Sunday, November 19, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery novel. It's directed by Kenneth Branagh and Branagh plays Hercule Poirot. Also starring are Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. I went in fully prepared to despise this, but I liked it. You could argue that David Suchet is definitive and that we don't need more remakes and adaptations, but I'm happy to find this enjoyable. Ignore those nay-saying reviewers; I certainly am. I hope this is the first in a series.

And please don't let the mustache distract you, for pity's sake.


The New York Times has a mixed review and says there are "few surprises". Really? Isn't that a good thing for an adaptation of a well-known story?

Common Sense Media calls it a "Colorful, thoughtful, classical mystery". Empire Online calls it "An enjoyable journey with a stellar cast".

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Football 42

Watching a recent UEFA Champions League group game between Bayern Munich and the Scottish Celtics, I noticed a 42 on the back of one of the Celtic players. Meet Callum McGregor!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kingsman: the Secret Service

Kingsman: the Secret Service is a 2014 film, a lighthearted spy comedy that's a lot of fun to watch. The really big names here are Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine. The sequel was released earlier in the Fall.


Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "Kingsman is a high-octane combo of action and comedy that breathes sweet and surreal new life into the big-screen spy game". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 84%.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Death in Venice

Death in Venice is a 1912 novella (73 pages long in my edition) by Thomas Mann. I read the 1930 translation.

from the back of the book:
[Death in Venice] is a haunting masterpiece about an eminent write, Gustave Aschenbach, who is weary of his work and travels to Venice for a vacation. But his notions of relaxation quickly give way to an upheaval at once disturbing and exhilarating, as he falls passionately in love with a beautiful Polish boy.
You can read a translation from 1912 online here. It begins,
Gustav Aschenbach, or von Aschenbach, as his official surname had been since his fiftieth birthday, had taken another solitary walk from his apartment in Munich’s Prinzregentenstraße on a spring afternoon of the year 19.., which had shown the continent such a menacing grimace for a few months. Overexcited by the dangerous and difficult work of that morning that demanded a maximum of caution, discretion, of forcefulness and exactitude of will, the writer had been unable, even after lunch, to stop the continued revolution of that innermost productive drive of his, that motus animi continuus, which after Cicero is the heart of eloquence, and had been thwarted trying to find that soothing slumber which he, in view of his declining resistance, needed so dearly. Therefore he had gone outside soon after tea, hoping that fresh air and exertion would regenerate him and reward him with a productive evening.

It was early May, and, after some cold and wet weeks, a faux midsummer had begun. The Englische Garten, although only slightly leafy, was humid as in August and had been teeming with carriages and strollers where it was close to the city. At the Aumeister, where increasingly serene paths had led him, he had surveyed the popular and lively Wirtsgarten, on the bounds of which some cabs and carriages were parking, he had started his saunter home across the fields outside of the park while the light was fading, and waited, since he felt exhausted and a thunderstorm seemed imminent over Föhring, for the tram which was to carry him in a straight line back to the city. He happened to find the station and its surroundings completely deserted. Neither on the paved Ungererstraße, on which the lonely-glistening rails stretched towards Schwabing, nor on the Föhringer Chaussee a cart could be seen; nothing stirred behind the fences of the stonecutters, where crosses, commemorative plates, and monuments for sale formed a second, uninhabited cemetery and the Byzantine edifice of the mortuary chapel on the other side of the street lay silent in the last light of the parting day. Its front wall, decorated with Greek crosses and emblems in bright colors, furthermore sports symmetrically aligned biblical inscriptions concerning the afterlife, such as: “THEY ENTER THE HOUSE OF GOD” or “THE ETERNAL LIGHT MAY SHINE UPON THEM”; and the waiter for a time had found a reasonable entertainment in reading the phrases and letting his mind’s eye wander in their iridescent mystery, when he, returning from his reverie, had noticed a man in the portico, close to the apocalyptic beasts which guard the staircase, whose wholly unusual appearance steered his thoughts into a completely different direction.
The photo at the top of the page is of the boy who was the inspiration for the story.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Coffee at Audubon Park Lake

It was such a lovely fall afternoon The Husband and I decided to take some coffee and enjoy time at Audubon Park Lake.

Audubon Park is a nice urban park not far from where we live. This lake is towards the east side of the park.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Still Life with Apples and Pitcher

Still Life with Apples and Pitcher:

by Camille Pissarro, who died on November 13, 1903, in Paris at the age of 73.

My wine glasses aren't even really wine glasses but are short and stemless and all-purpose:

They suit my needs for my nearly-daily wine with dinner. And, for those of you who might remember my trips down the grocery store wine aisles, the wine in the glass is my current favorite: Sterling Vintner's Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.

Please join the weekly blogger gathering and share a drink with us at T Stands for Tuesday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Changed Man

A Changed Man is a 2005 novel by Francine Prose. I bought this used some time ago, and it's been on my to-be-read shelf ever since. So many books, so little time.... I found this a little too optimistic for my taste.

from the back of the book:
What is charismatic Holocaust survivor Meyer Maslow to think when a rough-looking young neo-Nazi named Vincent Nolan walks into the Manhattan office of Maslow's human rights foundation and declares that he wants to "save guys like me from becoming guys like me"? As Vincent turns into the kind of person who might actually be able to do this, he also transforms those around him: Meyer Maslow,
who fears heroism has become a desk job; the foundation's dedicated fund-raiser, Bonnie Kalen, an appealingly vulnerable divorced single mother;
and even Bonnie's teenage son.

