Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hoodia again

Back on the 5th May I wrote about Hoodia Gordonii, and the enthusiasm there is for this plant which supposedly aids in reducing weight.

I say supposedly, because the genuine product does have some qualities that will assist in weight reduction. Unfortunately everyone and his brother has got on the bandwagon and is producing hoodia, much of it of no value whatsoever.

As a result, the Hoodia Consumer Review has begun a site where you can find out which versions of hoodia are useful and which are not, as well as read up on the background to the hoodia industry and read a number of news items on it. This is a very informative site and one worth visiting if you’re thinking of purchasing some hoodia. Check out the facts before you do.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Linkless in some things

I’ve mentioned linkandblogchallenge.com before on this blog, and still find it an interesting way to increase links to my blogs, and to add links to other people’s.

There are two ways of using the site: you can either challenge another member to use a particular word or phrase in a post, and then you link to their post and they link to yours.

Or (if you weren’t confused by the above) you can set up a topic, and other people can link to that via posts on the same topic, on their blogs.

Yeah, I know I’m not explaining it well.

Suffice to say, I go back to this site often to check what’s happening, and run down the list of topics that are up for linking to. It’s surprising what’s there: lots of celebrity stuff, but virtually nothing in the religion area; a good deal on health, but not much on books and writing. Plenty on blogging (which is probably not surprising) but not much on automobiles trains and planes.

I guess I’m expecting the range of topics to be more widespread. Perhaps it depends on who writes on the site, and who doesn’t. I’ll have to add something else to the religion section, because it’s sad to see just one little post listed in there – especially since it’s mine!

Dating for Everyone

I’m beginning to think there must be a dating site for practically every known kind of person under the sun. Just came across one for Jewish singles, for example. Maybe I should start collecting dating sites as a hobby. There would certainly be a fair number to collect. It’s not that long since I wrote about the goth site, and then there was the one for interracial singles.

I guess Jewish dating has its own particular quirks, though by the look of most of the people advertised on the site you wouldn’t know they were Jewish without being told. None of the guys are wearing those long tassel things down the side of their hair, nor are they bearded. Can they really be Jews?

The Jewish personals site does give you an option to inform others of your denomination within the Jewish scene, from Orthodox to Hassidic, from Reconstructionist to Conservadox (Conservadox?). I guess that means there’s a certain seriousness about the whole thing; this ain’t no site for frivolity. I’d just like to see someone who looked Hassidic up amongst the profile pictures.

Anyway, the temptation to check out what a Conservadox is was too great. I found this informative paragraph on a blog:

Some of you might say, "Pearl, you sound as if you were Conservative all the way." To that, I'd say "No way." We always went to an Orthodox shul, the first one being a real shtiebel in a home, with a mikveh in the basement, a mechitzah separating the men from the women and even a cut-out in the flooring upstairs, so that when there was an overflow of women davening at that shtiebel on the High Holidays, the men took over the women's section, while the women davened upstairs, with the floor tile removed so that they could hear the davening below.

Get the picture?

Elephants and Cheese

Building relationships is the buzz phrase in many businesses these days. Networking is another phrase that is ‘in.’ I just found a book title on the Net called: Masters of Networking, building relationships for your pocketbook and soul.

It’s one of those sorts of halfway surreal titles that turn up all the time in the business scene, like Drop the Pink Elephant: 15 ways to say what you mean and mean what you say. (So this title says what it means?). Or there’s Who Stole My Cheese? (Which just happens to be the most overpriced essay in the history of mankind, I’d think.)

There’s hardly a business that isn’t into building relationships. Even real estate agents are in on the act. I mean, do we really build a relationship with a real estate agent? How often do we need one, for crying out loud?

I found a quote from a real estate firm that says the following: We work for you, not for the deal. Sometimes, the best real estate deal is the one that you walk away from. This attitude of putting the customer first has proven to be the most successful and the most rewarding, which is why so many of our customers come to us time after time for expert assistance.

Okay, so putting the customer first has actually proved successful. There’s an idea!

This comes from a site that sells Phoenix real estate, amongst other Arizona areas. I think they need someone to sort out their website a bit. They also recommend: Don't just take it from us; hear what our customer have to say.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere on their site that told me what their customers said!

Missed some of The Missing

As so often happens with my tv watching, I came into the film, The Missing, a bit late. However the story became fairly clear as we went along, which presumably means that the script for the most part was actually well written for once.
A very intense movie, particularly in the performances of Cate Blanchett (who seems to be living on her nerves throughout) and Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Blanchett's father, a man who's 'gone Indian' at some point. Why, I'm not sure. That was something I missed.
The film a bit like an alternative version of The Searchers, but it wears its connections to that movie pretty lightly. A gang of rogue Indians, ex-US army employees, are aiming to make some quick money by kidnapping teenage girls so as to sell them across the Mexican border. They're accompanied by a couple of unpleasant white men, and a wimp of a photographer.
The leader of the group is a very nasty piece of work who’s well and truly into witchcraft. Naturally this doesn’t make him popular with the other characters.
Blanchett’s de facto husband is ambushed and killed by the gang, and his teenage daughter is kidnapped. A much younger daughter is left behind. Blanchett finds her man’s body and hears what happened from her younger (and, once she’s recovered from the shock, particularly spunky) daughter). Blanchett tries to get the local sheriff to do something, but he’s not interested. In the end she has to rely on her father, with whom she’s had virtually no relationship previously, to assist her. After considerable argy-bargy, the two learn to work together, and go off to rescue the daughter.
So much about this movie is superbly done that it overcomes any limitations in the characters or plot. The acting is uniformly of a high quality (including Val Kilmer’s cameo appearance), and Blanchett and Jones are outstanding. The photography, (Salvatore Totino) whether it’s gazing calmly on a shimmering desert or on the stark lines of Blanchett’s face, is always a pleasure to view. The music, (by James Horner) which reminded me so strongly of Howard Shore’s scores for the Lord of the Rings, eschews any ‘Western’ gallumping music and goes for eerie melodies and sad soaring songs.
And perhaps the most amazing thing is that the film is directed by Ron Howard. Yes, I know he’s regarded as one of Hollywood’s top journeymen directors, year in and year out producing movies of a high quality if not always of much emotional power. But in this movie he steps aside, almost, and lets the actors and story speak for themselves, very effectively.
Maybe the movie wouldn’t have worked without Blanchett and Jones. Both pour heart and soul into their roles, and show the ragged edge of their characters to their fullest extent. But sometimes a piece of ordinary work is transcended by the people involved, and that’s pretty much what’s happened here.

Photo of Cate Blanchett - not as she appears in the movie.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh dear, O J

The things you learn. Here’s someone writing about O J Simpson, the man who seems incapable of keeping out of trouble, let alone out of the news, and when I go to the IMDB.com site to see if a movie’s been made out of his life – it was just an idle thought that someone might have done it – I find that O J Simpson himself has been in the movies a number of times. As an actor.

