Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The movie, Reaching for the Moon, is a reminder for me of why I hate being asked to rate movies out of five stars. It's too reductive. Say "three stars" and they assume it's kind of a turd, say "four stars" and they'll be expecting a masterpiece so you have to qualify that, well, Pitch Perfect isn't for everyone.

Reaching for the Moon isn't a perfect movie. It's not even a... great movie. If I had to rate it out of five I couldn't justify more than a three, probably: there are bits that don't work, some painfully long aspects that don't seem to go anywhere. And yet it's one of those movies that has stuck with me and that I feel like will probably stick with me for awhile yet.

It's also introduced me to the work of American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who is hugely accomplished and was a complete stranger to me. I mean, come on, if this poem -

One Art

Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
- isn't worth $17 for a movie ticket then I don't know what is. Gorgeous.

For me, I guess, the only question that matters when it comes to movies is whether it's worth seeing. Reaching for the Moon is, to me, worth seeing. Another better made and arguably more capital-i Important film like 12 Years a Slave... well, although I can appreciate it's well made and all it just didn't do it for me. I wouldn't be able to recommend it. Then you take something pretty lame like, say Hairspray: not a great musical or a great movie, I'd argue, but I saw it twice at the movies because it was just so freaking enjoyable.

So when it comes to the movies, if you care about such things, forget about star ratings and start thinking about whether it's worth the price of admission, the calorific debt of a choc bomb and two hours of your life.

Friday, July 25, 2014


I am endlessly grateful that I never took up smoking. I didn't find it particularly gross when I was younger and briefly dated a smoker but the smell of stale smoke on someone now makes me appreciate I dodged a bullet. That much said, these babes - I'm sorry, there's no other word for their particular brand of boobs-out yum - made it look pretty hot. Bad babes.

Things I Have Learned Lately

Grand Designs is right: it will cost more and take longer than you ever imagined possible.

Mr Whiskerley's sneeze is the cutest thing in the world.

I can be a morning person if I have to be.

Not everyone deserves another chance or to be continually defended to others. Sometimes people aren't misunderstood: they're showing you who they are. And they're kinda dicky.

My brother is really good at puzzles.

I don't like being drunk as much as I thought I did.

Everything in life comes at the cost of something else.

It is possible to read a book and drink a cup of tea while having a shower. Just.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Awkward scenes from my life #12

Making a domestic violence joke to someone, not realising he's been a victim of domestic violence.

The lesson? Don't make jokes about domestic violent, dipshit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“With short hair you begin to crave pearl necklaces long earrings and a variety of sunglasses. And you brush your teeth more often. Short hair removes obvious femininity and replaces it with style. When it starts growing out a little and losing its style you have to wear sunglasses until you can get it to the hairdresser. That’s why you need a variety. Short hair makes you aware of subtraction as style. You can no longer wear puffed sleeves or ruffles the neat is suddenly preferable to the fussy. You eye the tweezers instead of the blusher. What else can you take away You can’t hide behind short hair… you may look a little androgynous a little unfinished a little bare… but your face is no longer a flat screen surrounded by a curtain: the world sees you in three dimensions.” (Joan Juliet Buck)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Songs to live by

Low points from an otherwise enjoyable trip to Marble Bar

1. Realising the door on the caravan I’d be sleeping in for three nights didn’t shut. At all. Not even a little bit.

2. Being told by the woman who ran the Marble Bar Caravan Park that she recommended “sticking a knife in it” to hold the door shut.

3. Realising I did not have a knife, either to try the door thing or to kill myself.

4. Being denied extra blankets by the caravan park woman because she didn’t have any spare. But how do they cope when it was time to wash the blankets, you might ask? EXACTLY.

5. Testing the claim, made by the aforementioned caravan park woman (of course), that the air-conditioner in the caravan was reverse cycle and would heat up "if left on long enough". It was not and it did not.

6. Waking up in the middle of the night in a pitch black caravan with a half-open door in time to hear a particularly gruesome bit of my American Psycho audio book. I guess that one's on me, Marble Bar Caravan Park.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Things I learned after reading (the completely enthralling) book Rebecca, having previously only seen the Hitchcock movie based on the book:


1. Not everyone feels that finding out your husband is a double (kinda) murderer is a turn-off.
2. Never listen to the help. They are always trying to fuck you over.
3. It's good to have land.

Roger Federer as Religious Experience

Confession: I didn't watch the Wimbledon finale. And, sure, now knowing what a great match it was I feel a little bad about that. But the thing about finals in any kind of sport, I tell myself, is that there's always another one. Seriously, it will be back and there will be another great final. Just give it time.

You know what there won't be another of? David Foster Wallace, whose essays I love even if I'm clearly just not smart enough to get into his novels. One day, Infinite Jest, one day you will be fine but life's too short to slug through something you don't enjoy. Anyway, Wallace's essays really are great: "Consider the Lobster" is possibly my favourite or "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", which I took on a cruise and which made me laugh like a drain. But one that's been doing the rounds this week for obvious reasons (and which I've linked to from this blog before) is also very good: "Roger Federer as Religious Experience". I mean, what a great title - you read that title and you know this thing you're about to read is not going to be quite like all those other things you've read. As someone who has pretty much zero interest in sports journalism or sports writing this is one of the very few pieces of sports-related writing I go back to again and again.
Almost anyone who loves tennis and follows the men’s tour on television has, over the last few years, had what might be termed Federer Moments. These are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K. 
The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do. We’ve all got our examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U.S. Open, Federer serving to Andre Agassi early in the fourth set. There’s a medium-long exchange of groundstrokes, one with the distinctive butterfly shape of today’s power-baseline game, Federer and Agassi yanking each other from side to side, each trying to set up the baseline winner...until suddenly Agassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer way out wide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, which of course is the sort of thing Agassi dines out on, and as Federer’s scrambling to reverse and get back to center, Agassi’s moving in to take the short ball on the rise, and he smacks it hard right back into the same ad corner, trying to wrong-foot Federer, which in fact he does — Federer’s still near the corner but running toward the centerline, and the ball’s heading to a point behind him now, where he just was, and there’s no time to turn his body around, and Agassi’s following the shot in to the net at an angle from the backhand side...and what Federer now does is somehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backward three or four steps, impossibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his backhand corner, all his weight moving backward, and the forehand is a topspin screamer down the line past Agassi at net, who lunges for it but the ball’s past him, and it flies straight down the sideline and lands exactly in the deuce corner of Agassi’s side, a winner — Federer’s still dancing backward as it lands. 
And there’s that familiar little second of shocked silence from the New York crowd before it erupts, and John McEnroe with his color man’s headset on TV says (mostly to himself, it sounds like), “How do you hit a winner from that position?” And he’s right: given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.
You can read the whole thing here and I strongly suggest that you do.