Monthly Archives: June 2011

Synecdoche, we all live in a house on fire

I saw Synecdoche, New York, by Charles Kaufman, at the Watershed in Bristol, alone, following a double Glenfiddich in the bar area. Thursday night a couple of years ago. See a Review if you’d like but what I’m sharing is what comes to mind, and what makes me smile, whenever I remember it.

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.
Tennessee Williams

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963)

Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos de Julia)

This isn’t a Guillermo del Toro movie in the way of Pan’s Labyrinth but it is a product of a team which includes the famous director who was responsible for the Orphanage. Guillem Morales co-wrote, with Oriol Paulo, and directed Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos de Julia), his second full length movie and while the directing is very tight, the story may have a few glitches.

Saying that, he has done an amazing job at creating a consistent level of tension in this Spanish horror / thriller which left me worried and on the edge of my seat from the very start. It stars the beautiful Belén Rueda whose faultless acting and impressive control is amazing in the movie.

Julia’s Eyes is the story of a woman who is slowly losing her sight whilst trying to investigate the mysterious death of her twin sister.

It’s playing at the Watershed in Bristol until Thursday, June 30.

Caesar’s husband must also be above suspicion

When the world was reporting on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York, Johann Hari was writing about the rape of developing countries by the IMF and the subsequent death and suffering of millions. When the newspapers put Will and Kate on their front pages he didn’t follow suit with applause. And before the New York legislation for gay marriage lost its popular position in trending topics on Twitter to #interviewsbyhari he could have been pleased that some of his writing could have helped to bring this important change in society to pass.

Hari has written some very important pieces which don’t sit comfortably with daily news and has equally made prominent mistakes such as supporting the war in Iraq, a subject for which he is still apologising.

He is branded as a leftie, gay, columnist who rose to fame too young and is now paying the price for some sloppy techniques, see Fleet Street Blues for an explanation of what has happened.

“I think it’s born of the arrogance that in this case goes with his relative inexperience,” said a national newspaper journalist who advised Hari as he was making his way at The Independent. “Johann was a national newspaper columnist at the age of 23. While he’s never done the daily grind (which would have beaten such an error out of him), he has done a lot of good work along the way.

“It pains me that the credibility of that work has now been called in to question. He should have known better. But there again, we’ve all fucked up. And we learn from those mistakes. Unfortunately, Johann is going to have to learn this particular lesson in the public eye”.

The particular lessons are about Hari’s interviewing and writing up techniques, about which Hari said:

“When I’ve interviewed a writer, it’s quite common that they will express an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing – and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in writing than in speech. So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech.”

The topic gained incredible interest on Twitter and #interviewsbyhari included some creative results which serve as an example of how his technique appears to function:

I asked Piaf if she had any regrets. She tilted her head towards me in defiance and said, “Non, je ne regrette rien”

“Quotes are some of the most vital weapons in a journalist’s armoury, but I think they are often overused. Bland quotes add nothing to a story. Conversely, great quotes used well can bring a story to life. And there lies the problem, that it can often be a difficult task getting those killer quotes,” says Martin Booth, editor of Bristol Culture.

Getting the good quotes is a measure of success and it’s easier to cheat or cut corners but when a lot of eyes are on you and waiting for you to screw up there isn’t much room for doing so.

There are still millions, if not billions, of people suffering and dying in the world because of corporate and state agendas. Being sloppy gives others ammunition to ignore dissident voices and there is just too much at stake at the moment.

For a live example of the effects of the IMF’s methods, about which Hari wrote, tune in to the news tonight to see how the Greeks are responding to the austerity measures the government is forced to impose in order to get financial help.

With Hari’s help, men are not now limited to marrying women or vice versa but there’s one thing about public life that hasn’t yet changed: Caesar’s wife must still not only be above suspicion but must also appear to be so, as the saying goes.

It won’t be of much comfort to know that in this case it could be Caesar’s husband, if his actions don’t let him stay in his privileged position of power.

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop – 25 to 29 June

This giveaway has now closed

I am giving away two books in the literary giveaway blog hop hosted by Leeswammes.

The two books are Charlie Big Potatoes and Peter Falk’s Just One More Thing.

Charlie Big Potatoes is a funny account of drug taking and Peter Falk’s Autobiography is in honour of his death on June 24, 2011.

To win, just comment on the post and tell me which book you would prefer.

There are 73 blogs taking part in this giveaway so visit a few more (see below) for more chances to win.

The rules:

  • Anyone can enter.
  • I will post the books internationally so you just need to provide an address if you win
  • You do not have to be a follower or become a follower but you are welcome to do so by email, RSS or Google Friend Connect)
  • Comment on the post and choose either or both books that you would like to win
  • You can enter the giveaways until the end of 29 June.
  • I will notify the winners by email. The winners need to answer my email within 3 days, or I’ll announce a new winner.

Good luck!