Okay, I must have missed this at some point.

But all that aside, in view of his connections to a double homicide back in 1994, it’s strange to read a list of some of the movies or tv series he’s appeared in:

Naked Gun (three of the movies)
No Place to Hide
In the Heat of the Night
Detour to Terror
A Killing Affair
Killer Force

And if that list wasn’t odd enough on its own, there are the docos he’s been involved with:

The Life and Death of Anna Nicole (his wife, for those who don’t know)
Juiced with O J Simpson
O J Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened

Good grief.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Standardization - not!

It’s strange the things we take for granted: I’d assumed that the QWERTY keyboard layout was the standard (obviously apart from those countries that don’t use the same alphabet), but nope! Even in England there are some differences in layout, though at least here the differences relate to the #, the £, and the @ which are all in strange places.

But when I was in Luxembourg, I discovered that the alphabetical letters are swapped around as well: not enough to make things totally unfamiliar, but certainly more than enough to cause confusion when you’re typing passwords and such: the sorts of things that you take for granted, and don’t bother to check when you’re typing. Seemingly the people in Luxembourg tend to use the French keyboard – and of course those jolly French people couldn’t possibly have the same keyboard as the English. It would just not be the done thing!

You can check out some of the variations in keyboard layouts here.

Jean Vanier

One of the great graces that Jesus gave me in ’56 and since, is to realize that in the Church there must be two sorts of men – there must be those who know how to conserve those traditions that have come down to us through the ages, but there must also be those who, like Jesus, have primarily at heart the salvation of their fellows and are always trying to find new ways - human and divine – to make the message of Jesus more living. Without those who have at heart the conservation of tradition, the eager and merciful apostles (unless they are really possessed in all the details of their lives by the Holy Spirit) will risk to abandon certain essential aspects of tradition – not necessary, perhaps, for them, but necessary for the Church and souls in general: on the other hand without these apostles, those who have at heart the conservation of tradition will tend to forge a sterile religion of rites, without love, without mercy. And in the designs of Jesus these two groups will always make each other suffer.

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche project: a way of living in community with handicapped people.

The passage is from a letter he wrote which is quoted in Kathryn Spink’s book: Jean Vanier & L’Arche, A Communion of Love, page 28, DLT edition.

Good Grief, Good Knight!

I caught some of an old film yesterday on tv: Knights of the Round Table. When I say ‘some’, I have to admit that I was watching it between doing other things, and in the end actually gave up when there was an awful death scene where humour was bandied around as though it wasn’t manly to be real at such a time.

The actors did their best with the material, and the actors were a fairly sterling bunch: Robert Taylor, Mel Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Stanley Baker, Felix Aymler to name just the A-list lot. The smaller roles were all played by stock actors familiar from many films of the period.

But it was the battle scenes that made it a laughable piece from today’s perspective. The big battle between Arthur and Mordred was so firmly based on Laurence Olivier’s wonderful battle sequence in Henry V that they might as well have used the same footage. Until it came to the two sides meeting. At that point, things fell apart badly. Nobody was really doing any fighting. Swords flashed, but they seldom hit anyone. There was quite a bit of noise, but it was all noise. And the extras. They had to be seen to be believed. Blokes dressed up in silly outfits pretending to fight, and unfortunately being caught on camera pretending – and ambling along without any real effort.

One guy’s ‘fighting’ consisted of jumping up and down in the saddle. There was no passion, no guts to the thing. When Arthur’s backup group of archers got into the story, they shot their arrows off towards the passing knights on horses, and most of the arrows fell visibly within a few yards onto the ground. One or two knights fell down dutifully off their horses, but certainly nobody was actually hit with an arrow.

And later on, Lancelot and his troop walked into a trap set by the Picts. Lancelot basically carried on talking to those around him while the extras in the background did their pretend fighting. Because he was a main character he knew he had no problem with getting hit with anything, so he didn’t really need to take care of himself. And I’m sure the guy who did all the bobbing up and down in the saddle was there in the background again, jumping up and down while fighting nobody. Incredibly one knight even thrust his sword into a passing Pict and the sword very obviously went in under the Pict’s arm and out behind him: no one has ever died of having a sword thrust under his armpit as far as I’m aware, but this Pict did.

There's a review on a site called Monster Hunter which says pretty everything else I haven't said here.

The price is right!

I’ve mentioned before how we used to sell books on the Net when I ran the bookshop, and how we never quite found the ideal software setup for making direct sales available to people via the Net. Everything had to be handled by email: the customer’s initial inquiry, the acceptance by us of the purchase, the information about when the book would be sent out, and how it would be paid for, and so on.

This was fine in one sense, in that it meant we had real contact with the customers, and they knew they were dealing with a real person. For many people that’s preferable to dealing with machinery on the Net. But equally, if we’d been expanding, we would have needed to make sales via some sort of shopping cart software, and that would have meant finding a system that was economic, would accept major credit cards online, had tech support, had a design that fitted in with our ‘look,’ and that was user-friendly. Rather like the company that’s provided me with this nice big logo!

I always look at the price of things before I look at the features. If the price isn’t right for me, nothing else much matters. In this instance, this product would have suited us down to the ground, as the price for the most basic level is still very good. Or to put it another way, what you get for the basic price is most of the software.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Strange names

Cape Fear is one of those movies that was successful first time round, and then rather odd in the remake. Okay, so what?

The only reason I said that is that I had no idea that Cape Fear was an actual place until I came across the name in a site that’s advertising real estate on the North Carolina (NC) sea coast.

Cape Fear is apparently part of the Wilmington, North Carolina area.

You have to wonder how places get their names, don’t you? On my travel site, I’ve mentioned a few of the really odd place names in Britain, and in the widget at the side there’s a link to an article I’ve written on strange British place names.

But are they any stranger than the following pieces of Wilmington NC real estate? Kure Beach (how would you pronounce it?), Topsail Beach and North Topsail Beach, Bald Head Island, Oak Island (what, only one oak?), Figure Eight Island (could it be that complex?), Burgaw, Bolivia (in the middle of North Carolina...), Calabash, Shallotte, Boiling Spring Lakes, Supply (supply of what?).

We get used to the strangest place names, and then along comes a stranger like me and thinks they’re outlandish.

Saving Your Life

Finished another book the other day, while tenting around the UK.

It’s This Book Will Save Your Life, by A M Homes. An odd book, there’s no doubt, and the saving side of it relates to a man called Richard finding his way from a life which is nothing to a life that’s worth something. The book is full of quirky characters, and even more quirky behaviour. This may be in part because it’s set in California, but not entirely. Homes has a way of making even fairly ordinary people seem extraordinary.

