Friday 31 August 2012

Recent film release - 'Jackpot'.

On the heels of the recent, very satisfactory, twists-and-turns Norwegian thriller 'Headhunter' comes this entertaining crime caper, also from story-teller Jo Nesbo.
Sporadically funny tale revolves around a football pools syndicate of three ex-criminals at a re-habilitation workshop manufacturing artificial Xmas trees, plus their hapless boss (played by hottie Kyrre Hellum, below, whom I've not seen before) a reluctant participant drawn into deep waters, after their scooping a huge win - and, naturally, their rapidly falling out with each other.
Most of the humour derives from the disposal of bodies, with some very grisly scenes, though they are not lingered over. I've seen a lot worse on screen before - however, it's not for the squeamish.

Good fun and worth a watch, it gets a.......7/10.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

'The Imposter' (Recent film release)

This is intriguing. Story of a 13 year-old Texan boy disappearing without trace, only for three years later a claim to be made that he is alive in Spain.
Difficult to say much about the film without giving away those parts of it that made the journey from A to B so engrossing, the title alone revealing the tale's destination.
I must own that the first half-hour got me a little exasperated, such that I was saying to myself "Oh, come off it! Can people really be that gullible?"  I was even beginning to think that the film-makers were sniggering up their sleeves while attempting to hoodwink the audience. If it had been fiction it certainly would not have worked, with the audience laughing at its absurdity.

After the opening third or so I started being drawn in and was soon hooked. As the titular 'imposter' embellished his already preposterous tale with even wilder claims it begins to get so surreal that one looked forward to someone who was going to inject some sanity into proceedings, which duly happened.
If there is anything to be learnt from the story it's the extent to which some people will twist or totally ignore hard evidence put before their very eyes in order to avoid facing the possibility that their belief might be erroneous. It's as though what they want to believe is so bound up with their own identities that any attempt to shift that position leaves them feeling exposed and vulnerable. So they cling onto their belief as a 'safety net' in order to maintain a feeling of security. (It's probably plain that I'm seeing a parallel here with politics and religion - an analogy which I haven't seen made in any of the reviews of this film which I've read to date, though I maintain it is a valid comparison).

It's been a little time since I recommended a film, but this one I will - with a rating of.....7.5/10

Saturday 25 August 2012

My 'Pussy Drop-in Centre' flourishes, while I have to scrimp!

Meet 'Patchy', the latest 'regular'. Started coming here about six weeks ago, he now comes in twice a day most days, and with an appetite equivalent to two.

His 'real' name is 'Jack', but I don't think it's pussy-ish enough, so I call him Patchy, to which he now responds.
At least, unlike with Ginger, his true home is known. Some weeks ago leaflets were put through houses in the neighbourhood enquiring about his whereabouts, with address and telephone number. He answered to the description given so I contacted them. His house is around the corner, maybe 300 yards away, and it's a couple who are mad about their cats, having several which they've got from rescue homes. Apparently a number of people have also been in touch to say they've seen Patchy around. He seems happy calling from house to house, at least until the weather turns downward. So they are regarding him now as a 'community cat', with no fixed abode (though he does have one), but say that if he causes me too much trouble for me to let them know.
My own two (or three?) regard him with some respect, though also with a little suspicion, maybe because he's bigger than any of them - and he's not backward in hissing at them (and me) to let them know who is boss if he's pushed too far. But he's another big sweetie.

Looks like Ginger has decided to move in. He can't be much more than a year old now - and I've still no idea where he comes from. He may well have been homeless since birth.
Apart from being a little scamp who takes delight in annoying Blackso and Ginger, I will reluctantly take him in as the only option seems to be shut him out, which would break my heart. But the big problem is that he has not only not been neutered - while my other two and Patchy have been done - he hasn't been registered with a vet, which is yet another expense I can do without. Anyway, for the first time today, and with a hint of Autumn in the air, he slept inside after I made a 'bed' for him on a low shelf in the kitchen.

There are still another two or three infrequent visitors, who seem to go in phases of turning up regularly then disappearing for weeks or even months on end. Can't turn any of them away, of course.

Meantime Noodles and Blackso carry on as before. Neither of them has ever been ill in the 8 and 12 years respectively since they decided to move in with me, which has been a blessing........

