120616: The Soloist; Weeding; Pinterest; Death Must Die

A restful day, not moving far from bed. Spent some time this morning and late afternoon weeding or de-grassing the gravel at the side of the path coming into the centre. It has gotten very scruffy over the last year, more noticeable when returning from a trip. Having been living out of doors for much of last week, I was feeling like spending time outside, with something of nature. Such a windy day for June.

Watched the film The Soloist having finished the book yesterday. The story is about a homeless musician who dropped out of a prestigious music school in the 70s and is found by a journalist playing Beethoven on the streets of LA. The most touching aspect for me was the deep friendship between the two men, connecting at a fundamental level away from the typical values of society, and the healing nature of music. Reading the book and watching the movie also got me interested in Skid Row, the homeless capital of America. At the time of the book 90,000 people slept rough each night in Los Angeles, Many with mental health issues.  I suppose the numbers have only increased since then. I also read some more about Nathanial Ayres, (who doesn’t look very much like Jamie Foxx, who played the part well). I thought Robert Downey Jr was good as the journalist and author Steve Lopez. As is usually the case, the book was better than the film, honest and unsentimental, without much of the unrealistic drama filmmakers feel the need to insert.

I’ve been posting on Pinterest for the 1st time, with a couple of boards on food and pictures I’ve collected from the Internet that I found funny and had previously posted on my Facebook wall. These can be found here.  I suspect the female to male ratio of Pinterest users is very high.

Loosely following the football with a mixture of hatred and fascination. Greece and the Czech Republic are through. I heard the pundits saying quite the opposite just before the matches. What I really don’t like about football is the frequent fouling and trying to get away with it. Also the nationalism is quite ridiculous. The actual game I like watching sometimes, especially with others, although today I didn’t see any of the action. The irony of Greece celebrating a sporting victory whilst their economic woes deepen with a repeat election tomorrow is saddening.

While I was away on camp with the school a book arrived called Death Must Die  By Ram Alexander. I ordered it for the KFT archives because of the many references to Krishnamurti. I’ve been skim reading the book for references to K, largely referring to the authors struggle with his teachings. Today I also ordered the Red Book by Sera J Beak,  having read a list of recommended new edge books on realitysandwich.com and feeling like reading something a little spicy. The list is mainly  of books featuring the use of psychedelics for healing, something I see the potential of but have moved away from, personally, favouring yoga, meditation and diet, with simple living.

I’m experimenting with a gentle type of fasting where one skips every seventh meal. So today I had no breakfast and in two days I’ll have no lunch, and in another two days no supper.  The principle is that when one isn’t  continuously taking food on board the body has more time for repairing and cleansing.

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The Hunger Games: Battle Royale with Cheese

You’ve heard the joke, right? What do they call The Hunger Games in France? Battle Royale with Cheese.

That’s about right. Think Battle Royale without much battle and what battle there is over very quickly and in a flurry of muddled camerawork and editing for an age certificate. Think Truman Show. Think Lord of the Flies. Or should that be Lord of the Aphids? Think that garish film with Bruce Willis in the future with all those OTT future fashions. Think of a lot of missed opportunity for either a good adventure movie, or a good satire, or a dystopian nightmare. Think of forests and flashy computers, day-glow and streams. Think of characters you never get to know, allegiances never explained, and not knowing how many are left alive. Think of healing potions and special cammo cream. Think of very shaky cameras and disorientating editing. The girl was very watchable, and did the right thing most of the time. There’s a really quite touching funeral arrangement with flowers. I wanted to enjoy the film, but couldn’t due to how poorly, um, executed it was. There could have been some really cool action, hunting, chasing, hiding, etc. but the opportunities were for the most part lost. Whoops we went to see a teen movie, I thought half way through. Poor teens. I hope for their sakes the books are better.