I’m not sure that I entirely enjoyed the book, and I found the ending came suddenly out of nowhere. (I was expecting several more pages, and then discovered they were filled with advertising for Homes’ other books.) The book doesn’t seem to move forward very fast, and there’s certainly nothing that could be called a plot. Some characters that are shown as difficult and unpleasant turn out to have a soft side, a side that’s almost unreal, and other characters are too unreal altogether.

And the book is full of loose ends – at least in my reading of it. I’d like to know a bit more about how some things turned out, but Homes leaves a lot of stuff unfinished as far as the reader is concerned. You could say that they’re ‘finished’ in literary terms, but this isn’t entirely satisfactory.

Anyway, it was worth reading generally speaking, and certainly I wanted to finish it. That’s a plus!

And there's a very good and sensible review of it by Frank Cottrell Boyce on the Guardian Unlimited site.

Louis Sachar

In our trips around op shops (charity shops) in the British Isles, we’ve come across heaps of books, but most of them are the same small group of authors, Grisham, Maeve Binchey, you name it.

Just once in a while you pick up something that’s different, and the other day I found a book by Louis Sachar. Okay, who’s he?

He’s the writer of the book, Holes - and also the screenwriter of the movie that was made from the book. He has an odd sense of the world, writes about kids and their worldview, and how they take things in their stride even though to adults they may be outlandish. Holes is a delightful story that has several interlinking threads running through it, and the movie is fairly faithful to the book (no doubt because of Sachar’s influence on the screenplay).

The book I found the other day isn’t about teenagers, as Holes is, but about kids who are more like nine or ten. It concerns a very strange young man who can’t get with the world, who’s angry at everyone and everything, and yet longs for someone to befriend him. It’s full of delightful characters, of wonderful lines, has a great sense of humour (as Holes does) and even has some extracts from another book part way through which is written by an author whose name happens to be an anagram of Louis Sachar.

The title is: There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. If you can find a copy, read it.

Funky P Album

Just to keep up with the news on Funky P. In one of my previous posts where I mentioned this Luxembourg group, I wondered if they had any albums out. Not at theis point: there’s only an EP available. And downloads from their site. (Which I can’t download at the moment as I’m using someone else’s computer.)

Anyway, Funky P will have an album out by next summer – that’s European summer, not NZ summer, so I’m assuming it will be the middle of 2008. I’m looking forward to that. A studio recording of this band (where I can hear all the different instrumentalists as well as the singers) will be great.

The photo is of the band in a sedate mood: something they ain't when they get playing.

And there's a very good overview of the life of the band by an objective reviewer on GarageBand.com


Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing about Crowle

I’ve just been writing about Crowle, Worcestershire, on my travel blog, and in the process found a link to wartime experiences in Crowle, written by one Raymond Holt.
I’ve taken the liberty of quoting the opening paragraph:
I was born in Crowle, Worcestershire in 1933. I was six years old when World War 2 began. My Father was the village undertaker, coffin maker, carpenter and local Special Constable. My Grandfather had been the coffin maker and undertaker before my Father took over. We all lived within a hundred yards of each other in Crowle village.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wicked


I thought, when I came across the expression, Wicked Tickets, that the promoter was speaking some kind of teen slang, since ‘wicked’ usually denotes something that’s anything but wicked. It’s more likely to be awesome or incredible or out of sight (as they used to say in the dark ages).
But in fact the use of the word ‘wicked’ in this case is perfectly sound: it relates to a fairly new musical called ‘Wicked’ which tells the backstory of the two witches from the Wizard of Oz: the one with the emerald-green skin (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) and the beautiful Glinda, who, it appears, is ambitious and very popular, and perhaps not as nice as she appears.
In brief, Wicked explores the idea that the Wicked Witch of the West, known in this version as Elphaba Thropp, was a misunderstood and victimized person whose behaviour is the result of a reaction against a false wizard's corrupt government. Her relationship with Galinda Upland, who in due course becomes Glinda the Good Witch of the North, goes through a series of struggles as they overcome the conflicts that result from their polar personalities, their opposing viewpoints, their rivalry over the same man, and finally, Elphaba's fall from grace.
Promoters are offering tickets for this musical for all sorts of places on its whistle-stop tour, but of course there would be only one city to go and see it in. Yup, Kansas City.

Songs, smiles, singers, and a snout


This is going to be one of those compendium posts, where I do a quick squiz over the HitTail results from the last week or so, or at least the ones that seem interesting to me. Douglas Lilburn’s Sing Harry turns up again. It’s good to know that this song cycle by Lilburn continues to arouse interest, especially since it’s one of the few things he wrote that I think does! (Oh, dear, the old anti-Lilburn bias coming out again.)
Another NZ composer is also on the list - at least so it seemed when I first saw the reference. But I couldn’t quite figure out what why anyone would be looking for Snout Gareth Farr. Turns out that there’s an actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company with the same name, and he was played Snout in a production back in 2002. So NZ’s Gareth Farr gets a look-in rather fraudulently.
The king of whistlers, Ronnie Rinalde, is still going strong. Except that his name is Ronnie Ronalde, and I’ve managed to misspell it in one of my posts - as the searcher did.
The Indian actor, Kavi Raz, whom I mentioned the other day in relation to the movie, The Golden Bracelet, is on the list, as is the Jazz/Funk group from Luxembourg, Funky P. More about them another time, as Roosevelt Isaac (their lead singer) has emailed me a few times recently to give me some further gen on their doings.
A couple of non-NZ composers make the list: John Adams, whom I’m going to check up on more when I get back home, and Michael Tippett, who’s been a regular visitor to the HitTail search results.
An interesting search for Jobs for Opera Singers didn’t seem to take the searcher very far, but it did turn up for me a site where most opera singers are listed, but not, rather to my surprise, Elizabeth Connell, who is certainly no minor artist. It’s an interesting site, nevertheless, with info about books, opera houses, and resources for singers.
And finally, my comments about the travelling exhibition of pictures of the smiling Christ comes up. But the results Google turns up (apart from the one on this blog) are from those places that turn Jesus into all manner of beings: smiling, sad, black, yellow, you name it. The one from picturesofJesus4you.com is very American, somewhat hippy and a jolly good chap. Okay, he’s a pleasant Christ, and certainly he’s smiling, but he lacks a bit of the awe I’d expect Christ to have along with his smiles. The artist is Frances Hook, by the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Orlando is Blooming

I don’t know how many posts I’ve written about the idea of having an Orlando vacation rental, though when I check out the posts themselves I find there are in fact only three about having a holiday in Orlando - the fourth is about Orlando Bloom. Don’t know that Orlando would enjoy having his name associated with a vacation rental, but you never know.
If you check out Orlando (the place, not the movie star) on Google, you’ll find search results for rental holidays far outweigh search results for the movie star. That’s a bit serious. Does that mean that Orlando, however good-looking he may be, isn’t as popular an item as having a decent holiday? Apparently so.