List with all the Participants:

  1. Leeswammes (Int)
  2. The Book Whisperer (Int)
  3. Kristi Loves Books (Int)
  4. Teadevotee (Int)
  5. Bookworm with a View (Int)
  6. Bibliosue (Int)
  7. Sarah Reads Too Much (Int)
  8. write meg! (USA)
  9. My Love Affair With Books (Int)
  10. Seaside Book Nook (Int)
  11. Uniflame Creates (Int)
  12. Always Cooking Up Something (Int)
  13. Book Journey (Int)
  14. ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int)
  15. Col Reads (Int)
  16. The Book Diva’s Reads (Int)
  17. The Scarlet Letter (USA)
  18. The Parrish Lantern (Int)
  19. Lizzy’s Literary Life (Int)
  20. Read, Write & Live (Int)
  21. Book’d Out (Int)
  22. The Readers’ Suite (Int)
  23. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (USA)
  24. Ephemeral Digest (Int)
  25. Miel et lait (Int)
  26. Bibliophile By the Sea (Int)
  27. Polychrome Interest (Int)
  28. Book World In My Head (Int)
  29. In Spring it is the Dawn (Int)
  30. everybookhasasoul (Int)
  31. Nishita’s Rants and Raves (Int)
  32. Fresh Ink Books (Int)
  33. Teach with Picture Books (USA)
  34. How to Teach a Novel (USA)
  35. The Blue Bookcase (Int)
  36. Gaskella (Int)
  37. Reflections from the Hinterland (USA)
  38. chasing bawa (Int)
  39. 51stories (Int)
  40. No Page Left Behind (USA)
  1. Silver’s Reviews (USA)
  2. Nose in a book (Int)
  3. Lit in the Last Frontier (Int)
  4. The Book Club Blog (Int)
  5. Under My Apple Tree (Int)
  6. Caribousmom (USA)
  7. breienineking (Netherlands)
  8. Let’s Go on a Picnic! (Int)
  9. Rikki’s Teleidoscope (Int)
  10. De Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  11. Knitting and Sundries (Int)
  12. Elle Lit (USA)
  13. Indie Reader Houston (Int)
  14. The Book Stop (Int)
  15. Eliza Does Very Little (Int)
  16. Joy’s Book Blog (Int)
  17. Lit Endeavors (USA)
  18. Roof Beam Reader (Int)
  19. The House of the Seven Tails (Int)
  20. Tony’s Reading List (Int)
  21. Sabrina @ Thinking About Loud! (Int)
  22. Rebecca Reads (Int)
  23. Kinna Reads (Int)
  24. In One Eye, Out the Other (USA)
  25. Books in the City (Int)
  26. Lucybird’s Book Blog (Europe)
  27. Book Clutter (USA)
  28. Exurbanis (Int)
  29. Lu’s Raves and Rants (USA & Canada)
  30. Sam Still Reading (Int)
  31. Dolce Bellezza (Int)
  32. Lena Sledge’s Blog…Books, Reviews and Interviews (Int)
  33. a Thousand Books with Quotes (Int)

Husbands by John Cassavetes

Peter Falk was drafted in to help write and star in the movie Husbands (1970) which he says was ahead of its time.

The critics call it a movie about middle aged men confronting their mortality. John Cassavetes, the director and writer, says “Think of it this way: When you’re an old guy, you can tell your grandkids about the time you and your buddies on impulse hopped a plane to London, spent three days drinking, gambling, picking up women, then came home to wife and kids.”

He makes it sound simple and in effect it is because that is what they do except one of them doesn’t come home and all of them push the boundaries of what it is to be male in a civilised society. On the way back from the funeral of the fourth in their group of friends, the three men go out drinking and seem to slowly unravel what it means to be husbands.

They go drinking, flirt with women, become aggressive, play basketball and jet off to London. In the meantime we get to see them drop their facades, if that’s what they are, as they drunkenly talk about feelings, experiences and let random thoughts come out.

The camera work is intimate and peculiar. The scenes last a little too long. Cassavetes’ style aimed to promote spontaneity and the improvisation makes some of it seem quite real.

One of the first drunken scenes is when the three men, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara and Cassavetes are in an Irish bar and initiate a singing contest. What starts off as fun turns uncomfortable as they pressure one woman to sing over and over again, at times insulting her, kissing her and also singing over her.

There are indications that the friendship of the three men stands outside what their normal roles are supposed to be with one of them telling the other that he’s not the first to beat a woman.

The camera work is intimate. When Falk spends time in a bathroom stall throwing up, Cassavetes is sitting on the floor and is shown in the bottom left hand of the screen for what seems like a long time.

The Cube showed Husbands this week in what seems now like a timely screening as Peter Falk died on June 24, 2011. 41 years have passed but the movie still comes across as an important exploration of what men, or people, leave behind when they conform to one role more than any others.

Quotation from Peter Falk’s book Just One More Thing

Naked Wine tasting tickets to be won

28 June – The competition is now closed – thank you.

Naked Wines is holding a wine-tasting event in Bristol on June 28th at The Passenger Shed in Clock Tower Yard.

The event starts at 6.30 at The Passenger Shed. Customers will be able to sample the plenty of the wines, and also chat to the winemakers who made them. There will be food and nibbles; a blind-tasting table with five wines Naked Wines is thinking of stocking.