Francine Prose's A Changed Man is a darkly comic and masterfully inventive novel that poses essential questions about human nature, morality, and the capacity for personal reinvention.
The New York Times calls it "powerful, funny and exquisitely nuanced". The Guardian has a less positive review saying, "Her faith in America and the essential innocence of its inhabitants turns what could have been a challenging read into a witless fable for our times." New York Magazine opens with, "In A Changed Man, Francine Prose unloads on do-gooder hypocrisy and a media with blinders on." The New Yorker concludes, "As a sendup, the book is quite fun, but too often Prose’s writing falls victim to the very earnestness that she satirizes."

Kirkus Reviews calls it "An edgy, riveting tale, one of Prose’s most interesting." Publishers Weekly says, "this tale hits comic high notes even as it probes serious issues".

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Lichterman Nature Center in Autumn

The Lichterman Nature Center is a certified arboretum and nature center in Memphis, TN. You can see a map at this link. I walked the lake and forest trails this time.

Lake Trail:

They had a display of scarecrows for the fall season:

Forest Trail:

This is an enjoyable park to walk in, although I'll have to admit I preferred it when it was less developed and less geared to school groups. Even so, it's still a wonderful place to experience nature and seasonal changes.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An Autumn Holiday

Charles Ethan Porter - Autumn Landscape

An Autumn Holiday is a short story by Sarah Orne Jewett, perhaps best known for her 1896 novella The Country of the Pointed Firs. First published in Harper’s Magazine in October, 1880, An Autumn Holiday can be read online here. It begins,
I had started early in the afternoon for a long walk; it was just the weather for walking, and I went across the fields with a delighted heart. The wind came straight in from the sea, and the sky was bright blue; there was a little tinge of red still lingering on the maples, and my dress brushed over the late golden-rods, while my old dog, who seemed to have taken a new lease of youth, jumped about wildly and raced after the little birds that flew up out of the long brown grass -- the constant little chickadees, that would soon sing before the coming of snow. But this day brought no thought of winter; it was one of the October days when to breathe the air is like drinking wine, and every touch of the wind against one's face is a caress: like a quick, sweet kiss, that wind is. You have a sense of companionship; it is a day that loves you.

I went strolling along, with this dear idle day for company; it was a pleasure to be alive, and to go through the dry grass, and to spring over the stone walls and the shaky pasture fences. I stopped by each of the stray apple-trees that came in my way, to make friends with it, or to ask after its health, if it were an old friend. These old apple-trees make very charming bits of the world in October; the leaves cling to them later than to the other trees, and the turf keeps short and green underneath; and in this grass, which was frosty in the morning, and has not quite dried yet, you can find some cold little cider apples, with one side knurly, and one shiny bright red or yellow cheek. They are wet with dew, these little apples, and a black ant runs anxiously over them when you turn them round and round to see where the best place is to bite. There will almost always be a bird's nest in the tree, and it is most likely to be a robin's nest. The prehistoric robins must have been cave-dwellers, for they still make their nests as much like cellars as they can, though they follow the new fashion and build them aloft. One always has a thought of spring at the sight of a robin's nest. It is so little while ago that it was spring, and we were so glad to have the birds come back, and the life of the new year was just showing itself; we were looking forward to so much growth and to the realization and perfection of so many things. I think the sadness of autumn, or the pathos of it, is like that of elderly people. We have seen how the flowers looked when they bloomed and have eaten the fruit when it was ripe; the questions have had their answer, the days we waited for have come and gone. Everything has stopped growing. And so the children have grown to be men and women, their lives have been lived, the autumn has come. We have seen what our lives would be like when we were older; success or disappointment, it is all over at any rate. Yet it only makes one sad to think it is autumn with the flowers or with one's own life, when one forgets that always and always there will be the spring again.
You can have it read to you here:

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous 2016 animated story. The Younger Son saw this in the theater and loved it so much he bought it for me for my birthday. It's a wonderful film. Providing voices: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey.