Claire Barton onwards and upwards

Great to come across a report in the Otago Daily Times, my home city’s newspaper, about Claire Barton. Claire has been winning everything in sight lately, and last weekend added the Otago Daily Times Aria Contest to her list of honours. Her prize also included the Celebration of the Century Cup - which is something I’m unfamiliar with, and which the paper doesn‘t elaborate on.
Hollie Matheson, the rewiewer, said Claire Barton’s virtuosity and theatricality ensured Rossini’s Crude sorte and Handel’s Ombra mai fu enjoyed strong deliveries, with agility and depth throughout her vocal range.
Another old friend of mine, Brent Read, was also in the contest, though he wasn’t placed among the top three. And a third Dunedinite, Fiona Henry, also appeared.
Good to see they’re all managing to carry on without me, and good to see that these people, whom I played for when they were still youngsters, are doing so well.

Good grief!

I only noticed yesterday - for the first time since I wrote the new header to this blog - that there was a grammatical error in it. Which I've now rectified.
Shame....! For someone who prides himself on being correct about such things it was a bit of a shock to see it sitting there. The only consolation is that my proofreader hasn't noticed it either!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

I’ve just read that Madeleine L’Engle has died. When I first discovered her books, more than twenty years ago, I thought she was great, though rather odd. Her theology was definitely odd (and remained so).
Some of her books were absorbing, some I just couldn’t get into. I don’t know what the name of it was now, but one that concerned the Biblical period in history when there were giants in the land and they had possibly been brought into being by intercourse between angelic beings and human women I found way off the wall. There was another one I read recently that used L’Engle’s experiences in Antarctica - again I’ve forgotten the name. It struck me as just badly written.
But form and shape haven’t always been her strong points, I think. She’s almost at her best when she’s meandering, musing, thinking things through on the page, as she does in the book about writing and the creative arts, or the one about the death of her husband. You just have to go where she takes you, whether you agree or disagree with her.
Some of her novels have that feeling about them - even A Wrinkle in Time. It’s as if the story goes its own way, and L’Engle lets it, for better or worse. I’m sure she was a much better writer than that, and that the novels do have a shape and form that we don’t always perceive. But things about them can annoy as well as please.
There’s a very good article on her work still available on the Books and Culture website (ignore the book titles scattered throughout it - they must have been advertising that’s got caught up in the middle of the article).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Finding Anglia

I’ve written elsewhere about Anglian worms, but the word Anglian gets tacked onto all manner of things related to the region of Anglia. I tend to mistake Anglian on first reading as Anglican (Anglican worms is a nice concept, somehow), but that’s because I’ve had a lot of dealings with Anglicans in the last few years.
So where is Anglia? I thought I’d better check it out as it’s obviously a word I need to know more about. Here’s a quote from the Anglian Region environment info page: The Anglian Region covers more than 27,000 square kilometres, from the Thames Estuary in the south to Humber Estuary in the North, and from the East Anglian Coast to Daventry in the West and the main urban areas are Norwich, Peterborough, Ipswich, Chelmsford, Cambridge Northampton and Lincoln.
That’ll be why I’m always coming across it, as I’ve spent a lot of time in the Norfolk region recently.
Anglian is also the name of a long-standing company that does home improvements. I won’t tell my wife: she might want to go and visit them, being a home improvement addict. Our house has been ‘improved’ umpteen times since we moved in nearly thirty years ago.
Her brother (who actually lives in East Anglia) is much the same: completing something in a house is merely an excuse for starting some other improvement. And his daughter has inherited her father’s enthusiasm for improving things: she’s added a conservatory onto the kitchen area, a wonderful bright room that sits in the middle of the garden area. (Her cousin, on the other hand, has built on a conservatory in order to remove some of the garden!)
None of this has anything to do with the arts, of course - it’s just another one of those posts that’s squeezed itself in surreptitiously. It’s only claim to connecting to the arts, is that the words, home improvement, are music to some people’s ears….

Monday, September 17, 2007

Independence Day again

Last night, while trying to get over a dose of hay fever such as I haven’t had in many moons, I watched Independence Day. I hadn’t seen it since it was on at the movies, and though I’d forgotten some of it, most of it had stuck in my visual memory. Which isn’t somewhat unusual. While some films are eminently forgettable, Independence Day, it turns out, wasn’t.
As soon as a character appeared, I remembered what happened to him or her. Pretty much. Which is intriguing, because ID is full of cliches, hackneyed moments, tripe, and gooey-eyed children. It’s part sci-fi, part boy’s own adventure. It has some romance, but not enough to get in the way of the action. It has some emotional moments: the big St Crispin’s Day type of speech the President makes late in the film is actually quite moving - probably because it’s based on a very good theatrical model.
It has some wonderful disaster stuff: the destruction of Los Angeles (or was it New York - where it was was hardly important), with cars flying through the air, and Will Smith’s girlfriend’s dog making it to safety at the last moment. It has a host of good actors who take hold of their roles and chew them to bits, the ones with the humorous lines even more so. Who can forget Will Smith kicking ass (literally) out in the desert? Or Judd Hirsch’s over-the-top Jewish father? Or his genius of a son, Jeff Goldblum, and his dry one-liners? Or Randy Quaid doing a full-out I-was-abducted-by-aliens maniac - with his lookalike scene from Dr Strangelove at the end. Or Harry Connick Jr (I think it was) doing a slightly out-of-the-ordinary buddy part with Will Smith, a slightly too friendly buddy, in fact. Okay, maybe you can forget them. I think they’re fun; they take the seriousness out of a film that might have been so full of its own importance, and keep it well and truly alive.
Yes, dead bodies abound: several of the major US cities are wiped off the map. Dozens of fighter pilots are blown up. Mad scientists meet their just deserts. The President’s wife has a schmaltzy death scene. But it’s all so unreal, because we know that in the end the earthlings will overcome these nasty locusts from outer space, and will put them in their place.
And anyway, the aliens are so ridiculous - as ridiculous and absurd as those funny men wandering around in sticky suits in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. There’s no way they could be intelligent with all those octopus arms. That gives the game away from the beginning.
When you read the reviews from the time the film first came out, you find a host of people disliking it. Tired ideas, weak characterizations etc - even James Berardinelli can't find anything good in it. Well, well. Ten years or so on, and with 9/11 behind us, the film has one thing that is good: it undercuts those people who think the end of the world and the invasion of aliens and all the nasty stuff that's been going on is serious; it tells us that the way to combat an awful lot of it is with humour.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Gold Bracelet

You have to wonder how many movies virtually vanish into obscurity. Once even the worst films could do the rounds of small cinemas as B movies shown in tandem with an A movie. Now, sadly, these sorts of movies go barely noticed in cinemas - if they get there at all - and wind up as more fodder for the video stores.
I was doing a search on gold bracelets, as it happened, and came across a movie called The Gold Bracelet. It’s an Indian story about the aftermath of 9/11, and how a family’s fortunes spiral when prejudice against them begins in the wake of the disaster. Rather curiously, given its serious theme, it still manages to fit a couple of Bollywood musical numbers into the script - these are possibly okay for the earlier part of the film, where the tone is more lighthearted and romantic; they seem odd for a film that veers off towards the dramatic in its second half.
Still, Indian filmmakers seem to get away with all sorts of things in their movies. One of my favourite films is Monsoon Wedding, which has comedy and drama in fairly equal amounts, but balances them out superbly. It also includes some musical sequences - not quite in the full-blown Bollywood style, but still energetic and full of fun. Maybe we Westerners just have to get used to the fact that this is part and parcel of Indian moviemaking.
The photo is of Kavi Raz, an Indian actor who wrote and directed The Gold Bracelet, and also acted in it.