.....even if Blackso shows his appreciation by occasionally poking out his tongue!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Recent film release - 'The Bourne Legacy'

My first cinema visit for over three weeks (an inordinately lengthy interval for me) felicitously slipped in between the almost continuous 'highs' of the Olympics and the hoped-for euphoria of the impending Paralympics.

Matt Damon-less sequel to the rather good 'Bourne trilogy'. Jeremy Renner acceptable as the 'moving target', though he labours under having conspicuously lived-in features whereas Damon's bland physiognomy could be lost in a crowd, which would be an advantage in this role..
    Rachel Weisz emotes as per the instruction leaflet. Edward Norton as usual, never disappoints, though here his know-it-all authority figure hardly stretches him.
   Some of the several chases are good fun and did get my adrenalin flowing, at least up to a point. Renner not hindered at all in speed or versatility despite carrying a backpack. Very impressive. His character also displays bottomless initiative in outsmarting his pursuers, which is what is only to be expected in an action film like this.
   I'd lost the thread of the plot within the first quarter hour - and therefore the attempts during the film's course to flesh out motivation and strategy were lost on me. I don't think I'm alone. In fact maybe the majority don't bother with keeping up with what's going on, which makes those sagging longueurs of explanation all a bit unnecessary. But I suppose if they don't attempt to give it a veneer of plausibility some critic or other is going to pounce. However, once again my frequent complaint comes up - why make it so difficult to hear what the characters are saying, especially if it really is that important? But I know I'm onto a loser just by posing the question.
   All in all, a fair enough romp to wile away a couple of hours entertainingly enough. One of those see-it-once-then-forget-it films.

                          My score...............5/10

Sunday 19 August 2012

Annual 'Birdman' event in Worthing, Sussex.

Object is to jump off structure erected at end of pier, usually (but not always) with home-made wings attachment. Prizes for entrants who glide furthest distance and stay in air longest. Not easy this year as there was only a light wind, if any at all.
Also section for jumping in crazy costumes. Wish I'd caught on camera the pair of chaps in pantomime horse outfit, which split in two in mid-leap - or, rather, mid-drop. (Most of the jumps this year were perpendicular).

(Following pic, left foreground)
"Hey, Mr Wayne! I said 'Birdman'!  And, by the way, take your filthy paws off that lady or I'll tell Boy Wonder who'll get so jealous he's going to zap you just south of your utility belt!"

And finally, a self-portrait on my way home to feed all the pussies:-

Monday 13 August 2012

Olympics closing ceremony afterthoughts

Granted, coming as a farewell to the most enjoyable Olympics I've ever experienced (and I can remember as far back as Rome 1960), this ceremony had to be something extra-special - and, in many respects it was.
Part of my very high opinion of the Games generally may well have been because of its location, which certainly helped - but that wasn't the full reason.

The re-creation of the London skyline, above, in illuminated model form was totally and breath-takingly astonishing - 'London Eye' (the giant Ferris Wheel), Gherkin, Battersea Power Station (as was)..... et al!

Now the closing ceremony's  'buts', plus one or two positives:-

Too long by half.

(I liked the accurate, if over-fussy, reference to the attendance of of Prince Henry).

Some of the acts too insularly British to be appreciated internationally - e.g. I'm a great 'Madness' fan, but singing 'Our House'?  Similarly, 'The Who' chosen, of all acts to close? Well, at least it wasn't Jesse J coming out for the fourth time, so that was a point in its favour.

George Michael - 5 minutes would have been quite enough, thank you.

Ray Davies singing 'Waterloo Sunset' - a sublime song encapsulating a very parochial Britishness - coming from an era when 'The Kinks' were one of the very great 'supergroups', at the same time as 'The Hollies' and, yes, 'The Who' too - as well as 'The Stones' and....well, you know who. Maybe his little act worked, maybe it didn't.

Spice Girls - must confess to an inner thrill at seeing them together again - yes, on balance it worked. (Geri now surely the skinniest of the lot, even moreso than Mrs Beckham!)

Fat Boy Slim? - bet the quizzical looks outnumbered the smiles.

Pet Shop Boys - I wouldn't have minded a second ditty from them.
Similarly, our dear and incomparable Annie Lennox, but without all that suffocating, encumbering drapery in a second song.

