Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Babel and Babies

I took the Link bus to the Domain, a large Auckland park that happens to contain a huge, well-regarded museum. The link bus does a circuit of the city taking in many of the principal streets. I left it very late, however, and then got on the Link going in the opposite direction; in other words I took the long way around. When I got there there was only half an hour before closing time. This was just as well as it meant I wandered into a nearby glasshouse and fernery. I am no botanist and have no real interest in plants, but it was beautiful. I had taken Salinger's 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour An Introduction' as it fit in my pocket and I suspected I might be reading in the park, so I took it out and read on a bench. A very pleasant amusement.

I am reading this final book of Salinger's for completion's sake. Once again the Glass family are the star attractions, and Seymour Glass in particular. It is many years since I read 'The Catcher in the Rye' and I cannot remember it too well (though I know the hero is Holden Caulfield). I would be very surprised if a Glass didn't figure in there somewhere. I still have to finish Hammett yet, so I won't write any reviews yet.

The Fat Camel Hostel (where I am writing this) is now my accommodation in preparation for my trip tomorrow. A free 'dinner' was provided at 7. I was accidentally given two vouchers which was as well as the trick here is that they want you to upgrade for four dollars. The initial portion then, in this case of basic carbonara, fits comfortably on a saucer. My two saucers helped my stomach for a while. While I think of it I had an awkward, but lovely potato and pork soup in a Japanese restaurant for lunch. They served it with four saucers of pickles and a bowl of rice, the lot costing ten dollars (around five fifty euros). It was lovely though I should have paid attention to the description that said pork bone for that is all the pork that was in it. I was the only caucasian there and I was sloppy. My 'I have nothing to declare but my genius' t-shirt is over the top at the best of times, but I felt a bit of a plonker wearing it streaked with potato and pork soup. When I tried to give them a tip they didn't know what I was talking about.

I decided to take a walk to the cinema to see what's on. I ended up watching "Babel" by the director of '21 Grams'. It is so doggedly determined to achieve its political effect that it almost forgets to entertain. Certainly knowing how things are going to work out (roughly) doesn't increase one's interest. It is overly long and overly 'tragic' (actually pathetic in the dramatic sense), but still worth a look. It is good to see different stories from different countries with different actors (Pitt, Blanchett and Bernal excepted) for a change.

And while I remember it, I saw 'Scoop' and 'The Queen' on my various flights recently, both films in their own way featuring the Press. 'Scoop', the latest from Woody Allen, purports to be some sort of comic thriller about a journalism student tracking down a serial killer with the help of a dead journalist. How the mighty have fallen! Allen should seriously consider leaving us with the works we love him for and stop poisoning his oeuvre. 'The Queen' on the other hand is really good stuff detailing the week after Lady Diana died as experienced by the British monarchy. I disagree with the monarchy as a concept and the British monarchy in particular, and have never had any interest in Lady Di (nor understood the fascination), but dramatically the film weaves a little bit of magic nevertheless. Helen Mirren is fine as Elizabeth, while Michael Sheen, though very close to an impersonation, nevertheless makes Tony Blair almost amiable. He is almost the hero of the piece, at one point berating a slimy Alastair Campbell for sneering at her predicament. Still in my view Blair betrayed Labour and funnily enough the film almost supports such a contention (Cherie is quick to point out his contradictions). Queen Elizabeth is given a human face and though I doubt this will be featuring on her DVD shelf anytime soon, she should be grateful she came out of the movie as unscathe as she does. The film seems to be attracting far more attention over here than it ever did back in Europe.

A big mention now for Ian and Roisin whose new son, Euen, was born on New Year's Eve and Tom and Ann whose new son, Eoghan, joined their household of boys yesterday. Similar names on similar dates, all very coincidental I'm sure. My best wishes to both families.

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