the end of the song:
An' here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice

Oh, Mama
Is this really the end?
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Mr. Magoo's Midsummer Night's Dream

There was a 1-season Magoo-does-the-classics TV series back in the day, and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was one of their presentations:



It may sound strange to say, but the Mr. Magoo literary adaptations are remarkably true to the originals.

HT: Open Culture