Variety says it "stands as the sort of film that feels richer with each successive viewing, from the paper-folded Laika logo at the beginning (an early taste of the stunning origami sequences to follow) to the emotional resonance of its final shot." Rolling Stone gives it a full 4-star review and says, "while magical is a word that gets thrown around a lot about the movies, few actually deserve to be called that. Kubo and the Two Strings does, and in spades." The Guardian says it "stands out for its complexity, seductively dark themes and the extraordinary beauty of its animation" and that it "succeeds on every level"

Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Yet another success for stop-motion giants Laika, Kubo boasts big laughs and effective scares in a typically gorgeous animated tale." Roger Ebert's site says, "The timelessness of the film gives it an overall feeling of cinematic grace, with obvious nods to greats ranging from Kurosawa and Miyazaki to Spielberg and Lucas. The resonance of the performances from its excellent voice cast gives it an immediate emotional punch." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Central Station

Central Station is an award-winning 2016 science fiction novel by Lavie Tidhar. I've been trying to read more recent science fiction lately, although that's not an inexpensive endeavor. Our public library has stopped requiring a SS# to get a card, so I'll check them out as a source. I bought this one new at our local bookseller. I'm glad I came across this book. It's a novel crafted from interrelated short stories.

from the back of the book:
A quarter of a million people have settled at the base of a space station in Tel Aviv. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. Humans, machines, and Others are interconnected through a flowing digital consciousness. Life may be cheap, but data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong reluctantly returns to Central Station from Mars, he finds utter chaos. His ex-lover is rausing a child who taps into minds with the touch of a finger. Boris's father has a multigenerational mind-plague. His space-faring cousin is infatuated with a cyborg robotnik. And an erratic data-vampire has followed Boris home....
favorite quote:
There comes a time in a man's life when he realises stories are lies. Things do not end neatly. The enforced narratives a human impinges on the chaoic mess that is life become empty labels, like the dried husks of corn such as are thrown down in the summer months from the adaptoplant dwellings, to litter the streets below.

NPR concludes,
Central Station held together. It is just this side of a masterpiece — short, restrained, lush — and the truest joy of it is in the way Tidhar scatters brilliant ideas like pennies on the sidewalk. He has pockets full of them. Enough here for 10 books, easy.

But the best compliment I can give this one is that as soon as I finished it, I sighed, smiled, closed the back cover, then turned the whole thing 'round and immediately started over again at Page 1.
Fantasy Book Review says, "It is a collection of short stories that are all tied together with an overarching plot, and it touches on things like faith, evolution, discrimination, and more." Strange Horizons says, "Apart from the amazing world-building, it’s all about the meeting, intermingling, and interacting of many cultures...". The New York Review of Science Fiction closes with this: "mature readers who are willing to sit down in Miriam Jones’s bar, have a drink, and watch the passing Tel Aviv scene will be amply rewarded."

Publishers Weekly says, "Readers of all persuasions will be entranced." Ars Technica says it "offers a realistically weird picture of life on a far-future space station." Kirkus Reviews has an interview with the author.

Locus Online says, "Somehow, Central Station combines a cultural sensibility too long invisible in SF with a sensibility which is nothing but classic SF, and the result is a rather elegant suite of tales." SF Crowsnest closes a positive review by saying, "At the end of the book, I was left with a mellow feeling of contentment and the impression that I’d enjoyed a relaxing holiday in the company of some intriguing characters."

This book counts towards my book challenge, being on the list of NPR Best Books of 2016.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle is a 1993 award-winning romantic comedy/drama featuring a young father whose beloved wife dies and whose 8-year-old son tries to pair him up with a suitable new partner. I'd never seen this before, not liking rom-coms, but my search for variety in holiday viewing brought me to this. I actually liked it. Sweet, but not too sweet. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Also in this: Rob Reiner, Bill Pullman, Rosie O'Donnell, and Victor Garber (Jesus in Godspell). Nora Ephron directs.

The beginning of the film takes place during the Christmas season.


The New York Times says, "Ms. Ephron and her associates create a make-believe world so engaging that "Sleepless in Seattle" is finally impossible to resist. Both Mr. Hanks and Ms. Ryan bring substance to their roles." Rolling Stone calls it "sublime". The Guardian gives it 4 out of 5 stars.

Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "sweet and touching". Roger Ebert says it was "so warm and gentle I smiled the whole way through." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 75%.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Lorette With Cup of Coffee

Lorette With Cup of Coffee (1917):

by Henri Matisse, who died on November 3 in 1954 at the age of 84. I've seen this painting under several different titles, and I'm unsure which one is actually correct. Matisse is one of those artists that many people have heard of even if they don't know much about art. If you'd like to refresh your knowledge, has a lovely page and The Art Page has highlights of key points. And here's a video on the life and works of Matisse:

My own mugs for Autumn:

aren't nearly so elegant as the cup in the painting at the top of the post, but I'm sure my coffee is just as tasty. Here, I'm drinking a local coffee Ugly Mug Hardy Passion, which is our usual early morning choice. Please join me in sharing your drink of choice with the bloggers at the T Stands For Tuesday gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Dark Places

Dark Places is a 2009 award-winning mystery book by Gillian Flynn. I've seen some descriptions calling it "disturbing," but I didn't find it so. It seemed not unusual for a book featuring a woman who endured a family tragedy as a child. I found not a single sympathetic character here and no one I could identify with. It was an easy read, but there were elements I didn't like. Those include a child abuse subplot.

It was adapted for film, but to be honest I didn't even know that. I've got no interest in seeing the movie.

from the back of the book:
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survives -and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club -a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes- locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club -for a fee.

As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started -on the run from a killer.
The New York Times describes it as a "nerve-fraying thriller". The Guardian concludes, "The time-split narrative works superbly, and the atmosphere is eerily macabre - Dark Places is even better than the author's award-winning Sharp Objects". The New Yorker calls it a "well-paced story".

Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "For most of the wild story’s running time ... every sentence crackles with enough baleful energy to fuel a whole town through the coldest Kansas winter." Pantheon Magazine says, "As with any thriller worth its salt, the whodunit defers to the why, and that why is at once sad and poignant." Publishers Weekly says it "tops her impressive debut".

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction is a 2006 fantasy comedy/drama starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson. I'm so glad I came across this. I haven't liked Will Ferrell in anything but Elf, but I liked this. A lot.


The New York Times has a positive review. Empire Online calls it "smart, ingenious and heartwarming."

Roger Ebert gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars and says, ""Stranger Than Fiction" is a meditation on life, art and romance, and on the kinds of responsibility we have. Such an uncommonly intelligent film does not often get made." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 85%.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Fractal Prince

The Fractal Prince is the second book in the Jean le Flambeur science fiction trilogy by Hannu Rajaniemi. These are fascinating in some ways, but I know so precious little about physics (what the heck does it mean to surf a deficit angle, for example) that I'm thinking understanding what is going on is just more effort than it's worth to me. Seen as a work of art, I applaud it. Seen as a book that might have a plot in there somewhere if only I could figure it out, I find it lacking. A bit more explication of the concepts would've gone a long way. I'm going to skip book three.

from the back of the book:
In Hannu Rajaniemi's dazzling debut novel, THE QUANTUM THIEF, he introduced us to future like no other -a Solar System physically re-shaped by posthuman intelligences and shot through with ubiquitous IT.

It is a world in which quantum effects can be manipulated by the powerful to unknowable ends; an era in which some are gods and others are dead souls, kept alive for their processing power. Where in the inner Solar System, the Sobornost endlessly iterate themselves in vast, planet-sized guberniyas -while casually running experiments on the photosphere of the sun.

It is a world of barbaric adventure in the outer system, of mad warrior cultures and a race of hyperadvanced humans descended from an MMORPG guild.
A Solar System marked by the fragments of Jupiter-that-was ... and where on Earth, in a city of shadow players and jinni, two sisters contemplate a revolution.

In this world, the thief Jean le Flambeur had to break out of prison -and find the truth about his many previous selves, a truth he had hidden long ago. This Jean has now done, but he is still not free.

To pay his debts he must now break into the mind of a living god. On the edges of physical space, he must open a Schrodinger box -one protected by codes that twist logic and sanity. In the box is his freedom. Or not.
The Guardian concludes a positive review by saying, "Thoughtful, hard, densely realised and highly patterned, there's nothing quite like it in contemporary SF." Strange Horizons has a mixed review, concluding, "I remain doggedly optimistic about book three." Kirkus Reviews has a mixed review, calling it "intimidating" but "mostly, rewarding". From SF Signal: "BOTTOM LINE: A follow up to The Quantum Thief that ultimately has major problems of accessibility."

SF Site closes with this:
The Fractal Prince is a fantastic ride through a world whose mores, conventions, and inhabitants have been shaped through technology that can alter, bend, and twist reality and human memory. The novel rides the edge where hard science fiction meets the avant-garde, with a grand sense of style and adventure. With all that going on, the book's greatest achievement may be that the main characters, no matter what body or form they happen to be inhabiting, are at their emotional core still human, full of hopes and fears, with stories of their own to tell.
The Green Man Review quotes another reviewer as saying, “You don’t need a degree in mathematical physics to read this book, but it helps” but also praises the storytelling saying, "This may just be the most interesting ongoing series in science fiction right now. First Lupin, then Scheherezade — just what imposing literary spirit will this practiced dabbler channel next?"

Friday, November 03, 2017

Benny & Joon

Benny & Joon is a 1993 romantic comedy starring Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn, Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, C.C.H. Pounder, Dan Hedaya, Joe Grifasi, and William H. Macy. What a sweet, delightful, endearing film! The cast is wonderful, and the characters feel real. I loved this movie and can't recommend it highly enough.


The New York Times has a positive review. Rolling Stone doesn't like it.

Empire Online says, "at the core of its misfits-need-love-too storyline lies a warmhearted charm so captivating that only the most hardened cynic will fail to be enchanted." Roger Ebert gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "The story wants to be about love, but is also about madness, and somehow it weaves the two together with a charm that would probably not be quite so easy in real life." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 85%.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ace High

Ace High is a 1968 Italian spaghetti western starring Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy, and Bud Spencer. The characters are interesting, and their interactions are fun to watch. I like this one, even if it is a bit long. Part of the movie takes place in Memphis. says, "Spencer has confessed in several interviews that he had learned everything he knew about acting from Wallach. He also seems to be in very good shape here". DVD Talk says, "The movie itself is better than average but lacks key qualities that make Leone's movies stand out: Style and wit." 10K Bullets closes with this: "This film focuses more on the characters just having a good time which is a refreshing take on the genre."

