A Crumb of Insight in the Battle of the Sexes

I was shopping in the local supermarket this morning – not an unusual event in itself. I’ve written a little about it before. But, here’s the thing; I discovered another key difference between the sexes as I was shopping.

Now that is valuable, you must agree.

My favorite difference between the sexes was posited by 'my main man' James Thurber many tears ago (typo, what typo?). He suggested that the main difference between men and women was that men inspect their fingernails palms up with their fingers bent over while women do it palms down with their fingers outstretched.

Who can argue with him, eh? Who?

So now, today, I get my own theory and I’m not blowing my own trumpet when I suggest that it’s just a valid as James Thurber’s was all those tears ago (nope… ‘still don’t see any typos).

Here’s mine, after a tiny bit of background.

This morning, my lovely wife asked me to get some breadcrumbs in the supermarket. Doubtless these were for some new exotic culinary experiment. This was a new item on my list and I kind of hate that because I’ve got the shopping routine pretty much down pat (pat is an Irish guy) at this stage. I know what I need and I know where it can be found. Fine. But when something new comes on the list, I can lose time looking for it – I can lose a lot of time.

I lost lots of time today... looking for breadcrumbs.

I used all the limited logic at my disposal to find them too.

“Breadcrumbs,” I mused, silently because out-loud-musing can get you into all kinds of trouble in the supermarket, “breadcrumbs will be in the baking section. So confident was I of this that I went there and simply reached out to the shelf, fully expecting them to be at the end of my arm.

They weren’t.

Next I figured they must be in the bread section – a moderate hike across the store. Nope, plenty of bread there, none of it in crumb form.

I tried lots of other places. I even tried asking an employee but he wasn’t conscious. Eventually I gave up and I phoned my wife.

She told me where the breadcrumbs were without a moment’s hesitation and she was dead right. I went there and there they were.

Now my firm belief is that any woman reading this will just say “Big deal, we all know where the breadcrumbs are.” While all the men will say, “He’s right, I haven’t a clue where the breadcrumbs are either.”

“Quod erat demonstrandum.” A new rule for the sexes is born! And here it is:

"Women know where the breadcrumbs are, men don't."

That's it, my Eureka moment for today. Had there been a bath available, I would have certainly jumped out of it.

...eh?

...what?

You guys want to know where the breadcrumbs are? Yes but if I tell you that, then the rule won’t work anymore, will it?

Oh, very well then…

The breadcrumbs are next to the chickens.


I know, I can’t bloody figure it either!


Some Thoughts Upon Hearing of the Death of Paul Newman

Paul Newman passed away today, may he rest in peace. He was a great film actor, a superstar and a cultural icon. He also carried with him an air of integrity which set him apart from many of his peers.

The passing of Paul Newman makes me feel my mortality a little more than other deaths have done. At Eighty Three, he was not a young man – he has lived a full full life.

But I feel I knew him as a young man, I really do. My earlier years were punctuated by those youthful features and those blue blue eyes. Other famous people have died and their deaths have made me sad but they were always old, weren’t they?

Paul Newman seemed to be young when I was young and now he has become old and passed away from us…

… and I feel my mortality more keenly than I normally do.

Paul Newman was like a child in ‘The Hustler’ in 1961 – and I was just getting ready to be born. If I was there when he was so young, how much time is there left for me?

It’s not morbid to contemplate this, I think it’s good. If there’s laughing and loving and living to be done then now is the time to be doing it – it’s best that we keep that in mind.

So thanks, Paul and God Bless. You’ve thought me some things along the way and now, in dying, you teach me to live a little more.

Adieu.



Newman's second law: Just when things look darkest, they go black.”
Paul Newman –1925-2008

Movies Made Great by Music

I've just listening to an interview with John Barry and I was struck again by the fact that some films would not be half as good as they are without the fabulous music written for them.

For me, the names of two composers arise in particular in this regard - Ennio Morricone and John Barry.

I think both have written film music which has elevated itself beyond the movies it was written for and also elevated the movies themselves - some of them quite mundane - to a higher plain.


So, here's a few movies made better by their score - in no particular order (please add a few in comments if you have any):



Once upon a time in America

Out of Africa

Dances with Wolves - how average would this film be without *that* music?

Body Heat

Brief Encounter (Rachmaninov may not have written his second piano concerto for this flick but it sure fits!)

