Monday 30 August 2010

Noodles is a real virtuoso on the keyboard.

This is he this morning playing 'Lullaby in A flat-out'.

Both my pussies have a rota of where they sleep, and then change it after a few weeks. But this one has chosen my keyboard (always the treble end) every day for at least two months now, to rest himself during the day after an exhausting night out on the prowl. A bit odd when there are so many more comfortable places to have a 'cat-nap'. Means that when wanting to play myself I've either got to omit the top notes or move everything down an octave. And while I'm struggling with my transposed fingerwork do you think he cares enough to move away? NO!

Sunday 29 August 2010

Glorious Day

Most bloggers write about their social visits and adventures, which I enjoy reading, although I never write on the subject myself for the simple reason that I don't experience any. Not so yesterday, when I went to Brighton to spend the afternoon with a friend whom I'd got to know in Amsterdam nearly 30 years ago when he was then working in the gay hotel which I frequented, and whom I haven't seen for 12 years. David is actually originally English but has lived in Holland all this time - now earning his living there practising Shiatsu massage. He was spending a few days in England and brought with him a very nice friend from London of Turkish Cypriot extraction, probably early 40s, and another long-time female friend who was the eldest of the four of us. David was the only one of us who hadn't, in the past, lived for some years in Brighton, or even ever properly been to this gayest city in the country - so it was a visit of some 'discovery' for him.
Of course being a bank holiday weekend the crowds in the centre and around the 'sights' were even denser than usual but, what with the perfect sunny weather, it didn't deter our enjoyment in any way. Much catching-up, much earnest conversation, much banter and much laughter both over our meal in a Japanese restaurant and then walking around, he snapping his camera madly all over the place, then on the sea-front where there was so much activity of many descriptions - rock groups, vendors' stalls, sports, - and seeing conspicuous groups of gays 'queening' it around, it was lovely. David was particularly happy to witness two middle-aged men walking along hand-in-hand - still, sadly, a rare sight in England. Stopped at length for coffee and cakes at the open-air 'Meeting Point' cafe - and talking extravagantly about gay-life, politics, religion, life in general - but as all four of us were on the same wavelength regarding just about every subject we could say what we liked without fear of causing offence to any others (except to any who might have overheard our raucous, OTT, laughter-saturated bitching about those we didn't like. Some might well have thought that we were all high on 'grass'!). I was sorry when thoughts of my cats, whom I knew would have been pining for my return, caused me to make my excuses to leave. But I left on a definite, real 'high', with hugs and kisses all round - and promises to 'do it again' sometime. For me, one of those very rare 'days to remember'.

Thursday 26 August 2010

One of the things I don't understand about (most) women.

Why do they wear make-up? What is 'disguising' their real self supposed to achieve - to make them appear more attractive than they actually are? I, for one, have nearly always found that women look nicer by not wearing any make-up - just like men, in fact. As long as they are clean and tidy I don't see any point in their painting their faces. Some psychologists opine that lipstick, for instance, is sometimes applied (unconsciously, of course) to present a visual resonance with the vulval labia for (hetero) men, though I imagine that many women, and quite a number of men too, would reject that suggestion outright and with horror. I don't know if that's true or not though it seems quite plausible to me.
The most homophobic person I ever worked with was a (then) young lady about 4 years younger than me - who, when she found out that I was gay, couldn't resist not only quoting (inaccurately) the Bible at me but also accused me of leading an 'unnatural' lifestyle (which, as any informed person knows, it isn't, of course. Minority maybe, but totally natural.) I think what had initially bewildered her was not only that I was almost certainly the first 'out' gay she'd ever met (this was 1979 - and at that time I was the first and only such in a department of 90+) but what had really thrown her was that I wasn't ashamed of what I was, while she, to deliberately rile me further, would openly say to others, within my earshot, things like "Queers should never be trusted near boys." But apart from all this, she'd come into the office every morning, face thick with foundation cream and with lipstick generously applied, painted like a circus clown, hair tastefully permed and with what smelt like at least half a bottle of perfume dabbed here, there and everywhere - and she had the gall to call me 'unnatural'! Thankfully it wasn't just me she was unpopular with. There was much mocking and chuckling behind her back - and I wasn't the only one who thought she was in reality a repressed lesbian. Her manner of communication with her co-workers was so overbearing, bullying and aggressively 'macho' even to the extent of tomboyishly threatening physical violence if others didn't do what she said (examples - "I'll throw this adding machine at you in a minute!" and [I kid you not] "How would you like your teeth kicked in?"), yet all the while making exaggeratedly clear to everybody how much she liked men - in general, of course, but no specific one in particular. Btw she did get married (for appearances sake?) after she left following just a 2-year term working with us. We heard later that it had lasted less than one year before she returned (childless!) to live back with her mother!
Anyway, getting the above off my chest has rather sidetracked me. I was talking about my bafflement on the need to wear make-up. But another mystery to me is high-heels. Why do they have to wear them at all, anywhere? I've never tried but they must be terribly uncomfortable, tricky and sometimes even dangerous to wear, as well as limiting one's manoeuvrability. And to what purpose? To make the wearer appear a couple of inches taller than she actually is? We know through Shakespeare (e.g. in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream') that shorter women were once considered inferior and less attractive than those taller. But I honestly would have thought we'd have got past that by now.
And don't get me even started on those ridiculous long fingernails!........

