Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Truman-Capote-Reads-From-Breakfast-At-Tiffanys

Spoilers and such-if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, go do so now.  Right now.

 

Like countless authors before and since, Truman Capote didn’t like what Hollywood did to his book.   F. Scot Fitzgerald walked out on The Great Gatsby, Stephen King hated The Shinning, Anne Rice didn’t want Tom Cruise to play Lestat, and Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holiday Golightly, Traveling.   I think she would have been brilliant in the role, just as she was in everything she ever did, but I’m not sure the 1960 edition of Marilyn would have been quite right for the role of 19 year old Holly.

I recently watched Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I loved just about every frame of it.  It was filled with all the great bit players I grew up watching on TV, with Audrey and Mickey Rooney being the only real stars in the piece.  Rooney has a small role as a Japanese photographer complete with Coke-bottle glasses and buck teeth.  This wasn’t the only such portrayal of the time and to be honest, the role of Mr. Yunioshi is nothing more than a cameo, though he does get a couple more lines in the film than he got in the book.  The film was directed by Blake Edwards and had Oscar winning music by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.

The novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s and the film differ in many respects, but a good deal of the dialogue from the book does find its way into the movie.   The writing is crisp and clean and our never named narrator moves on the fringes of the whirlwind that is the life of Holly Golightly.  In the film it’s pretty clear that Holly is a prostitute and there is no doubt at all that Paul/Fred is a gigolo.  A favorite scene from the movie sees Holly picking up some money a woman has left on a table for Fred.

“She’s very generous.  Three hundred dollars.  Is that for the Month?  The week? Or the hour?”  Is this Holly comparing her own rates to Fred’s?  Of course, this doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story.  Why would the rich and powerful men Holly courts want to marry her if everyone knew she was a call girl?  In the book, Fred doesn’t appear to be a gigolo, he talks about writing and mentions how he is forced to get a 9 to 5 job.  A far cry from the life of extravagant luxury lived by Paul in the film. Holly also mentions that she has had a total of 11 lovers, a fairly low number for a prostitute.

The book also features a couple of additional characters, most notable a bartender named Joe Bell.  Fred and Holly spend a bit of time in the bar next door.  Joe shows up in the first scene where Fred hears the latest rumors about Holly and makes occasional appearances throughout the book.

I remember my impressions on finishing my first reading of Breakfast at Tiffany’s many years ago-it’s the story of a girl that everyone falls in love with as soon as they met her.   That’s still my main impression.  How many of us have loved someone and never seen them again?  Stopped now and then to wonder what happened to them.  The movie has that nice tidy happy ending, but the book leaves things a little more open to interpretation.    The narrator goes about his life, the cat finds a home, and we never know what happens to Holly.  Even the rumor of her whereabouts in the opening scene is only a rumor.

I love both the film Breakfast At Tiffany’s and the book Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories.

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry

More Fool Me More Fool Me is the story of Stephen Fry’s life, so far. I’ve been a fan of Stephen Fry since the days of Black Adder I and Jeeves & Wooster. He’s a funny fellow with a great deadpan deliver. He’s also a pretty damned good writer. Making History, a time travel book about Hitler, was shockingly good. More Fool Me is what all autobiographies should be. A bit of history, a bit of reflection, and a bit of actual diary from the good old days.

I have been a fan of Stephen Fry for lo these many years, but I knew nothing about Stephan’s private life. So when he opens up More Fool Me by casually mentioning that he is Jewish and Gay and shortly thereafter goes into some detail about his love for cocaine, suffice to say I was a bit surprised by most of what I found here. Not that I have anything against gay Jewish drug addicts, its just that I never thought of those terms in relationship to Stephen Fry.

Stephen is easily the best name dropper I have I ever read. He casually mentions his friendships with Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, Emma Thompson, and what appears to be every actor who ever appeared on British television. He also talks about British politicians and has a lovely story about having tea with Prince Charles and Princess Diana. I knew most of the names thanks to countless hours spent watching Britcoms, but even the names that meant nothing to me still featured in fun stories.

Stephen narrates the audio book and I think that is definitely the way to read this book. Stephen has a wonderful delivery and he speaks in such a way that you feel as if he is talking to you. He mentions how this is his intention, that he merely wants to speak to the reader as if they were chatting over drinks at Groucho’s, a club he mentions at every opportunity.

More Fool Me might be subtitled the Cocaine Diaries, as there is rather a lot of talk about darting off to the bathroom and doing seven foot long lines of coke and how, looking back, he is amazed that he lived through those heady days. But live he did. I thoroughly enjoyed More Fool Me.