Diamond Solitaire

Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey is the 2nd book in the Peter Diamond mystery novel series. This was a fun read, and I'll gladly pick up another when I come across one. Lovesey stole my heart by including a high-ranked sumo wrestler as one of the plot elements.

from the dust jacket:
No one saw the small Japanese child hiding in the furniture department at Harrods. She was abandoned and unable to speak, yet she caused a major alert. Spotting any intruder after the store closed had been ex-CID man Peter Diamond's job. Had been.
The oversight had gotten the overweight Diamond sacked ... again.

Working as a security guard is, at any rate, far below the superior talents of an experienced homicide detective. Unable to forget the frightened eyes of this strangely silent little girl, Diamond takes on a challenge befitting his skills -uncovering her identity. And when Japan's top sumo wrestler takes an interest in the case Diamond is back in the sleuthing business, bolstered by the wrestler's international influence and his heavy wallet.

But Diamond soon discovers he has to throw his considerable weight around when the trail leads to New York and Tokyo, to "smart" drugs and suicide ... to the mafia and murder. With the girl's life in the balance, he needs to tip the scales any way he can, even if it means playing the heavy in a shocking climax that may shatter Diamond's heart -or cost him his life.
Kirkus Reviews concludes a positive review with this: "Polish up the Gold Dagger; Lovesey's angling for another." The Independent has a positive review. Publishers Weekly closes by saying, "Lovesey's mysteries have won awards in England and France; he has previously been nominated for an Edgar, as he could be again for this fine tale. Author tour."

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 award-winning film directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt. It's on the list of 100 most spiritually significant films.


The New York Times calls it "an entertaining tale about an ambitious young Australian journalist, Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson), who comes to Jakarta on his first overseas assignment determined to make a name for himself" and regrets that it's not a better film.

The Guardian focuses on the casting of Linda Hunt. Empire Online concludes, "Exotic love and war, guns and poetry, this delivers all the right ingrediends for to cook up a truly terrific war drama." Spirituality and Practice describes it as "A suspenseful, stylish drama about a journalist and the local man who helps him in Indonesia during the last year of Sukarno's reign" and closes by saying, "The film's overall impact, however, rests firmly on the intense and remarkable portrait of Billy Kwan by an American woman, Linda Hunt. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress."

Roger Ebert gives it a full 4 stars and says, ""The Year of Living Dangerously" achieves one of the best re-creations of an exotic locale I've ever seen in a movie" and calls it "a wonderfully absorbing film." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 89%.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Death of a Healing Woman

Death of a Healing Woman by Allana Martin is the first book in the Texana Jones mystery series. It begins on the Day of the Dead. I enjoyed reading about this setting and these characters; there's a marvelously realized vision of the location. My photo above is the careless shot I uploaded to Facebook.

Yes, there are comforting warm beverages in this book. Here's an example from early on:
The wall clock read 7:15. Luxuriating in Charlie's presence behind the front counter, I indulged in a second, then a third cup of coffee at the table in front of the kitchen window with its wide-angle view -tens of miles of the unfolding desert.

I am myself only here, in the borderland, la frontera. I had left this country for a year during a brief first marriage and had learned that I was out of step with the values by which much of the rest of the world judges happiness and success. I had fled back home, fearful that if I stayed away I might lose myself forever.

The border with Mexico is a boundary only in the minds of professional politicians in Washington. To fronterizos it is a country in itself, a country of the mind and soul, a place where two cultures grate and bleed and blend into a hybrid country, ambiguous, harsh, and full of extremes.

Even our language is different, a fluid mix of Spanish and English.Code-switching, the linguists call it when fronterizos move back and forth between Spanish to English in the same sentence. We call it Tejano.

My thoughts were intruded upon by someone in the front of the trading post hurling rapid-fire Tejano at Charlie, whose modulated tones punctuated the sound bites of a voice I recognized. I poured the remains of my coffee down the sink and pushed through the connecting door to say hello.
Publishers Weekly calls it an "absorbing debut" and concludes, "Martin populates Jones's tiny hometown of El Polvo with hardworking, goodhearted eccentrics and farmers, all richly portrayed in a series sure to be a winner." Kirkus Reviews calls it "a quietly absorbing debut".

It was a staff pick on this Texas Library blog, where they say you'll like it "If you like contemporary mysteries with a western flavor such as the Walt Longmire Series by Craig Johnson or the Joe Pickett Series by C. J. Box" and also this: "Plot driven with a strong sense of place, this suspenseful mystery also hosts a cast of vividly memorable characters."

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. Share a drink with us and visit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Stolen Body

The Stolen Body is an 1898 supernatural tale by H.G. Wells. It begins,
Mr. Bessel was the senior partner in the firm of Bessel, Hart, and Brown, of St. Paul's Churchyard, and for many years he was well known among those interested in psychical research as a liberal-minded and conscientious investigator. He was an unmarried man, and instead of living in the suburbs, after the fashion of his class, he occupied rooms in the Albany, near Piccadilly. He was particularly interested in the questions of thought transference and of apparitions of the living, and in November, 1896, he commenced a series of experiments in conjunction with Mr. Vincey, of Staple Inn, in order to test the alleged possibility of projecting an apparition of one's self by force of will through space.