Last of the Mohicans

Jaws

James Bond - generally - the theme is an inseperable part of the iconography

The Mission

The Good the Bad and Ugly

Somewhere in Time

Psycho

Gladiator

I really shouldn't forget John Williams (well... I haven't really 'cos Jaws gets a mention) but his work on many of Speilberg and Lucas' blockbusters have been contributory to their success.

Try:

Schindler's List

Star Wars

Indiana Jones

and on and on...

If you guys can add a few, I know I'll be inspired to add a few more.

Oh: here's a little piece of doggerel I just doodled:

Our foreplay was ecstatic
but then I slept the whole night through.
Get this into my head:
Restoril - red
Viag-ara is blue.


EDIT - that rhyme is *not* about me!

Some Notes on JJ

I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the writing of my short story ‘JJ’s Note’ and then criticise myself a little – just for fun, you understand.

I’ve always liked mystery stories - Agatha Christie, all that. So I suppose it was natural that, sooner or later, I would try to write a couple of them myself.

In fact, a book I’m busy writing (when I’m not hanging around here) is itself a fairly ambitious mystery story, so I guess I haven’t quit yet.


I’ve never actually read a book about how to write a mystery story but I reckon there’s really no big mystery to it.

For me there’s only one place to start. You need to find a ‘skewed fact’.

(I think I just made that up – ‘Skewed Fact’ – is it any good? I’m quite taken with it myself, although it’s probably in all those ‘How to Write a Mystery’ books that I’ve never read.)

In my (admittedly twisted) mind this ‘Skewed Fact’ is something that, ideally, only you will possess. It is your way of looking at something which differs ever-so-slightly from the way the rest of the world looks at it. When you find one of these, treasure it, it can be the kernel of a mystery story.

Let’s look at the ‘Skewed Fact’ in ‘JJ’s Note’.

Cosmopolitan Magazine announced a shot story competition, oh, it must have been fifteen years ago. I entered it using a fictitious female name, thinking I might have a better chance that way (eat yer heart out JK). I think I called myself ‘Felicity Martine’, which is a ‘feminisation’ of my actual middle names. (100EC for the first comment guessing my middle names, if you’re bothered).

I didn’t enter because I had a yen to write for a Woman’s Magazine – although I’ve done that in my time – I did it because of the subject you had to write about.

The subject of the competition was ‘Reading Between The Lines’.

See?

As soon as I saw that title – I thought of the town of ‘Reading’ instead of the word ‘reading’ and I knew I had a ‘Skewed Fact’ on my hands. I knew that I could build something around my twisted understanding of the writing theme and, at the very least, entertain myself for a little while.

After much plotting and concoction, ‘JJ’s Note’ emerged and I’m pleased to say I got absolutely nowhere in the competition. Never mind, JJ has stayed with me ever since.

It’s fun to watch out for these little acorns upon which vast pulp edifices may be erected. One of my favourites comes from Ed McBain – who I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who likes their detective fiction tough and sexy and garnished with loads of killer dialogue. Ed wrote a book called ‘Like Love’ which (spoiler alert) based its entire premise on the fact that men frequently misunderstand the order in which women put on underwear and suspenders. It was a very neat ‘Skewed Fact’ and it made for an elegant solution to his book.

So the whole point of this bit is – do you want to write a mystery story? First find your ‘Skewed Fact’ and then build your story from there.


* * * *

Criticism.

It’s good for writers to criticise themselves.

Some of us believe our vision is fatally biased and that we all think everything we write is brilliant. I don’t subscribe to that point of view (lyric alert). I think, late at night, even those fools on ‘X-Factor’ - who pretend they think they can sing - look into their mirror and admit to themselves how crap they really are.

I think if we hold a good hard looking glass up to our own work, we can give and receive some criticism which is more valuable than most.

I mean, come on! You know when something’s good or bad – don’t you?

And the trouble is, people who read your writing are usually desperate to be nice to you, to encourage you with your little hobby ("it keeps him off the streets, doesn’t it?"). One of my plays was performed once before a full house and everyone came out afterward and told me how brilliant it was, how great I was… but it wasn’t, it just bloody wasn’t and I knew it and I hope to God they knew it too but they wouldn’t say it. One person, ,months – years – later smiled at the memory of that night and said to me, “God, that was shite, wasn’t it?”

That person can read my work anytime!

So what do I think of ‘JJ’s Note’?

In one respect I like it, I think it has a reasonably elegant solution and I think the structure I built around that solution is quite solid and convincing. I like the fact that I posited a possible alternate solution in the middle which I then promptly rejected. That ‘glorious twelfth’ piece was another ‘Skewed Thingie’ which could have had its own narrative edifice erected around it, if I saw fit, but I sacrificed it instead to the altar of JJ.

