Moonlighting

A Book to Warm Your Toes on a Cold Winter’s Night

Laurence Housman, an Englishman who lived from 1865-1959, was mostly known as a playwright, often with a somewhat scandalous bent. He also wrote a delightful collection of original fairy tales titled Moonlight & Fairyland. Along with the stories are 16 fabulous full-color illustrations by Pauline Martin, inset on glossy paper (see snaps below).

Housman has a nice feel for the fairy tale form. The stories are sweet, sad, creepy, violent, scary, funny, and entertaining. He understands that fairy tales are guilty pleasures, like candies, that should be gobbled up and enjoyed. As some of you know, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with folk and fairy tales over the past few years, having written many of my own. I’m happy to add Housman’s wonderfully produced volume to my bookshelf. This was a gift from a friend. Publication date 1978.

(Rating: Fairy Tales Are Like a Box of Chocolates!)

Brain Benders

I’m once again moonlighting as a film reviewer. Both of the following are free on Amazon Prime and two of my favorites that I watched in January. If you’re up for a bipolar evening of movies, watch them back-to-back.

housegames-1House of Games is an interesting little grifter film from 1987, written and directed by David Mamet, about a gang of small-time con men just trying to make a living. You can see the wheels of Mamet’s duplicitous mind in motion as the story builds, and the do-gooder psychiatrist played by Lindsay Crouse becomes the mark. It’s fairly early work for Mamet. He had only a few screenplays under his belt before it, but this is his directorial debut. The acting is surprisingly awful, so bad that it actually added to my enjoyment of the movie. I’m guessing some of this was intentional as Mamet wanted to give the film the feel of early noir. But wow! Crouse is a nightmare in this movie. Drop it on your watch list just for fun.

(Rating: Don’t Burn the Popcorn!)

steeltoes-1On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Steel Toes. This film, released in 2007, set in Montreal, is about a skinhead who brutally murders an immigrant and must own up to his crime. If you can stomach the violent opening scene, you’re in for a fascinating debate between the angry skinhead full of rage and hate, and the compassionate Jewish lawyer who chooses to defend him in court. David Gow wrote the screenplay and the original stage play upon which it was based. The performances are riveting, with both leads showing incredible range. A very relevant movie in our current social climate, well worth watching, contemplating, and discussing.

(Rating: Emotional Roller Coaster!)

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Wicked Italians, Jewish Lore, and American War

NickWickIf you’re a true coffee lover like I am, I’m sure you get a kick out of discovering new brews. Nothing goes better with reading and writing than a good cup of java. In November I found Wicked Joe, a family owned coffee company that appears to be both socially conscious and Earth friendly.  They offer several varieties. I tried their Wicked Italian (naturally!)—organic fair trade, whole bean, dark roast—and brewed it French press style as recommended. (Rating: Delish!)

November’s Reads

AWJK

While enjoying Wicked Joe’s delizioso Italian dark roast, you might as well pair it with some savory Jewish folk tales. Jonathon Keats delves into ancient Jewish lore in The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six. You won’t need a course in Judaism 101 to get a kick out of these short fantasy tales of unruly magic and the truly bizarre. Just an open mind, a vivid imagination, and a willingness to suspend all manner of disbelief.
(Rating: Great fun!)

No book could be more timely than Omar El Akkad’s American War, offering a speculative glimpse into the next American Civil War (circa 2074). What will become of our society if we can’t put an end to our anger, hatred, and divisiveness? Akkad’s extrapolation, frightening as it is, is probably not the worst case scenario. If you’ve been following the decline of American politics and civil discourse lo these recent years, this novel won’t make you feel any better about it, but it’s a thought-provoking journey nonetheless.
(Rating: Go there if you dare!)