Their experiments were conducted in the following manner: At a pre- arranged hour Mr. Bessel shut himself in one of his rooms in the Albany and Mr. Vincey in his sitting-room in Staple Inn, and each then fixed his mind as resolutely as possible on the other. Mr. Bessel had acquired the art of self-hypnotism, and, so far as he could, he attempted first to hypnotise himself and then to project himself as a "phantom of the living" across the intervening space of nearly two miles into Mr. Vincey's apartment. On several evenings this was tried without any satisfactory result, but on the fifth or sixth occasion Mr. Vincey did actually see or imagine he saw an apparition of Mr. Bessel standing in his room. He states that the appearance, although brief, was very vivid and real. He noticed that Mr. Bessel's face was white and his expression anxious, and, moreover, that his hair was disordered. For a moment Mr. Vincey, in spite of his state of expectation, was too surprised to speak or move, and in that moment it seemed to him as though the figure glanced over its shoulder and incontinently vanished.
You can read it online here. You can listen here:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil is a 2006 drama, a gorgeous film directed by John Curran and starring Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones, and Diana Rigg.

It is based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel with the same name, which can be read online. I haven't read the book, but the film inspires me to put it on my to-be-read list. This is the book's 3rd film adaptation.


"When love and duty are one, grace is within you."

I never cry during films, but I did during this one.

The New York Times has a positive review. Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars and concludes, "The Painted Veil has the power and intimacy of a timeless love story. By all means, let it sweep you away." Spirituality and Practice calls it "A beautiful and very believable story, set in China in the 1920s, about the personal transformation of a married couple."

Empire Online says it's "Handsomely crafted, with meticulous performances". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 85%.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Repairer of Reputations

The Repairer of Reputations is an 1895 story by Robert W. Chambers. It is one in a collection of stories, The King in Yellow. Excerpt:
I had walked down that day from Dr. Archer's house on Madison Avenue, where I had been as a mere formality. Ever since that fall from my horse, four years before, I had been troubled at times with pains in the back of my head and neck, but now for months they had been absent, and the doctor sent me away that day saying there was nothing more to be cured in me. It was hardly worth his fee to be told that; I knew it myself. Still I did not grudge him the money. What I minded was the mistake which he made at first. When they picked me up from the pavement where I lay unconscious, and somebody had mercifully sent a bullet through my horse's head, I was carried to Dr. Archer, and he, pronouncing my brain affected, placed me in his private asylum where I was obliged to endure treatment for insanity. At last he decided that I was well, and I, knowing that my mind had always been as sound as his, if not sounder, "paid my tuition" as he jokingly called it, and left. I told him, smiling, that I would get even with him for his mistake, and he laughed heartily, and asked me to call once in a while. I did so, hoping for a chance to even up accounts, but he gave me none, and I told him I would wait.
You can read the story online here. You can hear it here:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a 2017 science fiction film directed by Luc Besson. We had looked forward to it and saw it in the theater. It was fun and very pretty to watch.


Variety calls it an "expansive, expensive adventure whose creativity outweighs its more uneven elements". The Atlantic calls it "a visual sensation that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible." The Guardian describes the plot: "The film is based on a French comic-book series that has been running since the 1960s, and it stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, sleek and preposterous space agents in the 28th century" and has a negative review.

Esquire closes with this: "There was never a dull moment. Do with that information what you will. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit in a silent, dark room for a few hours. I need a dull moment." Rolling Stone says, "It's as gorgeous as anything the French filmmaker has made and as empty as a Trump tweet. You either go with it or you don't."

The New York Times titles their review, "‘Valerian’ Is a Rave in Space (but Not Much Fun)" and concludes, "“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” feels as if it were made up on the spot, by someone so delighted by the gaudy genre packaging at his disposal that he lost track of what was supposed to be inside." The Washington Post calls it "little more than meets the eye."

Empire Online concludes, "A wildly ambitious space opera, but also a self-indulgent narrative morass. Sometimes, it seems, creativity can benefit from a few limitations." Hollywood Reporter has a negative review. Roger Ebert's site has a glowing reviewing and says it's "a deliriously entertaining film that finds writer/director Luc Besson swinging for the fences in his efforts to make a weirdo sci-fi epic for the ages and coming up with a virtual home run derby."

Rotten Tomatoes scores from critics illustrates how mixed the reviews are.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Prophetic Pictures

The Prophetic Pictures is an 1837 story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It begins,
"BUT THIS PAINTER!" cried Walter Ludlow, with animation. "He not only excels in his peculiar art, but possesses vast acquirements in all other learning and science. He talks Hebrew with Dr. Mather, and gives lectures in anatomy to Dr. Boylston. In a word, he will meet the best instructed man among us on his own ground. Moreover, he is a polished gentleman--a citizen of the world--yes, a true cosmopolite; for he will speak like a native of each clime and country of the globe except our own forests, whither he is now going. Nor is all this what I most admire in him."

"Indeed!" said Elinor, who had listened with a woman's interest to the description of such a man. "Yet this is admirable enough."