Dame Edna and Catnip

The Cane Toad in Australia

We brought you in to eat the beetles
But they were too high on the crop
And you hopped away
And mated making thousands
Who mated making thousands
And hopped away
And mated making thousands
And hopped away
Along the coast of Queensland
North and south
Greeny browny yellow and kind of panting
Bounded head-first though obstacles
Munched up the insects
And dog food
You popped when we run you down
You squirted poison when under attack
You half-killed Wallace the dog with your toxin
Then the dog came back
But wasn’t the same
It didn’t do doggy things any more they said
A little girl had you as a pet
Called you Dairy Queen
You didn’t poison her
You liked being played with
And your belly tickled
Melrose the Wonder Toad liked that too
Before he got too fat to hop
Bubbly backed
Most called you ugly
Some said beautiful
No right to be there
But it’s not your fault
Once they built a statue of you
And psychedelic postcards
And tourists came
A man made bags and hats out of your skin
Bags and hats with or without your head sticking out
Dogs licked your toxins
In just the right amount
Tripping on your ooze
Who knows what’s going on in those dogs’ minds?
I guess you might
We spiked you with spears
We froze you in bags
We melted you down into fertilizer
We tried fences and traps
And still you hopped on
Headed west on the highways
Once you numbered one hundred and two
Now one and a half billion
Hibernating in holes
Sometimes forming moving carpets
In your masses
Kimberley’s Toad Busters
Will bag you and gas you
But we can’t contain you
The country is yours, oh Cane Toad!

Trailer:

Tripping Dog Dobby:

North by Northwest – Alfred Hitchcock

No. 37 in the IMDB top 50 is North by Northwest directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Made at the end of the 1950s this is a fairly light adventure story of mistaken identity, cold war criminals and FBI agents. It’s mostly nonsensical but highly entertaining. An ad-man (Cary Grant) goes on the run after escaping an attempt on his life and then being falsely accused of murder. It’s funny in places, intentionally and dated-movie-wise, and sometimes suspenseful, as in the two most iconic scenes – the crop sprayer and up on Mt Rushmore at the end. You get plenty of 1950s acting and those car-driving scenes with the projected rear-view, and a very pretty supporting actress. It reminded me somewhat of a James Bond film. The ending is jarringly sudden, I found, and the opening credits ahead of their time.

Good lines:

Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then but I have tickets for the theatre this evening.

Thornhill: “Kaplan has dandruff.”
Mother: “In that case, I think we should leave.”

“I’m an advertising man not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders depended upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting slightly killed. The answer is no.”

Original poster:

Trailer (looks way more dated than the film itself):

Brooks Was Here – Brooks’ Story from Shawshank Redemption

Yesterday we watched The Shawshank Redemption, a film I hadn’t seen in a long while. I cried twice. Particularly moving is the story of Brooks the librarian who went to prison in the early 1900s and on his parole in the 50s he can’t take the change, having been institutionalised so long. Here’s the letter he writes to his friends inside:

Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The parole board got me into this halfway house called “The Brewer” and a job bagging groceries at the Foodway. It’s hard work and I try to keep up, but my hands hurt most of the time. I don’t think the store manager likes me very much. Sometimes after work, I go to the park and feed the birds. I keep thinking Jake might just show up and say hello, but he never does. I hope wherever he is, he’s doin’ okay and makin’ new friends. I have trouble sleepin’ at night. I have bad dreams like I’m falling. I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they’d send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me.

Here’s that story in five minutes, five minutes of near-perfect film making.

Later while in solitary, Andy figures how to prevent the same thing happening to Red on his release.

Citizen Kane – Orson Welles

Continuing through those films in the IMDB Top 50 I haven’t seen, number 38 is Citizen Kane. I knew very little about this film but had read in various places that it is the ‘best film ever made’. Maybe these writers have a different idea about ‘best’ than I have. I found it hard to like. Admire the technical aspects, yes, but like, no. Of course, ‘best’ doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it. I can’t help think that it’s a ‘filmmaker film’, admired for it’s technical achievements and structure, it’s shortfalls glossed over. However one film maker, the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman “stated his dislike for the movie, calling it “a total bore” and claiming that the “performances are worthless.” He went on to call Orson Welles an “infinitely overrated filmmaker.”

Spoilers ahead.

I didn’t really understand the event that shaped the film, the mother sending her child away to be brought up by a trust fund manager or banker. This made no sense to me, except the minimal explanation that it was to protect Kane from his abusive father and that the small boarding house was no place to grow up. Or something. Why would a mother abandon her child so readily? This one event leads Kane into a grand, luxurious mess for the rest of his needy life. The plot follows a loose mystery of Kane’s dying word, ‘Rosebud’, showing his newspaper days, political and personal life, and then descent into madness, imposing his will to the extreme. There’s a proper full-on rage scene, smashing up his wife’s room, that just keeps going. Kane ends his days in a preposterous palace, alone, buying stuff, apparently dreaming of happy times on his sledge and throwing snowballs at his house.

