War and Peace

SBS is about to screen the 2016 BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

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I’m looking forward to it. In preparation I am rereading the novel, which I last read some twenty years ago. I am really enjoying it, more so I think than last time.

Happens I am reading the Project Gutenberg e-book version on my laptop, using Calibre. Something I have noticed before: long works seem less daunting this way, and I seem to read them faster!  I am about half-way through.

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My Beautiful Laundrette after 30+ years!

I was supposed to be going to yumcha with M in Sydney yesterday, but he rang the day before to postpone until next week, the weather here and in Sydney being so bad. So I got to see My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) on SBS Viceland.

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Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis

Fantastic particularly was Saeed Jaffrey (1929-2015) as The Gordon Warnecke character’s uncle. The movie scores 97% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

I first saw My Beautiful Laundrette in 1986 (I think!) at The Dendy, then in Martin Place, which closed in 2003.

It opened in 1981 with Chris Noonan’s Stepping Out and had early success with other documentaries, including the anti-nuclear film Backs to the Blast and the Aboriginal music film Wrong Side of the Road.

“It was a real leftie cinema,” said Sarfaty, who added that the MLC Centre above the venue and the underground railway below made addition of more screens impossible.

The cinema’s heyday was the mid-1980s to the early 1990s when audiences queued down the street for Zentropa, Truly Madly Deeply, Like Water for Chocolate and My Beautiful Laundrette.

I can’t believe that over thirty years have passed since I saw the movie there! I recall the woman sitting in front of me walked out in disgust long before the scene pictured above. At that time I was revelling in that top class I had for HSC English at SBHS, living in Chippendale, and a regular at Beau’s Britannia Hotel. All of those are documented in my various blogs.

For example:

And on Sydney High, especially 1986, I have posted a lot. Just a few examples: Class of 1986 please note: you’re getting old! (2011), More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1, and Expedition to Surry Hills – 3 – Sydney Boys High.

See More “Neil’s Decades” — 1: 1986 – thirty years on since the Class of 1986! See I return to teaching — 1985.

I have mentioned the class of 1986 several times – for example Philip Larkin 1922-1985.

Indirectly, as often happens, I found myself passing from a rather good blog post by J R Benjamin — What Kipling’s “Recessional” Means for Todayto the poems of Philip Larkin. I had not looked at Larkin’s work all that often since memorably teaching it to the Class of 1986 at Sydney Boys High – memorably for me as well as for them. Hence the cryptic remarks on the card accompanying the bottle of Veuve Clicquot that wonderful class gave me at the end of 1986.

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No, I didn’t watch it…

By which I mean the “tell-all” paid interview on Channel Seven last night.

I did watch the new TV series of Mystery Road though. Loved it!

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About:

Filmed in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Aaron Pedersen and Judy Davis star in Mystery Road – The Series a six part spin-off from Ivan Sen’s internationally acclaimed and award winning feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. Joining Pedersen and Davis is a stellar ensemble cast including Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, Anthony Hayes, Ernie Dingo, John Waters, Madeleine Madden, Kris McQuade, Meyne Wyatt, Tasia Zalar and Ningali Lawford-Wolf.

Directed by Rachel Perkins, produced by David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, Mystery Road was script produced by Michaeley O’Brien, and written by Michaeley O’Brien, Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford and Tim Lee, with Ivan Sen and the ABC’s Sally Riley as Executive Producers.

I have in fact been reading a lot lately, including some very interesting choices from Wollongong Library. Kudos to whoever is responsible for buying new books there! I may list my recent reading in another post, but here is my current one:

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I am finding it quite riveting. I don’t think I could ever read or see Gone With The Wind ever again! The book is not uncontroversial.  Here is a post by a dissenter. But see also Harvesting Cotton-Field Capitalism.

“Have you been happier in slavery or free?” a young Works Project Administration interviewer in 1937 asked Lorenzo Ivy, a former slave, in Danville, Va. Ivy responded with a memory of seeing chained African-Americans marching farther South to be sold.

“Truly, son, the half has never been told,” he said.

This anecdote is how Edward E. Baptist opens “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” an examination of both the economic innovations that grew out of the ever-shifting institution of slavery and the suffering of generations of people who were bought and sold.

Mr. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell, said in an interview that his book represented his decade-long effort to blend these two aspects. Published in September, “The Half” joins a new wave of scholarship about the centrality of slavery — and the cotton picked by slaves — to the country’s economic development.

