Friday 29 January 2010

J.D.Salinger - Who?

I'm quite surprised to see the sad, but not entirely unexpected, death of this man getting such prominence on British news - but that may say more about the times of my own education. During all the time I was at school (1952-63) I can't recall a single American author being even mentioned, let alone being read, apart from Mark Twain, perhaps. However I believe that nowadays greater awareness of such as F.Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Henry James as well as Salinger and one or two others is given greater importance now than in my time - not least because American culture has pervaded the rest of the world outside the U.S.A. to a much greater extent and in so many respects than was the case half a century ago.
I first read 'Catcher' only 5 years ago, and re-read it last year. On one particular point I do wonder if other Americans, especially gay readers, share a certain discomfort towards the very end of the novel when Mr Antolini makes a presumed 'pass' at Caulfield which he rebuffs by making an excuse and running away. Is it just me being over-sensitive at the thought that the first time so many young people will read about a gay ('flitty'/'perverty') person, albeit possibly bi-sexual, is that such an individual is predatory and, if not to be actually despised, then certainly should be avoided and perhaps pitied? Of course I realise the book is very much a reflection of its then contemporary 1951 world and the prevailing attitudes of the time. British writing of the same period was, by and large, hardly any more enlightened. (Films and novels from and before then would have assumed a viewer's/reader's satisfaction at a character with implied 'dubious' sexuality being killed, usually violently, with an undertone of 'Serves him right. He got what he deserved!'. So in that respect at least, I suppose Salinger's book may be considered an advance.) But I'd be very interested indeed in hearing an American viewpoint towards my own take on this episode at the end of 'Catcher'. And I'm also curious to know whether the book is still considered to be an essential read for Americans, as I understand it had been for several decades after its first appearance?

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Oft-repeated resolution - but I mean it this time!

My 6-monthly visit to doctor this morning. Disappointing - Blood pressure significantly up (though it has been appreciably higher than today's in the past). Now he wants me to take my own B.P. twice over next month and then to see him again in 6 weeks. Situation not helped by my having given up running some 8 months ago (because of pains in Ach. Tends.) but also ceasing all other exercise, even walking distances. Now get breathless walking up flights of stairs, which is something really unusual. Lack of exercise also predictably contributing to expanding waistline. Just got to do something about it as when Summer comes and I want to go out dressed in just T-shirt and shorts, the resulting image can justifiably give rise to mirth in others, something I know so well from experience. So got to start the fightback right now - after all, who wants to see a silver bear who looks pregnant?

Wednesday 20 January 2010

My first full-length 3D film experience

Well, yesterday finally got round to seeing 'Avatar'. If it hadn't been for the novelty of 3D I probably wouldn't have bothered. My previous experience of 3D had been for some film I'm pretty sure was in the early 1980s when you were supposed to put on your spectacles for only those times in which a certain character wore a mask, I think. I can't for the life of me remember what that film was but it must surely have been some sort of horror film.
Anyway, if I'd seen 'Avatar' in 'flat-screen' format I doubt very much if I'd have stayed until the end. Found the first third of it mildly interesting, the next hour or more deadly boring with all its predictable romantic cliches (outright hostility turns to grudging admiration which turns to 'love', in turn changing to perceived betrayal and then finally to 'saviour' mode.) , though the film did perk up a bit towards the end, with the stock 'baddie' getting his just deserts of course. But all through, as Larry Ohio mentioned, I found the over-use of 'this-is-what-you-must-think' music so objectionable. As for the 3D itself, yes, it was sporadically impressive but I'd honestly expected to be even more impressed than I was. On getting my 'specs' at admission I said that I didn't expect to be using them again for a long time but was told that they are expecting up to 18 releases in 3D later in this year alone so I'd better keep them safely.
By the way, why do so many films, even those set at some future date, simply have to feature at least one heavy smoker. It's almost as though the film-makers are 'making a point' - perhaps cocking a snook at goody-goodies like me, though what people do in private OR do with other adults without deleteriously affecting non-participants I couldn't care less about. But it seems to me that even in contemporary settings the number of characters on film who smoke is a higher proportion than in real life. Anyway, so much for that. I'll now make an exit on that little peeve.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Raybeardless - aged 24

Might as well show this pic off, taken on the same sojourn in U.S.A. as previous blog. (Note the razor-sharp crease in my trousers. I was so 'trendy' then!) Couple of years after this was taken I grew a beard, which, despite pleas from my mum to shave it off, has remained a continuous feature right up to today....... and, oh yes, my note says "Taken on 88th floor balcony (?) of Empire State Building".

