scribbles tagged ‘3 smiles’

Slow down for Rockingham Arms

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Rockingham armsWentworth village is chocolate box cute

The Rockingham Arms staff are chatty and willing to help with their own quirky, non-corporate practices. There are no menus for breakfast. Another guests appears flustered, asks for the menu and the host calmly reassures her

Just ask for what you want and I’ll get it for you, we’ve got most things

Wentworth Hotel Room ViewThe staff are always busy while carrying a relaxed ambiance.

The Hotel was across the road from the pub, in cute converted cottages. My room overlooked the pub entrance. I opened the window and was lulled into a deep and dreamless sleep by the gentle chatter from people sitting outside the pub. Surprised not to be disturbed by high spirits on this warm evening.

I met other guests in the cutely cramped corridors of the hotel. One lady asked me if my radiators were working, it was so cold, “I haven’t noticed, my room is fine” Actually, I’d slept with my window open because it seemed so warm. Normally I find hotel temperatures a little stifling, this hotel seemed to have a natural temperature similar to the wendy house. Homely. I suspect that guest normally lives in a centrally heated modern house where the air doesn’t move.

Rockingham ArmsThe cars in the hotel car park suggested affluent guests, Mercedes, BMW convertibles, and of course young Thomas.

I’m building a picture of BMW and Mercedes drivers as suffering from symptoms of OCD and Autism. Maybe that’s what it takes to be successful in business, while by-passing being a successful human being. I class myself within this group. The sort of people that follow rules and expect others to do the same… “Keep off the bowling green” I obeyed.

Rockingham arms across the bowling greenIn the bar, guests complaining about how long they had to wait for their food. I wasn’t in a hurry. The time let me read my paper, listen to the other guests, just slow down to the local, healthy, pace of life.

I suspect the Rockingham Arms will be pressured by guest reviews to become more and more like a blandly corporate style service rather than expecting customers to adapt to their valuable way of being.  I hope not.


Slow down for Rockingham Arms
2 votes rating 5

1 wonderful musing »

The fall. Albert Camus

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Inspired by “The Outsider” I moved onto another Camus book “The fall” knowing that the band “The fall” were named after this book, but not having read any book reviews.

Recommended for people who like deconstructing writers techniques and thinking and philosophy, whether that’s pub or academic philosophy.

3 smiles:  :)  :)  :)   Ratings explained

Two things kept me gripped through-out the book:

  1. It is written as a series of one-sided conversations, where the reader is the other half of the conversation. Listening to the protagonist, rarely questioned by the protagonist. A simple idea, incredibly difficult to write. I’ve never read a book written using this technique.
  2. What is ‘The fall’? Early on the protagonist talks of his fall from being a prestigious and effective Paris lawyer to hanging around in fog-ridden Amsterdam, drinking with strangers in bars. This tracks the distance fallen, but not the actual fall. The book describes the fall, the ideas and insights bring the protagonist to Amsterdam bars.

I’m planning to read the book again because I suspect that I’ve missed many of the subtleties that it contains.  At the moment, I preferred “The Outsider“. I suspect “The fall” might turn out to be an acquired taste.  I’ll re-read it with the aid of some matured whiskey….

The fall. Albert Camus
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hold on tight!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Nicholas Ransley & Catrin AurThere was a charmingly shambolic tone to John Pryce-Jones conducting of the tasty Welsh National Opera orchestra for their Christmas Proms at Bristol’s Colston hall.

Rating: :-)  :-)  :-)

Ratings explained

Just John?

It wasn’t an Omnishambles by any stretch of the imagination. A completely retrievable set of miner shamblings by John that in no way seemed to undermined the orchestra’s ability to put on an awesome show. A very polished performance by the orchestra.

Christmas spirit?

The shamblings started when John introduced the 3rd piece in the set – and got it wrong. The Orchestra subtly let him know. John tried again, wrong again. By his fourth attempt he had worked-out what piece he was introducing. The audience giggled affectionately. Even the orchestra seemed amused by his unawareness of the running order. As the evening progressed and John threw in some sexist stereotypes under the guise of witty retorts to introduce each piece – he seemed drunk. His keenness to hold onto the rail around the conductors stand didn’t help make him look sober.

A blacker pot

The most entertaining part of John’s performance was when he shifted from conducting the orchestra to conducting the audience. We definitely needed his help, we didn’t know the tempo, the pitch, and couldn’t even remember the words to ‘Rule, Britannia’. We surely were a bit pathetic. Even our flag waving was decidedly below-par, no wonder are no longer an empire. We were a bit damp squibb-ish.

What was the set list?

My favourite was Grieg’s ‘In the hall of the mountain king’. The ‘Dam Busters March’ seemed like a bit of an outsider It certainly kept me happy and toe-tapping. I found ‘Those Magnificent men in their flying machines’ a tad more befuddling, a bit of befuddlement can be a good thing.

Musical Menu

hold on tight!
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blue screen of temporary illness

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , , ,  |

PC demo zone on Windows8 launch dayEver since the Cupboard’s face got smashed in I’ve been asking friends and colleagues for advice on what I should do – what sort of computer I should get and when.

My UK friends give diverse advice which naturally mirrors their own preferences. Though the IT professionals quickly get side-tracked onto talking about virtual machines – getting terribly excited at the thought. They seem to run substantial Apples with dual-boot from which they control lots of virutal machines. Not really for me.