Violence on TV-Too much or is it just me?

It seems today, that all you see is violence in movies,
and sex on T.V.

-opening of Family Guy

I don’t watch as much Network TV as I used to, but the shows I do like tend to be on the tame side. Big Bang Theory, Heart of Dixie, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, Forever, and Downton Abbey. True, there is a bit violence in these shows, but it’s usually pretty mild and often happens off screen. I’m not against violence, I watch R-Rated movies and Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are two of the best shows of the past hundred years or so-but I don’t watch them on Broadcast TV.

Two shows in particular have pushed the envelope a bit too far for me recently. FOX’s Gotham and CW’s The 100.

Gotham is a blood soaked horror story. Even it’s comic relief moments show people with blood splattered across their face.The tipping point for me was when one of the main characters gouges her own eye out with a spoon. On screen. Then stomps on it. In the same episode people calmly murder each other for a ski mask. Blood packs explode at every turn. Maybe this is supposed to be Monty Python style over the top blood gags, but it doesn’t work for me. In another odd bit of business, young Bruce Wayne is encouraged to bloody a man’s nose.

On to CW’s The 100, the story of Earth after the fall of civilization where we have three or four factions fighting over the control of some tiny part of the planet. Like Gotham it has been violent from the start, but a scene where a man telling bad jokes is blow to bits and bloody remains fall from the sky was pretty much enough of this show for me. The main plotline of this episode was one group of people wanting to kill off hundreds of members of another group by melting them with some kind of acid. Nice.

TV has always been violent, all Westerns were about good guys shooting bad guys and my beloved Star Trek is famous for killing off anyone dumb enough to wear a red shirt. But it was always clear who the good guys were and why they were doing what they did. Shows like Gotham and The 100 doen’t seem to have any good guys and throwing buckets blood into the mix doesn’t make it any better.

The Rewrite

The Rewrite Poster The Rewrite is a nice old fashioned comedy film with a number of actors who were popular about twenty years ago. Nice to see them all again. Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, and Chris Elliott are people I like but haven’t seen in a while. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are two more members of the Older Folks here. There are a number of pretty young people who play students to Hugh’s screenwriting Professor.

In classic Gray’s Anatomy style, our hero sleeps with a student the moment he steps off the plane. He doesn’t see anything wrong this, as he likes to rememeber the good old days when he knew young actresses dumb enough to think sleeping with a screenwriter could get them a part. Everyone he mets recalls his one hit film and tells him how much they liked it. He talks to his agent and begs from work, anything to get him away from teaching. His first class sees him telling his students to come back in a month with a rough draft for him to look over.

He doesn’t like the New England cold. He insults an important woman at his first faculty event. He doesn’t fit in at all. But over time he comes to like the local food and the local people. He even finds that he likes teaching and slightly more mature women.

The funny bit here is that The Rewrite is the kind of movie that our hero says modern Hollywood won’t make anymore. No blood packs exploding all over the place, no excess nudity, no car crashes, and not flogger or pair of handcuffs in sight. Of course, 50 Shades made has made 150 million dollars (so far) and The Rewrite made a couple of million. Worldwide. So maybe there’s a reason Hollywood doesn’t do RomComs any more.

The Rewrite was fun, but not exactly great.

American Sniper

American Sniper

American Sniper

I read an article written during the The Bosnian War where the writer was meeting an old friend. This friend was fighting in the war. He was a sniper. The writer of the article made it clear that this was not a good thing.

A lot of people have this kind of fantasy idea of war, where Arthur stands toe-to-toe with Lancelot and doesn’t draw his sword until he sees the whites of his eyes. The idea is that there is honor in facing an enemy and giving them a chance to kill you as you try to kill them. It was this kind of thinking that got a few million British killed in WWI when they bravely marched into German machine gun fire. Modern warfare is more about killing as many people as possible from as far away as possible. The A-bomb being the top of the line in hands clean warfare.

It’s impossible to think about American Sniper as just a movie about a war hero. The war he fights in is not a good war. The people he kills are seldom soldiers in the traditional sense of the word. And we are just shown random bits and pieces of Chris’s life.

The bulk of American Sniper sees Chris laying on rooftops picking off anyone that wanders into his crosshairs. He’s good at what he does. He’s so good that he has a hard time even imagining doing anything else. He goes on four tours and gets 160 official kills and the title of The Legend. The film is filled with people dropping like flies as Chris delivers kill shot after kill shot. The one truly dramatic moment sees Chris taking a second to think about whether or not he should pull the trigger.

In the finial scene Chris says goodbye to his wife before heading off to the range with another whacked out war vet. The closing credits are scenes of the real Chris Kyle’s funeral procession.

