Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cherry Blossoms


I went to the Memphis Botanic Gardens just in time to get pictures of the cherry trees in bloom before the heavy rains, wind, and thunderstorms which were predicted and which have begun as I write this at 10:30 Wednesday night. The blossoms just don't last through "falling weather" -as my grandmother used to call it- much less wind. We're even under a tornado watch right now, though I don't really expect much from that. The storm's not too bad so far, though you never can tell....



The cherry trees are planted all along Cherry Road, which runs between the Botanic Garden and the golf course.


There are some cherry trees inside the garden proper, too


along with beautiful tulips:


which I don't imagine will hold up well through this weather, either. I remember Mother loving these trees. She would drive down that road at least once every year while they were in bloom until she quit driving, and after that we went together. They are just stunning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lonely Are the Brave

Lonely Are the Brave is a 1962 western film with Kirk Douglas starring as a cowboy out of his time, a man who chafes at modern society. It's based on the Edward Abbey novel The Brave Cowboy. It also stars Gena Rowlands (still acting now at 85), Walter Matthau, Carroll O'Connor, William Schallert (who has Star Trek connections), George Kennedy, Karl Swenson, Dan Sheridan (well-known from tv appearances between 1957 and his death at the age of forty-six in 1963), and Bill Raisch as the one-armed man. Raisch went on to play the one-armed man in The Fugitive. I'm not one who's such a fan of Kirk Douglas that I'll watch anything if he's in it, but he's still going strong at 99 years of age and that counts for something. This is reportedly his favorite of his films.


The NYT says, "Remarkable for a low-budget western, “Lonely Are the Brave” poses uneasy questions about the idea, and value, of heroism." Time Out calls it "A striking modern Western" and closes with this: "Beautifully acted by a superb cast, it's a gripping, elegiac movie, imbued with a very real nostalgia for a vanished world."

DVD Talk concludes:
As high as a recommendation will go. Lonely are the Brave is a true winner. A deep and thoughtful take on the modern western, it's got nail-biting action alongside sharply drawn characters. Kirk Douglas has never been better ... and the tale of one man trying to carry on despite modernity's every effort to knock him off his horse has a lasting significance. ... A bonafide lost classic.

Roger Ebert calls it "Kirk Douglas' unrecognized masterpiece". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 90%.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

She Always Takes It Black

She Always Takes It Black:



by Gregory Alan Isakov. What a lovely song! I invite you to take a sweet moment with your coffee (or whatever) and listen to this man's voice.

Lyrics excerpt:
you search the world for the milk of the pearl
she always takes it black
but you'll love her till it all goes dark
you'll love her even after that

I'm drinking black coffee, as is mostly the case in the morning:


Please join our weekly T Tuesday party hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. Share a drink with us.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique is a 1991 film directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. The director is number two on the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound Top Ten Directors list of modern times.

The film concerns parallel characters: Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher. The two women do not know each other, and yet they share a bond that transcends their separateness. It's a beautiful film and explores ideas of identity and love and connection.

I watched it at Hulu when they offered it free, but it's now behind their subscription paywall. You can watch this movie online at Veoh.com here.

This is the opening scene:



Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "a poetic overture on the power of senses and sensibilities." The BBC highlights Irene Jacob's starring performance: "It won the Best Actress gong at Cannes for Irène Jacob's delectable dual performance". It's included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

DVD Talk praises it and says, "The movie digs into its viewer and takes root, and it will draw you back again and again. The more you watch it, the more you will like it". A different reviewer at DVD Talk writing 5 years after the first reviewer says, "Every viewing of The Double Life of Veronique enriches one's appreciation of the beauty, mystique, and profound depth residing within Krzysztof Kieslowski's construction."

Roger Ebert considers it a "Great Movie" and opens his review with this:
Here is a film about a feeling. Like all feelings, it is one that can hardly be described in words, although it can be evoked in art. It is the feeling that we are not alone, because there is more than one of us. We are connected at a level far, far beneath thought. We have no understanding of this. It is simply a feeling that we have.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 85% and an audience rating of 92%.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dr. Cyclops

Dr. Cyclops is a 1940 horror film, directed by the co-director of the 1933 King Kong. It is the first American science fiction film made in Technicolor. I found this very slow going, though I agree with many reviewers that the main character can certainly act and the special effects are fun.

trailer:



Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "one of the best mad scientist films of the 1940s" and says, "it was a tour-de-force of special effects for the time it was made. The combination of matte work, split-screen and scaled-down sets is flawless." 1000 Misspent Hours praises Dekker: "who does a more than creditable job as Dr. Thorkel, and one might argue with some persuasiveness that by putting as much focus on him as he did, screenwriter Tom Kilpatrick was playing to the cast’s one real strength" and says the film
is one of the most fascinating overlooked artifacts of 40’s horror/sci-fi cinema. For one thing, it’s extremely odd to see a clunky little B-movie from 1940 being presented in luridly saturated Technicolor. But beyond that, Dr. Cyclops plays like a movie from fifteen or more years later, with a mad scientist using his radiation-harnessing machine to shrink people and animals to a fraction of their natural size.
HorrorNews.net says it's "a straightforward melodrama – the pseudo-science is just an excuse to tell a fundamentally Gothic tale" and says, " It’s a fast-paced inventive film, though the dialogue is awful and the acting undistinguished, with the exception of Albert Dekker‘s portrayal of the cold-blooded, short-tempered and ruthless Doctor Thorkel". Time Out calls it "An engaging fantasy with brilliantly executed ... special effects". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%, but the audience score is 52%.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Frankenstein's Army

Frankenstein's Army is a 2013 Dutch/American/Czech Republic found-footage horror film about WW2 Nazis and Russians and zombie/monsters and mad scientists. And you'd think you couldn't go wrong there. But you can. And they did. Or at least I think they did. Go wrong, that is. Terribly wrong. I read positive reviews and ask myself what movie they saw... After it was over, The Younger Son and I just stared at the screen dumbfounded, wondering what had just happened. We still don't know. It'll remain one of the mysteries of my movie-watching endeavor, because I'll never try it again. And I usually like Nazi Zombie movies.

trailer:



Fangoria concludes, "I mean it in a good way when I say that you don’t stop watching FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY once the end credits roll; you escape it." Moria has a positive review. TwitchFilm closes with this: "while the film has a literally shaky start, the finale had the audience intentionally in stitches. And I hope Raaphorst will get the chance to make a few more of these, as his imagination obviously goes beyond the scope of what was possible in this single film."

Roger Ebert's site says, "The filmmakers were bold in their choices of period and format, but not patient enough to do right by them." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 67% and an audience rating of 39%.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Night on Earth

Night on Earth is a 1991 Jim Jarmusch film, an anthology film following taxi drivers. The first driver is in Los Angeles, the next in New York, then Paris, Rome and last is Helsinki. It's a fascinating slice of life during one night. Jim Jarmusch is one of those directors whose name alone will draw me to a film. Tom Waits does the music. How can you resist?

I watched it free with commercials on Hulu. Here's a trailer:



The NYT gives it a positive review and says that Jarmusch is "an increasingly fine director of actors. The members of the cast are splendid to start with, but he pushes them to singular achievements". Rolling Stone says, "the cool comic detachment of Jim Jarmusch is a bracing alternative. Jarmusch offers a hip, urban, brooding take on a pop culture closed off to feeling" and "the film's cumulative power is what matters, and that power is undeniable. Jarmusch is a true visionary". Spirituality and Practice calls it a "thoroughly distinctive and compelling film"

Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and says, "At the end, we have learned no great lessons and arrived at no thrilling conclusions, but we have shared the community of the night, when people are unbuttoned and vulnerable - more ready to speak about what's really on their minds." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 71% and an audience rating of 91%. Quite a difference, proving once again that professional critics are often out of touch with public opinion.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Redbuds, Tulips, and the Memphis 10



The Memphis 10 is a group of women who meet regularly to share about art. The Memphis Botanic Gardens has a display of some of their work, and I went to see it. Nothing in particular struck me enough to make me think I might spend hundreds of dollars to buy a piece. You can see a sampler of some of the works here and read a bit about the artists.

The redbud trees are in bloom and I took a few pictures of them as I wandered the gardens.


It was a lovely day, sunny and in the low 70sF. The tulips were also in bloom:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Tumbling Tumbleweeds is a 1935 Gene Autry western. "Gabby" Hayes is also in this. It's directed by Joseph Kane and written by Ford Beebe. The film is less than an hour long and is important -and worth watching. It's Gene Autry's first film with Republic Pictures and it's the first of the "singing cowboy" movies. Definitely historically significant as well as enjoyable.