I’ve also been popping into local shops that sell computers – Currys, PC world, Comet, John Lewis .   In these stores I get the pleasure of chatting to young handsome fellows who’re very excited about the prospect of being able to save up for an Apple iPad. Cute, but not actually too helpful for me – they aren’t good at ucovering my criteria and herding me towards one of their products. I’ve got wads of dosh in my pocket for something special, yet no-one’s selling to me. They’re selling to themselves. Most bizarre.

On the day that Windows 8 released I pootled along to Currys to play with a copy on their display machines. Everything started well:

  • No queue outside the store of people waiting to get their sticky hands on the new fancy OS. Such good fortune. I do dislike all the jostling and the lack of diversity when everyone plumps for the same thing. Even the store’s Demo stand was enticingly empty.  I felt good.
  • 5 assistants all ready to help me and the other customer in the PC section of the store. wonderful. I do like having someone on hand to spend time chatting with me – especially if I’m planning on spending more than £200.
  • A queue around the Apple stand.  Baffling.  Such ugly and expensive machines. Still not much choice – they’ve side-stepped having to make all the decisions that I’m about to take on…. which manufacturer, which processor type/size etc. More spacefor me to explore!

Store copy of windows 8 on release dayI wandered over to the windows 8 laptops that looked about the right size and design funkiness. Oh, a small blue one with ripples on the lid (Acer Aspire One).  My first experience of Windows 8 was a message that says:

 “Automatic Repair couldn’t repair your PC

Oh how I laughed!

A young assistant noticed my standing looking at the computer, giggling,  he swooped in and offered his help.

wendy: is this manufacturer installed windows 8 or a windows 7 machine that’s been upgraded in the store?

assistant: it came from the manufacturer with windows 8 on it

wendy: it’s not working, that’s not good on a demo machine is it?

assistant: it just means it didn’t shutdown properly, that’s all, I’ll just reboot it


I fell over


(no broken bones)

blue screen of temporary illness
2 votes rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

Full-on weather: SILVER highlight

Friday, August 17th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The much awaited silver position for the penultimate highlight of  our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking highlights goes to:
amazing clouds

Silver winner: Full-on weather

We left the Plas Curig Hostel holding a weather forcast of rain, sunshine, thunderstorm and hail.  Hoorah! No half-measures in this August forecast!  A veritable buffet, lots of bite-sized variety chunks.

“Duck for the lightening, avoid the ridge, and for heavens sake  don’t stand in the water!”

Watching the lightening strike against the black clouds on nearby peaks was exquisit. Counting the seconds ’til the thunder struck then shaking with its power.

Walking through one of the most dramatic scenes in the world, laid on just for us.  We walked on through the sunshine towards a rainbow. No camera, film crew, special effects designer involved – just us directly experiencing the full weather experience – live, unmediated. Very sexy.

This experience achieved ‘3 Smiles’ 🙂  🙂  🙂  on the Wendy House rating scale –  Ratings explained

This highlight more than cancels out all the nastiness of the 3 winning downsides:


Full-on weather: SILVER highlight
1 vote rating 4

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Good kit: BRONZE highlight

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Yay! The awards for highlights of our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking trip starting in reverse order start with 3rd place:

Bronze winner: Good kit

pathway across the screeThere was good kit all over the place. Good kit made people feel happy, warm, dry, loved and wrapped in just oodles of lusciousness. The key good kit that got hugs galore from me included:

  • Boots – that fit (NO BLISTERS), are waterproof (Goretex), green and by Berghaus in 1995. The hike guides had insightfully bought some compede plasters along to ward off blisters for the few people did suffer.
  • Jacket – early Sprayway goretext (DRY) in a rather fetching royal blue from 1995. Between us we managed a full rainbow of colours
  • Daypack – hung low on my hips carrying lots of yummy food, drink and holding emergency warm gear.  On the two times that I fell over I landed on my bum and this 2004 Arcteryx bum bag gave me a wonderfully soft landing.
  • Flapjack – sticky-sweet and freshly made by LargeOutdoors staff Saul and Gareth at the Hostel. Everyone enjoyed the benefit of the flapjack, no hike should leave home without some good home cooking that includes honey!
  • Welsh water – Oh my! The water in wales tastes SO good! I wish the suppliers would do a deal with Thames water.
  • Outstanding guides – the LargeOutdoor guide, Sian, was a local Welsh lass who really knew how to herd a large group of inexperienced hikers through the basics of outdoor health and safety and make sure their spirits are kept high.
  • Excellent company – friendly adults of all ages. I mainly work with people in their 30’s so it was really refreshing to meet some more plucky ladies in thier late 40s. Yoga teachers, Engineers, Working in Child protection services, Project managers…. all sorts…

This experience achieved ‘3 Smiles’ 🙂  🙂  🙂 on the Wendy House rating scale –  Ratings explained

I hope that you’ll agree that this highlight feels all the more fabulous when set against the scurrilous backdrop of the recently winning downsides:

Good kit: BRONZE highlight
1 vote rating 2

2 bits of fabulous banter »

smiley happy people

Sunday, April 4th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Lots of singing and dancing in the isles at the Bristol Hippodrome production of The Niel Sedaka story “Laughter in the rain“.   Mumzie was jigging and clapping during the substantial encore pastiche of Sedaka songs.  Other than being familiar with the songs I knew nothing about Niel Sedakas life and I fully enjoyed the production.  

3  smiles: Ratings explained

Audience.   Given that the  production could be enjoyed with little knowledge of Niel Sedaka  it was sad to find the Hippodrome less than a quarter full on a Friday night.   Mumsie and I happily moved from our cheap seats to closer seats with a more expensive view.  Judging by the silver hair, short people with warped backs the audience were mainly over 60 years. At 46 I was probably the youngest audience member.