American Sniper proves again that Clint Eastwood is a great director and that Bradley Cooper is a pretty good actor. It also shows that our battle plans left a bit to be desired.

American Sniper amounts to another yellow ribbon with ‘I support the troops’ written on it.

Predestination

predestination Time travel stories were all the rage back in the 1950s. Everyone was writing them, and most of them weren’t all that good. Grandmaster of Scifi Robert A. Heinlein decided to write the ultimate time travel story. The result was the poorly named All You Zombies. Predestination is a movie that was based on this 1959 short story.

We start off with two people moving through shadowy places, we don’t get a good look at their faces. One of them is a bomber, one of them is trying to stop the bomber from succeeding. Things go wrong and a time machine needs to be used.

We end up in a bar in 1974. The bartender is a friendly sort. He chats up a man who says he writes a confession column for a magazine, but that isn’t how it used to be. When he was a girl, he had bigger hopes and dreams. He wanted to go to space.

The movie hops from time to time by means of a violin case that opens up some kind of time stream. We move around and watch as the man in the bar is an abandoned baby girl who grows up in a hotile and unpleasant world. Until she meets a kind man and falls in love.

Meanwhile, there is a mad bomber on the loose. Our time traveling bartender recruits the man who used to be a woman to join the Time Cops. Only his first mission is not exactly what he was expecting.

Ok, it’s a time travel story and it has countless paradoxes, just as its source material did, but that doesn’t stop it from being a pretty good movie.

Ethan Hawkes does a great job and so does Sarah Snook. I liked the look and the music and the many little inside jokes about time travel in general and our hero in particular. As with all great science fiction nothing is explained and nothing can be explained.

I liked Predestination.

Mr Turner

mr turner Timothy Spall scrowls, grunts, spits, and snarls for two and half hours as he portrays British painter J.M.W.Turner. The makers of Mr Turner assume that everyone viewing this film is fully versed in the early Victoria art scene. We are told next to nothing about Mr Turner, his fellow artists, his patrons, his family, or much of anything. We watch as Mr Turner paints, stomps around, gropes the occasional woman, and attends the occasional art show. I have to wonder if he ran into Dickens at some point and inspired the creation of Mr Scrooge.

Mr Turner is a collection of random events that seem to have no point. We never see a happy moment in the man’s life. He has a number of fans who love his work, but he has plenty of people who hate his work as well. He moves among the rich and famous, but none of them seem to view him as an equal. He spends a good deal of time pretending to be someone else. He’s not a very nice fellow. And then he dies.

So, what was good about Mr Turner? Well, it looked pretty amazing. There were countless shots framed and colored to look like a Turner painting. Yellow made several appearances as it was Turner’s favorite color. The costumes were brilliant. The sets were great. I suppose the acting was good, if grunting and growling counts as acting.

They cast Mr Turner with an eye to the plainest, dullest, and often ugliest actors and actresses they could find. Weird people are the norm here. There were several scenes that featured a very effeminate man with a lisp that would have done Monty Python’s Pontius Pilate proud. There was also a bit of very bad singing that went on for way too long.

Mr Turner was a movie that rambled and drifted and had no plot, no story, and no excuse for existing in the first place.

The Red Bulletin

red-bulletin-magazine1 The Red Bulletin is not a bit of Soviet Era Communist Propaganda, it’s a strange little publication from the good people at Red Bull soft drink. I was an early adopter of Red Bull, a rather unpleasant tasting beverage that inspired a whole world of other ‘energy’ drinks. I drank it not because it gave me wings, but because it helped me to stay awake for a couple of hours.

Now, the makers of Red Bull pretty much ignore their core audience, people who want to stay awake for a couple more hours, and instead like to focus on people doing incredibly stupid things-such as sky diving from low orbit. This makes sense, of course, they want people to think of Red Bull as more than a legal alternative to amphetamines, but I still only drink them when I need to stay awake for a couple more hours.

I occasionally use a site called Klout that ranks your popularity on social media sites. Klout offers Perks to users from time to time, if you’re popular you get better perks. I’ve gotten 25 business cards from Moo.com and a free subscription to The Red Bulletin. On the plus side, the business cards from Moo are awesome!

The Red Bulletin reminds me of Indian Jones and the Crystal Skull, it’s nice that so many people made some money putting it together, but really, why did they bother? Most magazines are easy to figure out, Bicycling, Car and Driver, Fine Cooking, Parents, and Sports Illustrater are all magazines that have a pretty clear focus. Titles like Harpers, Oprah, Comsompolitain, and Real Simple may take a couple of looks to figure out, but once you read them you get what they are about. The Red Bulletin doesn’t seem to be about anything.

