Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter books, movies and revelations

Two great things happened over the Easter break (with all due respect to the religious amongst us) and one was heading off to see 'The Squid & the Whale' and the other was commencing 'Too brief a treat - The letters of Truman Capote'.

Yes in terms of Capote I am coming to him late and inspired by the recent film but that is surely what films, literature and good journalism and commentary should be about; reminding all of us that we are not the first to walk this well worn world, we will not be the last and we will never be the brightest.

In terms of the film, it is said to be the real life recollections of writer/director, Noah Baumbach, and the period where his highly intellectual New York parents of the 1980s decided to split up, attempting to share custody of Noah and his brother and, basically, fucking it all up in the process.

As someone who never experienced divorce first hand (although I suppose there's still time to D. I. My - do it myself) I have often felt minimal sympathy for families who went through this upheaval. In all honesty I guess, in the scheme of life, I thought that worse things could happen to people (torture, disability, famine - the biblical stuff).

Looking at this film however, with all its quirks, keenly observed characters (painfully so - remind me never to go away for a weekend with Mr Baumbach), wry wit and fantastically ugly NYC 80s outfits, I really gained an insight into the confused world of a child where the parents are divorcing. Children, at the end of the day, inhabit their own tiny universe and, those of us who are lucky enough, will evolve as we get older and realise that we are but a tiny speck. In the meantime, though, whether a child is starving in Sudan or getting tennis lessons in Brooklyn, their world is small, made up of mum and dad, the kids at school if they get to attend such an institution and the things they see in the bathroom mirror. This film, in my humble opinion, gets to the heart of just how unsettling the breakdown of a family can be, even if it uses semen spread on library books to do it.


Now there's a segue. Library books I mean, not semen. I am a huge believer in the power of the public library. They should be defended strenuously and all the funds that currently go towards huge sporting events like ... ooops I feel a soapbox coming on ... suffice to say I think books, reading and (subsequently) libraries are the cornerstone of an intelligent, evolving, aware community. My local library kindly handed over the Gerald Clarke edited book, 'Too Brief a Treat' to me recently. Clarke wrote the biography that the recent Capote film was based on. I began reading the book last night and had to force myself to put it down so I'd sleep but found myself awake and thinking about it again by 2am. The letters sing from the pages. Capote was a mad butterfly. He loves all his correspondents and soaks them in terms of endearments that vary from "Precious baby" to "Lovely you". Besides all this, however, the book is full of mentions of other writers, other books and other things that just MUST be followed up by the reader.

That's the great thing about the public library. Low personal wealth or exposure to a University need not be an obstacle. With modern technology most libraries are on line - you hear or read about a book you want or an author you'd like to know more about, you type in that information on the library website - they almost always have the book or can order it for you and, low and behold, they even email you when it's ready to be picked up. Seriously, if they could just read it aloud to me now or do my work while I hunker down with a cuppa and my next hardcover, they'd have completely nailed my version of the heaven. Vote 1 for public libraries!


Finally, in an earlier instalment, I mentioned William Shawn, the ex-Editor of 'The New Yorker' magazine. He popped up again recently in the edition of 'Vanity Fair' with the whinging, underfed (oops, must get that soapbox back out to the shed where it belongs) Terri Hatcher on the cover. In a sweeping article about the utterly crazy and completely decadent and glamorous UK theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan, we are once again exposed to the beautiful, generous, classy and indulgent nature of this amazing man. I repeat, as before, if you ever get a chance to find out more about him ...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Want to be beautiful? Stop obsessing about yourself

A recent television show aired here called 'Make me beautiful,please' or words to that effect. In it three UK women were flown to LA to be broken, siphoned, polished and rearranged by some of the USA's top cosmetic surgeons and dentists to overcome the physical imperfections that had made them miserable all their lives.

The interesting thing about this program was that, while all three women were never going to be on the cover of a Victoria's Secret catalogue, all of them had the most divine husbands who were all unquestionably good looking but also, across the board, devoted to their gals.

These men had met, fell in love, married and in two out of the three cases, had babies with these women ... while they were in their 'ugly duckling' phase. It gets one thinking does it not? Why are these women so loved by others yet so loathed by themselves? One 45-year-old woman said that, after a face lift that would supposedly take years off her, she could "start to live". Hmmmm. The same woman also had tears in her eyes when she declared that, at this age, she was experiencing a manicure for the first time. Get over yourself puhlease! There are actually people out there whose African villages don't even sell hair dye. I mean, can you believe it?