Venue. 1912 building with tiers,  boxes and a huge dome all  decorated in Rococo style gold plasterwork providing a lavish music hall feel. During the production I decided to pick-up a copy of Carol King’s ‘Tapestry’ and some Niel Sedaka music.   Sadly, the Hippodrome didn’t provide the opportunity for the audience to purchase this kind of related merchandise.

Production. Niel’s story moved from song to song, highlighting the personal significance of each song ‘Oh Carol’, ‘breaking up is hard to do’, and  ‘last song together’.   Some songs were cast  with a slightly new significance to move the story forward.   For example, according to album notes ‘the immigrant’ was originally written as a comment of John Lennon’s application for US citizenship being rejected.   In  this production it is sung when Niel leaves the US to come to the UK where he feels  he will be given more creative freedom to develop as an aritst than the US allowed him.   Some of the significant life events were fascinating, for example,  10cc  encouraging Niel to record any song he wanted in anyway, resulting in Solitaire then ay its inception Elton John  asking Niel to be one of Rocket Record’s artists.

The photographs of story-contenporary, buildings, people, places, and record covers projected on the backdrop as Niel’s story unfolded were fascinating social-cultural history.

Production brochure in front of Dr. Who credits


smiley happy people
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the cost of dreams

Sunday, October 18th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

The imaginarium of Dr Parnassus    is a wonderful modern faerie tale.   It  mixes classic structures and characters (Old Nick) with modern settings, language, and characters.  

🙂 🙂 🙂


review ratings explained

Plot:    Very good.   A classic style of storytelling,   a new story.   A bet with the devil.   Souls to be won or lost.   The classic framework provides the structure that makes the plot easy to follow.   Easy to follow but not overly  predictable.    Cunning plans and twists.   There is  uncertainty about the virtue and honesty of some characters.   Who is working with, for,  Nick?   The film holds  a cheeky mirror to modern values as it portrays our dreams.      

Gilliam does not write his  female characterisations  in as much depth as his male characters.  There is only one noteable  female character in the film.    Her contribution is central to the plot while the role is  hardly touched and seems superficial.    Lets call her a token women.   A pretty girl that needs rescuing.  Sigh.  A blot on an otherwise wonderful film.  

A related disappointment was the pedestrian ending to the main storyline.    The final scenes  felt a bit anemic.    The scenes  tied-up the damsel’s storyline quickly and neatly.   This felt forced and out-of-keeping with the plucky playing in the other, mainly male,  storylines.   There are many wonderful ways that Terry could have ended the film.   I suspect Gilliam’s creative freedom was somehow compromised.  

Cast: Excellent.    Performances that had the kind of depth that comes from allowing talented actors to develop, improvise and extend their characters.   Apparently Heath Ledger’s last line  before he died was  ‘Don’t shoot the Messenger’ and Jonny Depp improvised the same line when playing Ledger’s character in the imaginarium.   Ledenhall Market

Sets. Excellent.   Physical locations included some of my favourite places,  such as  Ledenhall market in London and the Public Library in Vancouver BC.   The contrast between the architecture in these two locations was used well as a visual clue to different tones, temperaments, stages  of the plot.

The animated sets were breath taking.   Apparantly breathtaking animated sets are the norm for widely distributed films by famous directors with excellent casts.   Jolly good.  Thoroughly enjoyable.   Lots of ooOOOooooze and aaAAARRRRSSSssse.

Within the imaginarium these fantasy sets had the beauty, unpredictability and the  ominousness of real dreams.    

Audience:   one thing that  interferred with my  total immersion in this fabulous film  was the audience.   Specifically,   the lady sat next to me.    She insisted on sniffing loudly at 1spm (1 sniff per minute).   Every  few minutes there was a cough, sneeze, or other substantial air movement in her facial regions.   She did have some props for this activity, tissues, but  the noise and potential infection kept drawing me out of  the film into an unpleasant reality.   Ick.  

I will be watching this film again.

the cost of dreams
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atomic farmgirl: growing up right in the wrong place

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

an autobiographical  Novel of Teri Hien’s early life in Eastern Washington State  that I picked up at the Spokane Museum shop on an excellent weekend vacation

Recommended for people that interested in US social and political history from personal, first hand stories.

3 smiles:    Ratings explained

Atomic? The proximity to the Hanford, former nuclear, site that supplied the plutonium for the Manahattan project.   The most radio-active contaminated site in the US.    An American hero of WW2 and the villain.

Right? Stories of the countryside,     pioneer farmers settling and farming the rich lands of Eastern Washington with horses and tractors,   Stories of community and  local Native  Americans.   Funny and poignant

The wrong place? Downwind of Hanford, the downwinders.   The building of the plant, the management of waste and information about that waste, the cancers experienced by family and neighbours,   the deaths.   Sad and disturbing.

atomic farmgirl: growing up right in the wrong place
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at Colleys supper rooms

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

The service,   food and experience as provided by the supper rooms was outstanding,   the customers sat near to me were not typical of the softly spoken guests at other nearby tables and I have to say they were perhaps a little below par for such a well tailored experience.

