Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Lives of Tao

The Lives of Tao (2013) is the award-winning first book in the Tao science fiction series by Wesley Chu. This has a fascinating concept of aliens who crashed here early in our planet's evolutionary timeline and who have been trying to get off and go home ever since. They cannot endure our atmosphere and survive by living in host bodies. In this way they have directed human evolution and history. Just know in advance that this isn't a feminist-friendly world; everything -even the female characters- is from the male perspective.

from the back of the book:
When out-of-shape IT technician Roen wakes up and starts hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumes he's losing it.

He isn't.

As of last night, he has a passenger in his brain -an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Over the millennia his people have trained human heroes to be great leaders, to advance our species at a rate far beyond what it would have achieved on its own. Split into two opposing factions -the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix- the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet... and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that's what it takes.

So now Roen must train to be a hero worthy of his unwanted companion. Like that's going to end up well...
The Huffington Post has a positive review. Strange Horizons concludes, "This is the science fiction equivalent of beach reading, and I imagine that it will find solid success with a broad swath of SF readership." Fantasy Book Review describes it as "an action packed, secret organization, globetrotting sci-fi thriller."

SF Signal gives it 4 out of 5 stars. Publishers Weekly says, "the execution doesn't live up to the concept."

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Hateful Eight

Hateful Eight is a 2015 western directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Channing Tatum. If you like Tarantino films like I do, you'll like this.


The New York Times has a lengthy review that includes this: "His provocative rereading of history is overshadowed by a plot that manages to be both cumbersome and flimsy." The Guardian calls it "hard to hate but tough to love".

Roger Ebert's site opens with this:
Quentin Tarantino's ultraviolent, ultra-talky sorta-Western "The Hateful Eight" is an impressive display of film craft and a profoundly ugly movie—so gleeful in its violence and so nihilistic in its world view that it feels as though the director is daring his detractors to see it as a confirmation of their worst fears about his art.
Empire Online says, "On a par with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight starts low-key but ultimately delivers big, bold, blood-soaked rewards. Roll on, QT Western number three." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 76%.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Our Christmas Tree

and some other of our decorations:

We're enjoying Christmas movies and music and signs of the season.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander is a 1982 Ingmar Bergman film. It begins at Christmas. Not a typical holiday movie, but -honestly- isn't that a good thing? I am impressed by it.

I have the Criterion edition of the theatrical version. DailyMotion has it in parts, with the first part here. If you watch it there, the other parts are linked at the top of that page.


The New York Times has a glowing review. The Guardian says this is where to start with Bergman.

Slant Magazine says, "How the imagination at once mirrors, deflects, and rearranges reality, especially in childhood, constitutes one of the myriad strands that make up the core of Ingmar Bergman's monumental Fanny and Alexander." Senses of Cinema says, "As an elaborately constructed, compulsively watchable piece of large-scale fiction made for the screen, Fanny och Alexander (Fanny and Alexander) is an achievement with few equals".

Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies and concludes,
At the end, I was subdued and yet exhilarated; something had happened to me that was outside language, that was spiritual, that incorporated Bergman's mysticism; one of his characters suggests that our lives flow into each other's, that even a pebble is an idea of God, that there is a level just out of view where everything really happens.
Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and concludes, "An accomplished masterpiece, with excellent performances and rarely bettered direction." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

My Exercise Routine

I'm putting this all in one place, gradually having found videos of each of the exercises, so I can make sure none of them fall off my radar. I'm going to add this link to the sidebar on the right with my other exercise links.

I don't really know what I'm doing here and haven't seen a physical therapist or trainer, but I've tried to put together a plan that will help my balance and functional strength and maybe even slow my bone loss. I welcome suggestions and recommendations. I know some of these are probably duplicating others and that I could most likely make better use of my time by eliminating some of these, but I have no idea what that would look like. When I run out of time or energy I quit, so I rarely do all of these on any given day.