"Surely it is," replied her lover, "but far less so than his natural gift of adapting himself to every variety of character, insomuch that all men--and all women too, Elinor--shall find a mirror of themselves in this wonderful painter. But the greatest wonder is yet to be told."

"Nay, if he have more wonderful attributes than these," said Elinor, laughing, "Boston is a perilous abode for the poor gentleman. Are you telling me of a painter or a wizard?"

"In truth," answered he, "that question might be asked much more seriously than you suppose. They say that he paints not merely a man's features, but his mind and heart. He catches the secret sentiments and passions, and throws them upon the canvas, like sunshine--or perhaps, in the portraits of dark-souled men, like a gleam of infernal fire. It is an awful gift," added Walter, lowering his voice from its tone of enthusiasm. "I shall be almost afraid to sit to him."

"Walter, are you in earnest?" exclaimed Elinor.

"For Heaven's sake, dearest Elinor, do not let him paint the look which you now wear," said her lover, smiling, though rather perplexed. "There: it is passing away now, but when you spoke you seemed frightened to death, and very sad besides. What were you thinking of?"

"Nothing, nothing," answered Elinor hastily. "You paint my face with your own fantasies. Well, come for me tomorrow, and we will visit this wonderful artist."

But when the young man had departed, it cannot be denied that a remarkable expression was again visible on the fair and youthful face of his mistress. It was a sad and anxious look, little in accordance with what should have been the feelings of a maiden on the eve of wedlock. Yet Walter Ludlow was the chosen of her heart.

"A look!" said Elinor to herself. "No wonder that it startled him, if it expressed what I sometimes feel. I know, by my own experience, how frightful a look may be. But it was all fancy. I thought nothing of it at the time--I have seen nothing of it since--I did but dream it."

And she busied herself about the embroidery of a ruff, in which she meant that her portrait should be taken.
You can read it online here. You can listen to it here:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blade Runner: 2049

Blade Runner: 2049 is a 2017 sequel to the 1982 Blade Runner film. It stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. I love the original and am happy they did such a good job with the sequel.


The New York Times says,
There is a something to think about here, a fair amount to feel and even more to see. Mr. Villeneuve has conspired with the cinematographer, Roger A. Deakins; the production designer, Dennis Gassner; and the special effects team to create zones of strangeness that occasionally rise to the level of sublimity.
The Washington Post says it "honors -and surpasses— the original". The Guardian gives it 5 out of 5 stars. Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Visually immaculate, swirling with themes as heart-rending as they are mind-twisting, 2049 is, without doubt, a good year. And one of 2017’s best."

Roger Ebert's site gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars and says,
while hundreds of writers and filmmakers were inspired by “Blade Runner,” it’s hard to believe any of them could have found a way to expand its legacy as completely as Villenueve does here with a movie that doesn't feel at all repetitive. He’s in no way seeking to improve or replace—the films now work together, enriching each other instead of mimicking. They ask timeless questions and, like all great films, refuse to give you all the answers, allowing viewers to debate and discuss their meaning instead of merely being passive recipients of mindless entertainment.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 88%.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Demie Tasse

Demie Tasse, 1990:

by Arman, who was born in France in 1928 and died at 76 years of age on October 22, 2005. The concept is delightful, I think. He has a page at the Museum of Modern Art. You can read more about him and see photos of his varied work at his website.

I saw this coffee set on display at the Memphis Brooks Museum. The museum opened in 1916 in Overton Park but is considering a relocation to our developing riverfront.

Please join the blog gathering T Stands for Tuesday hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Hanging Stranger

The Hanging Stranger is a short story by Philip K. Dick. It begins,
At five o'clock Ed Loyce washed up, tossed on his hat and coat, got his car out and headed across town toward his TV sales store. He was tired. His back and shoulders ached from digging dirt out of the basement and wheeling it into the back yard. But for a forty-year-old man he had done okay. Janet could get a new vase with the money he had saved; and he liked the idea of repairing the foundations himself.

It was getting dark. The setting sun cast long rays over the scurrying commuters, tired and grim-faced, women loaded down with bundles and packages, students, swarming home from the university, mixing with clerks and businessmen and drab secretaries. He stopped his Packard for a red light and then started it up again. The store had been open without him; he'd arrive just in time to spell the help for dinner, go over the records of the day, maybe even close a couple of sales himself. He drove slowly past the small square of green in the center of the street, the town park. There were no parking places in front of LOYCE TV SALES AND SERVICE. He cursed under his breath and swung the car in a U-turn. Again he passed the little square of green with its lonely drinking fountain and bench and single lamppost.