Doctor Johnson, I presume?

We spent some time today in the Samuel Johnson museum in Lichfield today. I hadn’t realised Johnson was one of Lichfield’s finest sons (Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles, and David Garrick, the actor are two others).
The museum resides in the house that once belonged to Johnson’s father, Michael. He had his bookshop there on the ground floor. It’s not a large house, although there are four storeys, but it’s in a prime location, in the market square. (Johnson’s statue stands at one end of the square now, and Boswell’s at the other).
The museum certainly inspires a considerable interest in Johnson: you want to go out and buy the Life of Johnson, or his Dictionary (an abridged version at least) or a book of Johnson’s impeccably-phrased and pithy sayings. He makes you love the English language.

Neo-noir

Neo-noir isn’t an adjective I’ve ever heard, as far as I recall. (Which doesn’t mean much: when we went to the Modern Art Museum in Luxembourg, there was a huge chart on the wall showing 20th century art movements, and many of them meant nothing to me.)
The only reason I know neo-noir exists is because it’s the description of Rob Roberge’s novel, More Than They Could Chew.
Noir means something to me: it’s that sort of dark, sometimes comic approach to thirties stories, often including private detectives. Neo also means something to me (apart from being the name of the main character in The Matrix). It usually implies a return to a ‘movement’ that’s died out at an earlier time. So we expect that neo-noir means a return, of sorts, to the noir type of writing produced by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
I’m not sure that either of these writers would appreciate neo-noir, however, if some of the reviews of More Than They Could Chew is anything to go by:
Sick and funny and impossible to put down.
A knack for impeccably grotty details of the demimonde
The grime of these lives still remains in our minds long after the last page has been read
Strap in and get ready for a mind flush. Roberge gives us the rotting tail of the counterculture in postmodern apocalypse. Kesey and Burroughs meet Leonard Palahniuk -- and get stomped. I need a fix. More, now!
Gritty, funky, addictive, and written with eloquent ruthlessness
Call it kink-noir. Call it beer-soaked black humor. Call it whatever you want.

Now for athlete's hands

It’s difficult to resist coming back to the topic of athlete’s foot/fingers/hands even though the focus of this blog is supposed to be the arts rather than the sporting world. Still, if one can’t be a bit random at times in terms of topics on a blog entitled Random Notes, what’s the point of having such a blog? And, after all, searches for athlete’s foot/fingers/hands are very common; whereas searches for other topics on my blog aren’t quite so frequent.
So, onto the gross part: as a result of checking out the searches for athlete’s foot/fingers/hands I discovered an article on ‘why athletes pee on their hands.’ O…k….
Seemingly it’s a waste of time for them to do so, so it’s a bit of a superstition, and the writer of the article Why Athletes Pee on Their Hands explains why. Urine, rather than toughening the hands, actually softens the skin, since it’s a form of moisturiser. One lives and learns. However, I won’t offer that usual advice: Don’t try this at home. Try it - it certainly won’t hurt you. Just make sure you clean up after you!
Another site notes that, ‘One of our most cherished honours is to have become the preferred destination for care of the professional athlete’s hand and wrist.’ When I wrote my original tongue-in-cheek post I hadn’t given the care of athlete’s hands the slightest thought; while the fingers had come into the picture, the hands hadn't. And there’s no doubt athlete’s hands suffer enormously, taking a huge amount of strain. This applies especially to those who toss themselves around by the hands on athletic horses or those uneven bars. The strain on the hands must be enormous. (I was watching some young people doing just this on telly, on the weekend.)
Yet another good reason why people should stick to music and forget sport. If you’re going to have some form of RSI, then far better to have got it in the pursuit of beauty.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sleeping around

Since we began our long holiday in the UK, we’ve slept in eleven different beds, by my last calculation. That’s including the week we spent with my daughter and her family because the tenants who’d taken over our house wanted it a week early. Those were single beds, but we’ve been fortunate to have been able to sleep in double beds ever since, with one exception. This was at the Youth Hostel in Gillingham, when we had bunk beds. I had to sleep on top, of course, and of course had to get up in the night to go to the loo. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to get down from an upper bunk bed in the middle of the night, in the dark, and doing it quietly so as not to wake the other person in the room, nor the people in the rooms next door, who, because the walls were so paper-thin, would have easily heard me.

It’s a bit like trying to play pianissimo when your instrument is a tuba, or a serpentine bassoon, or an aquaggaswack. The latter is listed on an odd site called OddMusic.com and is described as 29 hanging pot lids, a gong tree with a wide sonic palette. Don't ask me how to pronounce it.

Kiri and her fans

I came across an oddity today while doing a search on Kiri te Kanawa and her fans. Not the kind of fans you hold in your hand and wave, or the ones you install above your head – ceiling fans – but the kind that admire an artist.

The search took me to music.yahoo.com, a site I’d never encountered before, and there it lists Kiri’s name and underneath her name, the word, Fans. Clicking on this brings up a page of some twenty member names, people or ‘radio stations’ that play her music. Well, that’s what they say, but when you look at the info about them, you’d be hard pressed to know where Kiri would fit into some of the stations’ programmes.

I presume these ‘stations’ are a form of streaming radio. Are they legit or what? Perhaps someone out there can inform me. (I tried to play one of them and a message told me that Firefox is not supported at this time. Dear me. Kiri would not be impressed.)

Footnote to Funky P

I didn't give the link to Funky P in my last post. The place to go is their news page, which is a bit more informative than their opening page (though you can hear a couple of fragments of their music there).
The site is okay; a bit fiddly, and not everything is linked well to everything else. Still, if you're looking for info on the band - and now that their name has appeared here, naturally you will be - this is the place to go.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Funky P

On our last night in Luxembourg we went and heard a band (well, it was actually impossible to avoid hearing them) called Funky P. Though listed as Funky Jazz, their lead singer actually claimed at one point that they are not a jazz band. I’m not sure what the definition of Funky is, but it seems to include Jazz amongst its components, or hangers-on.