The film shows up every once in a while on Youtube, but it isn't there now. I also can't find a trailer. Here's one of the songs from the movie:



DVD Talk calls it one of Autry's best and "a must-have for anyone that's a fan of classical Hollywood cinema, especially fans of movie Westerns" and says
Tumbling Tumbleweeds was a bona fide phenomenon in rural America; its influence cannot be overstated. It remains one of the most profitable movies ever: it cost just $12,500 (a pittance even by 1935 standards) but reportedly grossed around $1 million. Watching the film even today it's easy to see why.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Payne's Bar-B-Q


Payne's Bar-B-Que is a long-time classic go-to place for Memphis BBQ, and yet somehow -even though we are life-long Memphians- we had never been there. We remedied that recently and are sorry it took us so long. In fact, The Younger Son says his BBQ sandwich was second only to that offered by BB King's on Beale Street, which is high praise indeed.


I had trouble getting a photo of the interior without people in it, but this one shows how you can turn an old gas station into a restaurant and end up with a fine space:


This is BBQ Nation's trip to Payne's:



This is a short (1-minute) on-site interview by a local newspaper reporter with the owner:



Serious Eats says it "serves some of the best pork barbecue in Memphis, if not the country." Southern Living calls it one of the best BBQ joints in the South. RoadFood says it's "worth the trip". Trip Advisor gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Please join the folks at the T Party hosted weekly by Bleubeard and Elizabeth of the Altered Book Lover blog.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21st

Town with no Cheer:



by Tom Waits

Lyrics excerpt:
This tiny Victorian rhubarb
kept the watering hole open for sixty-five years.
Now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21st
wrapped the hills in a blanket of Patterson's curse
the train smokes down the xylophone
there'll be no stopping here
all ya can be is thirsty in a town with no cheer

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thomas Cole and the Voyage of Life


The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is currently exhibiting Thomas Cole's Voyage of Life, a series of four huge paintings depicting four stages in a man's life. From the Dixon's current exhibitions page:
In the late 1820s, British émigré artist Thomas Cole emerged as a leading figure among a group of painters whose works embodied the romantic spirit of pre-Civil War America, later known as the Hudson River School. The Voyage of Life, Cole’s series of four allegorical landscapes is one of his greatest achievements. ....
I find the series depressing in that it starts off brightly-lit and filled with hope and becomes progressively darker and filled with struggle before the man submits resignedly to his fate. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting the work, but you be the judge. Here they are:

Childhood:

Youth:

Manhood:

Old Age:

Also on display is Sunset, by Frederic Edwin Church:


I wandered the gardens while I was there, as I always do.




Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Punisher/The Punisher: War Zone

The younger Son and I watched The Punisher (2004) and The Punisher War Zone (2008), the original feature film and the reboot, one night, and it made a great tandem viewing. They are quite different, but both are great fun.

The 2004 film got lousy reviews, as did the reboot, but hey, I like this kind of movie, so I'm ignoring the reviews.

trailer for the original:




trailer for the re-boot:



There was a Punisher film in 1989 that starred Dolph Lundgren. It didn't get a theatrical release here in the U.S., but you can watch it via Youtube:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Underpass 42


on the wall of an underpass on Front Street in downtown Memphis.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Empire Falls


Empire Falls (2001), the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Russo, had for some reason never made it to my want-to-read list; but when I saw it used for $3 I changed my mind and decided to give it a try. The book describes life in a small town and hits the nail right on the head. It is a fascinating character study of small-town life and how people interact in that environment. All that homey, warm, supportive community that small towns are supposed to be filled with? Russo doesn't see it, which somehow makes me feel better that I never saw it either.

It was adapted for television in 2005.

from the back of the book:
Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it's Janine, Miles's soon-to-be ex-wife, who's taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it's the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town -and seems to believe that "everything" includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace.
Salon.com says,
It’s the kind of big, sprawling, leisurely novel, full of subplots and vividly drawn secondary characters, that people are always complaining is an endangered species. Yet in part thanks to Russo’s deft satiric touch — much of the book is laugh-out-loud funny — it never feels too slow or old-fashioned.
January Magazine concludes,
Empire Falls is a stunning, tragicomic portrait of the lives contained there. Russo's dialog snaps and his descriptions resonate but it's his understanding of humanity and his ability to portray his characters with equal measures of dignity, grace and humor that quietly astounds. Empire Falls is a perfectly rendered portrait of small town, blue collar life.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "very much the crowning achievement of Russo’s remarkable career." Publishers Weekly says, "When it comes to evoking the cherished hopes and dreams of ordinary people, Russo is unsurpassed." Entertainment Weekly has a positive review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Crash

