Monday, 19 September 2011

One rat, to go?

There's been a problem with rats on our street in Capitol Hill.  Hank was approached by a neighbour asking him to pick up the pears which fall daily from the tree in our front garden.  She claimed to have seen a few fallen pears with bite marks and was worried the rats were feasting on them.  He was surprised by this but told her he would see what he could do.

Once the neighbour was gone, Hank began searching the garden for pears and to his surprise discovered a small rat under a bush. The rat appeared to be injured and did not run away.  Donning a pair of gardening gloves, Hank reached under the bush and picked the rat up by its tail.  It was bleeding from the head and appeared dazed.

Standing in the middle of our front garden, holding the rat by the tail, Hank wondered what he should do with the animal.  He looked around for inspiration.  Should he kill it?  How?

Just at that moment a lady walking past on the street called out to him:  "Excuse me?"

Embarrassed, Hank looked up, still holding the rat by its tail.  "Yes?"

"Can I have that?" she said.

Hank was caught off guard. "Erm .... Why?"

"Because I'm not sure what you're planning to do with it.  I want to make sure Animal Control are made aware of it and can help it get better."

At this point it was probably all Hank could do not to burst out laughing.  Stifling his belief that Animal Control were not interested in rehabilitating rats, he offered to put the rat in a box and hand it over to the nice lady.

And she agreed.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I caught this new Tomas Alfredson film on its opening night in the UK.  Receiving rave reviews for Gary Oldman's role as John Le Carre's much-loved spy, George Smiley, this one was indeed well worth watching.

Now, for a book which took the BBC some seven hours to serialise back in 1979 when Sir Alec Guinness was Smiley, one wonders how Alfredson managed to cram so much into just two hours for the big screen.  Moreover, having chosen to cut so much out of the cold war thriller, some of Alfredson's "additions" do seem quite odd.  Was it really necessary to reinvent Peter Guillam as gay?  For any reason other than to shock and suck up to the reader, whose clever "reading between the lines" deduced his sexual orientation where presumably many a thick viewer would have failed?   And why, then, downplay the sexual ambiguity in Bill Haydon and Jim Prideaux's relationship?  Was it necessary to make it so obvious who shot Haydon, when the book remains unclear? And why was Irina shot dead in front of Prideaux during his interrogation?  A slightly gratuitous concession to the modern viewer, at a point when the film was a little low on action, perhaps...?

I am NOT, let me be clear, knocking this film; you must see it.  The acting is great - and there's an all star cast including King George V - yes Mr D'Arcy from Pride & Prejudice (and indeed Bridget Jones), plus Mr Knightley from Emma and both Ollivander & Sirius Black from Harry Potter.  Oh and let's not forget that weird paedophile chap from Atonement.  Everyone's a winner.

Go out and see it before your friends spoil it by yelling out the name of the Russian mole.  And if you can get your hands on it, I thoroughly recommend the BBC Radio 4 version of the Complete Smiley. It is even better - and you can listen to it on your iPod on your way to work!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A male single friend

Me: So tell me, are there any attractive young ladies on the horizon?

Single friend: Oh yes, definitely on the horizon.  But the restraining order prevents me from getting any closer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Jane Eyre movie. Reader; fill in the gaps

Jane Eyre is a long book. Which is why it easily fails in the 120-minute format of the big screen.  Cary Fukunaga's recent adaptation of the Bronte novel - which I saw this weekend - is astonishingly brief and bits of the story are, frankly, missing.

I happen to have a bit of insider gossip on this film and was relieved to hear from a close friend that Cary Fukunaga had intended to include some of the following conspicuously absent scenes:

1.  The relationship between Jane and Miss Temple, the kindly Lowood teacher.  Even in the movie, this teacher was clearly meant to befriend our Jane because otherwise why would Miss Temple have been so good-looking in a sea of ugly school ma'ams?  Cutting Miss Temple completely from the story makes no sense.  At all.

2. Grace Poole, the booze-loving guardian of Rochester's deranged wife Bertha, only appears once: during Bertha's big reveal.  So much for the gin-swilling scape goat Jane should have blamed for Bertha's bumps in the night.

3. Big, bad Bertha.  Rochester's first, secret wife, the madwoman in the attic has often been a magnet for feminist critics of Bronte's novel, asking quite rightly why the poor loon doesn't get a more sympathetic write-up in the novel.  In Fukunaga's rendering, Bertha  - and indeed her entire family and the critical events in Jamaica - get just a few minutes screen coverage.  Poor form, indeed.