A selection of quotes from  the most verbose  fellow at the next table,   overheard inbetween the sombre aubergine ceiling,  loud floral-print wallpaper, dizzying geometric pink diamond-design carpet,   and flamboyant floral chandeliers  In Colleys supper rooms.  

the journey was crap… …Lynne can’t come because she  has a hangover…

Tottenham have a brilliant mid-fielder from Barcelona…

tuck your nape in…

we don’t know what they are  (to the waiter about the starter list)

You’ll be alright if you keep your mouth shut,   Lynne doesn’t think I’ll be able to keep my mouth shut…

I’d never go to Moscow again,   its crazy,   its not like Spain or Greece,   its crazy,   all the words are like squares the only things I understood was Macdonalds and even that was squares. (about a trip to watch a football match)

Maitre d' awaits Sunday Dinner guests

at Colleys supper rooms
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Cagney playing Rick… …and why not?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

An excellent evening with Barry Norman.


Ratings explained

Barry recently spoke  at Reading Concert Hall supplying interesting trivia about four classic  films,   Casablanca,   Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Dirty Harry.   Trivia included casting preferances for key roles,   why directors and  screen writers were changed and cast members reflections.    The ending of Casablanca was written while it was being filmed,  writer and cast did not know how the film would end.   The Atlanta burning scene in Gone with the wind was made by burning all the old sets on the studio lot.   The Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in California,   the  lush greeness of the grass in the film was a special effect, painting the film.  

After an interlude Barry answered questions from the  crowded concert hall audience.   Two charming silver haired ladies mustered all their deft to  pass microphones amongst the audience.  

Barry’s answers to questions of the form ‘name your favourite [e.g. actress, director, film…   ]’ and ‘I know a lot about obscure film trivia[e.g. what the most expensive never-finished film]’   produced a recognisable, normally unarticulated,  analysis of  recent cinematic trends including:

  • praising the decade of the 1970’s as the last decade that produced a substantial proportion of  films aimed more at a thinking audience,   Easy Rider as an example,  rahter than at the mass audience of cinema attendess,   18-25yrs, that seek light entertainment.    
  • mentioning  that the 6 main  film distributers that supply the UK are US distributers that naturally prefer to promote their own, US, products.     The distributer for Cyrano De Bergerac called him to thank him for repeatedly mentioning the quality of this French language film because it helped get distribution in the UK.
  • TV programs  that review films are prone presenting available celebrity interviews,  current film promotions,  at the expense of balanced critical analysis.
Cagney playing Rick… …and why not?
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A spot of bother

Friday, October 12th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

By Mark Haddon.

Highly recommended to anyone who gains pleasure from social  dynamics  or is an  Anglophile.

:-)   :-) :-)

review ratings explained

Lots of positive reviews of the book available  on metacritic.     The Daily Telegraph provides a succinct summary that maps to my experience.

“A spot of bother” is a phrase that I understand as being used to play-down the severity of a problem.   It’s like saying,   “yes there is a nasty problem but really you shouldn’t worry because we’ve got it all under control, lets not pay it any more attention“.    It’s not a phrase or technique for managing conversational distance that I’ve encountered in the US.

The story is of  family dynamics across generations situated around an impending Wedding.   Everyone has  an opinion on whether the wedding should happen and why,   and different ways of expressing their opinions,    or not.     The book touches on themes such as prefering silence to talking,   social intelligence versus academic intelligence and the bounds of realism and paranoia.   Some reviews talk about it as a black comedy or farce.   My impression is that it is something other than either genre,    neither funny nor melancholic despite the topics and events.

Thoroughly enjoyable, I felt right at home.

A spot of bother
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colour me Kubrick

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 | tags: ,  |

The film ‘Colour me Kublic’ is a light entertainment comedy treasure.   Recommended for John Malkovitch fans,    Stanley Kubric fans,   Carry-on film  fans and British TV/film fans.

:-)  :-)  :-)  

Ratings explained

The film follows the last few years in the life of Alan Conway who managed to maintain his lifestyle by pretending to be Stanley Kubrick in Britain while knowing relatively little about Stanley.   The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are very varied.

some strengths:

  • Ludwig Van,   plus:   the sound-track is a cleverly constructed pastiche of sound tracks from Kubrick films.   People familiar with the soundtracks use in the original film will  spot visual references to the films,   often comically played.   The quality of this visual and musical treatment is probably attributable to the Director,   Brian Cook, was Kubricks first assistant director for 25yrs and writer Anthony Frewin’s long time working relationship with Kubrick.  
  • Cult quality cast:   John Malkovich as lead and  some fabulous bit and cameo parts by actors who,   arguably, are already cult figures int heir own right.   These are some of the obvious people,   I suspect there were a few more uncredited special appearances:    Honor Blackman,   Leslie Phillips,   Robert Powell,   Richard E. Grant, Peter Sallis, Jim Davidson,   Lynda Barron
  •  Humour:   3 main styles,   Carry-on,   Farce and self-referential.    The Carry-on humour is immediate,   the farce is immediate,   the self-referential often requires knowledge of  Kubrick’s films or British culture.   At one point Malkovitch as  Conway, as Kubrick,  talks about casting Malkovich in his film.   This kind of toying with self-referentialism really tickles my fancy.   The humour also pays homage to Carry-on films by littering the dialog with naughty inuendos.   The Carry-on film reference  is explicitly mentioned by Lynda Barron  who then fabulously goes on to call “Kubrick” “Cuteprick”.  
  • Voice of Wallis:   Peter Sallis is most well known outside Britian for plaing the voice of  Wallace (Wallace and Grommit).   Peter  has one line in the film: “I am Stanley Kubrick“.   The line is  in a chair-collapsingly hilarious scene that references a scene in Spartacus.    
  • Jim Davidson:   plays an aging  North England working-class, gay,  comedian.    There are times when type casting with some built in  irony (gay)  is shere genious.

some areas for improvement  

  • today I am too pathetic to envision any way of improving this.     Check out the Rotten Tomatoes reviews they suggest things like exploring the role of celebrity in society and focussing on character development.   For me,   the film worked fine without these things.
colour me Kubrick
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Amazing Grace

Sunday, March 25th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

 If you appreciate good dialog,   good acting in the storytelling of social-political change based on real events that can produce heated  post-viewing discussion  then you will thoroughly enjoy this film; “Amazing Grace”.  

