Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh, the embarrassment

I have a horrible feeling I'm going to want to see The Da Vinci Code when it comes out. I always enjoy Ron Howard's films, I like Tom Hanks, I adore Paul Bettany, and I thought the book was fun.

The shame.

Even more shameful is the fact that this blog entry is merely an excuse to post a picture of Paul Bettany on my blog. Again. Although I am not using any of the publicity stills from the film, because they make him look like a young Emperor Palpatine.

White heron

Truth be told, it can get a little lonely out here by the sea. Far away from all the friends in more ways than one, there's some connection lost there.

But then some mornings I get out for the walk and it's rainy and blowy but I've worn the right hat and coat for once and I'm bundled up and the dogs are leaping around trying to decide if they're hunting or playing and a white heron flies overhead and lands on the river to fish. I've never seen a white heron before, and it's good to be able to stand and watch it for a while without fear that someone is going to come along and disturb us. After a bit it saw me, though, and started to do its "I'm not a bird, I'm a stick!" routine, so there was no point in watching it anymore.

More baby announcements today on the list. Feels very springtime.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A night at the theatre

When you only ever go to the theatre to see things written by people you know, or actors you went to college with, or something experimental in a small room above a pub, there's a whole level of polish and style and years of craft that you never get to see. A whole world of actors who can make their voices carry across a full house without ever seeming to raise them above the conversational, without covering the front row in spittle.
Mister Monkey and I went to see Brian Friel's The Faith Healer at The Gate, starring Ralph Fiennes, Ingrid Craigie, and Ian McDiarmid. Quite the cast of heavy hitters, and quite the night they delivered. The play is great and interesting and says much about the nature of playacting and storytelling and desire for glamour and a belief in unattainable happiness and a need to be noticed and loved and to be in the spotlight. The simple staging, in which monologues are delivered to the audience as if the audience were a journalist interviewing each of these people about their memories, is very effective and successfully brought us into the action so that, even from the very back of the theatre we wanted to answer the actors whenever they appeared to fumble for their places in the story.
It was just great. I would be interested to see it again with a different cast, just to compare, because I thought that Ralph Fiennes in particular was absolutely mesmerising, and not just, you know, because of the charm and everything.

The Known World

I waited so long for this book to come into the shop, and was looking forward to reading it so much, that I suppose it couldn't help but be disappointing. It could be the frame of mind I was in when I read it. It could be a whole lot of things, but I just wasn't engaged by it, despite its credentials. I usually like a Pulitzer winner. I usually like an epic tale of hardship in the American South. The fact that this was an epic tale of hardship in the American South that also included a black slave-owning family only made the book more attractive.
But I couldn't follow it. I kept having to go back and reread sections because I found the names confusing and the characters blank. Nothing much happened that I haven't read in other books. The timeline was constantly disrupted, which I know is a deliberate style to make the book seem more like an oral history, and the actual story moved very, very slowly. I'm sorry I didn't like it, but I just didn't. It was, well, it was boring.

A Pound of Paper

John Baxter's memoir of his book collecting is all the things I like in such a book. It's a quick read, full of interesting little asides and anecdotes about books and people and places. It's also got some top tips for making yourself popular with Parisian shopkeepers.
Book collectors are funny people. They appear to attach no value to the words in a book, only to the object itself. They see minor details that most of us miss - a tiny line of numbers close to the spine, an extra zero here or there, a missing errata slip where one should be, and so on. Like record collectors, they pore endlessly over boxes of apparent junk in the vague hope that they just might come across a first edition of something amazing, or something that will fill that last hole in their collection.
They hate the internet, by and large. It has removed much of the mystique from what they do and has made it easy for anyone to pass him or herself off as an expert.
I suspect that they wish they were private detectives. This is a fun book.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Proof, if proof be need be...

... that wasps are just the creepiest things on earth

I'm so glad I didn't watch that David Attenborough programme.