Monday, August 21, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Memphis in the Meantime

Memphis in the Meantime:

from John Hiatt, who celebrates a birthday today.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ghost Month

Ghost Month by Ed Lin, is a 2014 mystery novel that takes place in Taiwan. I enjoyed the book -the characters were people you got to know and cared about, the plot was focused (if slow-moving), and the setting was well-developed. I learned a lot about the culture and food of Taipei, and I love reading books that take place in areas I'm not familiar with.

From the back of the book:
August is Ghost Month in Taiwan -a time to pay respects to the dead and avoid unlucky omens. Jing-nan,
who runs a food stall in a bustling Taipei night market, isn't superstitious, but this August will haunt him. He learns that his high school sweetheart has been murdered -found scantily clad near a highway where she had been selling betel nuts. "Betel nut beauties" are typically women in desperate circumstances, but Julia Huang was high school valedictorian, and the last time Jing-nan spoke to her, she was far away, happily enrolled in NYU's hjonor program. The facts don't add up. Julia's parents don't think so, either, but the police seem to have closed the case without asking any questions. The Huangs beg Jing-nan to do some investigating, but nothing can prepare him for what he is about to learn, or how it will change his life.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "The teeming Taipei setting and the tormented hero combine to create a furious energy that transcends a whodunit plot too mundane even to capture Jing-nan’s full attention." The Boston Globe says, "Come for the exotic food and fascinating setting; stay for the characters." Mysterious Reviews didn't like it and says, "Ghost Month is an odd crime novel in which the mystery of who killed Jenny and why is completely secondary to a running commentary from Jing-nan on all things Taiwanese." Publishers Weekly hopes for a sequel.

NPRhas an interview with the author.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Last Gun

The Last Gun (Jim il primo) is a 1964 spaghetti western starring Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell is the peaceful storekeeper with a secret past who steps up when the outlaws come to town. It's less a spaghetti western really than a straight B-movie western. Worth seeing for Mitchell's performance.

via Youtube:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone is a 1983 Cronenberg horror film about a man (played by Christopher Walken) who wakes up after 5 years in a coma to discover he has psychic abilities. It also stars Tom Skerritt, Colleen Dewhurst, and Martin Sheen. It's based on the Stephen King novel by the same name, which I haven't read. This isn't the kind of horror movie that has gore or monsters but more like a science fiction concept. If you knew the future and could change it, would you? Should you?


Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and opens the review with this:
"The Dead Zone" does what only a good supernatural thriller can do: It makes us forget it is supernatural. Like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist," it tells its story so strongly through the lives of sympathetic, believable people that we not only forgive the gimmicks, we accept them. There is pathos in what happens to the Christopher Walken character in this movie and that pathos would never be felt if we didn't buy the movie's premise.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee

Honoré de Balzac died on August 18th in 1850 at the age of 51. He fueled his intense writing schedule with coffee, which could help explain his poor health. Let's remember that anything can be overdone. He wrote an essay called The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee, which can be read online here. It begins with this:
Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring. Think about it: although more grocery stores in Paris are staying open until midnight, few writers are actually becoming more spiritual.

But as Brillat-Savarin has correctly observed, coffee sets the blood in motion and stimulates the muscles; it accelerates the digestive processes, chases away sleep, and gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects.
and he suggests this method of using the brew:
For a while - for a week or two at most - you can obtain the right amount of stimulation with one, then two cups of coffee brewed from beans that have been crushed with gradually increasing force and infused with hot water.

For another week, by decreasing the amount of water used, by pulverizing the coffee even more finely, and by infusing the grounds with cold water, you can continue to obtain the same cerebral power.

When you have produced the finest grind with the least water possible, you double the dose by drinking two cups at a time; particularly vigorous constitutions can tolerate three cups. In this manner one can continue working for several more days.
Here's Paul Giamatti's interpretation of what this looks like:

Me? I don't recommend it. I suggest you enjoy coffee as you like it for the taste.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Death Week

Here in Memphis we are in the middle of Death Week, as the anniversary week of Elvis Presley's death is popularly known. There are a lot of activities in town for the observance, and there are always an increased number of tourists. Graceland has a full schedule. The Memphis Travel site has suggestions. If you can't come to Memphis in person, Graceland offers virtual tours of the mansion exterior, the mansion foyer, and the Jungle Room. You can take a virtual tour of Sun Studio, where Elvis was first recorded.

The actual date of his death (well, if you believe he's dead. Not everyone buys into that view.) is August 16. This year is the 40th anniversary. Take a moment on the day, if you will, and remember Elvis. He was only 42 years old when he died.

If you want to watch a movie, I'd recommend my favorite King Creole, directed by Michael Curtiz and also starring Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, and Vic Morrow. The film got good reviews and is still well thought of. You can rent it for $2.99. Here's a trailer:

Another one of his best films is Flaming Star with Barbara Eden. He plays the son of a Kiowa mother and a Texas rancher father. You can rent it for $2.99. Here's the trailer:

Elvis could actually act, but his string-songs-together movies did better at the box office so there tended to be pressure to keep putting out more of them.

You can pass on the movies if you like and just listen to his music instead.

If I Can Dream:

That's All Right (Mama):

Heartbreak Hotel, my personal favorite:

It's not that I've been a particularly ardent fan of Elvis, but this is Memphis after all. I'm showing respect.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The House that Dripped Blood

The House that Dripped Blood is a 1970 anthology horror film starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliott, and Jon Pertwee. If you like haunted house movies and the anthology format, this is worth a watch.

Embedding is disabled, but you can watch it at Youtube at this link.


The New York Times has a mixed review, but praises the director, saying, "As a director, Peter Duffell, though at no time a stickler for needless subtleties does better, the better his material. In fairness I should say that when he doesn't have to creak a door, he doesn't; and when he can play with a characterization he does."

Empire Online closes with this: "One of the best Amicus anthology movies, this is an enjoyable affair full of affectionate horror homage." Moria has a mixed review.

The Horror Movie a Day blog has a positive review. says, "The film is extraordinary from start to finish thanks to its exceptional writing, a star-studded cast, and a crew that enlivens what is, for the most part, a stage-bound production." concludes, "... this creepy, atmospheric and choreographed well film will satisfy any lover of horror anthologies." Rotten Tomatoes has a 78% critics score.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Libeled Lady

Libeled Lady (1936) is a screwball comedy starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy. These kinds of comedies aren't really my thing, but this is cute enough.


The New York Times says,
A sardonic comedy, with slapstick smudges and a liberal bedaubing of farce, it takes several freedoms with the press, liberties with the statutes and jousts at justice—all in the merriest of moods. And offhand we can think of a dozen reasons why you should find it a thoroughly agreeable entertainment.
Slant Magazine gives it 2 out of 4 stars and concludes, "It’s a laidback actor’s showcase where they remain kind of charming, kind of fun—even when the movie surrounding them is just kind of lukewarm." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 82%.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Knick Knack

Knick Knack is a 1989 short animated Pixar film:

Cute. You'll get a real kick out of this one.