In another respect, I dislike ‘JJ’s Note’ and I’ve alluded to my main reason for this several times in this post already. The story is little more than a technical exercise in deception. It is a heartless edifice built around a flimsy fact and all the heartbreak and pain concocted along the way was created for only one reason – to make the trick work.

It is a bit like the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’ in that respect. If you look at it too hard, it will fall down under the weight of its own subterfuge.

‘JJ’s Note’ was written before I learned the lesson that I try to inject into everything I write these day. That lesson states, ‘There had to be a little truth in it’. Just that. There has to be a little truth to elevate it above the technical and the gratuitous. Just a little truth…

But, interestingly, some people seemed to be moved by my little technical story. Were they like the audience in the theatre that night – just trying to say something nice – or is there a chance, a little chance that, when I wasn’t looking, a little truth accidentally slipped into my story?

There’s always something else to learn, isn’t there?

Short Story - JJ's Note - Part 2

This is the second and final part of this little mystery story.

If you missed the first part, you might wish to click here and read that first.


I found Jim in the study grappling with one of granddad's crossword monstrosities.

If mum had been trying to turn granny's legacy into a lesson for me then Jim was without doubt the inspiration. For five years we had co-habitated in splendid non-marital bliss.


I suspected that mother secretly disapproved, not so much of our reluctance to wed as of our blatant success in staying together without doing so.

If she had calculated that granny's experience would spur me to the altar, she was misguided. All it had done was shatter the illusion of yet another happy marriage.

Jim looked up and grinned as I came in.

"He had a very devious mind, your old grandpa," he said. He had solved only three of the clues and yet I could tell he was inordinately chuffed with himself - his Northern Irish accent was very pronounced.

I handed him the note.

"What do you make of this?" I asked.

He read it quickly once, guffawed loudly, and then went over it again more slowly.

"It's terrible." He said.

"Apart from that."

I told him the story. In the middle of it he snapped his fingers and filled in 3 down in the crossword. I wasn't annoyed - Jim's mind worked on many levels but at least one was always reserved for me. When I'd finished, he got up and bestowed one of his patented friendly bear hugs on me. I must have looked as if I needed it.

"So old Faye was having it off with a Welshman?"

"Guess so, can you figure it out?"

"What?"

"Well, it is a bit of a mystery, isn't it? I thought maybe you could 'read between the lines' and tell me where JJ has been waiting for my granny all these years?"

He looked longingly over at his crossword.

"He probably wasn't at all. The amorous auld goat probably met some other old biddy somewhere on his travels and never bothered turning up. I mean, if Sophie and Faye went cruising every July twelfth to every place they'd ever been together then surely they would have found him if he was there, wouldn't they?"

"August." I said.

"August what?"

"They went looking on August 12th, not July."

Jim picked up the letter again.

"Naw, look it says the 'Glorious Twelfth'..." he blinked hard and then laughed, "Oh yeah! 'Glorious Twelfth' means different things to different people, doesn't it? To you it's the day the grouse hunting season starts but to me it's Orange day, the Twelfth of July."

"Oh God! Do you think they were looking for him in the wrong month?"

It was too much, I sat down.

"Well, it would be an excellent example of how certain phrases can be subject to misinterpretation but, no, it doesn't make sense. Look, the poem is dated August 12th and he says here he's going off for a year. Besides, what would a Welshman know about sodding William of Orange? No, it's not that - it's not anything except an old funeral-day fable and you shouldn't go annoying yourself with it. Here, I'll mind it for you."

"No!"

I snatched the letter out of his grip, surprising both of us by my ferocity.

"There should be a reason, Jim, an explanation, otherwise it's just too futile. Too...sad"

Before I knew it, I was being bear-hugged again, and crying.

"Get your coat. I'll take you home."

It sounded like a good plan.

I must have been with Jim longer than I thought because, when I came out of the study, mum was at the door seeing the last of the guests out.

I slipped into the drawing room, avoiding them. Granddad sat alone among the fire lit debris of paper plates and half empty glasses. I looked down at him. A string of saliva spun from his lips. I took out the poem and read it once more in the firelight.

...and if you don't
then you will find
old JJ by reading
between the lines.

A low, alien, chuckle made me jump. I looked down to see my Grandfather staring directly at me in a way he had not done in many years. I fell back in shock. His eyes were unbelievably lucid and clear.