:-)  :-)  :-)  

Ratings explained

The film is part of the UK celebration of 200 years, 25th March,  since the Abolition of the slave trade (slavery was still legal) in the British Empire.   America was no longer a part of the British Empire at this stage and continued to trade in Slaves as did European powers such as France, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.   The  film follows the lead abolitionist’s,   William Wilberforce’s, efforts.   The title comes from a song whose original lyrics are attributed to John Newton a repentant master of slave trading ships and influential adult in William Wilberforce’s life.   For me the film compares favourably to, can be classed with,  the classic play  “A man for all seasons“.    


  • Story.   This is a story worthy of being made into a film.   It stands without explosions,   sex-scandals,   profanity,   nudity.   So few films nowadays are sufficiently brave to leave these components out of the screenplay.   What does it include?   Horror,   suspense, tension, pathos,  wit,  conversation as an art-form and fabulous scenery (parliament buildings, big wooden sailing ships etc).
  • Cast.   For shere breadth of talent including Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, Ioan Gruffudd, Ciarán Hinds, Rufus Sewell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Paterson, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Jeremy Swift,  Youssou N’Dour.   The talent is doubley worth mentioning for their lack of conformity to the current  Hollywood standard of ‘beautiful’.   If you need a dosage of  current-standard pretty boys and this is not the film for you.   Hoorah!
  • Scene details.   For example the unusual card-tables for the parliamentary card-clubs,   the kitchen crockery and utensils in the background of the kitchen scenes.   Ioan looked wonderfully sickly and ill in many of the shots where he is supposed to be so,  no holidng back on under-eye darkness,   sweat,   and unsightly body contortions.  
  • rhetoric.   The parliamentary rhetoric was wondertful,  pressumably this was taken from original transcripts of parliamentary sessions.   The jibes are typically cheeky,   sarcastic,   cutting and yet the serve to reveal the weaknesses of the recipients position beautifully.   The rhetoric is not constrained to witty come-backs it includes some,   by no means all, of the arguments for Britian continuing to engage in  the slave trade.    The less positive reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes describe this tendancy as ‘Speechifying’ and ‘Talky’.   I like Speechifying when it isn’t lengthy  dull monolouges and I didn’t notice any lengthy dull monologues in this film.  

Areas for improvement:

  • slavery arguments: given the film focus I was slightly suprised by the low-profile given to some of the topical arguments for slavery.   For example,   if evolutionary theory was mentioned in the debate I missed-it.   The notion common in Britain that people were born to a natural status,   aristocracy,   working-class,   black (US = People of color) divined by God was not mentioned.   This seemed odd,   I would have liked at least some passing reference to these beliefe systems more clearly evident within the film.   The nearest reference to the notion that every person is born to a position in life was the reaction of the opposition to a petition of the people,   why should they take notice of a petition of the people?   The portrayal simply makes them look arrogant,   evil,   as viewers we are not lead to understand that it was a common belief that people were born with different capabilities,   different values to society.   I would have valued a little more clarification of the depth of impact of the American Independance and French revolution on the priorities of parliament.   Though I suspect this would have made the film even longer and more ‘speechifying’ which would have irritated more viewers that aren’t me.
  • slave trade is not slavery:   The film does not make it clear to the viewer that Slavery was still legal in the British Empire for a further 30 years.   This blog article by Louis Proyect points this out and provides an informative persepctive on a worthy storyline not tackled within this film.   The blog article includes details of   people portrayed in the film and cites a poem written by William Wordsworth dedicated to one of them.     Louis makes a convincing point  that William Wilberforce being portrayed as the lead role was perhaps not a good choice:

Every other abolitionist figure is subordinate to him, which is of course detrimental to the film since they are far more interesting than this bible-thumping prig.

  • shift girl focus from love interest:    Barbara Wilberforce (Romola Garai) wearing pink lipstick and lip gloss just didn’t ‘feel’ right though I realise the ladies of the day did have access to powders and creams that they used to change their lip colour.   Her wig was also suspicously  perfect and an unusual colour (redhead).   She sported the modern fashion for a voluptious top lip,   though not Scarlett Johansen proportions.    It was challenging to discern her talent from the odd accessories.   Hannah More is present in some scenes and even has some lines,   I was disappointed that her role was not more significant.   The cynic in me thinks the small contribution  her role in the film  might be because she was not young,   beautiful and married.     I visited Hannah’s birthplace while in Bristol last week:

Amazing Grace
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The Illusionist

Monday, February 19th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

the only mystery I never solved was why my heart couldn’t let go of you

This film is highly recommended for people who enjoy a stylistically conveyed,  strong period-set script of a clever mystery drama including a love story.   This film successfully fits into all these genres with an additional  unique angle  that  fits none and takes it  beyond  any specific genre.   Not a good film for people who like giggles, fast  action with explosions, blood and gore, or  plots handed to you on a silver platter.  The rotten tomatoes reviews generally align well with my experience.  