Eric Idle - well, they had to have a 'Python' spot, didn't they? And it did lighten things up a bit.

Emili Sande not only opening the show but appearing again later (what the hell was she singing about? - on both occasions! I couldn't make it out.)  - though at least it wasn't as OTT as Jesse J popping up for no less than THREE times, for goodness sake - when I just had to start flicking channels. You'd think she was Princess Di the Second!

Russell Brand surprisingly good singing 'I Am the Walrus'. Didn't know he could carry a tune - and pretty well, too.

'Imagine' worked well despite it having been heard to death for too many years now. I actually found it quite moving.

Elton, conspicuous by the absence of any acknowledgement of his music - or did I aurally 'blink'? - whereas Bowie (who's had a shorter 'shelf-life', though I'm not complaining!) gets a whole section, linked in with British fashion.
Btw: I wish someone had tried to throw a mobile at that annoying, spoilt brat of a woman, Naomi C., - which I sincerely hope would have missed, of course ;-)  - and who thinks that growing up and acting her (advancing) age is, oh, just TOO much hassle! - and whose only talent, as far as I can judge, is the ability to cross her legs three times over the back of a guy as he's humping her.

Lord Coe, as in his Opening Ceremony speech, going on too long again, but not helped by the crowd cheering after just about every sentence, as though he was an American Presidential candidate. Maybe they should have done the same as they do at the Oscars (or is it the BAFTAS?) and start playing music to drown him out after he's been talking for two minutes.

I'll think of other things later, but this is what's coming to mind during a morning after a night of inadequate sleep. But there you are - my thoughts are on record.

 Now follow that, Rio - IF you can! - HAH!

Sunday 12 August 2012

Computer problems - GRRRRRRRR!!!!

Being a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to computer workings, looks like I'm a-gonna have to dip deep into that fortuitous windfall mentioned in my blog of only two days ago and which had so delighted me.
My p.c. has been functioning progressively slower over recent months, with the 'free space' on the disc now down to just 8% - a sudden drastic tumble, for some totally mysterious reason, from the near 70% of only 6 months ago - from where it had been decreasing, it's true, but only very gradually. Despite my downloading three different (free) disk-cleaning and fragmenting devices, as well as buying one for £20, none of them has made any difference at all - while it continues to get slower and s-l-o--w--e---r.
And now, to cap it all, in trying to delete files which I thought weren't needed, I've gone and deleted the means to get sound, any sound, through the speakers - and I'm not savvy enough to know how to recover it, dammit! (I couldn't even listen to Anne Marie's posting today of 'Footloose'! How much worse can it get?)
  Oh well, before digging myself into an even deeper hole, looks like the only sensible solution is to get the chappie in who installed it for me 7 years ago - but, of course, he costs money!. As is known, once you've got yourself dependent on a computer, it's awfully hard to get weaned off it.
Well, the longer it's left the more it's going to get to me - no good for the old blood pressure. So, looks like a little telephone call tomorrow morning has to be on the cards. Will try to save my tears at the price until after he's gone.

Friday 10 August 2012

Thank you, Your Majesty!

Completely out of the blue, I get a cheque in this morning's post from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs enclosing a cheque for £227 ($355 American) being refund of over-deducted income tax from my pension for the last tax year. Oh joy!
   Well, naturally the first thing I thought of was to go to the big local pet store and buy some 'special', more expensive food for my pussies (as one does). I blew 1/3 of it there. It would have be intolerable to have neglected them by not allowing them to share in my good fortune and then have them sulking at me.
    But let it not be said that I've neglected myself. Oh no. I've bought myself a bottle of cheap 'n cheerful red, for just over a fiver, with which to celebrate. The rest of this windfall will go into my 'unexpected events' fund - which is being built up, essentially, for my having to travel to sudden funerals. The hard fact is that at my age people I know, relations and others, are starting to drop like flies, so one simply has to be prepared.
    However, let's not get maudlin. Where's that corkscrew? I want to raise a glass to Her Majesty the Queen. Long may she continue to bestow her bounty - especially on those of us who pay our taxes!  So, bottoms up!