"Correk teen fluid." He slurred, the saliva falling away.

"What?" I whispered.

His eyes jerked from me to the letter I was barely holding onto.

"'Didn't have any such thing then, 'weren't even 'vented. 'Had to scratch...take razor blade...scratch it out."

Unbelievably, his hand lifted from the armrest. A bony finger momentarily pointed at the open page then fell back.

Mother came in.

"Is he peaceful?" She asked.

Ignoring her and with trembling hands, I held the sheet of paper up before the firelight. Even by that fickle glow, I could clearly see the scratch mark on the paper. My stomach lurched inside me as I suddenly understood. He had changed one capital letter to lowercase, nothing more.

The tiniest alteration, two lives destroyed.

I swung angrily to face mother.

"You were wrong, he knew all about Granny and JJ."

"Nonsense!"

"No, mum, it's not! He must have found the letter in the hall before you did. He was probably going to burn it but, when he saw the golden opportunity it provided, he couldn't resist. He loved his word games far too much.

Mothers pupils were jumping from Granddad to me and back at an alarming rate. She didn't have a clue what I was saying.

"You said granny worked in Buckinghamshire but she didn't, did she?. It was Berkshire, wasn't it mum?

"Why yes, yes it was but_"

"JJ waited for her in the first place that he ever caught sight of her, ages before she ever met him. This poem doesn't say 'reading', it says 'Reading'. Don't you see? The London-bound platform of Reading station - the one between the lines - that's where he was."


(c) Ken Armstrong

Short Story - JJ's Note (Part 1)

It seems that granny's heart was broken by a poetic locomotive driver from Aberystwyth.

I only found this out on the day of her funeral, at the gathering afterward.

Mother drew me apart from the other guests. We stood silently for a while, watching them lose salad out of their triangular sandwiches, then she told me all about it.


His name was JJ, apparently. He had first seen my granny as she waited for her train home from work one cold evening, November 1952. Although, for him, it was love at first sight, it was eighteen months before he finally got up the nerve to speak to her.

She was in Holland Park fingering Yeats. JJ sat down beside her and read a verse he had written in her honour. It was a lot closer to doggerel than poetry but granny nonetheless was very taken by it and by the gentle, soft spoken man who recited it. An affair began within weeks.

"Did granddad know?" I asked.

We both looked over to where he sat, slippered, tartan-blanketed, unaware. Since the stroke, he spent most of his time in the company of colleagues who had died many years before. In his rasping voice, he frequently carried on conversations with them - never with us.

"Father knew nothing darling", my mother said, "and cared less."

Granddad, a successful architect, was considerably older than granny when they wed. The passing years, coupled with her rapidly-failing eyesight, did little to reduce this gap.

By the time she met JJ, granddad had retired from his practice and spent most of his time locked in his study constructing elaborate cryptic crossword puzzles on huge sheets of tracing paper.

Granny, fighting her disability angrily, returned to work late in life and, at fifty, proved she was as good a personal secretary as any of her fully sighted work mates.

"At the time, she worked for the chief planner of some local council. Buckinghamshire, or someplace like that. This was against daddy's express wishes. Inevitably, the void between them grew greater by the day."

Mother paused.

"And then?" I prompted.

"Then JJ asked her to run away with him. They'd been seeing each other - you know what I mean, they'd been going out - only nine months."

Some distant cousin rolled up to us to offer final condolences before going home. I could hardly wait until he left.

"And you knew about all this?"

Mother smiled.

"I was her eyes. I read her his poetry, made excuses for her. She deserved him, he was a good man."

"So what happened. No, don't tell me, he ditched her, right?"

"No, he did not 'ditch' her, Katie," mother winced at my crudity, "She hesitated, heavens knows why, perhaps she was thinking of father and me and how we would react. Whatever the reason, JJ saw at once that she wasn't sure. He wrote her one of his poems and then... well, you'd better read for yourself."

From her pocket mother produced a yellowed rectangle of sharply folded writing paper. She handed it to me. I opened it and read.

1
I love you Faye so very much
I long for you, to feel your touch.
I've asked you now to come with me
but something says that may not be.

I think you need some time to ponder
so I will go off on a wander
and return to hear what you will say.
At this same time a year today.

On the Glorious Twelfth I'll wait a while
and pray to see your loving smile.

2
So if you love me there you'll be
then we will love eternally
If you're not there to make our date
I'll know true love was not our fate

Then I'll trouble you no more sweet Faye
But I'll return on that same day
On every year until I die
to see if you'll come by and by.