8) 8) 8)  ratings explained

Description without plot-spoiler

  • The illusionist official website.
  • Cast:   Rufus Sewell, Edward Norton; Jessica Beil; Paul Giamatti;  Eddie Marsan.   Well acted. Edward Norton uses his talent for inscrutability very effectively in the role of the illusionist,   you can read into his behaviour that which you expect.
  • Genre:   period costume drama,  mystery, social commentary, love story.   The plot is not a standard Hollywood format unravelling in a pleasingly unpredictable path.
  • Sets:   outstanding European venues including steam trains, theatres, palaces, country parks, mountain ranges.
  • Music:   Philip Glass.   the modern music, referencing period genres  works extremely well with the nature of the film, period with novel storyline detail.
  • Female roles: only one notable role for a female.   The love lead,   now there’s a surprise.   Jessica Beil’s character is written with the standard ‘modern’ perspective on a period female-character expressing her control in a modern manner yet still managing to be a victim of the patriarchy.   The character is  poorly written.
  • chic flick?:   possibly,   not being a chic it’s difficult for me to tell.   It’s not a puke-inducing pinky film of dominantly girl-cast with  bland males seeking them out.
  • Photography: captivating, stylistic yet not intrusive camera work with a strong tendancy to using high contract sepia tones and fuzzy-edged backlighting.   Expertly interwoven visual effects including animations.
The Illusionist
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Down in the Valley

Monday, January 29th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Recommended for reflection on what  it means to be in love, to be part of a modern family, to come of age  in America.   It is a tragic love story:   love of country;    love of familiy; romantic love.   The film gets a bad deal from Rotten tomatoes.     The mood of the film reminded me of a cross between Wim Wenders film Paris Texas  and  The Badlands.   Laughter is light on the ground.   The film’s humour is  mainly situational and very subtle.    Not recommended for people who want to have their films explicitly detail the key points or fast action,   this film ferments well with thought and gently touches on modern life indirectly.   For me this was a journey worth taking.

🙂 🙂 🙂

ratings explained


The scenes capture how I see much of North America.   The suburbs,   Freeways,   colours, donuts, diners,  telegraph poles, guns, power lines, paranoia, friendliness, loneliness, cynicism and optimism against  an ever present sense of neglect, decay and madness.  The sound track is provided by a single acoustic guitar and gentle male, or, female  voice.   It’s slow,   like the pace of the film.  The tune and singer fade in and out setting some peaceful, happy and  sad moments.

Edward Norton’s character, Harlan,  has short, clear, answers to every question. His uncomplicated answers have a romantic dream-like quality,   you want to believe them,   you want to believe he believes them.   He’s straight-forward polite, respectful of others yet somehow niaive.   He’s easy to love.   He say’s he’s skilled in ranching.   Was Harlan ever a cowboy?   Is he pretending?   Does it matter?   He appears to be unemployable in any other skilled job.   Harlen’s way of thinking and dialog is a treat throughout.   One moment shot me.   During his first swim in the Pacific Ocean he looks out towards the horizon:  

that’s about as close to forever as I can imagine.

Sometimes its not clear if he lives in the real world or an idealistic fantasy, if he’s lost a grasp on reality,   if he ever really had one.  

Outstanding moments included:

  • the conversation in the bath  because of  the innovative approach to filming, the dialog and set.    
  • Harlan’s visit to his parent’s home.   No music.   No speaking.  The silence heightened the impact on me.    
  • Reflexism.   Using a film set of western ‘My Darling Clementine’  to playfully create a western story within this western  story.   This provided temporary, subtle, light relief as the tension builds.      

An extremely well constructed film  in every technical  level,  acting,  camera-work, lighting, script, direction  etc.   A classic, not popularist, film.

Down in the Valley
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Monday, December 18th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Movie Monday!

Spivs is highly recommended for people who enjoy action films that tackle topical and  socially unacceptable issues in direct ways.   It has some subtle humour and emotional swings built in,    This is not a film that drives smiles.   It does capture, and move, your emotions with subtle and powerful effect. The online reviews I found  were more  harsh than my experience, they may more adequately reflect your experience.   Here’s the BBC review.

🙂 🙂 🙂

ratings explained


A  London based film, Spiv  has the mood of a classic London based Gangster, or wide-boy,    films such as ‘The long good friday‘,  Layer Cake,   Lock Stock and two smoking barrels.    It tackles fundamental, international,  human rights issues.   There is a reasonable review posted on “Eye for film’.   The review doesn’t adequately acknowledge  the disturbing topic matter of the film: humans, children as a commodity for trade in Western capitalistic culture.   Life and sex as something that has monetary, tradeable value.  

Beautiful lighting and attention to photographic details.   For example,   during the opening credits we see the Spiv dressing.   Smart 3-piece suit, classic style  with  the last button of the waistcoat undone.   Inbetween the calm attention of his dressing we see and hear loud scenes from racecourse.  We swiftly move to the  spinning a yarn.    We watch the Spiv talk in one screen frame while simultaneously viewing the story he is recounting  in an  inset.   This technique of multiple frames is used sparingly,   to good effect.   The ending is clever and leaves enough to feed your imagination.   It’s more of a turning  point in a story than a ‘wrap up all major themes’  ending.

For Anglophiles there are some excellent scenes of  London,   Docklands,   Victorian red-brick terraced streets, slummy high-rise flats, gray skies, the London underground.    Jack Dee plays a significant bit part as a builder called ‘Nige’ with impressively powerful perception and subtlety.   Summary?   This is half way between a well constructed art film and a socially conscious film.   It doesn’t hit the heights of either,   it does meld the experiences well.   It is worth watching if either genre moves you.