Mr. Baptist shows the ways that new financial products, bonds that used enslaved people as collateral and were sold to bondholders in this country and abroad, enriched investors worldwide. He also emphasizes viciously enforced slave labor and migration. The cotton boom led planters to sell slaves — one million moved from old to new slave states from the 1790s to the 1860s. Productivity, he argues, came through punishment. Enslaved and formerly enslaved people like Ivy are at the center of this sprawling story….

Sometimes unfolding in a novelistic way, his book casts unreimbursed labor as torture and Southern plantations as labor camps. Mr. Baptist imagines the thoughts of a slave being put to death. He quotes exchanges between planters about the sexual exploitation of enslaved women….

As he writes in the book: “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

It is the specific human stories that make this book so compelling. It would appear that our convict era was a holiday camp compared with the ante-bellum South!

Employable Me on ABC last night

I have been following this outstanding series for the past three weeks. Last night was the final episode.

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I share the enthusiasm of the people on this thread.

Employable Me follows people with neuro diverse conditions such as autism and Tourette Syndrome as they search for meaningful employment.

This uplifting, warm and insightful series draws on experts to uncover people’s hidden skills and to match job seekers to roles that can harness their strengths.

We all deserve a role in society. That’s what this show is about: striving to belong and play your part. The series looks beyond first impressions to reveal there’s always more than meets the eye.

Anybody else catch this last night?

Wonderfully crafted into an entertaining, yet thought provoking piece, by the producers who I assume are the same ones behind the “You Can’t Ask That?” series. A refreshing break from the other mindless ‘reality’ TV drivel that is awash on commercial television.

It would be hard to call yourself a human if not one little bit of empathy is drawn from you after watching this…

One of the three featured last night was the amazingly talented Cain Noble-Davies.

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See Fighting to fit in: Growing up with autism.

Cain Noble-Davies, 22, was just seven years old when he was diagnosed with autism, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“The immediate question that came into my head was, ‘what’s wrong with me?’

“Being told right there that there is something that objectively makes you different from most other people is pretty hard for a kid,” he says on this week’s episode of Insight.

While many look back at primary school with a feeling of nostalgia, for Cain, socialising never came easily and he recalls his school days as some of the worst of his life.

“It would have been what I’d call socialising at gun point.

“All the students had to get along with each other because fighting doesn’t make for the best schools and it is genuinely difficult for me to socialise even at the best of times because I am not that good when it comes to reading social cues.”

Cain’s behaviour and difficulties interacting with other children that would contribute to his depression, anxiety and the dramatic circumstances of his eventual diagnosis of autism.

Cain’s mother, Gretchen Broer, says that she had never heard of autism before Cain’s diagnosis in the 90s, when there was not as much awareness about it as there is now.

Cain was initially diagnosed with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder instead.
Autism was never mentioned when Gretchen took him to doctors as a child, concerned about his slow development, difficulty with speech and aggression.

“The word autism never came up… I didn’t know what that even meant, semantic pragmatic disorder.

“He just said, ‘that’s what it is, that’s explaining the delays and off you go’ and there was no further discussion about it.”

But when Cain’s aggressive behaviour continued in the playground, Gretchen was confronted by parents at school and things got worse.

“I had a woman dive in front of my car when I was pulling out of the school car park to abuse me that Cain had ripped one of her children’s hats.”

“Parents would confront him as a small child, reprimanding him… I felt isolated and Cain was totally isolated at school… it was a nightmare.”

It all came to a head one morning when Gretchen received a phone call from Cain’s school.

“I got the call from the school saying I had to go up there very quickly, there was an emergency.

“I got there to find out that Cain, at seven, had written a suicide note and jumped off the second storey building at school.”….

Do read that whole story! And in Cain’s own words: Autism and job interviews: what it’s like trying to find work when you have ASD. Now Cain writes film reviews on his own blog and for FilmInk, for example Goodbye Christopher Robin .

See also this very thoughtful analysis of the show and the issues: Employable Me has struck a chord but will it change employers’ attitudes to disability?

