scribbles tagged ‘2 smiles’

On chesil beach

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Not recommended as an audio book to accompany your commute. I found the soft porn way too distracting to manage listening and driving simultaneously. I found the book persistently, mildly, uncomfortable.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Ian’s usual high standard writing was evident throughout. Detailed observation of social rules, class, relationships, like a modern Jane Austen. It was a joy to realise what he was doing with his writing and how he was achieving it. The places, settings, emphasised the storyline, the mood. Excellent.  Ian’s topic is also a familiar ground, English social taboos,  in this case knowledge of sex between two young adults in the early 1960’s.

Technical writing skills can take a good story to lift it to an exceptional experience. I found the story failed to intrigue, grip, or really move me to any place other than mild discomfort. I cringed and hoped the story would move somewhere unexpected, or a plausible extreme. I don’t read (listen to) a Novella to experience persistent, mild discomfort, and disappointment. The last pages of the book felt like a disappointment, the writing peaked to soon for my taste.

On chesil beach
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cartoon noir

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

the girl with the dragon tattoo over 500 pages by Stieg Larsson in his first novel.

A good read for people that enjoy an investigative story with some dramatic twists without details of emotional complexity or strings of fancy adjectives. I finished this with about 6 hours of reading. My interest was held firmly for the first 4/5ths, then I had to work at the last fifth. The last fifth made sense and tied up a lot of ends, but felt a bit too much like being ‘tidy’ in a fairly predictable way.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Surprisingly, most of the online book reviews that I’ve read (The Guardian, The Times online) seem to focus more on telling the storyline and speculating about the late authors likely influences. They didn’t really give me sense of  the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Unlike Alfred Knopf’s  The New York Observer review. Knopf states the books popularity in Europe then makes an upfront fairly negative evaluative comment for the US audience – ‘The book is terrible, but there’s certainly something to it’.  Knopf uses lovely words like ‘preposterous’ and ‘ridiculous’ to describe the incidents and storyline.  This wasn’t my experience. The book storyline was nothing more preposterous than a combination of Joseph Fritzls story with Nick Leeson bringing down Barings bank with the connection strategy being a journalist.  Believable. But Knopf does have a point. There were times when the storyline or characters shifted from plausible to a comic style, exaggerated characterisation.  Both good and bad guys appeared to have super human abilities. For me this was actually a strength, I was rooting for the heroine to pull fabulous, unexpected, stuff and she did not disappoint. I wanted the bad guy to be a cunning, nasty person with no redeeming features. Stieg delivered.

The book’s Swedish title was ‘Men Who Hate Women’ and book sections start with surprisingly low Swedish statistics that describe violence against women and its impact. At first I wondered why, then I realised that the girl is probably supposed to be some incarnation of a feminist hero. To me, she is clearly a male construction of a feminist heroine. Not an everyday hero. She is a difficult to recognise extreme character. It felt like a shallow deptiction. She reminded me of the well meaning outlaws in US westerns, betrayed by the system they operate outside it. Masculinised roles resorting to violence and activities outside of the law to achieve their own ends. The book had an angle that appeared to celebrate the international crisis of violence against women by making it into the core theme for a piece of entertainment.

Knopf’s assessment of Stieg’s writing style ‘To call the dialogue wooden would be an insult to longbows and violins’ suggests to me that Knopf”s not spent much time in the company of Scandinavians. It doesn’t recognise that there are differences in the way they think, see and value things.  Steig doesn’t provide long adjective strings and rich emotional descriptions. Steig tells you what is happening and lets you bring your interpretation to the framework he supplies. I found Steig’s writing style engaging, though the last part of the plot lost my interest.

I wont be reading the next 2 books in the series, 500 pages of a shallow cartoonish, masculinised heroine for womanhood was enough for me.

cartoon noir
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sleeping beauty

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Bath Theatre RoyalMy parents, brothers and nieces all turned up at  the Theatre Royal Bath production of sleeping beauty.   3 generations laughing together at topical bad jokes involving duck houses, MP’s expenses and discrimination against ginger people.  

I was a little confused by the principle boy being an actual boy.   No girls dressing-up as boys in this production.   The songs were excellent and included perky famous dittys like  ‘Could it be magic’.   Lots of children dancing around, some slapstick and shouting and chanting.   Much fun for everyone.  