3
Where shall we meet?
I've not yet said
but you will know
'tis in your head

and if you don't
then you will find
old JJ by reading
between the lines.

Yours always JJ


"There," my mother breathed, "what do you think?"

I laughed.

"Well...it's crap! It's just like something a child would write."

Mother didn't like that very much.

"Katie, come on! This was above mere iambic pentameter and imagery. This was honest, from the heart."

"Okay, sorry mum. So, JJ sailed away for a year and a day...then what?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"The story ends with that letter in your hand. It arrived in the post on the Twelfth of August 1953. I took it from the hall into the garden and I read it to your grandmother on the stone bench under the oak, you remember the one."

"Sure. How did she take it?"

"At first, she was furious, then she wept a little and then, oh then Katie - I've never seen such panic in a person's eyes, never! She made me read it all again, and again. She even tried to read it herself but her sight was really too far gone by that time. It was too awful!

"She didn't know, you see. She didn't understand where JJ planned to meet her the following year. The poem said that she would know if she read between the lines but she couldn't, you see, she was blind and no matter how many times I read it to her she couldn't work out where it was."

Jesus!

I read the note again.

"It was obviously someplace well known to both of them, mutual ground. Surely she could have worked through their favourite places?"

Mother nodded gently.

"Everything, we tried everything. The next August the twelfth I drove her to every place she and JJ had ever been together. We couldn't find him. She started to pine for him and went on pining for the rest of her life. Every 'Glorious Twelfth' we spent looking, desperately trying to claw back her one chance of happiness but it was all in vain. They never met again. It was her wish that you should have this letter."

She clasped my hand fervently.

"You've found love, Katie, don't ever squander it"

Mother tended to sound a bit theatrical when she got intense so I pleaded the bathroom and escaped. As I left, I saw Aunt Jessie move in to force a little comfort on her.

I slipped out of the room, stunned by mothers' revelations. Sweet old granny, involved in such a tragic cock-up.

It was beyond belief!




Let me know if you'd like to read the last bit of this. I'd be pleased to post it up next time if anyone is actually bothered where JJ was.

UPDATE: Here's the last bit.

The Biggest Movie of My Life – The Beginning

It all started when my eldest brother got sick one day. It was 1974 and he wasn’t really all that terribly sick, just a bit under the weather.

“Your brother is feeling a bit under the weather,” my mother whispered, “run to the shop and buy him a book to read.” This may seem a little odd but my brother and I have always shared this little trait – we are both comforted and cosseted by books. It’s strange but true.




Photo by: 'somewhere on an island'

So I ran to the shop – I was eleven years old and I ran pretty fast back then.

I didn’t run to the bookshop though, that would have been too easy. Instead, I ran to a little grocery shop on the other side of the river. It was a long way around via the bridge but I knew it was the place to go.

There was a book there, you see, up behind the counter and for weeks it had been staring out at me every day when I dropped in for a post-school treat. I couldn’t see much of it because it was quite a long way back but I knew from my distant view of the cover that it would be one that my brother would like.

It was about vampires, you see, and my brother liked vampires.

Well… I thought it was about vampires.

All that I could really see of the cover, from my vantage point in front of the counter, was the large mouth drooping downwards, the pointed savage teeth, the pale face, the black eyes and the title.

When I handed in my money and the book was brought down from its perch and delivered out to me, I finally saw that it wasn’t a vampire at all on the cover.

It was a fish.

* * * *

My brother finished ‘Jaws’ in record time, recovered fully and went off to play football on the street. Then it was my turn.

I had been waiting anxiously to have a go at it. The Daily Express review on the back cover was highly memorable, I can still quote it pretty much verbatim:

“Pick up ‘Jaws before midnight, read the first five pages, and I guarantee you'll be putting it down breathless and stunned, as dawn is breaking the next day”

Remember I was just eleven years old. There were things in ‘Jaws’ which I probably shouldn’t have been reading at that age. There was a lesbian in there, for instance. I didn’t really know what a 'lesbian' was but I soon figured it out. I had some help, I already had ‘The Dice Man’ under my belt… but that’s a whole other blog post.

Lesbians aside, the book grabbed me and shook me and would not let me go. I finished it, put it down and I remember saying to myself, ‘That is going to make one hell of a film.’