Crash is a 2004 film (released in the U.S. in 2005). which attempts to explore racism in an impartial way. It was widely acclaimed and was nominated for six Academy Award nominations, winning three -Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. It was also nominated for nine BAFTA awards, and won two -Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It stars Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, and also has Marina Sirtis and Tony Danza. In 2008 there was a 2-season TV series based on the film. That show did not continue after the death of star Dennis Hopper.

I watched it via Crackle.

trailer:


NYMag.com concludes the film "makes its social and political collisions resonate in our heads so as to leave them ringing. It’s a film you won’t stop thinking about, arguing over, debating, after the lights come up." Spirituality and Practice says, "Crash is a crash course in unmasking the racial and class divisions in American society that make all strangers into potential enemies."

Rolling Stone opens a positive review with this: "Racism collides with its targets during one thirty-six-hour period in Los Angeles. Alive with bracing human drama and blistering wit, the film benefits from the strong directing debut of Paul Haggis". Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars.

Entertainment Weekly begins its review by saying, "The stunning, must-see drama Crash is proof that words have not lost the ability to shock in our anesthetized society." Salon calls it a "throwback message movie".

Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars, says it deserved the best picture award, and says it
is a movie of intense fascination; we understand quickly enough who the characters are and what their lives are like, but we have no idea how they will behave, because so much depends on accident. Most movies enact rituals; we know the form and watch for variations. "Crash" is a movie with free will, and anything can happen. Because we care about the characters, the movie is uncanny in its ability to rope us in and get us involved. ... One thing that happens, again and again, is that peoples' assumptions prevent them from seeing the actual person standing before them.
Rotten Tomatoes has a 75% critics score and an 88% audience rating.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Coffee ATC


Last summer I discovered Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) through Elizabeth's celebration of the 2nd anniversary of her weekly link party at her blog Altered Book Lover. I've had so much fun with this, playing with different ways of making them as the mood strikes, trying to just do them quickly without fretting over them. My first coffee-themed ATC:


This one has a coffee wash used as a substrate:


The card at the top of the post is a cup and saucer seen from above. It was my first attempt at a cup drawn freehand with watercolors. The background is sketched in with Prismacolor colored pencil, and the words were found in passing. I made it last August.

Again, thank you, Elizabeth, for introducing me to such a manageable and fun artistic pastime.

The T Tuesday gatherings are weekly and always welcome newcomers who want to share a beverage. Please join us.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Digital Plague


The Digital Plague (2008) is the 2nd book in Jeff Somers' Avery Cates series. I've read and enjoyed the first one, and this did not disappoint. I look forward to picking up the others.

from the back of the book:
Avery Cates is a very rich man. He's probably the richest criminal in New York City. But right now, Avery Cates is pissed. Because everyone around him has just started to die -in a particularly gruesome way. With every moment bringing the human race closer to extinction, Cates finds himself in the role of both executioner and savior of the entire world.
SF Signal has this: "BOTTOM LINE: This will satisfy readers looking for a fast-paced action story." Publishers Weekly calls it "a strong techno-thriller" though not as strong as the first book in the series, and says, "Cates’s noirish narrative voice stands out as the book’s real strength."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is a fun 1997 crime film starring Pam Grier. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro. This is Quentin Tarantino's third feature film.

trailer:


Rolling Stone calls it a "knockout" and says, "Loaded with action, laughs, smart dialogue and potent performances, Jackie Brown is most memorable for its unexpected feeling." Empire Online closes with this: "Tarantino has once again defied the critics and produced a movie that solidly establishes him as still the most important filmmaker of the decade."

Roger Ebert gives it a positive review and says, "You savor every moment of "Jackie Brown.'" The Rotten Tomatoes critics rating is 87%.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Terrarium Project


The terrarium (originally Wardian Case) was invented in 1842 by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. His work on the subject is called On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases and can be read online here. It was an excellent way of transporting fragile plants long distances. Now the terrarium makes a delightful miniature garden.