From the lamppost something was hanging. A shapeless dark bundle, swinging a little with the wind. Like a dummy of some sort. Loyce rolled down his window and peered out. What the hell was it? A display of some kind? Sometimes the Chamber of Commerce put up displays in the square.
You can read it online here.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is a 1967 Brazilian horror film directed by José Mojica Marins, who is also known as "Coffin Joe". It is the middle film in the Coffin Joe trilogy, the first being "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul". You can watch the first one here.

via Youtube:

Senses of Cinema closes a positive review with this:
There may be a riotous celebration of carnality, and it’s part of the thrill, but there is also a dark nihilism at play that openly criticises all levels of society, from the superstitious villagers and their reliance on faith and religion, to Coffin Joe’s megalomania as he becomes drunk on his own sense of personal power fuelled by a knowledge that is deeply flawed.
Classic-Horror says it "manages to be something unique and special." Moria has a 3-star review. 1000 Misspent Hours says, "Watching it is like eavesdropping on somebody’s nightmares— it may not make sense, but this peek into a tortured psyche is pretty compelling nevertheless."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nightmare in Wax

Nightmare in Wax is a 1969 horror film starring Cameron Mitchell. I do love Cameron Mitchell, which is the reason I watched this. He plays the disfigured wax museum owner with great flair. It's worth watching for his performance alone.

via Youtube:

Moria has a review. Horrorpedia has links to reviews and some photos.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cold Hand in Mine

Cold Hand in Mine is a 1976 book of weird fiction short stories by Robert Aickman. I don't generally like short stories, but Aickman's are unusual. from the back of the book:
Aickman's "strange stories" (his preferred term) are constructed immaculately, the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realises that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream.

Cold Hand in Mine, first published in 1975, stands as one of Aikman's finest collections and contains eight tales including "Pages from a Young Girl's Journal" which won the World Fantasy Award.
My favorites from this collection are "The Real Road to the Church" which begins,
But was that the true meaning? Le vrai chemin de l'nglise? The overtones of symbolism and conversion seemed clear enough, but Rosa still rather wondered whether the significance of the phrase was not wholly topographical. One could so easily read far too much into the traditional usages of simple people.

Probably all that was meant was the simplest and directest route (and perhaps the ancientest); the alternative to the new (but no longer very new) and metalled main road that wound along the borders of properties, instead of creeping through them. Though by now, Rosa reflected, all roads had begun to barge through once again, and no longer went courteously around and about. Very much so: that, she thought, was symbolic, if anything was. Of everything: of the changed world outside and also of her own questionable place in it. But when one began to think in that way, all things become symbolic of all other things. Not that that was in itself untrue: though it was only one truth, of course. And when one admitted that there were many truths existing concurrently, upon which of them could one possibly be thought to stand firm - let alone, to rest? Almost certainly, the simple people who used that phrase, gave no thought at all to its meaning. It was a convention only, as are the left hand side and the right. Conventions are, indeed, all that shield us from the shivering void, though often they do so but poorly and desperately
and "The Same Dog" which begins,
Though there were three boys, there were also twelve long years between Hilary Brigstock and his immediately elder brother, Gilbert. On the other hand, there was only one year and one month between Gilbert and the future head of the family, Roger.

Hilary could not remember when first the suggestion entered his ears that his existence was the consequence of a "mistake". Possibly he had in any case hit upon the idea already, within his own head. Nor did his Christian name help very much: people always supposed it to be the name of a girl, even though his father asserted loudly on all possible occasions that the idea was a complete mistake, a product of etymological and historical ignorance, and of typical modern sloppiness.

And his mother was dead. He was quite unable to remember her, however hard he tried; ashe from time to time did. Because his father never remarried, having as clear and definite vi-ews about women as he had about many other things, Hilary grew up against an almost enti-rely male background.
The Short Review says it "is one of the author’s best known books, featuring eight classy stories which offer a fascinating showcase of Aickman’s cryptic but enticing narrative style" and concludes, "Lovers of contemporary dark fiction should not miss this splendid book, a fully enjoyable , unique reading experience providing full evidence that life’s dark corners are much more scary than monsters, zombies and werewolves."

Kirkus Reviews closes their review with this:
Aickman writes far richer, subtler prose than most super-horror practitioners; in place of terrifying climaxes and satisfyingly releasing denouements (which many will miss), he offers inventions that puzzle--and sometimes confuse--from beginning to end and don't really frighten unless and until their unanswered questions creep back into consciousness.
Horror News says,
Discovering Aickman delivers that kind of virgin-territory thrill, albeit a more genteel experience. Aickman’s stories aren’t about zombies and demons and gore and blood. You certainly won’t be screaming in terror. But you may look a little paler after reading. And he’ll certainly take you to the dark places in the mind that you’re not sure you really want to visit.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Haunted Gold

Haunted Gold is a 1932 western starring John Wayne. It's less than an hour long, and I would suggest it if it were available free. It's not worth paying for.


TCM has some information.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

May Morris

May Morris, the younger daughter of William Morris and artist in her own right, died on this date in 1938 at age 76. In the photo above she is seated on the ground next to her mother in the hammock. I love the cup and saucer in the foreground and offer this post as part of the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Here she is as a child in about 1865 with her mother:

She's 4th from the right with her parents and sister in this 1874 photo:

She wrote a book on decorative needlework in 1893 which can be read online. She was best know for her embroidery, and images of her work are available online using a simple google search. She bequeathed art to the Victoria and Albert Museum on her death. I offer these that particularly struck me as I was reading about this artist:

A Garden Piece, 1938:

Hanging panel:

Maids of Honor:

Book binding:

Honeysuckle II:

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth where you'll find a warm welcome.