Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and ponders the problem with the tidiness of mysteries

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Ms. Hen had never read any Sherlock Holmes novels or short stories before, and she came to read this one because she enjoys the BBC show SHERLOCK. She knew there was a book by the same name as one of the episodes and she decided to read it.

The book is very different from the TV episode. The only similarities are the giant hound and some of the characters names. She did enjoy reading it. But for the most part, Sherlock Holmes was not on the main stage in this novel. She wanted more of him, of his cleverness in figuring things out. Sherlock Holmes, the character is like science fiction rather than mystery, because it is almost magical the way he can just decipher a person and a situation.

The novel is about a baronet, Sir Charles Baskerville, who is found dead. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are hired to solve the mystery of how the event occurred. Sherlock sends Watson to Devonshire with the heir, Sir Henry, who has inherited the house and all the money. Watson is given orders by Sherlock not to let Henry out of his sight.

But of course, he does get out of his sight. And danger finds its way to him. He doesn’t get murdered, but it does come close.

Everyone in the area knows about the hound. Ms. Hen had no idea what kind of hound it was until the very end when Sherlock gives a long soliloquy about what really happened.

Ms. Hen is not a big mystery fan because they are usually solved very neatly in the end. The perpetrator always gets caught and that person usually dies or goes to jail in the end. Ms. Hen doesn’t like mysteries because they’re not like real life. In real life, not everything gets tied up in a nice little package.

Real life is messy and Ms. Hen likes it that way. Like a good messy chicken coop, or messy food, or a screwed up situation. But she does like Sherlock Holmes. Because she wonders if someone could actually be that smart and just size up everything about a person just by appearances. Sherlock himself could by the mystery.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews the All Seasons Table and questions the possibility of Mongolian shrimp

All Seasons Table Modern Asian Cuisine
64 Main Street Malden MA

Ms. Hen recently dined at the All Seasons Table in Malden Square. The All Seasons is a Pan-Asian restaurant, an oasis in the center of Malden. If a hen wants to get away from the sketchy people wandering around Malden and relax, All Seasons is the place to go.

Ms. Hen and her chickens ate appetizers and lunch. The star of the appetizers was the crispy calamari. It was crunchy and had the right amount of flavor. The crab rangoon and the chicken fingers were excellent as well.  All of the meals that were ordered came with soup, and the hot and sour soup was as it should be, with some spice in it and the right amount of vegetables and tofu.

Ms. Hen ordered Mongolian sesame chicken (of course), and her chicken friends ordered shrimp with lobster sauce, General Gau’s chicken, Mongolian sesame shrimp and chicken with green beans. All the chickens around the table clucked about how scrumptious their food tasted. Ms. Hen had never had Mongolian chicken before, and she wanted to try something different because she is an adventurous eater, and she was delighted with her choice. It had sesame, onions and scallions, and she thought it was delicious.

Ms. Hen’s chicken friend who ordered the Mongolian shrimp said, “Dude, how can there be Mongolian shrimp?” They all thought about it, and Ms. Hen said, “But we’re not in Mongolia, we’re in New England. And we do have shrimp here.” So the question was answered. It’s the flavor of the Mongolian shrimp. It’s not actually from there.

The All Season Table has a variety of different kinds of Asian food on the menu. There is Chinese food, a wide sushi selection, Malaysian food, Thai food and more. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, and is comfortable. And fresh cut flowers decorate the ladies room.

Ms. Hen is looking forward to her next visit to the All Seasons. She doesn’t know which kind of chicken she’ll get next time, but she knows it will probably be excellent because she enjoys chicken. She’s not a cannibal. She just has eclectic taste.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews RIFFIFI and contemplates the problem with Hollywood endings

Directed by Jules Dassin

Ms. Hen watched RIFFIFI recently and she immediately had déjà vu of another jewel heist film she had seen. After she watched it, she scoured the internet and discovered the other film was LE CERCLE ROUGUE, or THE RED CIRCLE from 1970.

In RIFFIFI, Tony, an ex-con gets out of jail and meets up with some old friends and they decide to rob a jewelry store. What ensues is fighting, a kidnapping and murder. The film is set in Paris in black and white, and the streets glisten with rain. France loves chickens and Ms. Hen loves Paris, so she loved watching the street scenes.

Ms. Hen’s favorite line from RIFFIFI was when Tony says to the guys about robbing the store, “For me, the rocks in the window are chicken feed.” He is referring to the original plan to smash the windows and rob the jewels that way. He wants to break into the shop and get a bigger score.