I've made a vivarium or two (or three) in the past for various pets (anoles, hermit crabs, snakes, etc.) but I can't remember ever making a terrarium just for plants. I decided to try one to see how it would turn out. I used a 2 1/2 gallon glass aquarium, figuring I could easily see how the substrate layering process went in a rectangular container.

I bought small aquarium gravel for the bottom drainage layer. On top of an inch of that, I put a layer of coffee filters and 1/2 inch of activated charcoal. I wet down some spaghnum moss and pressed that on top of the charcoal. I put potting soil on top.

I picked up a couple of plants at the pet store labeled "semi-aquatic" (peacock fern -Selaginella willdenowii- and umbrella plant -Spathiphyllum wallisii) and planted them with an asparagus fern and a coral reef sedum.

I researched the plants after I bought them. Yeah, I know, but I figured I could do something with them even if they were unsuitable for the task at hand. The "peacock fern" ought to have been fine in the terrarium, but it quickly wilted and never recovered. The sedum didn't do well, either, and I moved it outside to a dryer location. It did well there for a while but died during the winter. The "umbrella plant" turned out to be nothing but a common peace lily, which soon outgrew the terrarium. I put it in a pot, and it has its first bloom. The asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus "Sprengeri") also got too big, and I've moved it to a pot.

Seeing that I would have to be intentional about finding tiny plants, I was on the lookout and saw a little 2-inch pot at Home Depot that had an unlabeled plant that looked like a fern. I think it's a Maidenhair Fern, and it's doing fine:


I lifted some little wild violets out of the back patio to see how they would do in this space; but oddly, they seemed to get spindly and lean towards the light. I thought they were shade-lovers, so I'm not sure what was going on with them, but I moved them back outside into the flowerbed.

I added a little piece of moss that was between the patio stones. I think the moss might prefer more air movement that it'll ever get here, and some of the moss has died.

At this point I decided that perhaps a little professional advice would be a good thing, so I signed up for a Terrarium Workshop. For $45 I got supplies and help for making one small terrarium with one plant. Moss cost $8 extra, so I skipped the moss. She seemed surprised I'd been able to kill a peacock fern, so I put one of hers in this new jar. It's dying. She did layers just like I had, using gravel, then charcoal, then sphagnum moss , then dirt. She seemed to think I hadn't added enough water to my original planting, and she was generous with the water in this one. I look forward to seeing if it rallies.

I'd like to get a larger tank -much larger- so I could put in larger plants and do some actual arranging.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a 1926 film by German director Lotte Reiniger. This is the oldest surviving feature-length animated film. Her last film was released in 1979, and she died in 1981 at the age of 82. This film is one of her best known and is a treasure not to be missed. At just 65 minutes, how can you resist clicking on that little arrow below and watching it right now?



Open Culture says:
At that time, The Adventures of Prince Achmed did not, of course, even faintly resemble any feature yet made. “No theatre dared show it,” Reiniger writes, “for ‘it was not done.'” And so they did it themselves, screening the film just outside Berlin, which led to a show in Paris, then one in Berlin proper, by which point Prince Achmed and his magic horse were well on their way to a place in the animation history books.

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Fallen Man


The Fallen Man is one of Tony Hillerman's Chee/Leaphorn mysteries. This one is the 12th, published in 1996. I always enjoy these and am working my way through the entire series.

from the dust jacket:
Legions of devotees will cheer the return of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in Tony Hillerman's most intricate and atmospheric novel yet. The Navajo policemen whose exploits are now published in sixteen languages are brought together by the need to know how a man met his death on Ship Rock, almost seventeen hundred feet above the desert floor. Why had he climbed this mountain sacred to Navajos and why had he been killed there -or, even worse, left to die a lonely death?

The fallen man lay sprawled on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain for eleven years - visited only by the ravens that had picked his bones clean and scattered his rock-climbing gear. That peaceful period ended, appropriately, on Halloween, when a climbing party stumbled upon his bones and began a chain of events that would ultimately link Leaphorn and Chee.

At Canyon de Chelly, three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a sniper on the rim shoots an old canyon guide who had always walked the pollen path in peace.

At his home in Window Rock, Joe Leaphorn, newly retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, connects skeleton and sniper and remembers an old puzzle he could never solve.

In Washington, the trustee of a mining mogul's estate learns of the skeleton and makes Leaphorn an offer.

In his office at Shiprock, Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy with paperwork and cattle thefts to take much interest in the case -until he learns the woman he will soon marry is more interested than he thinks she should be.

