Saturday, March 30, 2024

Four Favorites


I keep track of the movies I see on the Letterbxd website. Right now if you type Four Favorites into you tube's search engine you will see dozens of answers from Letterboxd users. The diversity of answers is not surprising given the number of films to choose from (about 10,000)

My four favorite films (this week, at least) are THE APARTMENT, DO THE RIGHT THING, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and BRINGING UP BABY. 

What are you FOUR favorites?

Friday, March 29, 2024

FFB-Wednesday's Child, Peter Robinson


In an early book of his Inspector Banks series, two cases are presented. In one, a small girl is taken out of her mother's house on the pretext of an accusation of child endangerment. The second case concerns a young man who is viciously murdered in a mine. Robinson is a master at providing enough details to make the cases interesting and also in telling you enough about Banks' life that you can follow his trajectory from book to book. This book is especially memorable (or horrific) in that the child's mother has so little feeling for her. And the ending will leave you wondering what next? This was a nominee for an Edgar in 1995.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "The Time Being" by Joseph O'Neill


from the March 18th issue of THE NEW YORKER

I initially read this story in the traditional way and although I enjoyed the writing did not get a lot out of it. It seemed very old-fashioned, like a story written by a European emigrant a half-century ago. In the story, a young man, who made a fortune in the nineties, takes over the care of a dog for a neighbor who is ill. He also reads to his neighbor in the hospital and various other things happen. He spends a lot of time thinking about the meaning of life (nota bene) I did not get much out of it. However, this story is available as read by the author and that version seemed like a skilled reader telling me a story that was charming and worth hearing. The voice in my head was clearly less worth listening to. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday, Monday

 Hoping that spring come tomorrow because it's been cold. 

Saw a good play the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson at Theater Nova in Ann Arbor and then went out to dinner with ten people. Awkward number but fun.

Saw One Life, which wasn't Schindler's List or Zone of Interest but it was good. Anthony Hopkins was amazing. How does he do it?

Watching The Two Body Problem and The Manhunt, and Northern Exposure and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which might be the funniest season yet. Is it Carol Leifer that's bringing some new jokes?

Finished Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson.  He was one of the best. I will miss him.

How about you.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: DEATH COMES TOO LATE, Charles Ardai

It's not easy to follow the work of a short story writer until they publish a collection. I have always admired the stories of Charles Ardai, which I have found in anthologies we shared stories in and a few Megan appeared in. He is very adept at writing different sorts of stories, but all of them are beautifully written. He is most well-known as the publisher of Hard Case Crimes' large collection of noir novels. But the stories are more than a hobby and he excels at writing them.

"The Home Front," opens this collection. It originally appeared in Death Do Us Part. It takes place during World War 2 and focuses on the rationing, specifically with gas. The protagonist is a federal agent with the Office of Price Administration. He catches a small-town gas attendant cheating, which leads to a car accident, which sets him on his doomed path. I really don't want to say anymore other than this is a terrific story with great details. What a clever concept and setting for a story. 

Another story I enjoyed was "Sleep! Sleep, Beauty Bright" Originally in Black is the Night, it tells the story of man whose wife is in a coma. Looking out his apartment window, he figures out the guy in the building across from them has a perfect view of their apartment. (Think Rear Window) He sets out to confront the guy over what he may have seen. Another fine story. I always like stories where basically decent people are lured into committing bad acts. If a character starts out evil, it is harder to win me over.

This is a large collection with all types of stories from the look of it. Many of the stories appeared in Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. 

George Kelley


Jerry House

Todd Mason 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Monday, Monday

 Back home. Except it doesn't feel like home yet. Had a very nice time, especially enjoyed all the seafood and music we were able to take it. Had the best calamari I have ever had. Lots of walking-didn't gain any weight despite eating like crazy. We had 20/21 sunny days. It was 61 every day. Perfect walking weather. La Jolla is beautiful.

Reading Wednesday's Child, which I think I read before. It's early in his series. Watched Paris Murders pretty much exclusively. Awfully violent but the detectives are interesting. Also watched DOG HOUSE UK Season 5. Although I have never owned a dog, I find them fun to watch.

So what is new on your front?

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Short Story Wednesday

 (from 2013) (And long before the movie, PIG)

"Michigan Man’s Tastes Get Him Into Trouble"
by Patti Abbott

Daniel was not a gastronome at birth, but it wasn’t long before the word was applicable. Stories detailing incidents of his superior palate as a toddler were numerous. He learned his skills at the side of the finest cook he’d ever met—his mother. 

“Too much rosemary?” she’d ask him before serving the holiday dinner. 

The aroma of roasted poultry was intoxicating to her young son, even if the chicken was a tad over-infused with garlic. She held the fork out, having stolen the smallest tidbit from the underside of a breast. 

“More lemon. And a pinch more marjoram.”

“Brilliant,” she said, after tasting it.

Daniel’s early reading matter was the work of James Beard, and by twelve, he’d successfully replicated Beards’ recipes. He taught himself French to study the work of Escoffier, the author of Le Guide Culinaire, and inventor of the five mother sauces. Daniel aspired to the title bestowed on his mentor: roi des cuisiners et cuisinier des rois.(king of the chefs and chef of the kings). 