A couple of memorable quotes:

“I think it would be fun to run a newspaper. Grrr!”

“What would you have liked to have been?”
“Everything you hate.”

“You never gave me anything in your whole life, you just tried to buy me into giving you something.”

I noticed some odd comedy music between some scenes, also a few surreal shots, such as the heads in the ‘welcome home trophy’ and the cockatoo transition.

The telling of the failure of Kane’s first marriage in just a few short scenes at the dining table was excellent.

Poster:

Here’s the post-modern original trailer:

City Lights – Charlie Chaplin

Continuing through those films I haven’t seen in the IMDB Top 50, No. 46 is City Lights , released in 1931 as the era of silent movies was coming to an end. 81 years later, I suppose this kind of simple slapstick/mishap humour is a little basic; during it’s day it must have been utterly hilarious and a masterpiece. It’s clear he moves his body wonderfully and the comic timing superb. Overall I found it tedious to watch, and the reedy score grating. However, there were several inspired moments:

Chaplin’s reaction to the gunshot at the millionaire’s, burying his head in the sofa, bum in the air
Slipping around, walking across the dancefloor
Using the soda fountain to put out a fire on a woman’s behind
Eating the party streamer thinking it is spaghetti
Trying to scoop the bald head as party food
Hiding behind the ref in the boxing match
The superb boxing choreography:

Trailer:

Poster:

Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock

Number 47 of the IMDB top 250 films is Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It features a pervy fifty year old detective suffering from acrophobia, falling obsessively in love with a blonde woman, young enough to be his daughter, whilst ignoring a sweet underwear designer friend who is in love with him. He meets the mysterious woman by using his poor detective skills in following her too closely, having been hired by an acquaintance due to her odd ‘possessed’ behaviour. Only, there is no possession or weirdness, it’s all a scam so that the acquaintance can get his wife’s wealth and run away because he’s a bit bored with life in the shipping industry. Thus the plot twist strips the film of its interestingness. In the opening credits, some gyroscopes can be seen inside a woman’s eye as she tries hard not to blink. The scenes in 1950s San Francisco are a delight and Midge’s apartment seems remarkably fresh and modern. The final scene did give me the willies with its surprise ending, and then I thought the evil looking nun must have something to do with it all. An intrusive score runs through the whole thing.

Poster:

Vertigo Poster

Trailer:

Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick

I am going to watch those films in the IMDB Top 50 I have not seen before.

I started today with Paths of Glory directed by Stanley Kubrick. It’s a 1957 film set in World War I staring Kirk Douglas. It highlights the terror and absurdity of war, and how it can make man stop thinking of people as people but mere statistics for attempted victory. The attempted victory in this case was impossible from the start, the order handed down the chain of command, initiated to impress politicians and the press and accepted for personal glory by the General. The film makes a mockery of systems of authority and the inherent possibility for corruption and saving one’s own face at the expense of others. Of course it is the lowest who are most human and lose the most. I was struck at how little choice there is for questioning or rebellion once in an army or war situation. Some of the acting is a little wooden, as often the case in films of this era, but it is expertly crafted and the dialogue well written. The battle scenes are intense giving a real feel for life in the trenches and the horrors of no-man’s-land. The title comes from a poem by Thomas Gray “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

Poster:

Incredible POV scene in the trenches, leading to the fateful push:

This is about as ‘action’ as the film gets.

Trailer:

110312

Went to Petersfield, got on the bus to Selborne, walked to Petersfield. That’s my idea of fun.

On the bus there was a little boy with his dad and granddad, going to Alton to ride the steam train. Are you having a nice time? Are you having a nice time? The father kept asking. Are you having a nice time? Because daddy wants you to have a nice time. I’m having a nice time, the boy reluctantly replied. Sat just in front, I wasn’t convinced. Then a sudden retch and sploosh, the boy was sick over the window and seat then promptly burst into tears and wailing. This lasted many minutes as granddad got the wet wipes out and tried to mop it up. Once he’d stopped crying, again the boy repeated, I’m having a nice time. By then I’d moved further back in the bus because it smelt of sick up there.