As Chee and Leaphorn join to investigate why the fallen man fell, they set off across the high desert landscape of the Navajo reservation and into the lives of a rookie cop who is smarter than anyone thinks, a lonely woman who takes up her father's hobby of watching a mountain, a cattle-brand inspector who demonstrates that cows are even more curious than cats, a banker who knows her depositors' private lives as well as their balance sheets, a widow who loves one man too many, and the people who defy death on the towering cliffs of a sacred peak.

Most important, through the memory of those who had known him emerges an understanding of the fallen man himself -a man who had been given everything and found that it was not enough.

The Fallen Man is replete with Hillerman trademarks -ingeniously intricate plotting, splendid evocations of the Southwest's harsh beauty, insights into a venerable culture, and subtly poignant characterizations.
*******
favorite quote:
The Navajo culture that had produced Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee had taught him the power of word and of thought. Western metaphysicians might argue that language and imagination are products of reality. But in their own migrations out of Mongolia and over the icy Bering Strait, the Navajos brought with them a much older Asian philosophy. Thoughts, and words that spring from them, bend the individual's reality. To speak of death is to invite it. To think of sorrow is to produce it. He would think of his duties instead of his love.
*******

Kirkus Reviews says his fans "will likely find it irresistible." The LA Times concludes, "In "The Fallen Man," Hillerman has constructed one of his more intricate plots and one of his more satisfying novels." EW gives it an A-.

I've read the following books by this author:
The Blessing Way (1970)
Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
People of Darkness (1980)
The Dark Wind (1982)
The Ghostway (1984)

Skinwalkers (1986)
Thief of Time (1988)
Talking God (1989)
Coyote Waits (1990)
Sacred Clowns (1993)
The Sinister Pig (2003)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Immobility


Immobility is a 2012 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Brian Evenson. This is an easy to read and yet thought-provoking look at a future humanity.

from the dust jacket:
When you open your eyes, things already seem to be happening without you. You don't know who you are, and you don't remember where you've been. You know the world has changed, that a catastrophe has destroyed what used to exist before, but you can't remember exactly what did exist before. And you're paralyzed from the waist down apparently, but you don't remember that either.

A man claiming to be your friend tells you your services are required. Something crucial has been stolen, but what he tells you about it doesn't quite add up. You've got to get it back or something bad is going to happen. And you've got to get it back fast, so they can freeze you again before your own time runs out.

Before you know it, you're being carried through a ruined landscape on the backs of two men in hazard suits who don't seem anything like you at all, heading toward something you don't understand that may well end up being the death of you.

Welcome to the life of Josef Horkai….
SF Revu calls it "a superb distressing noir thriller as the eclipse blocking the sun never moves on" Kirkus Reviews calls it "satisfying".

NPR closes a positive review with this: "...it's an undeniably important look at what we're at risk of becoming — a nightmare world without hope, reason or compassion. "It's never fair," as Horkai says. "Why should it be?"" Green Man Review finds fault with the editing but concludes, "I’m glad I read Immobility. It’s a bleak philosophical meditation masquerading as a delightfully twisted horror tale."

SF Signal says, "if you’ve been having an absolutely wonderful day and can’t stop smiling at all the good fortune that’s come your way lately, use Immobility to obliterate those warm fuzzy feelings into a thousand mewling fragments." Publishers Weekly says, "this compelling book will darken the mood of even the most lighthearted readers".

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Ordet


Ordet is an award-winning 1955 Danish film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. It centers around the conflicting religious beliefs among the family members in this rural home. One son went mad under the influence of his study of Kierkegaard, thinks he's Jesus, and wanders the house and grounds proclaiming the loss of faith in this age; another son has lost his faith completely, but his pregnant wife and mother of his children comforts him with her belief that his faith will return in due time; and the third son has fallen in love and wants to marry the daughter of the tailor, who is a leader in a local fundamentalist Christian sect and doesn't acknowledge the farmer's family as being Christian.

trailer:



There are several coffee scenes, one particularly touching one during which the daughter-in-law serves the farmer coffee and home-made cakes to soften him up to accept the younger son's romantic intentions. The father asks, "What's all this? Coffee at this time of day?" and after she has plead her case he says that now he knows why she served the coffee and cake.