Sunday 22 August 2010

Musicals on film - an experience that's SO second-best.

Like many gay men, I'm a BIG aficiando of musical theatre as well as being a long-term cinephile. Yet somehow these two media almost never seem to satisfactorily mix, and I wonder if they ever can. When compared with the immediacy and dynamism of a live theatrical show, there's something unsatisfactory about preserving an art-form on film where the essential complicity between performers and audience in one is totally absent from the other. There's an almost electric 'charge' in a well-delivered live musical which is unique to that medium which cannot be emulated or transferred via the artificiality of the screen. But as that is the only way we know how to keep a permanent record of it, one has to admit that it's probably better than not attempting it at all. Incidentally, it does irritate me when people claim to have 'seen' a musical when what they mean is that they've seen just the one film version of it, a form for which, of course, the vast majority of musicals were not originally written - and they've never attended a live theatrical production of it. Even scores that were originally written for film, such as 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Gigi', and 'Mary Poppins' can have an even more memorable longevity when later re-interpreted for the stage, so no one can ever look on filmed musicals as being the definitive version. They can always be improved upon.
Just one of the many reservations I have about filmed musicals is that they invariably omit a number of the songs ('Sound of Music', 'Oliver!, 'Cabaret' etc etc) - and, moreover, often mercilessly 'prune' even the ones that are there. To name but a mere two of the scores of examples of the latter - the witty 'Zip' from 'Pal Joey', 'I'm Gonna Wash...' from 'South Pacific' and so many more. (Needless to say I've seen all the musicals I've just named on the stage too.)
But having laid out my stall I'm now going to cite those three films (just from off the top of my head) that I think were the biggest travesties of their original music stage-show heritage - and not only are they all from the same period of late 1960s/early 1970s, but the latter two both have the same director! (Coincidence?) :-

Fiddler on the Roof
Jesus Christ Superstar.

There, I've said it. I'd be very interested to know of other 'nominations' to this category of worst filmed musical as a film.

But any idiot can criticise. So, to be fair, I ought to mention those which I think were quite successful in their own terms and can bear repeated watching. So, without having done any profound or lengthy thinking, three that come to mind are:

The King and I
The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show.

I could write a long blog on the pluses and minuses of the individual entries on both lists, as well as on many more films - and may well do in future - but it would be nice to get get other peoples' thoughts on the subject. After all, there is so much written on both films and musicals, but I've yet to read anyone voicing opinions on the success or failure in attempting to combine the two.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Richard Dawkins - why is he so often cast as a villain?

Yesterday there was the first of a short series of TV progs by Dawkins (unfortunately on one of our less-viewed cable channels) in which he articulated his concern about the rapid growth of faith-schools of all religions in the U.K., the mushrooming number of which was largely instigated by Blair when he was Prime Minister. In just one instance, it was so sad to see him speaking to a group of burka-clad girls in a Muslim school, with their burka-clad teachers present, not a single one of whom (pupils and teachers) believed in evolution. One pupil even stated that "All science is contained in the Koran" whilst her teacher nodded approvingly. (Yeah, right! Such as Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology, Laser technology etc. Though having read the Koran eight times to date, in five different translations, it's strange how I managed to miss such references.) And these same pupils being taught in a faith-school are supposed to represent humanity's hope for the future? Shame that that particular breathtaking assertion was left unchallenged.
Since I first became aware of Dawkins quite some years ago, any mention of his name was always coupled with the qualification that he was a 'fanatical atheist' and every bit as bad, or even worse, than religious fundamentalists. But I've yet to see him in this oft-cited mode of swivel-eyed, crazy fanaticism. Indeed, his arguments always seem to me to be cogent and measuredly expressed, whereas the people whom he confronts are the ones who start shifting about nervously and even raising their voices at him. Actually if I get frustrated at all it's that he never seems to press his arguments far enough but tends to let the other side wriggle free and let them have the last word. I think he is even too well-mannered sometimes. His extolling the virtues of the language of the Book of Common Prayer and certain passages of the Bible was sensible and accurate. I too could see the beauty of the English prose in those works before I was even aware of Dawkins. And yet...and yet....there is so much widespread visceral hatred directed towards him. I can only assume that the belief of his critics is so shaky that they feel particularly fragile and vulnerable against his arguments and so they attack in the only way they know, i.e. to get personal. But having seen and read quite a lot of him now, and having last year read his book, 'The God Delusion', he is definitely becoming, if not quite one of my personal 'heroes' (though he is getting there), then certainly one of the people living today whom I would most like to meet.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Sleeping alone - can't beat it!