The photography is kind of nice, lots of old style Hollywood lighting and all kinds of cool and trendy images. The articles, such as they are, are often just blips with a cool graphic and twenty words. There are longer pieces, but they tend to cover topics I have no interest in, odd since they cover the gamut from sports to music to TV to whatever random thing crosses the editor’s desk. You’d think there would be something I cared about in all these hyper little bits of business. But, well, no.

I don’t know what I was expecting from a magazine made by an energy drink, but this hybrid of Outside and OK and Vibe wasn’t it. Maybe if I was a twenty-something uber cool dude, I would like it. But then, I guess a magazine geared toward people who want to stay awake for a couple more hours, wouldn’t be too exciting either. I guess my only real question is, why does Red Bull need to make a magazine anyway?

Tim’s Vermeer

tims-vermeer Something interesting happened to art in the 1600s, it started to look a lot more like reality than it ever had before. The work of Johannes Vermeer has an especially realistic quality. About the time Vermeer was working artists were using mirrors and lenses and various secret tracing methods. A number of paintings from this period have photographic details, such as lens aberrations and depth of focus errors.

Tim Jenison, a gazillionaire with way too much time on his hands, decides to play around and see if he can figure out how Vermeer painted his paintings. He decides it was done with mirrors.

He sets up a simple studio with a lens and two mirrors. Tools that would have been available in Vermeer’s time. But then he decides that he wants to make his own Vermeer painting. So he recreates the entire set from The Music Lesson. He makes everything himself and spends years doing it. Then he uses his cool little mirror trick to recreate the painting, one tiny brush stroke at a time. This takes a couple of more years.

129_82 Kopierscheibe Magic Tracer1Several years ago I found a drawing tool that was a smoky piece of plastic set at a 45 degree angle. You looked down through the plastic and traced whatever you wanted to draw. I’m pretty sure I had it years ago, well, before Tim made his amazing discovery. I wasn’t able to bang out Vermeer like art with this tool btw.

Tim, however, does manage to make a very Vermeer like painting with his much nicer mirror setup. He insists at every turn that he isn’t an artist, so he shouldn’t have been able to make a painting like this. But it’s pretty clear watching the movie that Tim is a damned good artist. His painting doesn’t look like a Paint By Numbers Vermeer, it looks like a painted by Vermeer Vermeer.

Tim’s Vermeer is a film by Penn & Teller. Penn makes a few appearances and is suitably impressed with Tim’s efforts to do everything the real Vermeer might have done, right down to mixing his own colors and making his own paints. It’s a cool story and I think Vermeer likely used mirrors in the making of his art.

I’m not entirely convinced that anyone with a paintbrush could bang out their own Vermeer. But it was very interesting watching Tim grind out his.

Being Mortal

being mortal We’re all going to die. Easy enough to think about in the abstract. But most of us think about it in terms of the Sun going Nova. Yeah, it’s going to happen, but it’s nothing I need to worry about. Until, that is, it is something to worry about.

Being Mortal talks about things like Nursing Homes and Hospice Care and DNRs. This is pretty depressing stuff, but Dr Atul Gawande says it really shouldn’t be. Circle of life and all of that. You are going to die, so it’d be best if you had some idea of how you want that handled.

In the Good Old Days, old people lived with young people. Old People were respected and their advice was sought out. Being Old was a badge of honor. But now, well, now being old means being in the way and a burden to those around you. And hence was born the Nursing Home, where we can warehouse these depressing used up people and keep them out of sight and out of mind.

The good doctor talks about Assisted Living as a brighter alternative to the nursing home. A place where old people can live in a home of their own, but where medical care is close by if needed. They are residents, not patients. But like all good ideas, it has been corrupted over the years and now in many places Assisted Living is just another name for Nursing Home. These places exist not to make the Old Folks happy or comfortable, but to suck up every last cent they have.

Hospice, on the hand, is painted with a much happier brush. Here is a program designed to make the patient as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. And to let them die when the time for their death arrives.

The problem with modern medicine is that all doctors are trained to fix problems. Only death is not a problem that can be fixed. It might be postponed for a year or two, but none of us want a year or two, we all want ten or twenty years. Hell, we all want to live forever.

Few of us are prepared for the end of life when it arrives. Being Mortal proposes that we should be ready to make a choice. Do we want to live a few more weeks in misery, or maybe live a few more days in relative peace? You’re going to die either way.

Being Mortal was an interesting book and well worth reading.