In the beginning, Tony meets up with his old main squeeze, Moda, at a club where she found a new man. He takes her back to his place, makes her take off her diamonds and pearls, and her fur coat. He makes her take off her dress and then he beats her with his belt. Tony tries to get back together with her at the end and she turns him down. Ms. Hen admired this, because she is a feminist hen. If a man beats a woman with a belt, there’s no way she should take him back.

Riffifi means trouble, and the film is all about trouble. The ending is much better than LE CERCLE ROUGUE because it is more about passion than about greed. The anti-heroes don’t always win in the end, but that’s more like life than the Hollywood ending.

Ms. Hen prefers foreign films, and she doesn’t like Hollywood endings because they’re phony and saccharine. Real life isn’t always happy and when a film shows you the real world, Ms. Hen feels good about the way her life meanders along, boring, stuck in a chicken coop, laying eggs and waiting for something more interesting to happen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS and contemplates Martian communism


Ms. Hen recently watched AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS, a Soviet era silent sci-fi film from 1924. This is not the usual kind of movie that Ms. Hen enjoys. After watching the film, she is still on the fence about silent movies. She prefers talking, even if it is in a foreign language. She does watch a lot of foreign movies with subtitles, and even though she can’t understand what they’re saying, she likes that there is dialogue.

It’s difficult for today’s viewers to get used to a film without dialogue. Without people speaking, the film has to rely on visuals, and AELITA shines in this area. The scenes that show of the Soviet people working in their ordinary lives are honest and bleak. The scenes of Mars are shiny and full of deconstructionist triangles and rectangles. The shadows lurk on Mars ominously. The Queen’s costumes are comical, with shiny sticks hanging out of her head and a dress covering three breasts.

The movie is about Los, an engineer who dreams of going to Mars. He is having problems with his wife Natasha and their new housemate. Aelita, the Queen of Mars, watches them through her telescope. She sees them kiss and she says to her husband, the ruler, “Touch my lips with your lips as those people on Earth did.” She falls in love with Los.

Los goes to Mars and meets the queen. The workers have an uprising because they don’t want to be frozen once their work is done. Los recommends starting a Mars Soviet Socialist Republic. The Queen questions the movement, but they still attempt to change things.

Ms. Hen thought it was ridiculous that people on Mars would be communists. If they did become communists, maybe they should try to get it right. But human nature doesn’t work with everyone on the same playing field. But on Mars, they’re Martians. And hens are animals. It could be that humans screw things up.

Ms. Hen nominates the Martians and the animals to take over Earth and fix everything. She decided that she doesn’t want to go to Mars, but she will be content to think about what it would be like on a different planet with communist Martians.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


HEAT AND DUST by Ruth Prawner Jhabvala

Since Ms. Hen is an avid reader, she will be reviewing books on her blog. She recently read HEAT AND DUST by Ruth Prawner Jhabvala and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She acquired the book from another book-loving hen at one of the gathering for writers that she likes to attend sometimes. Ms. Hen read HEAT AND DUST in January and thought it was an appropriate book for the middle of winter, since it is about India and the setting is hot and dry and the character complains about the heat incessantly. Thinking about sultry India is pleasant when it’s only 10 degrees outside.

The novel is about a young woman who sets off to discover the world in which her step-grandmother, Olivia, lived in the 1920s. Olivia was involved in a scandal, and even though the reader knows what happened at the beginning of the book, she keeps on reading to find out the details of the incident. Olivia and the narrator from the 1970s have parallel experiences and the young narrator knows that she is following Olivia, not purposely, though they lived in different times. Olivia to her is a legend, a myth, someone she’s learned about, but she never dreamed she would become like her.

The narrator from 1970 is a different type of person than Olivia. She is not bored by India, but she wants to learn its secrets. She is curious about the women in the village and the house where she stays. She has her mission to unearth Olivia’s secrets, and she is fascinated by everyone else’s secrets.

The tone of HEAT AND DUST is subdued and calm, reminiscent of Albert Camus’ THE STRANGER. The reader feels like she is entering a ridiculous world where nothing makes sense, but it is a beautiful world full of pain. Like THE STRANGER, the reader is ready for the worst from the beginning, and when the worst comes it feels like it is destined. HEAT AND DUST is about boredom, as is THE STRANGER.

Ms. Hen recommends HEAT AND DUST if you enjoy reading a novel with strong women characters, a taste of a different culture and subtle sensuality. And she would mention don’t try reading this in the summer when it’s 90 degrees out. Because you would be thinking of India and your feathers might wilt.