Maybe you could call them a Faux Jazz Band. (In the same way faux wood blinds are not really wood blinds.) Faux, for those who haven’t been to Luxembourg recently, is a French work used to describe something made to resemble something else. The original French word means false, fake, imitation or artificial. (Always a mine of information.)

Anyway, Funky P, a group of some nine musicians and singers (bass, lead guitar, sax, trumpet, trombone, keyboard, drummer and two singers) were performing in the Abbey Courtyard in the Grund in Luxembourg to a not very large crowd of people. I don’t think this was because they’re no good – in fact, they are very good – but because it just wasn’t really the right place for them. I don’t really know why they hadn’t drawn a larger crowd.

The singers can sing – and dance – the keyboard player is superb (when he gets a chance to b e heard), the sax player is a middle-aged feller with real power, and everyone else in the band performs wonderfully. And loudly. I don’t think the loudness was their issue, really: they were performing in a natural amphitheatre, which didn’t need as much reverb and boom and whathaveyou as they were given. They could almost play acoustically and get away with it. (I realise that ain’t the done thing no more.)

Anyway, apart from being temporarily deafened, I’d really like to hear more of their music (on CD, in the quietness of my own home). I’ve found their site, but I need to know now what’s available to buy. This is one of the things about this holiday: quirky things turn up at every corner, and arouse your interest!

What I almost forgot to say, is that Funky P - the most Phat & Funky Soul/Funk/Pop Band in the Universe is from Luxembourg...! Luxembourg, which likes to give the impression nothing funky could possibly happen there.

The photo of Roosevelt Isaac comes from the Funky P, and as far as I can make out from the legal guff, it's okay for me to publish it here. Hopefully Funky P won't regard my inclusion of it on this blog as a way to make some real money by suing me.
And I've found out that Funky P only have an EP out, with three tracks on it. There has to be more out there somewhere.




Frightened in Flight

We’ve just come back from Luxembourg on Ryanair, an airline that obviously believes its customers all have very short legs, and don’t need any space in front of them to do anything – such as letting down the tray to put the laptop on. And because the flights are short they don’t have anything like inflight entertainment – unless you count things like lotto tickets being sold, or having to pay large prices for a cup of coffee.

The Korean flights we came to England on had movies, as I’ve written elsewhere. There was no choice on the first leg of the trip, but on the second leg we were able to choose from a very wide range, and watch the movies on the little screen on the back of the seat in front, rather than on a screen set up high on the cabin wall.

I hadn’t considered something that’s just come to my attention: when the movie is chosen for you, and when you have children with you, they can be exposed to a surprising amount of violence that they probably wouldn’t see at home.

In an article entitled Young Fliers See the Film, Be It PG or R, by Bob Tedeschi (it appeared in the HeraldTribune), the writer considers the complaints of parents regarding films they have to sit through on some flights, and the seeming inability of those in charge of showing the movies to understand the parents’ concerns.

According to one Mr Kleiman, director of product marketing for Continental Airlines, parents need to be responsible for what their children watch while flying. Right: as if a parent is going to be able to take their child somewhere else on the plane.

Mr Kleiman also says that what’s shown on flights is consistent with what’s shown elsewhere in the media.

In the last two years the percentage of R-rated movies has jumped, and more graphic and violent movies are being shown.

Yet Nina Plotner, an account manager with Inflight Productions Inc., which works on behalf of many airlines to review and acquire films, said, in regard to editing movies so that they remove the graphic material, “If we take all the good things out, there’s not going to be a lot left to play.” And she added, “If you get a complaint, you get a complaint. You can’t please everybody.”

Mr. Kleiman, ever the public relations man explained:: “People love Pepsi, and we don’t serve that, so there you go, we just ruined their flight. That’s an accurate analogy.” Yes, we understand you entirely, Mr Kleiman.

I can remember as a child being kept awake by the thought that a mummy was walking down the corridor in my home – not my mummy, I hasten to add. This was after I’d seen Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, which by today’s standards was no doubt innocuous.

But compare that to King Kong, where people are eaten alive by some very nasty monsters, and try and explain to a child that it’s all okay.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The movie top ten

And here’s the list of movies from Borders’ survey. It’s a bit of a puzzle that only the third of the Lord of the Rings movies makes it. For me, it’s the least successful of the three. Amelie and The Sound of Music make rather strange bedfellows (personally I think Amelie is probably overrated). And has anyone actually seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s lately? The only good thing about it is Audrey Hepburn, in spite of the fact that she’s in a totally inappropriate role (as she was in My Fair Lady.) George WhoeverHeWas is dull, and the movie is dull for the most part too. The Mancini music is good - well Moon River is good, but it's one of those songs tacked onto the movie because it happens to be a good song.
I can’t bear to say anything about the Monty Python movie, except that I think it’s rubbish, and is only appreciated because it’s iconoclastic.
The Shawshank Redemption
Lord of the Kings: Return of the King
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Amelie
The Sound of Music
Schindler’s List
Some Like it Hot
Pulp Fiction
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Gladiator.
George Peppard was the dull young man in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The Top Ten?

Borders have just published the Nation’s top ten books. As always with these lists, you have to wonder what influences the people who vote. Remember these are ‘all-time favourite books’, but what does that actually mean? Each individual’s all-time favourites, or the combined all-time favourites? I never really know.
Apparently more than 20,000 people voted online. So for a start that tells us something: these the atfs of people who use computers and who go online. They are the atfs of people who actually bothered to vote. And these are people who actually read. Furthermore, the list is a good solid list, so these are people who read above a certain level. There are no Mills and Boons here, for starters, or John Grishams. (Not that either of those is at the bottom of any of my lists: I’ve read both Mills and Boon and Grisham.)
I think the puzzle is why books as longstanding as Lord of the Flies and the Gerard Durrell and The Colour Purple are on the list. My suspicion is that the outside two are books that have been read in school. Maybe they made an impression at that time. But are people still reading them?
Wild Swans has to be one of the most gloomy books ever written - and it’s very visible in op shops (charity shops) across the land. Sorry, Angela’s Ashes is gloomier and equally visible. It’s interesting to see Bryson’s book on the list, because it’s a book that requires reading and thinking. I don’t know Atonement (apart from the fact that it’s just become a movie) or Toast, or the Kundera (I know that by name). The Handmaid’s Tale has been in my hands more than once in a secondhand shop, but I’ve never actually got to the point of purchasing it. Maybe now is the time!
A Short History of Everything - Bill Bryson
Lord of the Flies - William Golding.
My Family and other Animals - Gerard Durrell
Angela’s Ashes - Frank McCourt
The Colour Purple - Alice Walker
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Toast - Nigel Slater
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera.