Saturday 9 January 2010

Rolling back the years - to my American experience.

Thought one or two of you might be interested to see a pic I took on my one and only visit to the U.S.A. in 1970. This was taken from the Staten Island ferry - at a time when colour film for personal use was, for me, very much a novelty. As I took this photo I recall thinking of the opening aerial shot of (the film of) West Side Story. On the left of the shot one can see the construction of (of course) the Twin Towers.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Snow Blues

Been snowing all night and still doing so - parts of the country experiencing their most severe Winter for around 30 years with even daytime temps here on the south coast below freezing - and no sign to the end of it with Winter barely out of its infancy. Boo hoo! Loathe this weather. Cursing myself for having chucked out a few years ago a set of chains to wear on one's shoes, because when walking they were 'too noisy'. Now when the snow turns to ice and I go arse-over-tit and suffer an incapacitating injury, life will be a horror story with absolutely no one here or within reach to assist me. Why did I have to buy in advance last week a ticket to go out tomorrow to see the film 'Nine' when it could have waited?
But on more upbeat note, cinema-going has started out well this year - 'Sherlock Holmes' was more than a little enjoyable, despite all the tricksy camera-work and cut-and-slash editing. Even better was 'Nowhere Boy', based on John Lennon's pre-Beatles youth years. What a mixed-up (though maybe understandably) terror and unlikeable bully he was! But as a film, the latter could well end up in my top ten best of 2010.

Friday 1 January 2010

Mopping up 2009's highs and lows of films, books and pop music.

Films most enjoyed (i.e. felt they were worth the money) out of 84 cinema visits, in order of viewing:-
Revolutionary Road
Inglourious Basterds
Broken Embraces
Julie & Julia
Away We Go
Bright Star
Paranormal Activities
Me and Orson Welles

Film least liked - 'The Boat That Rocked' (not even redeeemed by the presence of the ever-watchable Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

Book that most impressed - out of 60 books read (excluding 20 re-reads)
Khalid Hosseini's 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' - heartbreaking, shattering and mind-opening.

Book finally got round to reading - and liked a lot:-
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 'Heat and Dust'.

Book found most entertaining-
Augusten Burrough's 'Running with Scissors' - thanks to Breenlantern for mentioning this author whom I hadn't known till then.

Book I expected to enjoy but didn't especially - (what was all the fuss about?)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Book not expected to have liked, but did (well, quite) :-
Michael Crichton's - Prey.

Biggest pop-music revelation for me:-
Can't think of one for 2009 (not even Lady Ga Ga!) - maybe should accept I'm just getting too old.

Biggest pop-music disappointment:-
Mika's follow-up album after the sensationally good 'Life in Cartoon Motion', awash with 'tunes' from heaven.

What I'd most like to hear in 2010:-

'Scissor Sisters' delivering something as punchily brilliant as their first eponymous album, though 'Ta-DAH' is very nearly as good too. (Okay, okay - so what if I do have the hots for Babydaddy?)

Madonna renouncing wearing animal fur (It's become an unwelcome spectre at the feast whenever I hear her songs, even from yonks ago, and I've just got to have a regular dose of Madge.)

Susan Boyle coming out as lesbian - or, if not, at least getting a sensitive and sensible manager who will guide and care for her properly and with discretion.

So, there it is for last year. What will the the start of the new decade bring? One wonders and hopes, doesn't one?
......and an especially happy NY to anyone reading this.