I was particularly interested in Employable Me because from 2000 to 2005 one of my duties at Sydney Boys High had been mentoring some students on the Autism Spectrum. Back at the turn of the century I was like many of us unaware of Aspergers, so my own learning curve was steep indeed. Of the five I mentored I had a degree of success with maybe three! (One is still a Facebook friend.) I was not working alone of course. There were experts visiting the school, and our two counsellors were great. So I should add was one of the parents, a tireless stirrer and advocate on behalf of her son and “Aspies” generally. Looking back too, with hindsight strengthened by Employable Me, there are some of my past students who fell between the gaps. It was all very new to us back then.

# Do visit Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia.

Looking back at 2017 — 11

Continuing the 2017 series with November.

What a delightful surprise! Delightful Chinese movie….

Just on spec I watched Under the Hawthorn Tree (2010) on SBS Viceland yesterday at noon. My TV guide gave no details, so I didn’t realise it was directed by the great Zhang Yimou. Summary, avoiding spoilers:

Set during the end of China’s Cultural Revolution in a small village in Yichang City, Hubei Province, China, this film is about a pure love that develops between a beautiful high school student, Zhang Jing Qiu and a handsome young prospector named Lao San. Jing Qiu is one of the “educated youth” sent to be “re-educated” through work in the countryside under a directive from Chairman Mao Zedong…

I found it totally delightful — and I shed a tear ot two! The lead actors were not only beautiful but very good in their roles.

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See also Hollywood Reporter:

The film’s promotion tagline is “the cleanest romance in history.” Indeed, Zhang’s touch is rarely so delicate in describing the pre-pubescent looking Jingqiu’s perplexity and embarrassment toward Sun’s advances, as well as her naivety (she thinks sharing a bed is enough to cause pregnancy). In fact, a deep sexual undercurrent rippling under their blushing complexions — when she frolics with him in the pond, wearing the red swimsuit he gave her, when he bandages her feet, or when they lie down together in the hospital bed (his hand goes straight to where it counts). That is what lends the film its beauty.

Zhou, who is a 17-year-old high school student plucked from thousands of teenage hopefuls, personifies the film — fresh as cut grass, untainted by professional training. She exudes serene calm even as the melodrama intensifies. The film unfolds mostly from a feminine perspective. As a result, Sun’s character is rendered at a remove, and he is too perfect to be more than a cipher.

Almost religious devotion to objects prevails, with a light bulb or a foot basin acquiring symbolic significance as love tokens. The meticulous evocation of period detail reflects the film’s elegiac attitude to ephemera. What it mourns most is not the transience of youth or of love, but the transience of happiness, especially when its harmless pursuit is systematically obstructed by collective ideology.

The male lead`s (Shawn Dou) biography is interesting.

Keep an eye out for SBS Viceland`s midday movies!

More from the same-sex marriage survey

There is a lot of interest in the details of the poll. While it is delicious that Tony Abbott proved so out of touch with his electorate that three out of four voted for YES, despite his vigorous Chicken Little-ing for NO, the truly remarkable thing — at first glance — is the very strong NO vote in Labor electorates in Western Sydney.

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Why was this so? Obviously there is a degree of social conservatism there that must give Labor pause. Matthew da Silva did a good post Who voted ‘No’? which features this summary:

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I have truncated that for readability: go to Matthew’s post for the full version. While there is a fairly obvious conclusion one could draw from this, compare Same-sex marriage: The multicultural communities that voted ‘yes’.

Western Sydney might have voted “no”, but multicultural Australia voted “yes”.

An analysis of electorates where more than 40 per cent of the population was born overseas shows they overwhelmingly backed same-sex marriage outside the Western Sydney ring.

From Moreton in Queensland through Reid in NSW to Gellibrand in Victoria, a clear majority of electorates with large Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Arabic-speaking communities got behind the move to change the definition of marriage.

In the top 10 electorates in NSW and Victoria where the overseas-born population is 40 per cent or more outside of western Sydney and the two “no” voting Victorian electorates of Bruce and Calwell, nine recorded a yes vote above 60 per cent….

And see My conservative Vietnamese family from western Sydney voted ‘yes’ – stop blaming migrants.

When my dad sent me a text on Wednesday morning after the result of the marriage equality postal survey was announced, I laughed. And then I cried a little.

His message read as follows: “Congrats to you guys and myself: it’s a decisive win! Abbott, shit yourself bastard!”

It’s funny because there was a time, once, where I didn’t think I could really be myself with him. I couldn’t even be myself with me.

My parents are in their sixties. They grew up in conservative Vietnam, and raised me with those values. We have gay family members, but growing up, we either didn’t talk about it, or did only in whispers….