Things Gothic

Some while ago we came across a copy of the DVD of The Phantom of the Opera. I finished up watching it on my own, as my wife wasn’t that impressed. I’ve never seen the stage show, so I don’t know how the movie compares, but it seemed rather overblown and full-in-your-face. Moreover the music verges from the operatic to the pop-operatic to the pseudo-Gilbert and Sullivan. But Lloyd Webber has never been known, I don’t think, for his consistency.
All this by way of introduction to two other things: one, the ‘other’ film of The Phantom of the Opera - and I don’t mean the Lon Chaney one from the silent era dark ages - and two, the fact that there’s a Goth scene dating site. What have they got in common? Well, the Phantom and gothic are ideas that go hand in hand.
Lon Chaney’s movie is regarded as a silent classic, in spite of being hacked around in the post-production process. But I’d never heard that there was a movie in which the star of the horror films, Freddy (aka Robert Englund) appears. Apparently the slasher elements of the Friday the 13th series are retained, and the story is set in London rather than Paris, but otherwise it stays reasonably close to the original. Or as close as it feels it needs given the constraints of having to have someone die a violent death every ten minutes. According to some reviewers (aka Robert Englund fans) this is Freddy’s best performance. I suppose, given that Englund seldom appears in anything but horror movies, this may not be much of an achievement. Still, his fans think he’s great, and there are raves over the film on IMDB.com by people who have actually seen it.
And finally, GothScene.com for Goth dating, which is billed as the #1 Alternative Dating Community on the Net.
I don’t know much about gothic singles, so perhaps I’m not the best person to judge, but restricting yourself to people who are gothic in their approach to life seems a little insular. Doesn’t the idea that opposites attract go further than this?
Maybe the Goth scene is so particular that only other Goths could really empathise. One girl says she likes blood, sex, weed and rain. Hmm. Whose blood, I have to ask myself?
One 24-year-old guy is going to buy a hearse as soon as possible (handy if the local funeral director is extra busy), while a 21-year-old guy says he always wears something black and loves Gothic women because they are the hottest. (I’ve noticed that leather is hot - and sticky.)
I thought the site was restricted to people between the ages of 18 and 40, but in fact you can be 99 and still register. That would be a treat for the average young Goth, I’d suspect.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Not for the faint-hearted

A few posts back I had a little debate with my inner critic about whether writing about racing and buying shares should really find a place in this blog, being as it’s supposed to be focused on the arts. The Arts.
However, one of the curious key phrases for this blog that keeps turning up again and again is athlete’s feet/fingers. In a small post written back at the end of last year, I made a joke about athlete’s fingers. Since then this phrase has turned up on HitTail as one of the strongest key words/phrases connected to my blog. It’s very odd.
In fact in this latest search, we come up as result number three, straight after two results for Pakistani women and athlete’s foot.
So how can I connect up athlete’s foot, or athlete’s fingers, to the art scene? An interesting question.
One site introduces an article on athlete’s foot in this way:
The great renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci called the foot "a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art".
On the Village Voice main page this piece of work was at one time seen:
Best place to see your feet in a different light - PASSERBY
Forget your plantar warts, your athlete's foot, your bunions and calluses. The most homeless-foot-lookin' feet look fly jitterbuggin' out over the Saturday Night Fever floor at PASSERBY. The candy-colored squares flash in time to the tunes and make you want to gyrate and get thy finger pointing. -Jamie Lowe
Yes, well. I’m not at all sure what homeless-foot-lookin' feet are when they’re at home (or on the dance floor), and why you need to get your finger pointing is beyond me.
As for movies, well again, it took quite a bit of Google searching to come up with anything, and in the end I probably wished I hadn’t. Someone who enjoys horror movies to the extent of finding them a laugh, wrote about a sequence from Creepshow 2. And left pictures of some of the more unpleasant bits on the blog. As the writer says, there’s always a jock in these pictures, and this one makes the mistake of letting whatever the nasty blob in the water is get him. I quote: The blob grabs him from under the raft and turns his foot into a pulsating hideously bloody mess. That's one hell of a case of athlete's foot.
Oh, dear. The lengths I have to go to, to justify this being a blog about the arts.

The perils of translation - Die Risikos der Übersetzung

While we’re in Luxembourg, Blogger and Google are both kindly offering me everything in German. My posts still come up in English on Google, of course, but there are a lot more German results than we’d usually see.
Anyway, in a nonsensical moment, I decided to take advantage of Google’s translation service and translate a post into German - and then translate it back out of German using something called the Free Online Translator. In the end only the first part of the post was translated back and forth, but comparing the original with the new improved translated version is intriguing.
Here’s part of the original post:
Just keep an eye over your shoulder
The other day, in one of those rare egotistical moments I have, I added myself to a site called zoominfo.com. It never crossed my mind to check that I might already be on there – after all, there are six billion people on the planet, and zoominfo mostly focuses on people in the US. But today, when I happened to come across the site again while looking up Brent Stavig (see the previous post), I found I was on there not once, not twice, but four times! Firstly there was the listing I put in myself the other day. Then there was a listing with me as a freelance writer. I hadn’t put this on. It had been picked up because a couple of Internet references caught up my name and collated them together.

Here’s the new English version:

Fair maintenance an eye over your shoulder
The other day, at one of those rare selfish moments, which I, I have added itself to an installation place which was called zoominfo.com. He never crossed my mind to examine whether I could be already switched on there - in the end, there is six milliard people on the planet, and zoominfo mostly concentrates upon people in the US. But today when I happened to bump into the installation place again by chance with the looking see up Brent Stavig (the preceding post), I found me not even was switched on there, not twice, but 4-spot! First there was the listing which I used in myself the other day. Then there was a listing with me as an independent author. I had not put this in. It had been selected up, because a pair of the Internet tips herself on top.

I kind of like the idea of being switched on, and of being an independent author. But I'm really not sure what tips herself on top means at all...

More from Edgar Jepson

A while ago I looked at the various authors who collectively wrote The Floating Admiral. One of these authors was Edgar Jepson, who, I’ve just found out, is quoted as saying the following line:
I know nothing about platonic love except that it is not to be found in the works of Plato.
I’ve got no idea where this comes from - in fact, I’m so suspicious that I think you might find it attributed to various other writers on the Net. For the moment, let Edgar have his ‘post of glory’.

Connecting curious things

How might the arts be in any way connected to the idea of a colon cleanse? With difficulty, I think! C/cleanses don’t appear to be the sort of things that opera singers get into, nor artists, nor musicians - or at least, if they do, they don‘t talk about it much. (Colon Cleanse might be a good name for an aggressive pop group however.)
One blog that talks about both writing and colon cleansing is Write Niche, where one writer mentions a diet called the Sacred Heart Diet (also known as the Cabbage Diet). Sacred Heart Diet? I wonder what Catholics think about that.
One of the writers on this blog is Peter Petterson, who apparently writes on New Zealand. Unfortunately, access was denied to me when I tried to get more information about him.