Wednesday 8 August 2012

My 'Desert Island Discs'

'Desert Island Discs' is a BBC radio programme which has been going on for 70 years, in which a 'celebrity' from any field chooses eight records to be taken if that person were to be shipwrecked on a desert island and which would have to last, potentially, for the rest of his/her life. (A 'record' = a single track. So no complete albums, operas, musicals etc. are allowed.)
A single book may also be taken - apart from the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible, which are, by chance, already there - as well as a single luxury i.e. something which is of no practical help to survival or to escape. It cannot be a radio (or TV) as that would defeat the object of the exercise. It must also be inanimate - so, no pet cats etc!

 I've actually been listening to the programme since about 1962. Even when I lived in Germany I followed it on long-wave radio.

My blog friend Andrew @  has already recently done the posting of his choices and Stephen @ is currently revealing his own choices one by one. So, after toying with this idea for years, I think it would be better to strike now while the iron is hot.

My choices are:-

Beethoven - 9th Symphony (first movement, rather than the last) - conducted by Otto Klemperer.

Beethoven - Piano Sonata in C minor Opus 111 (second movement) - played by Vladimir Ashkenazy

Bach -  Mass in B minor - the opening of the 'Gloria' - conducted by Karl Richter

Brahms -  Alto Rhapsody - soloist, Janet Baker

Beatles - Hey Jude

ABBA - Super Trouper

Rodgers & Hammerstein - 'This Nearly Was Mine' from 'South Pacific' - sung by Paolo Szot

Shakespeare - Selection from the 'Sonnets' recited by Sir John Gielgud.

 Beatles   I'd have been satisfied with so many of their tracks that the final choice must have an arbitrariness about it. I suppose my accolade for the best single track they ever made would be a toss-up between 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Eleanor Rigby' - but both were, largely or exclusively, solo efforts by Lennon and Mccartney respectively, but also both having a huge input from George Martin.  Then there are their many album tracks - again, almost too many jewels to count - 'And Your Bird Can Sing', 'Two of Us', 'Something', 'And I Love Her', 'In My Life', 'Here There and Everywhere', 'Sexy Sadie', 'I am the Walrus', 'Girl', 'While My Guitar...', 'Revolution'.......the list just goes on and on.
So, finally plumping for 'Hey Jude' doesn't necessarily mean I think it's the greatest of all the Beatles tracks, though it is certainly among them. It's just that it's more representative than some. For me, this time was when pop music reached the absolute heights of excellence - and it's never been quite there since, though it has come close - Bowie, Carpenters, Elton, Queen, even Madonna - and then, of course, there's......

ABBA  This is the most evocative track out of my eight choices. It marks the start of what turned out to be my decade of hedonism, during the second visit of what was to be no less than 35 visits to Amsterdam, within the next 10 years, usually alone. (On my very first visit I'd been too scared to do anything!). It was a decade of frequent peaks of joy, but also regular heartbreak, living more intensely than I've ever lived before or since, making new friends - and, within the space of a few years, losing very nearly every single one of them through.... you know what. A decade of extreme highs and lows, but years which are treasured in my memory forever.
  The 'Super Trouper' album came out when I was already a very keen Abba fan so even without the associations I would almost certainly have picked a track by them. But I think the entire album is a succession of  gems anyway - so many brilliant tracks (particularly 'Our Last Summer' which, in its lyrics, sings of Paris, a city I was then yet to discover - and to find that Paris was my favourite city of them ALL!). But the title track of this album brings all that era back to me. I only have to put it on, close my eyes - and I'm there again!

'This Nearly Was Mine'  I couldn't live without something from a musical - and this is as fine a choice as any I can think of. There may be musicals other than 'South Pacific' which, though I love tremendously, I love even more. ('Les Mis' still delivers to me the highest count of pleasurable goose-pimples than any other musical.) I could also have chosen a Lloyd Webber - specifically from 'Evita' (any number of songs there!) or one from any of his trilogy written with Tim Rice.
    But this particular song from South Pacific never fails to get me close to tears. I'm not generally a great fan of Hammerstein's lyrics - 'subtlety' was never his strong point - but here, with Rodgers' gentle, lilting, poignantly sad waltz, he hits the emotion right on target. It's a sentiment which we all recognise and go through regularly, no matter what our sexuality. I just find it so very profoundly moving.
Incidentally, until I googled his name, I hadn't realised that the singer I chose, the Brazilian Paolo Szot, is an 'out' gay man. He may not sing it as expertly (he has a bit of a 'warble') as, say, Jose Carreras, but the latter declaims the song whereas the lyrics are clearly that of introspection and inner regret at the loss of something that had been so close to having - and Paolo delivers it as an 'inner voice' just as the lyrics require. Heart-moving stuff!

