Archive for August, 2011

Last night, Toronto was subjected to a light show the likes of which I have not seen for a long time.. We had plenty of warning that this storm was coming, and our alerts included tornado warnings. It’s only a few  days since Goderich’s town centre was ruined by a tornado that blew in from the west, crossing over Lake Huron and churning up the town and countryside in its path. So the weather people were making sure that this second heavy storm coming from the west would not catch us off guard. The lightning started well before the rain started. By the time rain hit the flashes in the sky were getting scary.  By this time I had turned off the computer, and the flat screen TV. I retreated to my bedroom, turned on the old TV (no loss if it took a strike) and drew back the blinds so that I could watch the sky. The lightning sometimes was jagged, but much of the time, great sheets of lightning lit up the neighbourhood as though it were daylight. It was  huge demonstration of the power of nature.

I was following the storm story by tuning in to the local news channel, but at the height of the storm, the anchor, Ann Rohmer, was relaying the advice that no one should be sitting near a window, a risk for any persons sitting close by, should the glass shatter. I closed the blinds and moved to the other side of the bed. *g*

Spike was very frightened and I held him close until he calmed down. This light show went on for more than an hour, when finally the storm started to move off to the east.I have shamelessly grabbed a short video from the internet. The creator has his name on it, and has publicly posted it. I think the most amazing part of this video is the ferocity of the strikes on the CN tower. Take a look at this:


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It’s only taken me 13 years to catch up with The Big Lebowski, which was released back in 1998. I’ve loved two other movies by the Coen brothers, Raising Arizona, and Fargo. I have long wanted to see The Big Lebowski, sure that I would enjoy it. This month I rented the movie from iTunes, with the intention of watching it one night while on vacation. But instead of watching the movie, I watched real live sunsets, and late at night read a book on my iPad. But the month that I have the movie on my iPad was running out quite quickly, especially since I have returned from my holiday. It was time to settle down with the Coen brothers and enjoy the movie.

Now, I am no movie critic, and if you want to read what the real critics had to say about this movie, their reviews are easy to find by Googling the movie’s title. Your first hit will be Roger Ebert’s review, and who am I to put a review up against Roger Ebert? So I’m just going to write a bit about what I really enjoyed about this movie. This is a movie about mistaken identity and there are 2 Lebowskis in the movie: Jeffrey Lebowski –The Dude, and Jeffrey Lebowski –The Big Lebowski, who is the one the bad guys are after.

Maybe you have heard this quote from the movie, “The Dude abides.”  The Dude of course is Jeff Bridges, who is truly wonderful as an unemployed guy who mainly goes bowling with his friends, and generally shambles through his life, smoking dope and drinking White Russians (made with fresh ‘half and half,’ of course.) His buddies are played by John Goodman and, playing against his usual type, Steve Buscemi (who also excelled in Fargo.) The convoluted plot of this movie is related in countless reviews, and a summary of it is easily found by Googling. It’s mainly a plot on which to hang a bunch of witty events that will have you laughing.

There are numerous pleasures in this movie. One of the first things I loved about it was the sound track. I reveled in hearing a lot of familiar artists in the background, as some of the improbable but hilarious events unfolded. I heard (in no particular order) Creedence (CCR), Booker T and the MGs, Yma Sumac (!), Santana, Debbie Reynolds, and Kenny Rogers. Yes, Yma Sumac. I had not thought of her for many years!

At one point late in the movie, The Dude gets knocked out, and there ensues a brilliant dream sequence, which is an homage to the great musical “ballets” of MGM musicals in the ’50s. Since bowling figures heavily in this movie (whenever these guys need to get centred again, they go bowling), in his unconscious state, The Dude dreams an elaborate “ballet” sequence with chorus girls wearing headdresses made of bowling pins. It’s a tribute to Busby Berkeley and it is too funny.

I also enjoyed seeing a few actors whom we don’t see that often any more: Ben Gazzara, and Sam Elliot were two that I liked a lot, then and now. Both men, in 1998, were as handsome as ever and acting as well as ever. Another actor who steals his every scene is John Turturro, who is hilarious in spandex. Philip Seymour Hoffman has never let me down in any movie, and he’s dependably oily here. Julianne Moore as Maude, the daughter of the real (The Big) Lebowski, is a crazy and wonderful nutbar.

And finally, I now get the famous tagline from this movie, “The Dude abides.”

Oh yes, he does. Kudos to the Coen brothers, and to Jeff Bridges, for creating an absolutely unforgettable character, The Dude.

Now, let’s go bowling!

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I have  just seen the movie  Sarah’s Key; saw it two days after finishing the book. I recommend both!
This novel is based on an actual fact: the rounding up of French Jews by the French police (under instructions from the Nazis) in 1942.
Thousands of Jewish French citizens were sent to the death camps by French police. Knowledge of this event, known as Vel’ d’Hiver, was long suppressed.
Story goes back and forth between the past (’42) and the present. In the present, Julia, a journalist, is researching the story of Vel’ d’Hiver, and also coping with events in her personal life.
In 1942, Sarah, the girl of the title, is rounded up and sent to a camp where she is separated (forever) from her parents. This part of the movie, as a mother and grandmother, I found difficult to watch, but I got past it. Story has ingenious structure that links the present to the past.
This is a mesmerizing story, and both the book and the movie are well worth your time. Kristen Thomas Scott as Julia drives the story and she is excellent, as always. The young actress who plays the child Sarah in 1942, is truly amazing. I’d expect some Oscar nominations for this film.

You do not need to have read the book to enjoy this movie. It is really well done.

I rate both the book and the movie as 8/10 on my personal enjoyment scale.

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Pub: Kindle, $9.99

This memoir by Don Lemon, weekend anchor on CNN, is a good read, but not wildly entertaining. It’s an interesting look at the youth and the rise of a highly successful black man. I liked the insights into the “black box” as he calls it – the way the rest of America perceives black Americans: puts them into stereotypes, seldom seeing the real people and their real qualities. For example, he always had to strive to be the best newsman wherever he worked, or else he would be assumed to be the token “black” on staff.
He is transparent about being gay, about being sexually abused as a child, and about his struggles to achieve his dream of being a news anchor. He recounts in detail the various stops in his journalistic career.

Somehow the book is workmanlike, but not really engaging. Love him as a news anchor, but this book left me feeling sort of “meh.” It was OK.
What a difference from Steven Tyler’s book, which was such a fun read. Don Lemon’s story is a little pedantic, sort of interesting, but rates about a 7/10 on my personal enjoyment scale.

I had looked forward to this book, but was left a little disappointed by it. However, I still love Don Lemon as an anchor!

Aug 12,2011.

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