And so the long wait began…

There will never be another movie event like ‘Jaws’ simply because the world has now changed so much. When ‘The Dark Knight’ came out this summer, it was all over the world within days of its World Premiere. ‘Jaws’ took ages to even get to Ireland after it was released. But, much more importantly, it took additional ages to get to my home town after it was released in Dublin.

People were taking the train to the Capital just to queue around the block, see the film and then come home again. My best friend Martin was brought to Dublin by his Dad and so he got to see it months before me. I could have cheerfully strangled him and his old Dad – one neck in each hand.

One evening, weeks before it arrived, I saw a short clip on the telly. This was quite unusual in those days. I had one overriding impression of that short clip:

The movie looked so incredibly ‘Blue’...

With your indulgence, I might return to this subject in a later post, to set down what happened when I finally got to see the most-anticipated movie of my life.

Bats, Bots and Kung Fu Pandas

I am proud (and, yes, chuffed) to present my first guest blog ever. Lisa O'Reilly is my friend, my pal, my buddy and my niece.

All of her life, she has been intrigued by animation and movies and she has carried this through into young-adulthood by professionally studying animation. Her guest post is sparkled with some of her own drawings - of which I am a great fan.

Click on the artwork for more... artwork and ... enjoy!

Greetings fellow cinemaphiles!

Looking at the assorted movies in this summer blockbuster season, it’s been a pretty good year. Over the course of this review I will be discussing three of the biggest movies out right now. I’ll do my very best not to be boring in any way while I’m at it.

KUNG FU PANDA
Dreamwork’s latest foray into the realm of 3D-animated family-orientated feature films.

Kung Fu Panda’ is the story of Po, the only panda with aspirations to Kung Fu fighting. As enthusiastic as he is, his loud mouth and excessive bulk already cause problems for him with his warrior heroes and their master.

If things weren’t difficult enough, a powerful criminal kung fu master has escaped from prison and is heading right for them!

In light of all these challenges, can Po become the kung fu legend he’s always dreamed of being? …or perhaps the question is how?

One thing that Dreamworks has always been able to fall back on with their 3D animations is parody. Be it in the form of ‘Matrix’ movie moments, pop song musical numbers and barbed dialogue on other pop culture references.

While this method worked in their past movies like ‘Shrek’ and ‘Shrek 2’, other movies started to falter. ‘Sharktale’ focused so much on the celebrity actors that voiced the characters even to the point of caricature, and in the end necessary depth and characterization was completely lost.

It might as well have been shot with the real actors in a live action movie after all. Only with their last release with ‘Over The Hedge’ did Dreamworks show any improvement.

I’ve at least got this to say to Dreamworks; Congratulations, you’ve finally got it!

Rather than being a parody of Kung Fu films, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a delicately crafted homage to them. No silly pop songs, no pop culture references and no bloody ‘Matrix’ moments are featured anywhere along the story. Instead, we get sweeping, colourful landscapes, a stirring oriental soundtrack, cleverly-paced fight scenes and clear, funny comedy.

The characters themselves are handled with far more care. Po, voiced by Jack Black, is particularly well-rounded and while he is was clearly inspired by the man, he avoids becoming a caricature of Black himself.

Above all else, you can tell the creators of this movie wanted to tell a good story and tell it well.

A Final Note: Apparently, some genuine martial artists have reportedly been insulted that the protagonist, who is a fat panda that says “Awesome” a lot, could do all he does in the film and as a result the movie sends out a bad message to kids about the kung fu lifestyle. Which is a little weird to me, since I didn’t sense some kind of ‘message’ during the film when I watched it. Really, does there have to be a ‘message’ anymore?

There’s only three things I have to say to this, which are:

1. Kung Fu fights are really cool and fun to watch, especially in this film.

2. It’s a CG animated film about talking animals that occasionally defy physics when they fight. Suspend a little disbelief here people.

3. Pandas are awesome. Full stop.

This is a good film. It’s a good animated film. It’s a FUN film. Certainly worth a look for anyone. Prepare for Awesome-ness.

(And for Pete’s sake, be on time for the beginning and try to stay during the closing credits. They’re both very pretty!).

WALL-E

Pixar can do no wrong. It’s a fact. It can’t be done. Not even ‘Cars’ can slow them down.

WALL-E follows the story of the last robot left on Earth, after all human life has left for space to get away from the immense amount of garbage and worldwide pollution. Over the last seven hundred years, Wall-e has developed a little glitch. A personality. Not to mention a habit of hording anything he finds particularly interesting, like rubber duckies and Zippo lighters.