4. And if you thought Jamaica was downplayed .... how about events in Madeira, the source of the fortune Jane inherits from from her wealthy, childless uncle?  This is a crucial part of the story - enabling Jane to return to Rochester as his financial equal, overcoming a major social obstacle to the love they already share as intellectual equals - but all we see is Jane running from St John's marriage proposal in a school teacher's clothes one minute, then she's in a carriage wearing a posh frock the next.  Reader; fill in the gaps.

It wasn't a dire film, though and is well worth watching if you're a fan of period dramas. Mia Wasikowka (of Alice in Wonderland) makes a suitably doe-eyed yet impertinent Jane. Michael Fassbender does well as Rochester but Judi Dench (the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax) steals the show with just two lines when she greets Jane in the burnt-out ruins of Thornfield Hall.  The cinematography is a nod to Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version) complete with will-they-won't-they sexual tension, framed by the long, slanting rays of Derbyshire evening sunshine.  The script is well-balanced with enough comedy to lighten the darkest corners of Bronte's Yorkshire.  And how nice to have some local accents...

One to watch on DVD, I'd say. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

The spider drops a sprog

Ok ... Take a deep breath, fellow arachnophobes.

I made an error.

A serious error.

After mum put the tropical spider outside (see an illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka) I moved upstairs to my bedroom the bag which it had stowed away in.  Today I came home from work to find that my mum's cleaner had tidied up my room (embarrassing at my age - I wish mum'd warn me when the cleaner's coming so I could pretend to be a normal, tidy adult)....  I got changed into my pajamas and threw myself onto the beautifully-smoothed covers.  Then I froze.

A tiny bundle of grey cotton appeared to be curled up on the bed next to me, about the size of a nail head.   The voice of Reason (read: desperation) said this is a ball of grey, stripy cotton, from a grey, stripy item of clothing.  I have no grey, stripy clothing, but let's ignore that for now, Reason says.  My instinct said: this is a small, stripy tropical spider.  

And so (trusting what I have been learning about empathy) I blew gently on the small ball of grey stripes, and it opened out into the unmistakeable form of a baby spider.  The spider appeared to be emerging from some kind of grey blob.  

I used the trap technique learned from my mother, humanely putting the baby outside to die of exposure.  But I can't help but think this intruder won't be the last of his bloodline. 

I think I'm in trouble.

Maybe it is just a coincidence. Surely some British spiders are grey and stripy?  And who says all Sri Lankan spiders are dangerous just because they aren't from round here?  I mean, that's RACIST!

Ok, look, does anyone have any advice?

And does anyone else's "voice of Reason" turn into a self-preservational sense of delusion at the first sign of danger? 

(Just me, then.)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

My Jedi Mind Powers

I am reading a book called the Power of Empathy by Arthur P Ciaramicoli.  

It's not a bad "read", actually, for a self-help book.  It's free from a lot of the trite aphorisms of other self-help texts, partly because it argues that a key part of empathy is recognising and respecting other people's individuality - so it couldn't very well start generalising about the human condition, I suppose.

I am reading about empathy because I suffer an at times astonishing lack of it.  This, apparently, is a core hallmark of a psychopath, but I'm not letting that minor detail worry me.   Because I am going to CHANGE.  


Because apparently we humans can use empathy to get stuff.  Awesome!  In the wrong hands, the power of empathy can be used for EVIL, mwa-ha-ha-HA!

Actually, though, I've known this for some time.

About five years ago I was at work the day before a national holiday.  At around 1.30pm the boss came over and was hovering around my desk like he wanted something but wasn't sure how to ask.  All I could think about was how hard I'd been working that day and wouldn't it be great to get away a little early for the holiday.

I looked my boss deep in the eye and said in a low, calm voice: "half day, everyone,"  holding his gaze for about two seconds before looking away.  Immediately, he turned silently away from me and addressed the wider team, announcing in exactly the same tone of voice: "half day, everyone."

Jedi mind powers, people!  You can only use them a few times in your life, so be sure to use your powers for Good - or at least to GET something good.  

Hmmm, maybe I've missed the point of the Power of Empathy.  Pardon me while I revisit Chapter 2...

Monday, 5 September 2011

A substitute Hank

I confess that sometimes at night I cuddle my pillow and pretend it's Hank.

So imagine my delight to read in the Huffington Post about the hearth-throb pillow, custom-printed with your sweetheart's image....

Now, if that were available online, I would buy one.  Just as long as Hank laid off the deputy dawg moustache.

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