The walk was very good for me. Four hours out in the open, following the chain of hangers south from Selborne to Hawkley, then over the meaty Shoulder of Mutton hill to Steep and Petersfield, through an area called Little Switzerland. The waterfall is always a delight, so near to home.

This evening watched The Social Network for the second time. Geeks! Harvard! Jocks! Coding! Not listening! Pilfering! Partying! Blogging! Suing!

Steps stepped: 21,340 (A new record)

110309 Adjustment Bureau

Saw The Adjustment Bureau. A rather boring title for a slightly less boring film.

*Spoiler alert, next paragraph*

A bunch of bumbling angles in suits and hats do God’s work according to his master plan. There is a plan to follow, laid out in magic books, because we are not to be trusted with free will as that led to two world wars and the potential destruction of the whole kaboom with the Cuban Missile Crisis. But because the two main characters love each other so much and fight for it, God makes an exception for them.

It’s all very watchable thanks to the two main actors and production values, but it could have been more exciting or more thoughtful, one or the other, please. Instead it’s a curious mix of romance, action and sci-fi. I suspect the writer didn’t have the ability to extend Philip K. Dick’s short story properly.

I liked Emily Blunt’s dancing very much but couldn’t find a clip of it.

Found out there are two archery Centres nearby, one in Petersfield, the other Four Marks/Alton. The Alton group has beginner introduction mornings next month, so I am going to attend. Also attending a new yoga class in Petersfield next week.

Steps stepped: three thousand and something

21 Jan 2011

The plan was to drive to Selborne, bus to Alton and walk part of the Hangers Way back to Selborne for 10 miles or so. It was so cold, grey, misty when we were waiting for the bus that we quickly decided not to do a long walk, instead scooting up the 250 year old Zig Zag Path to Selborne Common. It’s always a little spooky up there with the old trees, mosses, twisting parasite plants and enclosed feeling, and the mist only heightened that. Still, it was pleasant to walk for an hour, remembering our very first walk together in Rishikesh, nearly twelve years ago. That time and this, C got a thorn in her foot.

Scenes on Selbourne Common:

Two Tone Tree

Fallen Tree

View from the Zig Zag Path

Misty Selborne Common

Then we piled down the A3 to good old Pompey for some shopping and cinema. The big sports shop is closing down. We picked up a couple of camping mattresses for £7, a foot pump for £3. A solar pedometer for £5 and some camping cutlery for a quid.

Saw a film: The Kings Speech. It’s a good one, especially for anyone who, like me, is afraid of public speaking. Poor guy, muddling along as a mere Lord and next minute he’s the bloody King thanks to his love-stricken brother (who due to odd casting is way to young to be his older brother). The speech therapist comes across well, a healthy dose of irreverence to position and tradition within a kind heart, with real ability to help. The overall feeling is that despite privilege and power, these people are just like the rest of us. I also enjoyed seeing Helena in a non-weirded-out rol.

This was a great scene, where Lionel the therapist has been found out not to be an actual doctor, and due to appearances the King is dismissing him:

King George VI: [Logue is sitting on the coronation throne] Get up! Y-you can’t sit there! GET UP!
Lionel Logue: Why not? It’s a chair.
King George VI: T-that… that is Saint Edward’s chair.
Lionel Logue: People have carved their names on it.
King George VI: L-listen to me… listen to me!
Lionel Logue: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
King George VI: Because I have a voice!
Lionel Logue: …yes, you do.

and this:

Lionel Logue: [as George “Bertie” is lighting up a cigarette] Please don’t do that.
King George VI: I’m sorry?
Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They’re idiots.
King George VI: They’ve all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.

(See clip below)

But my favourite thing dear old Lionel said was:

“You don’t need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were five years old.” How very true, yet here we are, children in adult’s bodies.

We left Portsmouth at sunset:

12 Jan 2011

Took the day off and spent the morning in bed, after an hour’s yoga session. I felt quite run down, and again itchy feeling in my face and weak eyesight. There is no doubt this is the effect of a week of wheat and a little sugar. In the afternoon we did a food shop, with C driving both ways, through the dark and rain. She did well and it’s looking good for the test in a week’s time. This evening after home made pizza we watched 127 Hours, the second time for me. It’s such a watchable film, despite knowing the plot, and is one of my all time favourites. I don’t want to get trapped in a canyon, but wouldn’t it do us all good to be forced to stop for five days and face what we are?