Monday, December 19, 2016

A December Night at the Cinema!

So it's just before the Christmas break, and we're having our monthly night out. We need a night away from the usual holiday rush and bustle, and our usual restaurant saves us a nice secluded table so we don't have to hear the office Christmas party crowd. We do get some extra holiday treats, which is nice, but the holiday grind has us exhausted and having a night away from it is a blessing.

After dinner, and dithering over the check, we saunter up the street, through the cold wind, to that shabby old movie theater that welcomes us in warm comfort.

Tonight's flick is the 1936 thriller The Dark Hour.

This is a solid piece of work from a long-gone Poverty Row studio named Chesterfield, and full of old-dark-house atmosphere and a weird killer for the time. One of the unusual things is the presence of future gossip columnist Hedda Hopper as a romantic interest!

The show over, we hurry up the street, through the cold wind, for a final drink at that little cafe up the way...

Sunday, December 18, 2016


More fun with the Barnavelts!

Teenage Lewis Barnavelt is on a Boy Scout trip in the woods near New Zebedee, MI, when he stumbles on a boulder with the inscription HIC IACET LAMIA. Nearby, he finds an tubular object under a stone he's picking up for the camp fireplace. That night, his tent is shredded by an unseen force. Lewis is having troubles with bullies again, as well as an unfriendly priest at the local Catholic church he attends.

The whistle has the words SIBILA ET VENIAM inscribed on it; Lewis cleans it off and hopes to learn the history of the strange object. He opens up to Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann (thankfully, the days of pointless secret-keeping are over) and they investigate. However, Lewis is chased by the bullies one night and blows on the whistle in a panic...and a strange being shows up...

It's clearly an extrapolation of the classic M. R. James story "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad," and this time the spirit is explicitly vampiric and forms a body from whatever is handy...bedsheets, dead leaves, whatever. There's discussions of "deep magic," stuff from outside our dimension that is so rare that the magicians in the story won't sense it or know how to combat it. (Of course, it ends up being part of the story!) And the grumpy priest turns out to have his own secret as well.

It's good fun, solidly written, if not especially artistic. There is a late-story revelation that kind of comes out of nowhere, but it works well enough, and the creature is eerie and memorable. Good reading for an autumn afternoon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December at the Phantom Concert Hall!

So, it's early in December, and we're already sick of Christmas music blaring at us EVERYWHERE. Really, it can get disgusting after a while. There are some who love that sort of thing year 'round, and more power to them, you do you, but for me, a little goes a long way, and really, sometimes they spew out the worst dreck and it gets played because it's about Christmas.

So for a change, we're doing the symphony tonight (with the possibility of a holiday concert later in the season, if our sanity can handle it) and here's something different....Benjamin Britten's "Sea Interludes." These were originally part of his opera Peter Grimes, but are frequently performed on their own and work well that way. Here's the "Storm" interlude...

Quite a show, eh? All four are worth listening to. I was never much for Britten before hearing this, now I'm intrigued.

So, where do we go for dinner after the concert?