This was unlikely however since he rarely cooked for anyone other than himself. 

Eventually Daniel came on the idea of using the finest ingredients available to create a contemporary version of the five sauces. Quelle drole to confine oneself to ingredients as prosaic as butter, garlic and cheese. He would turn Escoffier’s codification on its ear. 

The first four sauces were unparalleled successes. His fruit sauce featured Dansuke watermelons and Yubari cantaloupes, the world’s most expensive melons. A curry was composed of Devon crab, Beluga caviar, Scottish lobster, and quail eggs. A topping composed of caviar and goji berries made his eyes roll with pleasure, and his penultimate sauce, a dessert concoction, used 28 different imported cocoas, some formulated personally for him by chocolatiers.

His final sauce would use white truffles, available only a few months each year. The best were found in Italy, and especially in Alba. Traditionally the truffles had been ferreted out by pigs that, mysteriously, had the nose for it. But pigs also had the inclination to gobble down the white gold, sometimes destroying the entire yield. So pigs had mostly been replaced by dogs that were satisfied to feast on pedestrian treats rather than the truffles. 

“I should like to go along,” Daniel told the importer at the Eastern Market in Detroit. 

“To the airport to pick up your shipment?” 

“To Roccafluvione.” 

This was the town in the Le Marche region his supplier identified as a viable source.

“You mean to the marketplace there?”

Daniel drew an impatient breath. “No. I want to hunt them myself. I should like to smell the earth, to inhale the scent I’ve read about since childhood.” He paused. “And I want to hunt with pigs rather than the dogs. I have a preference for traditional methods.”  

He’d waited a long time for this day and he’d be damned it some mutt was going to tarnish the image of striding amidst the oak trees, pig in hand.

“It’s mostly forbidden,” said his importer. “You’ll have to make special arrangements.”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.” 

Daniel opened his wallet. And eventually his bank account.

And so it was on a dark October day that Daniel and his guide, Bruno, and the Marco, the pig, set out into the hills.

“No one knows you are here?”

Daniel shook his head. 

“You must never speak of this excursion to anyone. Normally I’d ask you to wear a blindfold,” his guide said in excellent English. “But I doubt you will make a second trip.”

“No,” Daniel agreed. “This will be my only outing. Truthfully I am not fond of fungi. They tend to disagree with me, in fact.” His stomach was already rumbling.

“Then why this trip? We have perfected the shipment of truffles, you know.” 

Daniel explained his lifelong desire to hunt for the truffles that would complete his final sauce.

The man nodded knowingly. “I detest red wine. Yet I always drink a glass or two at my local tavern. The owner makes a point of giving me the best red wine in the house because of my profession,” he said, waving his arm around. “I know it’s good, but I’d much prefer beer.”

The pig, trudged on, only occasionally giving a half-hearted snort. He was very large and far uglier than Daniel had imagined.

“You will know you are amongst the truffles when we arrive. It will remind you of locker rooms back in school. Feet, sweat, testosterone, earth.” Bruno drew a breath and his chest expanded. “Marco has the area’s finest sense of smell. Much better than those damned dogs.”

Daniel smiled.

“So you’re going to eat only enough to see that this sauce is up to snuff, and then never touch them again,” Bruno said, after a while.

“That’s about the size of it,” Daniel said. “Just enough to ascertain I have met my objective.”

The oak trees towered above them, the forest growing denser as they walked. At last, Bruno glanced at Daniel, indicating with his eyes that the rope had been tugged by the eager pig. Using the stout stick, he made Marco back away. The three of them stopped. A nice stand of oaks towered over a pirate’s bounty of the white gold. 

The odor was overpowering, and Daniel suddenly felt light-headed. Perhaps it was not just eating fungi that made him ill: it could also be the smell. Without warning, he plunged headlong into the swell of truffles. 

The pig, angry at this unexpected blanketing of his greatest joy, jerked loose of the rope, immediately gobbling away at both Daniel and the truffles. Within seconds, a piece of Daniel and a piece of the white truffles co-mingled. A piece of leg, a piece of thigh. And so it went.

Bruno stood dumbfounded, trying to decide what to do. There was little choice, he thought, looking at the earth beneath him. Knowing the trouble this affair would cause, he and his pig, beaten hard with a stick, ran all the way home.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Scab Painting" Yoka Ogawa


This is one I would have expected by Murakami. Twins are born. One is initially smaller but over time becomes the larger twin. This larger twin collects newspaper articles on imposters and is an expert at removing scabs. His sibling indulges this activity until he is grown and no longer has scabs. The brother then learns how to hurt himself enough to produced scabs. Over time, he fashions artwork from his scabs and when he dies his sibling presents them to the mourners as tokens.  

Perhaps the flash fiction length produces stories like this that are more an idea than a story. I am not even entirely sure of the sex of the more normal twin. The writer never says they are both boys but in fact, refers to this twin as a tomboy. Or maybe I missed the reference. An odd one indeed.