John Gielgud  - for me the loveliest speaking voice of my time. He may not have been the greatest actor (that surely was Olivier, though since his death even he is now considered to have been rather mannered) but what beautiful, fruity, full-bodied enunciation Gielgud had! I find his rendering of Shakespeare's words quite hypnotic - and if I have to live for the rest of my life knowing how only one person talks, I can't imagine my choosing anyone better than Gielgud to show how it can be done. Though I've learnt to recite all the Sonnets myself off by heart (yes, all 154 of them) Sir John is an object lesson in how to do it properly.

My classical choices
 Beethoven's 9th is, in my books (along with the 'Missa Solemnis'), simply the greatest music ever written by man. I only chose the former rather than the latter as I've already got a mass with the Bach (my joint-favourite of all composers) -  the 'Gloria' of whose B minor Mass is surely the most exhilaratingly joyful music ever written - by anyone!
I picked Beethoven's final piano sonata because of it being a glorious summation of his achievements - written, like his final symphony, when he was completely deaf, but nevertheless an almost unbelieveable miracle of sound and invention. Most music critics would place the string quartets as a whole, particularly the late ones, on an even higher plain than the sonatas. But there are more than twice as many of the latter - and they cover such an amazingly immense spectrum of emotion. I could live with his piano works more comfortably than with his chamber pieces, and Ashkenazy is the pianist who, for me, gets closer to Beethoven's spirit than any other.
The Brahms Alto Rhapsody, particularly the final C major section with the male choir joining the Alto soloist,  would be a piece I'd choose for my funeral, if I were to have one (though I don't want one anyway)..  It is so very simple and deeply, deeply moving. This music never ever fails to reduce me to tears - and when it's the solo voice of an angel like Janet Baker (the favourite female singing voice of my lifetime), well nothing on earth can trump that!

My luxury - a comfy pillow. (Having a good sleep is ever so important to me.)

My book - the many who pick the rather obvious choice of 'War and Peace' do so by saying that they've either never got round to reading it, or they started but never finished it. Well I would choose it on its merits - which are manifold. I've read it (so far) six times in three different translations - and I worship it as a work! Just about everybody says that 'Anna Karenina' (four or five times) is an even greater work, and I'm willing to concede that. But W & P has such a mind-blowing panorama of the psychology, emotions and motivations of a good number of individuals during Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign, that one really cares for them and what happens to them. The characters rise from out of the pages and sit with you as you read. Also, Tolstoy's sweeping commentaries on the politics and strategies of the time, with his countless 'asides', just leave me breathless. Microcosm and macrocosm brought together in one glorious volume. I love it - and it's power to involve blows me away every time. I will never stop re-reading it.

So that's it! I've said to Andrew @ 'the widow's world' that one's list doesn't have to be definitive for all time. As one goes through life the choices cannot help but change according to the impact one's circumstances of the time have had. But these are my choices as at now.

It would be so very interesting if other readers of this blog could offer their own contribution to this little game . Go on - have a go, (please)!

Saturday 4 August 2012

'5 on the 5th' - Summer Special

Here is my contribution to Stephen Chapman's 'Summer Special' on his  blog -

All pics taken yesterday.

Summer morning sun (6 o'clock) over Worthing sea-front.

Early dog-walkers (you can just about see them) under Summer morning moon in park opposite my flat.

A bit scruffy, looking more as though it's a left-over from the Beijing 2008 games - bit it's working!

This has made my Summer! Unlike Stephen, who's been favoured to be able to watch some events actually there, live in person, here is how I've been viewing events. But even so, been having the time of my life.
Yes, yes.................YEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!  Yet another GOLD!!!  Is there NO END to this succession of historic British triumphs????

While for some, life carries on regardless, mill. by painful mill., in ultra slo-mo.............