A number of things come to mind watching programs like this. One is that - yes - a tear can come to the eye watching a young woman speak of the constant taunting she endured during school years because of a hook nose and crossed teeth. As a tissue-ready viewer I do find myself rooting for her to go and change it all and come out a perky beauty. But really, what message is this giving? I don't have the answers, I just think it's worth pondering.

Secondly, and I know it sounds very bleeding heart and holier than though, but what about the kind of physical and facial deformities that one sees in the street or in books and on television that actually, truly, stop people from living? The kind of things that leave them unable to move, speak or operate in the outside world? One million pounds or similar was spent on the three women in the show. That's something like $3million of our Aussie boomerang dollars. We could probably achieve some serious medical intervention for UNWELL people with this kind of cash.

"Don't get me wrong," I declare, whilst staring into my cosmetic overflowing bathroom cabinet. I've sometimes daydreamed of a boob lift and there's not a week goes past where I don't come up with some new hairbrained work-out/weight loss concept that I'm never going to follow. I just don't think I should be encouraged in this shallowness. Let me wallow in it in my own private ego salon!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Where do people find their passions?

Commitment, drive, sense of purpose ... these are things that fascinate me. Why are some people so sure of what they want in life, what their talents are and what they are prepared to do to achieve them and why are some so lost? Perhaps because we often read about high achievers AFTER much of their life's work has been done it just looks like they knew their path. Maybe they just lurched from one idea, opportunity or crisis to the next like the rest of us? Somehow I doubt it.

Julia Child's memoirs - cobbled together interviews and letters tied together by a male relative - is called 'My life in France'. Apparently it tells the story of her turning up in France, not knowing a crouton from a Chevy, and truly applying herself to learning everything about their cuisine traditions, ingredients and eccentricities. Her cooking school, her books, her cooking TV show - they are all the stuff of legend now. Yet, apparently, she was not even a cook when she arrived in gay Paree. How did she know that she would be so suited to this world? Where did she find the inspiration to dive in boots and all, study the techniques, then grab a couple of partners and start up her own school?

Insight, ambition, clever ideas - these things intrigue me. I have a million ideas but they swim around in my head like too many socks in the washing machine. They fly above me like tiny dots of dust in the sunlight and when I go to grab at them they swiftly move out of my reach. Now is the time to take some responsibility, make some definite decisions and concentrate on a few things only. I can always go back to the other stuff. Now is the time to recognise some strengths and be honest about weaknesses.

Writing takes on more and more significance in my life. It is becoming less the much ignored tool that I bring home the bacon with and more a skill and a thrill that I can enjoy life through and use to build some pleasant income streams.

2006 should perhaps be the year of concentrating on three key areas. Yes, by George, that sounds like a plan. I will go off and put some goals in the diary right now.

Any tips or stories of inspiration in regards to 'making things happen' are always welcome!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yes it's the Contessa

Remembering Mr Sean when you watch CAPOTE

I saw 'Capote' yesterday. Yes, I am behind the times in my viewing schedule. Luckily the cinema was full of retirees so there was no one around that I knew who could unveil this awful truth.

Is it just me or do other people like to watch all the crap, easy to digest movies that come out before they hit the meatier stuff? Man I am superficial!

Anyway - THE IMPORTANT THING IS - when watching 'Capote' you will be exposed to a character called Mr Sean. He is from the New Yorker magazine. Mr Sean was, in himself, a fascinating character and you have some time to read, is well worth researching.

The book I read about him was called 'Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker : The Invisible Art of Editing' by Ved Mehta. If you are at all interested in writing, editing, publishing or a time in the western world when ideas seem to matter, people had wit and you could still drink a bloody martini at lunch time then you will like this book.

launching the boat

Well, like Gilligan and the skipper too, I am launching my SSblogger onto tepid waters to add even more unwanted words to the world. I can't believe how many people want to share their thoughts with the world. I can't believe how many people think others want to hear them. I can't believe I am joining in. Ah, the ego of it all!

Of course my deep down theory is that, while so many people are waxing lyrical about the sharing of ideas and feelings over the world wide web, I am actually deeply convinced that blogging is yet another way for us to move further away from real community, real human connection and real confrontation of other human beings but, hey, that's just me.

Ok, let's post and see how this confounded thing works!