However, even with the company of his loyal pet cockroach and beloved videotape of ‘Hello Dolly’ Wall-e has started feeling a bit, well, lonely. Until everything changes with the arrival of new robot on the block, EVE, who appears to be looking for something…

I don’’t think I should elaborate on what happens in the story, because it’s better to be surprised. There is so much happening in this film.

With such a small voice cast and a rather minimum amount of actual dialogue, Pixar has made an unquestionably unique move with ‘Wall-e’. So much effort has been put into the task of making a human connection with a character that’s essentially two eyes and no mouth, but they did it, and you do. It truly shows how simple body language can trump over words.

‘Wall-e’ has already gained the label of being a masterpiece, and it’s easy to see why.

Both my parents have seen ‘Wall-e’ and admitted it was not at all what they expected.

I would like to stress that this is not like any other animated movie released in a long while. There’s none of that Dreamworks clinging-ness to celebrity and parody, or Warner Bros. funny-gag-a-thon, or Disney’s confused descent into depressing mediocrity. Although Disney is involved with this film…

Masterpiece or not, Wall-e is a simple movie with some truly beautiful moments. Go see it, it can’t hurt. (Hang around during the closing credits, they’re fantastic!)

By the way, be sure to be on time for the Pixar short film ‘Presto!’ shown before the movie. It’s loads of fun!


BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT
Go see this movie.

No, really. Go see it. In the cinema, especially, that’s the best.

Chris Nolan had said with ‘Batman Begins’ that he wanted to totally reinvent Batman movies for the better after all the campy rubbish that came before it and after Tim Burton’s two gems. He’s done it. Forget the past movies and even the comics. This is a new breed of Bat.

The story follows Bruce Wayne, who is growing conflicted over his double-life of being the Batman. Especially since many copycat vigilantes are appearing in the wake of his efforts.

However, since the crime rate has dropped significantly, it looks like it’s time for the normal good guys, like famed attorney Harvey Dent, to be taking over.
Then the Joker makes himself known.

This. Film. Works. On so many levels.

A cleverly paced story with great set pieces and many neat twists.

A beautifully theatrical and dramatic soundtrack (no silly rock music moments, thank you).

A great, great cast. Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, among others…

And the late Heath Ledger.

If anything shows what direction this franchise has chosen, it’s all in the Joker.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is not clownish, nor does he even act much like a terrorist (unlike what many critics have said…). But he is twisted. Gloriously twisted. And funny, for some very wrong reasons (watch out for the pencil trick). You can’t stop watching him, just in case he does something.

If Ledger doesn’t get anything for all his hard work, I won’t be pleased.

Be aware though, this is a long film - almost ‘Lord of the Rings’ long - but with good reason to be. The plot of the movie never flows too fast or too slow, which is essential as far as I’m concerned.
The way I see it, this is such a good movie that it doesn’t even to be considered a comic-book-movie.

How good is this film? The two times I went to see it, NOBODY GOT UP TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, that’s how good it is!

Go see this film. In the cinema. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.

So there you go. Bear in mind, these are all just my opinions, but I hope they help you. I shall close with a bit of advice from some years of movie-going experience.

-Go to the bathroom before the movie! Nobody likes their view being blocked and you might miss something good!

-Turn off all mobile phones and nobody has to get hurt. (this goes for you tweens as well!)

-Beware of “professional” movie critics. Especially those on late night TV shows.

-Beware of newspapers with movie review sections, that is where they wait.

-Watch movie trailers. They can tell you everything you really need to know.

-‘Empire’ and ‘Total Film’ magazines are your friends.

-Go with your gut. If you think you’ll like a film, then why not?

Happy cinema-going!!


P.S. For those who have been losing faith in Disney’s own animated efforts lately (like me), look for ‘The Princess and The Frog’ on Youtube.

My hopes are high!

My Favorite Mondegreen

As you will probably already know, a 'Mondegreen' is a mis-heard song lyric.

The world is full of very good examples:

'Oh a Tree in Motion, dancing close to me...'

'A year has passed since I broke my nose...'

or that old Beatles classic:

'The girl with colitis goes by...'


The phrase itself was apparently coined by Sylvia Wright and was itself based on a mondegreen. In the poem, 'The Bonnie Earl O'Murray', Sylvia heard a line refer to '... and Lady Mondegreen' which was in fact, '... and laid him on the green.' It's quite a fine example and a great way to give a name to something. (Thanks to Wikipedia for some information on that last bit.)