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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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curious incident

Friday, September 15th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. Mark Haddon.   This is an outstanding first novel.   Recommended  

3 smiles:   ratings explained


Reviewed by charlotte Morre in the Guardian.   The numerous reviews I’ve read are full of praise for this novel.

Christopher, 15yrs, is writing a murder mystery novel.   This is Christopher’s Novel.   Christopher’s presentation is a carefully contructed stream of consciousness.   He provides details about each character,   something interesting or different, to describe the character.   What Christopher finds interesting or different does not follow common patterns of describing a person.   The jacket cover descirbes Christopher as being autistic,   this is an artistic construction of the writer,   the contents should not be taken as representative of Autism.  

goodness discovered:

  • Christopher as author:   works exceedingly well to carry the reader through seeing the world through the authors eyes and allowing the reader to have  a privileged view of dramatic irony. As reader we can see the impact of Christophers behaviours and understand these behaviours in a different value-set from Christophers.  
  • Christopher describes and demonstrates  his values.   Clearly,   entertainingly.   Christopher attributes values and priorities to events in a different way than is generally socially acceptable.   I found some of his reasoning clearly descibed,  easy to follow,   consistently applied thoughout the story.   For example the meaning of specific groups of different car colours.  
  • innovative illustrations.   The book is illustrated,   not with ‘pictures’ provided by an illustrator, with pictures from Christophers perspective.   As pictures per-se they provide little extra information.   As choices of important information selected by Christopher they are powerful story enhancers.

not so goodness

  • lack of empathy with other characters.   This is a by-product of working with having Christopher as the protagonist.     There is insufficient detail to build empathy with any other character.   I suspect this was an explicit decision made by the author.   I would have valued the opportunity for a deeper understanding of some of the peripheral characters.   It’s not clear how the author could have achieved this connection within the books clearly implemented perspective.
  • Inconsistency.   I found it difficult to follow why  Christopher made some, plot-critical, decisions  and did not become distressed by events that had already been established as distressing to him. For example, it is established early  in the book  that he does not like people shouting.    Later he witnesses shouting without any documented personal reaction.   As if the author temporarily forgot his protagonist in favour of placing  plot manipulating events.  


  • There are plausible rumours that people who exhibit symptoms of Aspergers syndrome and Autism experience successful application of their strengths in the software industry.   A quick search of the internet finds no real evidence,   just plausible arguments.   Software developers are able to procreate and this ‘syndrome’ is genetically conveyed to offspring.   Evidently,   in December 2000 “Microsoft became the first major US corporation to offer its employees insurance benefits to cover the cost of behavioral training for their autistic children.”    (Wired Magazine).  This could easily just reflect the excellent pro-active healthcare provision by Microsoft as a company.   As a Seattle local,   this Wendy  wonders….
curious incident
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rules of attraction

Monday, July 24th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

A disturbing and bleak look at sexual, emotional,  relationships within modern American college  life

3 smiles: ratings explained

I don’t know any Americans  that would enjoy this movie.   I could be wrong.

It gets three smiles on the uncalibrated, unstable,  Wendy scale because I found it starkley, morbidly,  fascinating with some realistic themes.   A brave piece of work by the director because arguably  it didn’t include  a character sthat you, as the audience, were meant to build an affection or affinity with.   A risky strategy that  was one of many reasons  the Movie gets a panning on  Rotten Tomatoes.  The themes that I noticed were:

  • unrequited attraction.   The film’s title is appropriate because it would be difficult to describe the story lines as being either love,   lust or obsessions,   but they were ‘attractions’.
  • emotional and physical abuse directed at self (suicide, degrading behaviors) and others (rape, physical violence).   It seemed so ‘accepted’ by characters within the film as the way things are.    I suspect this may be realistic.
  • fantasy. several characters in the film appear to build attractions to others based on a constructed, fantasy, understanding of what those people are like  not based on what we as the audience see and hear they are like.
  • loneliness.   This was intertwined with  the fantasy thread.   Lonely people using their imaginations to develop relationships into something ‘more’ than they are.    Some  of the characters in the film were being drawn into, or seeking, a fulfilling intimate relationship.    Two characters towards the end of the film expressed this with the simple phrase “you don’t know me“.

The film completely lacked humour, it did include character development.   Unusually,   the direction of the development was not aligned with an ideal or telling a moral story.   This was powerful.   We see the impact of ‘bad’ experiences tainting people,   we see unrequited ‘attraction’.   We  never get really close to any of the characters.   Some characters I didn’t like at the beginning of the film and I still didn’t like them at the end of the film.   That’s realistic.

The rape scene was profoundly disturbing,   not least because the victim appeared to  accept it  as if this was to be expected.   For that one message the film is worth watching.   I know too many girl’s (and boys) who have that attitude.   They blame themselves for not being ‘sensible’ (e.g. I should not have got drunk) and remove any blame from the perpertrator because ‘he thought it was alright’.   Somehow they justify thier role as victims of sexual abuse, rape.   That makes me extremely angry.   This film has value for  portraying what I see as a moral and legal crime  without having any cumeuppance for the offender or any real recognition of the crime by the victim.