I do yoga 6 days a week, using the poses illustrated on my blog post here, holding each pose for 30 seconds. I do weights M-W-F.


Standing Hip Flexion:

Hip Abduction:

Hip Extension:

Front Knee Raise (I rest weights on my legs during these):


Sumo Squat:

Bicep Curl:

Lateral arm raises:

Front Arm Raises:

Reverse Fly:

Shoulder Press:

Bent-Over Two-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extension:

Horizontal Row:

Dumbbell Cross Punch:


Hands and Knees:

Bird dog (hold for 30 seconds each side):



90/90 Hip Stretch:

Tailor Sit:

Tricep Dip:

On my back:

Straight Leg Raise:

Single leg bridge (I do a regular bridge as part of my yoga practice):

Hip Abduction with strap:

Thigh Squeeze (I use a towel instead of a ball):

Triceps Extension:

Dead Bug:

Dumbbell Pullover:

Stability Ball Reverse Crunch (with bent knees):

Pelvic Tilts:

Incline Bench Press (I use a ball):

Figure 4 stretch, both sides:

Knee to Chest:



Hip Abduction:

Hip Adduction:

Side-lying Kickback:

Side Plank (sometimes I do this propping on my hands with my arm extended, and sometimes I prop on my forearm as shown in this video. I hold the pose 30 seconds):

Side Plank Leg Raise on extended arm with bottom leg bent at knee (I'm still looking for a video of just this single pose, but it's demonstrated in the video below beginning at 49 seconds):

On my stomach:

Prone Leg Extension:

Prone Leg Kick Up:

either this T-M-Y on a ball (I use light weights with these):

or this I-T-W-Y on the floor:

Reverse Snow Angels:


On the stairs:

Standing Calf Raise:

Crossover Step-up:

Seated on chair:

Scapular Squeeze:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Deux Fillette Finlandaises

Deux Fillette Finlandaises (Two Finnish Girls):

a 1907 painting by Sonia Delaunay, who died on this date in 1979 at age 94. Born in Ukraine in the Russian Empire in 1885, she moved to Paris in 1905. Wikipedia says she
spent most of her working life in Paris and, with her husband Robert Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor.
This is a photo of her taken in 1901:

This is a video/slide show of some of her art:

This is video from a conference associated with an exhibition of her work, especially her textile work. An interesting look into her biography is an early part of the video:

In 2015 the Tate Modern held a retrospective of Delaunay's career, which you can read about here and at the Tate site here. You can read the transcript of an interview with her here.

Please join the bloggers who participate in the T Stands for Tuesday gathering where we share a drink together. I wonder what the Finnish girl in the painting at the top of the post has in her cup. I always start the day with black coffee.

Monday, December 04, 2017

A Christmas Carol (1982)

This Australian film is an animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol from 1982. To be honest, the animated adaptations often seem much of a muchness to me. I find the background music in this one to be annoying. This isn't by far the worst one I've seen, but I won't watch it again.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Big Bugs

The Big Bugs exhibit at the Memphis Botanic Garden contains a series of large insect sculptures. The website says, "Representing eight different species, this nationally recognized traveling art exhibit features ten giant wooden bug sculptures towering up to 18 feet tall. Big Bugs will inhabit all 96 acres of the Memphis Botanic Garden." The artist is David Rogers.

It was a beautiful day, sunny with a high in the mid-60sF, and there was some fall color:

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Mon Oncle Antoine

Mon Oncle Antoine is a 1971 French Canadian film. Wikipedia reports, "The film has twice been voted the greatest Canadian film ever in the Sight & Sound poll, which is conducted once each decade. The Toronto International Film Festival placed it first in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time three times." The heart of the film takes place on Christmas Eve.

part 1:

part 2:

Roger Ebert considers it one of the "great movies".