It's a beautiful, sensitive, miracle of a film. I'm very glad I discovered this director. I've also enjoyed his The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Vampyr (1932).

Arts and Faith has it on their list of the 100 most spiritually significant films and calls it "one of the most beautifully photographed films ever made". The Guardian concludes, "A film with a hypnotic, irresistible stare."

Senses of Cinema closes with this:
In our digital age, we are being inundated with movies that question the reality of the real and encourage us to retreat into fantasies that have very little to do with the real world, to the point that it is no longer only the ivory tower that doubts the material being of the world. Dreyer’s every frame gives us back a solid, real world. And if, in the minds of many, life is now nothing but a dream, any transcendent encounter with a personal God is now not even a dream; it is a delusion from which we have thankfully awakened. Any belief in the supernatural is relegated to the harmless realm of the personal and subjective. Dreyer’s films, however, all insist that the supernatural is real and ever-present, with or without our consent.
FilmReference.com calls it "an enormously accomplished work of film art". Time Out gives it 5 out of 5 stars and opens its review with this: "'Powerful' doesn't do justice to this 1955 exploration of life, death and faith". Roger Ebert has it on his Great Movies list and says, "The film stands utterly and fearlessly alone." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Please join the T Party over at the Altered Books Blog.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Empire of Ash

Empire of Ash is a 1988 Canadian post-apocalyptic film involving nobody I'd ever heard of. If you like bad '80s science fiction films you are in for a real treat.

via Youtube:


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Robin Hood (2010)

Robin Hood is a 2010 re-telling of the classic tale. It's directed by Ridley Scott and stars Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, and Max von Sydow. I just don't think this story needs yet another re-telling, so I was not predisposed to look kindly on it. Watching it didn't change my mind. And it's not really Robin Hood.

trailer:


The Guardian gives it a positive review, calling it an "ambitious, serious and unashamedly populist epic work." The NYT closes with this:
As it crashes and bellows toward its sanguinary end, “Robin Hood” makes a hash of the historical record, and also of its own hero’s biography, the truth of which is revealed through a series of preposterous and unsatisfying flashbacks. Who was Robin Hood? After more than two hours of flaming arrows, loud music and defiant sloganeering, it’s oddly hard to tell.

Roger Ebert speaks kindly of the director but says, "“Robin Hood” is a high-tech and well made violent action picture using the name of Robin Hood for no better reason than that it's an established brand not protected by copyright." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 43% and an audience score of 58%. Empire Online loves it.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Bullitt

Bullitt, the classic 1968 film, stars Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. I sometimes think the women in movies like this are only present to add to the scenery. The film wouldn't have missed Bisset's absence.

trailer:



This is one of those movies everybody should see if only for that chase scene, the father of all chase scenes.

Roger Ebert describes the plot this way:
McQueen plays a San Francisco cop assigned as bodyguard to a syndicate witness. The witness gets shotgunned -in the most brutally direct 10 seconds of film I can remember- and McQueen becomes a political football. Robert Vaughn (better than usual) is the politician who puts the heat on, and it's up to McQueen to hide the victim's body until he can untangle the case.

It's a very tangled case, too. The beautiful thing is that Yates and his writers keep everything straight.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 97%. Empire Online concludes: "Stlick, stylish and ineffably cool, this was perhaps McQueen's defining role. Also mention goes to the uncreditied star of the film; San Francisco."

Friday, March 04, 2016

If I am guilty so are you, it was March 4th 1982

Radar:


by Morphine

Lyrics:
Got to the driver of my car, past the dogs, past the guards
And all of my alarms supposed to be so state of the art
You penetrate my radar, you penetrate my radar
You drop a bomb in my backyard, you penetrate my radar

You played me like a chess game and now you say checkmate
While you go running freely spending money every place
And me I got to hide and I don't dare to show my face
If I am guilty so are you, it was March 4th, 1982

Riding around forever on an empty tank of gas
And an empty pocketbook I better get it to the bank
High up in a glider high up here without a care

I got all the time in the world
I got all the time in the world to spare

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Bangkok Tattoo


Bangkok Tattoo (2006) is the 2nd in the John Burdett Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep book series. I found this book used for $3, not having read the 1st in the series, but reading them in order doesn't seem to be a requirement. I'm not a fan and won't seek out others. The characters seem fairly flat to me. The plot is straightforward but not something I found myself anxious to pursue. I found myself not feeling like I was learning about other cultures so much as hearing generalizations and perhaps even stereotypes. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 = sentences-arranged-in-paragraph-form and 10 = deathless-prose, let's just say I found this book not getting a very high score. Can you tell I didn't like this book at all? In the end, I didn't finish it.

from the back of the book:
Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police returns in this riveting and smokily atmospheric new thriller.