Anyway, I have my own favorite Mondegreen. I guess I love it so much becuase nobody told me about it, it was my own mistake and I made it proudly all by myself.

My favorite one happens in the song 'Golden Brown' by The Stranglers.

Ever since I have heard this song I have believed the lyric to be:

"Golden brown, texture like sun lays me down With my Mancherons."

(If possible have a little listen to the song before reading the rest, I'm sure you'll hear it too)

I always sang along happily (as you do) until, one day I started to wonder what the hell a 'Mancheron' was.

I looked it up and found out that it was, "a very short sleeve not extending below armpit level"

Okayyyyy... so this guy lay down in his short sleeves... 'relatively happy with that.

But then, listening to the song one day, the truth suddenly came to me in a blinding flash of light.

He wasn't singing "with my Mancherons" at all. He was singing "with my mind she runs".

This was a real epiphany for me.

It was similar to the time (quite recently) when I worked out that the expression 'Seconds Out', as used when a round of boxing is about to commence, does not mean that there are only seconds left before the boxing starts but rather means that the boxers assistants or 'seconds' should remove themselves from the ring.

The key to loving these revelations (for me anyway) is that you can't be told them, you have to figure them out for yourself - no matter how far behind the rest of the world you are.

So I love my 'Mondegreen' mistake because:

a) If you think it is 'Mancherons', it really sounds like 'Mancherons' but as soon as you know the truth, you will never ever hear 'Mancherons' again and

b) Lots of people have apparently made the same mistake as I did and they continue to do so to this very day.

But mostly,

c) I did it all by myself and that makes me feel a bit proud.

Not Competent Technically

In Ireland, we have The ‘NCT Test’ (yes that phrase is an example of Tautology - the things I do for clarity). It is a compulsory roadworthiness test for cars over 3 years old. It's a bit like the British MOT test or the American... I don't know, the American 'what' test?

Anyway... yet another embarrassing true story follows:



I have heard that certain families of crows have evolved so that they can use primitive tools such as stones to help break open their food. On that particular wing of the evolutionary scale they are a beak and several feathers above me. Any job which requires the use of tools or the interconnecting of parts will be guaranteed to cause me the greatest of difficulty.

It was therefore with a dull sense of trepidation that I approached the green letter which perched on my mat one bleak Tuesday morning. It was time for my car to be NCT tested to assess, and hopefully confirm, its continued roadworthiness. Doubtless the car would have to be tweaked and fiddled-with to help ease its passage. But ‘trepidation’ is too big a word to last very long. I resolved to take my standard approach to any problem requiring ingrained ‘handiness’ – I would simply pay somebody, who was up there with the crows, to do it for me.

So it was that I found myself, on the night before the test, sitting at home looking out at the rain pelt down upon my gleaming fully-serviced car, when it occurred to me to check the NCT appointment letter to make sure all my documentation was to hand – I’m passable at documentation.

The problem arose halfway down the letter where a note had mysteriously appeared to tell me that the hubcaps had to be removed from the wheels before arriving at the test centre. It was evident that nothing had thus far been removed from the wheels of my car and my appointment was for nine-fifteen the next day.

There was little choice. I would have to Do It Myself.

Some people – sportsmen and athletes perhaps – may enjoy sweating in the rain. But it was a relatively new experience for me and not one which I was enjoying at all.

Drenched to the sinew, at the centre of a virtual fairy fort of tools, devices and implements of destruction, I faced four of the most immovable spherical objects in the history of motorised transport. NCT failure hung over me like a steamy cloud. I needed help.

I phoned Dad, certifiably the handiest man in the world and living proof that physical dexterity can easily skip a generation.

“Get a chisel or a screwdriver” he bellowed from the midst of whatever handy task he was currently engaged in, “get the edge in under the rim then bang it hard until it comes off.”

Five minutes later things were largely as they were before except that I was now bleeding profusely from the fleshy part of my palm. I did what all non-handy people should always do… I gave up.

Next morning at work I told my work mate Anthony how I had skipped my test on account of the immovability of my hubcaps.

His reply was as gentle as it was disbelieving.

“You don’t have hubcaps,” he said, “you have alloy wheels.”

When I turned up for my rearranged appointment and told the NCT Man how my car had ‘Alloys’ which didn’t have to be prised off, I felt that for a fleeting moment I had peered in through the door of a club to which I would never, ever, belong.

This didn’t bother me too much.

What really bothered me was that, out there in the streaming rain, just before the blood started to flow in earnest, I had nearly gotten one of those beauties off.