Unfortunately that’s real.

rules of attraction
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Tuesday, December 6th, 2005 | tags: ,  |

Wikepedia describes Morcheeba as a British band that mixes influences of Hip Hop, Blues and Pop. Morcheeba’s official UK website adds ‘Soul’, ‘country’ and ‘electronic’ to the influences. I recently watched them play at the Showbox. Near the downtown public markets:

Mellow music to relax, sing and dance in

I thoroughly enjoyed myself

Worth the entry-charge


Were they good? Yes

Morcheeba performed as you would expect professional performers. Good quality. Morcheeba have recently changed their lead singer to Jody Sternberg. Changing singers can often change the whole impact a band makes. Jody has a wonderful voice and is lively and charismatic on stage. She plays flute and saxophone and co-wrote some of the bands earlier songs.

Did they play a broad range of material? Yes

The set included songs from the new Album (Antidote) including ‘everybody loves a loser’ and classic songs from several older albums including ‘Rome wasnt built in a day’, ‘part of the process’, ‘Sea’. I was sceptical about Jody effectively conveying the older songs. Thankfully my scepticism was unwarranted. The ‘hip-hop’ and ‘rapping’ influence was not evident in their set. For me this was a positive shift in their musical direction.

Were there memorable moments? Yes

Ross Godfrey gave gave the audience stories about the inspirations for specific songs. For example, ‘Blindfold‘ was written about a friend going into a mental assylum for 3 months then staying there for 10 years. I love to hear type of story at a concert. His guitar playing was impressive; as was his ability to smoke a cigarette for the whole duration of a song while playing continually and not noticeably dropping any ash on himself.

The back-up artist provided some ‘memorable’ moments. An asian lady wearing a green long-hair wig, pink bunny-earmuffs, red-velvet dress. Her singing was squeaky and heavily accented. It reminded my companion of ‘Tiny Tim’ and me of a 1980’s Lena Lovich. Despite this bizarreness she was a very talented lady. She played Ukulele, Sitar, accordian, Keyboards and probably more!

W bop-bop-bop-PING!

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Atonement. Ian McEwan. Review

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |
Work out if the book would suit you from this brief review
For me the book contained  4 main strands woven tightly together into a book that I certainly wouldn’t describe as ‘ropey’          The strands were:

love story

This has all the power of McEwans well established ability to raise emotions,   cross social boundaries,   fill you with anticipation.   I couldn’t work out which scenes actually included sexual intercourse.    I found this uncertainty rather fun,   to  be left to infer,   guessing by descirptions of position,   demeanor, sounds  and feelings.      Keep this up


crime story

An unusual bent on a traditional fictional genre,   no detectives.   Just the witnesses and victims and the impact of the legal and social  crimes as time unfolds.   The character’s role in the crime was well laid out in the first part.   As with being unclear about the sexual intercourse,   I was also unclear about whether a legal crime occured.   Certainly moral crimes occurred.   I would rather have found out more about the immediate aftermath in the second part.   Instead    we skip to 3 years later.    I was left with some major questions left unanswered about    the roles played by some of the key players in the first part.    Adjust this.  


war story

Uh.   I got bored and started skim reading wondering how the peripheral characters introduced in this storyline related to either the Love story,   the crime story, or the story about stories.   Either I missed something or they didn’t.    This storyline seemed superfluous.   Well written,   but it just didn’t entertain or significantly move the plot forward for me.   Cut this.


story about stories (postmodern)

This was fabulous.   Stories about formal stories,   informal stories, truths misundertandings,   lealities,   moralities and wonderful variations on self-reference.   This strand lifted the book to worthiness of reading.   It’s strongest hold is in the first part and the last part.     I was left wanting more of an exploration in the last part.   The role of the legal process,   historical archives,   news media,  in defining a story could so easily have been explored in exciting and interesting ways.   Like Oliver, I wanted MORE!
Reviews from professionals are available on:



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Atonement. Ian McEwan. Review
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Gridlock | Ben Elton |

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005 | tags: , ,  |

UK Vacation 5

I highly recommended this book.   I suspect the reviewer cited in my March 9th entry  has a problem seeing the trees (story details) for the wood (prior knowledge of Ben’s political beliefs).   The review misses Ben’s keen observation of the familiar and ability to smoothly transform this into the plausibly bizarre.   An example of a non-political observation that doesn’t give away part of the plot:

From Newton to Einstein there has been much fascinating discussion on the various factors that affect time.   These include speed, mass, weight distance and strange phrases like quantum mechanics which scientists make up in order to sound important and convince the rest of us that we are thick.   However, for some inexplicable reason, despite all this racking of the brain,   no serious research has been done into the commonest form and most radical time bender of them all,   which is,   of course, exercise.

The plot has many characteristics of a classical western.   Clearly identified good guys and bad guys.   The good guys are revealed as people with strengths and weaknesses and the bad guys are evil, powerful and sometimes just stupid.  Think about westerns where the good guys own the small farms and the bad guys are the big cattle or oil companies whose plans for mass production are radically changing the lives of the farmers.  Think of Star Wars,   the rebels against the Federation.   It’s a classic format that Ben spins with very clever twists.

The strongest impact for me was in the introduction and description of the heros. opening scenes are fabulous because of the way Ben lets your assumptions fill in gaps about the people he is describing, then he gradually introduces fundamental challenges to those assumptions.

It has an excellent chase scene which easily rivals Bullitt.   The key characters are distinctive and richly described, as you would expect from the writer of the Black Adder series.

My main complaints are petty.   For example he describes a character as being  Farty this is not a descriptor that I recognise.   The closing scene was rather a sensible close,   and consequently I found it a little disappointing.   I was hoping for something a little more comically fulfilling.    That aside,   this is the 3rd Ben Elton book I have read and I plan to read all the rest.

Good reading,   Wendy

Gridlock | Ben Elton |
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