Family pantomime outings are THE BESTEST!

sleeping beauty
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a pastiche of Jane Austins life and works

Monday, August 27th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

The film ‘Becoming Jane’ pulls together themes from Jane Austens novels and rewrites them as-if they were experiences happening directly to Jane and her family.    

A generous  perspective might describe this as  a creative pastiche highlighting Janes classic storylines littered with powerful quotes that interweaves elements of her own life story.  

A less generous  interpretation might be that  the film  cobbles together crowd-pleasing  dialog into a script that lacks the powerful character insight, detail, and well paced plot developments of Janes own writing.      

:-)  :-)  

Ratings explained


  • Jane as vibrant  and very physically pretty girl by current beauty standards.   Janes modern  style of self expression does not convincingly fit with the proprieties of the time captured so beautifully in her own writing.    
  • The film’s premis that Jane wrote only about that which she experienced first-hand.   The  implication is  that she did not have the imaginitation or capability to construct storylines beyond her immediate experience.
  • Jane as  wooed by virtually every batchelor with whom she converses.   Virtually no situational  relationship development demonstrated over time all relationships are portrayed in brief encounters with implied chemistry (or lack of it) with the slight exception of the main love interest.   Slight.   We are required to believe that deep  love evolves across a couple of encounters and conversations.  

fun bits:

  • spotting quotes from Jane’s books.
  • working-out which characters and actions  were inspired by  which book characters.
  • aesthetics of the sets,   costumes and characters.
  • some novel unexpected character developments.
a pastiche of Jane Austins life and works
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clark chambers farm

Saturday, January 6th, 2007 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Recommended for an informal friendly bed and breakfast in Dungeness 🙂 🙂

ratings explained

Glenda Clark (ne Chambers)  explains that the farm is the oldest family run farm in Washington state.   She is thinking about trying to get it ‘registered’,   the UK equivalent of ‘listed’.  It is no coincidence that  Clark Chambers farm is the first building on ‘Clark road’.   Bob Clark is a never ending source of stories about farm life and the social history of the Dungeness region of the Olympic peninsular.   A chirpy cheerful couple,   they remind me of cockneys,   with a different accent.

All American accessories included a white picket fence, a porch that surrounded the whole house and warm friendly owners.   Spectacular accessories included a view of the Olympic mountains to the south and a huge bath en-suite.

The bedrooms are named after their original occupants,   mom and dad’s room,   Bob’s room, the guest room.   I stayed in mom and dad’s room with a big en-suite bath.    I miss the decent sized British baths made for lounging in.    Being a person of aquadexterous talents  I could adjust the waterfolw with my tootsies.   I sloshed in the outstanding luxury of  two baths per day.


clark chambers farm
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2007 expiration countdown: 364 days

Sunday, December 31st, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

performance appraisal:  2006,   age 42 & 43,    is recommended to pass with a Wendy rating of 🙂 🙂

ratings explained

Things that caused outsized ego,  multiple bounces, hand-clapping and chair-falling-off-ness:

Exploring the US:   crossing the US in a 1976 red Chevrolet truck,  visiting  Spokane, Columbia gorge on the Lewis and Clarke trail, Charlotte, NC.

Family & friends: parental pleasure at the Tacoma glass Museum, Elton John live  and the  Seattle Symphony; Concert highlights that warranted blog posts  included:   Paul Simon, Jamie Callum, The Mountain Goats; Writing a ‘Will and Testament’;  Being invited to comment on a draft of AF Harrold’s next  Poetry book;

Technology:  setting up, then maintaining  this blog;  Replacing  cantakerous Tinkerbell with  whizzy sleek pink Darling; buying and using a  back-pocket camera;

Things that deepened wrinkle-lines,   temporarily increased the protusion-portion of my bottom-lip or disrupted my sleeping and eating habits:

Family and friends: Not visiting the UK, even after my Uncle died;  

Exploring the US:   Errr….   …..I lost  my passport.  TWICE!;   No sniff of greencard;   unacceptably low local-occcurence of like-minded  vocal feminists (female or male);

Technology: Paying LooSea’s ransome  to the bodyshop; Tinkerbell’s premortal pernickety-ness.