Friday, December 01, 2017

Set in Darkness

Set in Darkness (2000) by Ian Rankin is the 11th of the Inspector Rebus novels. I like the main character and the series as a whole, and I'm reading these as I find them. This book takes place during December.

from the back of the book:
A man dead for twenty years is found behind a wall in the renovated Parliament Building of newly independent Scotland. A tramp jumps off of a bridge and leaves behind a suitcase full of cash. And Roddy Grieve, a political candidate and the favorite son of a famous family, is killed...

Two of Detective Inspector John Rebus's team are assigned to the old case. His protege Siobhan Clarke takes on the homeless man puzze. Roddy's high-profile murder should be his. But higher-ups hand it to a young bootlicker, creating a bitter Rebus, a loose cannon, and a cop mad enough to go one step too far...

From an illicit affair with a suspect to a battle with the bottle, Rebus is seen wrestling with his dark side. But when he links Roddy's murder with a killer he knows all too well, he has to face his own demons -if it's not too late. For when passion, power, and money are at stake, even the best policeman can die...
Publishers Weekly says, "Topical Scottish nationalism and the new Parliament, along with Rankin's consistently fascinating view of Edinburgh's seedy side, give the novel interest beyond its plot. And the plot is worthy of the series". Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Rankin, who won a Gold Dagger for Black and Blue (1997), adds another bracing Scotch sour to his fine Rebus series, concentrating this time on mordant family relationships, professional infighting, and the near-lethal mistakes of a good man." The Guardian has a plot summary.

I've read the following books in this series:

#1 Knots and Crosses
#3 Tooth and Nail
#13 Resurrection Men

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Riverwoods State Natural Area

The Riverwoods State Natural Area is a 21-acre natural area located in Germantown, TN, which is a Memphis suburb.

I had been to my internist for a regular check-up (all is well), and this park was close by.

See those wooden steps down the hill in the bottom right photo of the four directly above? There are two like that. This is a rustic trail, with no paved sections. On the opposite side of the park from the trailhead pictured at the top of the post the trail connects to the Eastern part of the Wolf River Nature Area and the Wolf River Greenway. Parts of that area are set up as a bike and pedestrian walkway and are accessible:

I didn't go further but will definitely go back to fully explore that area. This link to Google Maps shows how green it is and yet how close to businesses and homes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street is a 1945 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. The movie is based on a book that had been previously adapted for film by Jean Renoir as The Bitch.

Robinson plays a hen-pecked husband who gets drawn into a seedy world of crime because of his attraction to a woman. Robinson is a master at whatever he does, and he deserves to be seen.

via youtube:

The New York Times opens its review from the time of its release with this:
Now that the New York State censors have finished playing around with the film "Scarlet Street" (first they banned it and then they passed it, on appeal, with minor cuts), the public may go to see it at Loew's Criterion and decide for itself just how damaging to its morals this picture may be. This being the case, we're not anxious to prejudice any sinners in advance, but we must sound this critical warning: it isn't likely to encourage a life of crime.
Slant Magazine has a review. Empire Online says, "Harsh morality tale presenting a world where goodness is exploited. But it's not textbook film noir, rather, it's dark melodrama with a classic femme fatale and a lot more of black humour." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Autumn on My Patio

Please join me for a cup of coffee (or I can heat water for tea) and some pie:

and enjoy a pleasant moment on the patio. We're having sunny weather with highs in the 60sF. You can see how tall and sprawling that wild sunflower is over there on the right:

It takes up entirely too much space here, and there's not really enough sun for it, but I love it and haven't found anything I'd like to go there instead. Maybe an Eastern Redcedar?

I'm joining the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. Please join us.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen, by O. Henry

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen is a 1907 short story by O. Henry. You can read it online. It begins,
There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us. We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don't just remember who they were. Bet we can lick 'em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to 'em about these Thanksgiving proclamations.

The big city east of the cranberry bogs has made Thanksgiving Day an institution. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day of celebration, exclusively American.