People will be able to vote for their favourite wine and at the end of the week Naked Wines will announce the winner and put the wine live on the site to buy, via Naked Marketplace.

To win a pair of tickets please just leave a comment on this post. Name your favourite wine perhaps? The winner will be drawn at random.

For more information see the following url

Clifton Kitchen, sometimes you can’t please everyone

Clifton Kitchen issued a Groupon voucher for two courses and a glass of wine, on May 10, at a price of £21 for what would cost £54 ordinarily . Once the voucher was bought, a second email was sent out with some amendments and then a third. A final email today announced that the deal was cancelled.

I thought that it might be volume of vouchers that were bought as there have been other ‘horrible’ stories about small business suffering after Groupon.

I spoke to owner Richard Marques-Jones and mentioned that 772 vouchers, as the Groupon page still states,  seemed like a lot to cover in four months. The voucher expires in October.

“772 is way off the mark, the final total was over 1000. The volume was manageable as 10% dropped out after the first amendment email.

“The problems were caused by no-shows, we turned away full paying customers only to find that tables booked by [G]roupon voucher holders weren’t actually going to turn up.”

But it wasn’t just the volume of vouchers and the customers who booked but did not show up.

“The final straw was the threat to break my neck by a customer who ignored the emails sent out by Groupon outlining changes. This was a police issue, but there are limits to what I’m prepared to put up with”.

Following this it is unsurprising perhaps that an email was sent out from Groupon today to inform those of us with vouchers that the deal had been cancelled and refunds were about to be issued.

The no shows and the violent threat weren’t the only reason this turned out badly. Marques-Jones said that “[they] are now subject to a torrent of vitriol from a small minority of individuals, as a business owner and father of 3 I could do without this.”

Clifton Kitchen has had some great reviews from Foodies around Bristol and beyond but also some recent ones that were a little more cautious about going back.

I was excited to buy this voucher as I have used such special price deals previously and most were successful and quite pleasant. I had been particularly looking forward to exploring the restaurant that used to be Keith Floyd’s first bistro and it’s a shame it turned out like this.

I still intend to visit however as there is a prix-fixe offer available Sunday lunchtimes: 2-courses from only £14.95 or 3-courses from £18.95 which still sounds quite good.

Ephemeral Baby: new post, evolving

The Ephemeral Baby blog has been a little quiet recently but there is a new post up with plenty of pictures.

Rolling, tummy time and almost sitting.

Watershed chief backs away from film ban fight

The British Board of Film Classification has been in the news these past few daysafter banning the film Human Centipede II. Apparently no amount of footage could be cut to make the film suitable for any classification so it can not be seen or distributed in the UK legally.

The original movie is about a surgeon who creates the first human centipede by surgically connecting three tourists via their gastric systems. The sequel, which was already planned with the release of the first movie, is meant to be even worse and was described as ”sexually violent and potentially obscene”.

Bristol24-7 asked Mark Cosgrove, head of programming at the independent cinema The Watershed which showed Human Centipede in 2010, what he thought of the BBFC’s ruling and their censorship.

For the rest of the article please visit


Too many Oxbridge graduates at the Guardian?

There is a Guardian article about too many Oxbridge graduates at the Guardian. 600 or so employees or so are questioned on their higher education ‘pedigree’. 167 responded. A majority attended Oxbridge, a fair amount did not attend.

This purportedly thoughtful piece of self examination is a bizarre little report. Oxbridge graduates are asked to comment and ‘the rest’ of the graduates are also asked.

There is a notion set forth quite unproblematically:

Yes, Oxbridge is an elite – but, in theory, it should be an elite selected by ability. To object to Oxbridge graduates having places in government/media/academia should, in theory, be like objecting to the fastest runners getting all the places in the Olympic team: absurd.

Out of 2,720,498 applications to full time degree courses in higher education through UCAS, only 16,225 (0.6%) were made to Oxford. Out of those, 3,378 (0.7%) were accepted.

Is it even realistic to believe that the ‘best of the best’ are the only ones that apply and get accepted? There are applicants with 11 A grades at A Level who are left without a place. All of those who apply to Oxford and Cambridge (which has a similar number of applications / acceptances) have the grades to get in.

The problem is that there are qualified applicants who wouldn’t apply. There are those who don’t believe they fit in, don’t think they can live that far from home or a myriad other reasons why they don’t apply. Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol, told a host of attendees at a widening participation conference that there are qualified students who refuse to attend the university. That they just can’t get them to accept. They are all qualified, they just don’t want to go to Bristol. The University of Bristol is a selective higher education institution which is one of the Russell Group and one of the Sutton Trust 13.


“I would guess that over 50% of managers at the Guardian attended Oxford or Cambridge, but perhaps this is because the brightest and most ambitious go there, and subsequently succeed in their chosen careers.”

The number of applications is quite small at Oxbridge (half of what the University of Bristol receive) because it is a self-selected pool of applicants  who already know that selection is difficult. The Guardian doesn’t even acknowledge any of these issues. Instead they briefly address and smugly close the question of whether there is a bias.

Not impressed.

[I can provide many references for all the points I’ve mentioned, just ask]