If the following thingys are not on the 2007 highlights list there will be a public inquiry,  a hearing, with tables,  chairs, microphones, pews,  and silly wigs or hats:

Family and friends: UK March Tour;    

Exploring the US: Sequim farm on Olympic peninsula; Rhode Island May party;

Technology: blog refinement, less drivel, more focus with a dash of wit; Handbag skills mastered;

This message will not self-destruct in one year it will merely become more insignificant and highly forgettable.

2007 expiration countdown: 364 days
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1 wonderful musing »

The Queen

Monday, December 11th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

Introducing ‘Movie Monday’.   Future film reviews will be published on Mondays.

A poignent, amusing, well scripted, directed, cast  and acted  insight into the Queen’s life. Recommended to people interested in  the process of manipulating ‘media spin’  and people curious about the British Royalty.

🙂 🙂

ratings explained


The Queen,    a recently released film covering the Spring to Autumn  of 1997,   a brief 4 months in the reign of the current British Monarch.   The significance of the months include the election of the first Labour government in decades, the  death of Princess Diana and its immediate aftermath.  The film has two official websites, a UK based ‘The Queen’  site (2k) and another official ‘The Queen’ website (3k).  


  • Excellent package.   Well directed,   excellent screenplay with Hollywood style ‘soundbites’ taken from original speaches and cooked-up for the film. An outstanding performance by Helen Mirren.   A fabulous cast including Sylvia Simms as the Queen Mother.
  • Alistair Campbell is just as offensive as I’d always imagined him to be.
  • British car industry remnants are still evident with the Prime Minister in a Rover and Royalty dashing aound Balmoral in half a dozen Land Rovers.   Unlike film’s like ‘The Layer Cake’ where modern British gangsters product-placed drive German,  rather than classic British, cars.
  • Witty.   Despite the drama and distress the film is laced with poignent humour and light relief.   Phew.
  • Diana’s life not disected.   Limited material or investigation into Diana’s life.   The film is definitely not a ‘who done it’ or questioning the Royal families relationship dynamic with Diana during her life.   Naturally it touches on this but not excessively or tediously.   This is a non-trivial achievement given the popular interest in Princess Diana.
  • Period film-footage: this was used very effectively to build atmosphere and convey the shere scale of the crowd scenes. The live shots of the big-screens erected in hide-park to cover the funeral,   the shots of the flowers laid outside the various palaces.



  • Breadth of appeal.   Not interested in the current British Royal family and political dynamics?   Then this isn’t the film for you.   I can’t imagine this film having a broad appeal,   but I could be wrong.
  • personally powerful details omited.   On the day of Diana’s death all the Radio stations played sombre music with all day.   The only ‘talk’ was an announcement every 30 minutes that Diana had died.   This was particularly impactful for me travelling on a 6hr journey on a foggy, rainy August day  after an emotionally and physically tiring weekend in a car with only the Radio for company.
  • Too respectful.   The satirical portrayals of The Queen mother in classic period TV shows like Spitting Image highlighted her enjoying a tipple of Gordan gin and gambling.   I noticed no subtle references to this satiral image.
  • 14 point stag: one theme in the storyline was a bit too soppy, with unclear significance to me.   The Queen has a ‘moment’ with a 14 point stag.   The stag is killed in an hunt with an unclean shot by an amatuer hunter,   The Queen visits the corpse of the stag and passes her comliments to the hunter.   Maybe this storyline was a comment on how she expressed her respect of death more openly to an animal than to her ex-daughter-in-law.   Maybe its an   indication of capability for respect and consideration.   I wasn’t sure.   The stag scenes were somewhat surreal.   For me they didn’t work.

Maybe you can point out more of the low-lights,   I’m having a bit of trouble seeing them 😉

The Queen
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review ratings

Monday, September 25th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , , , , , ,  |

Ever wondered what Wendy review ratings really mean?   You need wonder no more.    Rating system explained:

:-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  

Don’t touch this,   lest it be contagious or induce severe fits followed by sudden brain death

:-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  

No.   It’s just wrong,   so wrong.   Turn around an walk away before anything valuable  like sanity or toothbrush gets broken

:-(  :-(  :-(  

Thow the phone down.     Icky, icky, icky,   could prompt a minor tantrum involving  some small hand-held household item hitting the floor with a little more speed then naturally supplied by gravity    

:-(  :-(  

Wince making.   What were they thinking?   Walk away now  


Why?   Even lashings of tea and biscuits couldn’t make this work  


Mining required.   Get your spade out,   if you are  prepared to put the effort into  digging for it you’ll find some virtue buried somewhere in this  