And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are--thanks to our git-up and enterprise.

Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square from the east, at the walk opposite the fountain. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at 1 o'clock. For every time he had done so things had happened to him -Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart, and equally on the other side.

But to-day Stuffy Pete's appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which, as the philanthropists seem to think, afflicts the poor at such extended intervals.

Certainly Pete was not hungry.
You can listen to it read to you here:

O. Henry, 1909

Sunday, November 26, 2017

La Strada

La Strada is an award-winning 1954 Italian film directed by Federico Fellini and starring Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart, and Giulietta Masina. This will touch your heart if nothing else does.


The full movie is here with English subtitles available in the "settings" menu:

The New York Times calls it a "Tender, Realistic Parable". The Guardian calls it "moving". says it's "one of the true masterpieces of modern cinema".

Roger Ebert gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Day Walk

After our Thanksgiving Day feast we realized we had eaten more than we should've so followed the meal with a little walk.

It gets dark so early these days!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows is an award-winning 1959 French New Wave film directed by François Truffaut. A literal translation of the French title, it misses the point entirely and would be better translated in the spirit of the French idiom meaning "to raise hell" or sow wild oats. The movie centers on a boy who always gets in trouble in school and at home.


The New York Times calls it "A Small Masterpiece". Senses of Cinema says, "This triumph effectively launched Truffaut, Léaud and the nouvelle vague onto the world stage."

Roger Ebert has this on his list of great movies, calling it "one of the most intensely touching stories ever made about a young adolescent." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving feast will include turkey breast, dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pie, cake.... I don't cook much for it any more. My Mother died on Thanksgiving Day, and there's a touch of sadness to the holiday now and wrestling with pots and pans has never been a comfort to me.

Tomorrow we will start decorating for Christmas, which seems deeply wrong somehow but there ya go. That tradition began when we were being invited to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving and so went to my Mother's house the day after. She didn't want to decorate for Christmas by herself and we lived in another town, so she turned the day into a Trim-the-Tree party.

On this day I'm thankful to be living the life I'm living. May all my friends and relatives find gratitude for where they are.

If you're in the mood for a movie, perhaps you'll find one to your liking on this list of Thanksgiving films. Some are short, some long, some serious, some silly. I haven't seen many of them myself.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Act of Violence

Act of Violence is a 1949 film noir directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Mary Astor, Berry Kroeger, Phyllis Thaxter (Martha Kent in the 1978 Superman), Taylor Holmes (Ebeneezer Scrooge in the 1949 TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol narrated by Vincent Price), Connie Gilchrist, and Will Wright. This film deals with issues of what happens when the past war experiences intrude on post-war happiness.


The NYT praises the direction. Rotten Tomatoes has a 90% critics rating.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Painting Techniques

It was the teapot in the main photo for the digital printing section that convinced me to share this article for T Stands for Tuesday. You can see the photo on its own at this link.

I'm no artist, but I found myself intrigued by these alternatives to brushes for creating paintings. Artsy has examples with photos and explanations for painting with splattering and dripping, pouring, pulling and scraping, body printing, air brushing, and digital printing. I can see me trying these on a small scale just for fun. Well, all but the naked body printing. That ain't gonna happen. Airbrushing, hmmm, I wonder what small substitute for an industrial tool I could use for that....

Here's one of their examples for each of the techniques:

Splattering and Dripping

Jackson Pollock, 'Number 1, 1949'


Helen Frankenthaler, Cool Summer 

Pulling and Scraping

Gerhard Richter, Bach (1)

Body Printing

Yves Klein, Anthropometry of the Blue Period (ANT 82)


Ed Ruscha, OH and NO

Digital Painting

David Hockney, Yosemite II, October 16th 2011

Here's my teapot, teacup, and raisin bread toast I'll be having:

as I visit the bloggers who gather weekly to share a beverage. T Stands for Tuesday is hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. You'll find a warm welcome if you join us.