Beware the Machine


A friend had an incident with an exercise machine tonight rather like Bill Murray did in the film Lost in Translation. There was a short scene in that movie where Murray is trying to find things to do to fill in his time in Japan, so he goes on the treadmill machine. A female Japanese voice is instructing him in a rather sergeant-major way, and gets increasingly hyper about what he’s supposed to do at the same time as the machine increases its speed. Finally Murray is thrown off in a flurry of elbows and knees while the voice burbles on for him to keep on moving!!
My friend apparently got kicked off his machine, according to his wife. He then got up and it hit him and bit him at the same time. Her suggestion was that keeping fit was too dangerous.

Smiling Christ


Today, while in the City Cathedral in Luxembourg, we came across part of the travelling exhibition called Der Pilgerweg des Lächelnden Christus - or in a rough translation, The Pilgrimage of the Laughing/Smiling Christ. This is an exhibition organised across several countries in Europe with participation by a wide number of artists. The paintings and sculptures we saw were only some in the exhibition, and were quite a mixed bag. All of them show that interest in Christ as a subject for art has by no means diminished in the 21st century, and many of the works are quite striking.
You can see all the pictures on a gallery here. Check out the paintings by Johannes Wickert - they’re at the bottom of the gallery’s range. These are ones we saw, and they have a wonderful warmth about them. I tried to find out something about Wickert, but all the entries are coming up in German at the moment. (For some reason, since we’ve been in Luxembourg, both Google and Blogger come up in German, which is fun, but sometimes requires a bit of sorting out.)

June 2012: Since I wrote this back in 2007, the two links to the Laughing Christ have both broken.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find replacement ones, so if you want to see more of Wickert's work, go to his gallery pages.  

A short conversation

So what’s a post on stocks and shares and horse racing doing on this site? I thought it was supposed to be about the arts.
Hmmm, don’t you consider there’s any art in betting on horses, or betting on shares?
I think that’s stretching the use of the word in this context just a little.
Okay, maybe it is, but it’s my blog and sometimes I can just choose what I want to write about. So there.
Yeah, but I thought you were going to make an effort to focus on the arts, instead of rolling all over the countryside picking up an idea from there and an idea from there.
Don’t you mean an idea from here and one from there?
Quibbling won’t help your argument.
Well, it is called Random Notes, and sometimes I just have to allow myself the chance to draw the wild card and go with whatever comes up.
And that’s your answer?
For the time being.
Pathetic.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Crowl's easy guide to the stockmarket.

I always thought the stock market was pretty easy to understand: it was similar to backing a horse in a race. If it wins, you get money; if it loses, you lose what you have.
I’ve always understood that if you have money in the stock market, you don’t sell when the value is heading downhill, and you don’t buy when it’s going uphill. Rather you do the reverse. I got this piece of wisdom from a book many years ago and it’s stuck with me.
Plainly I’m a bit naïve when it comes to stocks and shares because there are always new terms coming my way (even when I’m not looking for them) that I don’t understand at all. Yet the even the Motley Fool says you won't find a simpler strategy than buying and holding quality stocks. Isn’t that what I’ve just been saying? Don’t back the losers, back the winners. Yes, you’ll lose occasionally, but not often.
The other thing is, sit on your shares. According to another piece of market wisdom, shares that are left to grow will do so. They may have dips but in general good shares rise.
Of course such an approach doesn’t generate much interest on the stock market and someone came up with the idea of covered calls, a strategy which can generate some small extra income, but is also risky.
Well, some people like risk. Some people back apparent losers to win, and when they win come out with lots more money. So if you’re going to get involved with covered calls, make sure you have someone who knows what they’re doing helping you with it. There are even programs that can help, such as PowerOptions®. (It has that little copyright sign beside it because it’s copyright. Duh.)
PowerOptions® is said to be the only internet-based provider of data that gives investors the ability to make good decisions. It’s a bit like one of those books written by an old racing hand, the sort of person who really has been making money out of horses for decades. There’s no easy road to riches, but there are some helps along the way.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Productive!

I’ve just been talking to a man staying in the same hotel as we are. He’s from Edinburgh, and proud of it, and has eight children, the youngest only 17 weeks old. (His oldest is 23 and works with his dad.) Does having eight children make any of them less special? Certainly not in this guy’s case, as he can’t wait to get home to see his latest and to see what she’s doing.
I can remember a story told by Brennan Manning in which he hears about an old man who had a lot of children (more than eight) and who was asked which one he loved most. He began to recite the special qualities of each child, one by one, saying that was the one he loved most. But then would go onto another child and say that was the one he loved most - and so on through the lot of them. (I can’t remember which of his books it was in: either Abba’s Child, or Lion and Lamb.)
The Scottish guy’s daughter is expecting a baby before Christmas, so he’ll have a grandchild whose aunt is only a few months older. The daughter will probably be able to use some of her mother’s maternity clothes, in fact. Though she might prefer to buy her own new ones, ones like those advertised on Kiki’s maternity clothes (where, at the moment, they’re rather ironically having a Labour Day sale!) Kíki’s maternity clothes are modern, sexy (hmmm, bit late for that!) and cute. I’m quoting their advertising - but if the pictures are anything to go by, that’s what they are! Kiki's looks like one of those maternity dress stores where being pregnant is thought of as something special and beautiful. And fun! They even have a belly of the month section on their site...

Lacking Celebrities


There’s been a distinct lack of celebrities wandering around in the same places as we’ve been wandering since we came to England. In fact, the only celebrity we’ve seen is Stephen Fry, who was shooting a program called Kingdom (as far as I can make out) in Swaffham, the day we were there.
I’ve expected to see a celebrity in almost every supermarket or large store or main street or boutique shop. Nope. They’re very thin on the ground at present, or maybe in hiding during the summer. There was an older woman in the supermarket last night who seemed distinctly familiar from some tv progam, and I was tempted to check her out, but decided to let her have her privacy in the end. Plus it didn’t seem to be a very celebrity thing to do for her to be pushing her supermarket trolley from the wrong end, and then, when she kept getting her feet stuck in the back wheels, turning the thing sideways and having all four wheels going westwards.
Stephen Fry appeared on tv in a completely different program one night on tv: he was discussing the fact that he suffers from manic depression. And he interviewed several other people who had the same illness. Most of them, curiously, said they were happier in the end that they'd had it than not; only one woman said she would prefer to be dead. (One other bloke had tried to kill himself, by walking into a moving lorry. It had left him with severely damaged legs - and a will to go on living!)
Still, at least she hadn’t done what I did one day. I pulled the nearest trolley from the pile outside, thought it was a little large, found it quite difficult to handle, and only later discovered it was for the disabled shoppers.