:-)   :-)  

Darn good.   Like a pint of well kept real Ale  from a cask in good company,   or a Sunday morning reading a broadsheet in bed with the  fluff-balls snoring nearby    

:-)   :-)   :-)  

Lovelly.   Simply world class talent.   Easily recommended and probably even remembered,   which given my scattiness is a major achievement      

:-)   :-)   :-)   :-)  

Gorgeous.   Oh!   that was good for me.    Expect this review to include a bit of gushing because  the work has  genius potential      

:-)   :-)   :-)   :-)   :-)  

Hero Worship.     Realised genius, lets do it again,   and again,   and again.   There’s a stong risk that Wendy’s planning a proposal.

review ratings
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Mrs Dalloway

Monday, July 17th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

Recommended reading for people who want to familiairise themselves with an influential  Virgina Woolf book.  

2 smiles.   ratings explained

I am not planning to read another Virginia Woolf book.  Probably because I am turning into a Philistine.

Mrs. Dalloway is  the Virgina Woolf book that inspired the beautiful yet disturbing film ‘The hours”.   At first I found the book a tad boring.   Then I realised that Virgina was carrying me between scenes as if in one uninterupted camera-shot.   Visualising the scenes helped the dialog gain life and vibrancy.   My familiairity with the London landmarks cited helped make the visualisation rich.   I pictured an Ivory and Merchant production with a re-casting of the cast from the Hours.   Meryl Streep as Mrs. Dalloway.      This helped but I never bulit any strong connection with the book.   I found it difficult to empathise with the characters’ interests,   obsessions,   ways of being.    Here’s a sentence that  illustrates how I found the book:

going and coming, beckoning, signalling, so the light and shadow which now made the wall grey the banana’s bright yellow, now made the Strand grey, now made the omnibuses bright yellow”   p139

strength: comparing the buses on london’s strand to banana’s is visually clever and  humerous.

weakness:   ‘going and coming, beckoning, signalling’ the words that failed to show me anything of value about either this  character or the storyline.   I don’t see why this charater rather than any other  compared buses to bananas and used these descriptive terms.   I failed to recognise the significance of this and many of the sentences.

Mrs Dalloway
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match point

Saturday, June 10th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

 Match point, well executed though lacking originality

🙂 🙂

ratings explained

Recommended for people who fit in at least one of the following categories:

  • are fascinated by watching talented actors with unusually large top lips (Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson) deliver weak dialogue  with buckets of sultryness.
  • adore listening to plummy English accents.
  • thrive on wathcing classy delivery of bit part’s by outstanding actors like Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton
  • are committed Woody Allen fans, enjoying his style and pet obsessions irrespective of how familiar they are from his previous films.
  • have not seen Crimes and Misdemeanors. Angelica Huston and Martin Landau did a good job originally. Is this a remake? l don’t think so. It’s difficult to tell.
  • can’t help enjoying themselves when they see the gherkin or any part of it.

Excellent acting and camera work but way too familiar plot with some rather weak dialogue.   l wouldn’t watch it again.

match point
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Nickel and Dimed

Saturday, June 25th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |

On (not) getting by in America

By Barbara Ehrenreich.


This book provided me with a powerful insight into a part of America I dont really experience,   except as a consumer.   Here are a few quotes that stayed with me:

No job, no matter how lowly,   is truely ‘unskilled’”   As Barbara tries out different jobs,   through cleaner to  waitress to big store assistant (Walmart),   she takes us through the different things she learns to be effective in that job and paints sympathetic pictures of her colleagues.

One of Barbara’s most powerful conclusions that she backs with formal data is that

Something is wrong,   very wrong, when a single person in good health,   a person who in addition posseses a working car can barelt support herself by the sweat of her brow.   You dont need a dregree in econonomics to see that wages are too low and rents too high

Barbara had no problem finding work,   one and sometimes two jobs.   Her major challenge included  finding  affordable accomodation,   arranging transport to and from work.   Any money left over after that was used for food.   Often she was simply unable to balance her income and outgoings.

I would highly recommend this book,   it provides many subtle and vaired descriptions of the forces that together constrain the poor to remaining poor and implies potential solution routes.   All this is wrapped within readable stories of the authors own experiences and challenges.



Nickel and Dimed
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