A farang –a foreigner– has been murdered, his body horribly mutilated, at the Bangkok brothel co-owned by Sonchai’s mother and his boss. The dead man was a CIA agent. To make matters worse, the apparent culprit is sweet-natured Chanya, the brothel’s top earner and a woman whom the devoutly Buddhist sleuth has loved for several lifetimes.

How can Sonchai solve this crime without sending Chanya to prison? How can he engage in a cover-up without endangering his karma? And how will he ever get to the bottom of a case whose interested parties include American spooks, Muslim fundamentalists, and gangsters from three countries?

As addictive as opium, as hot as Sriracha chili sauce, and bursting with surprises, Bangkok Tattoo will leave its mark on you.
The Guardian has criticisms, but says, "Burdett uses the mood behind this uprising ["by Muslim militants against the government"] and the attendant paranoias of the post-September 11 world to drive his plot. It is here that the book works best." The NYT has a mixed review. Strange Horizons also has a mixed review.

Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Baroquely complicated, and a bit too preachy but, otherwise, a wry, wise and wonderful romp." Salon says if you don't like it, you're a "pussy" and too thin-skinned and should "lighten up". Entertainment Weekly gives it a B+ and says, "The first few ”ugly farang” jokes come off, but Burdett overworks them mercilessly in this otherwise smart and fascinating novel."

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Darling

Darling is a 1965 drama directed by John Schlesinger and starring Julie Christie, Laurence Harvey and Dirk Bogarde. Shallow, faithless relationships in the 1960s. So, so dated. And I don't mean that in the sense that it shines a light on a particular point in time, but that it looks like a 50s perspective on the 60s. As if it were dated when it was released. As if the film-makers were stuck in the 1950s but were trying to do social commentary of the 1960s. Not fun.

trailer:



BFI ScreenOnline says, "Darling lacks tongue-in-cheek humour and seems barely aware of popular music: odd for a film purporting to be modern and fashionable. Instead, it seems dated". The Guardian concludes "what came across at the time, and what still, on this its 50th anniversary, gives the film its energy, is the sense of a trio of highly intelligent social observers devising a near-documentary portrait of a smooth, rather ugly society in transition." TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 67%.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Still Life with Fruit, Pot and Cup

Still Life with Fruit, Pot and Cup:


is a 1903 painting by Russian painter Alexej von Jawlensky who died in March of 1941. Wikipedia says, "From 1929 Jawlensky suffered from progressively crippling arthritis, which necessitated a reduced scale and finally forced a cessation in his painting in 1937." It must be hard to have such a talent and then to gradually lose the ability to paint. Of course, I can't imagine having that much talent to begin with, but to have it and then lose it...

The picture at the top of the post includes a cup to honor our commitment to share beverage-related posts for submission to T Tuesday (see information on that gathering at the bottom of the post), but Jawlensky is best known for a series of Mystical Heads (1917-1919) and his Saviour's Faces (1918-1920). Here's an example from the Mystical Heads series:


and one from his Saviour's Faces series:


He said he was inspired by Russian icons. from Wikiquote:
Every artist works within a tradition. I am a native of Russia. My Russian soul has always been close to the art of old Russia, the Russian icons, Byzantine art, the mosaics in Ravenna, Venice, Rome, and to Romanesque art. All these artworks produced a religious vibration in my soul, as I sensed in them a deep spiritual language. This art was my tradition. -from his letter to the National Socialist State cultural administration (to ask permission to exhibit his work, which was turned down, ed.) 1939; as quoted in Alexej von Jawlensky, Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, Rotterdam; 25/9 – 27/11-1994, p. 24.
This is a short, 4-minute overview of a 40 work exhibition including paintings and sketches from his earlier to his later pieces:



Please join the online Tuesday link gathering where people share a drink and sometimes their own art.

It's Super Tuesday here in Tennessee, and I'm at a polling place holding a Bernie Sanders sign and handing out flyers. Who knows when I'll be back, but I'll visit when I can. In the meantime, go vote! Or, if today's not your day, discuss your political choice with someone. You might learn something.