I've often wondered why so many couples sleep together. Is it just me who finds that sleep is an activity best carried out in solitude? Don't get me wrong - heaven forfend that I should advocate abstemious celibacy! No, what I mean is that a large/double bed is very useful for certain 'pleasures', but when it comes to slumbering I'd far rather be alone. Actually it's been many years now since I even had such a choice, but I must admit that on those occasions when I did, either in my own home or that of friends (or even strangers!), manners prevented me from saying what I really felt once the, erm, 'physical business' was over with, and we both wanted to sleep. Even in my more affluent days when I had my own large place with a spare bedroom and bed I could never bring myself to suggest we sleep separately for fear of offending my visitor. So I spent the night 'suffering in silence' whilst we spent the night turning over at different times, me getting very little sleep indeed, (I'm also told that I tend to kick out in my sleep) or, even more irritating, being held with the other's arms around my chest (or somewhere else) whilst trying to sleep. Often I just wanted to yell out "GET OFF ME!". Then there's also the issue of the other person snoring.
I just wonder how many more there are out there who feel as I do, but who daren't voice their true feelings. Only hope I'm not causing arguments to break out. But maybe I'm a rarity.

Saturday 7 August 2010

'Inception' - my own penn'orth.

Yesterday I went to see this film for the second time - and it certainly was money well-spent. I know some say that it tries to be 'too clever by half', but I don't think so.
Thought it might be useful to register a couple of comments.
On first viewing I hadn't quite grasped the significance that in dreams events take place in a world which moves faster than reality. In the film 20 times as fast is stated, though I don't know if that's based on any research. But the basic point is correct. We've all experienced an extended dream which seems to cover hours and then woken up to find that only a few minutes have elapsed since we fell asleep. I wonder if the film might have been helped by having just an occasional split-screen, maybe for just a half-minute or so, to show what was happening simultaneously on the different levels of consciousness. Just a thought. It might have explained to me why, on first viewing, that van was taking so long to fall into the river. (Maybe I was just slow on the uptake?)
Normally C.G.I. effects leave me feeling unmoved and uninvolved ( as in 'Avatar', for example). The physically-arduous old-style of creating spectacular action scenes used to excite me much more. However, 'Inception' is different. I thought the effects were quite awesome, perhaps aided by the fact that although in dreams they appear quite matter-of-fact and 'normal', actually seeing them created so realistically on screen was mind-blowing. The fight in the hotel corridor was particularly brilliant. (How on earth did they do that? Multiple shots in a free-falling airplane at zero G? Surely too intricate just for green-screen and superimposition?)
Btw, although I'm going to get a few raspberries for even mentioning it, I'm not sure that every member of a cinema audience gets the cinematic 'wink' that Chris Nolan gives in choosing a particular song to provide a 'kick' out of the dreams whilst having Marion Cotillard among the main cast, who won the Oscar for her lead role in 'La Vie en Rose' a couple of years ago. (No, I hadn't seen or heard it referred to before I saw the film.)

Right, now should I pay to see the film for a third time? Maybe I ought.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

I'm re-reading the Bible - but don't worry, folks!

This is going to be the sixth time I'll have done a cover-to-cover read, but emphatically NOT for religious reasons, though the first couple of times maybe were. (How many 'true' Christians have read the Bible right through, even once? Only a minority, I would suggest.)
When I'm asked "What made you 'lose' your faith?" I take satisfaction in replying "Reading the Bible." which rather stymies the nosy enquirer, as their antidote to disbelief would almost invariably be to read the Bible more. (And why do they always refer to one as losing one's faith? It seems to imply that one has misplaced something valuable that one would like to have back again. I didn't lose it - I intentionally discarded it as being both erroneous and useless!)
Anyway, as with my previous reads it's very much a piecemeal affair - maybe a couple of chapters every morning, taking notes as I go and scribbling in the margins. (My own most overworked word on previous readings has been "WHY?".) Each time it usually takes over a year to get right through.
My reason for undertaking this seemingly masochistic task is partly to get even more informed as to what I'm talking about when countering 'Bible- thumpers' and 'God-botherers' but also to get further ammo for any future confrontations (not that I'm actually looking for any).
But having so far re-read only the first few chapters of Genesis it's again so evident to me what a hodge-podge of half-baked ideas and inconsistencies the Bible is. As the chronological history it purports to be, it's in hopelessly incoherent and contradictory order. Presumed to be written by Moses, you'd think that God might have made a better job in 'inspiring' him to write this sequence of events properly (even if intended to be allegorical) with some logical flow. How so many maintain that it's directly the word of the Creator and it's got to be taken literally is just beyond me. You'd think that they (and God) would grant us the intelligence with which we are supposed to be endowed and favoured.
Could continue further in this vein but I'm sure there'll be loads to say on the subject in future blogs.

Btw I don't intend to make myself out as viciously anti-ALL Christianity - or, indeed, all religion. I only direct my fire at those who see the Bible or the Koran (which I've now read eight times in five different translations - so far!) etc as set in stone and absolutely not susceptible to interpretation in the light of subsequent (scientific, biological and other) discovery and social changes. Actually I do have admiration and considerable respect for Quakers, certain other 'sects' of Christianity and Hinduism, but probably most of all, for Buddhism with its emphasis on taking personal responsibility for one's own actions and their consequences. That's religion that I have no argument with.