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The Giant Cardiff and Other Vacation Delights

Posted by Dirck on 8 July, 2013

You know, I never once as a kid was pressed into composing a “What I Did on My Vacation” production.  Perhaps the teachers all thought twenty to thirty variations on “I watched a load of Sesame Street, went swimming at a public pool once more than was fun, and got bitten by mosquitoes/wild dogs/siblings” was more then their pay called for.  I do seem to like presenting myself with the task in these latter years, though.  So, what did I do and/or learn on my vacation just ended?

1) Migraines are no respecters of leisure time.  The whole vacation was book-ended by the buggers, and while I think I’ve pinned down a couple of more triggers, this learning comes at a huge cost.  The initial one took a productive day of frolic out of me (it was over by sun-up of the first Monday, but the last functional sleep had ended about 22 hours previously).  The conclusive event, while having the decency to start before I was actually asleep, compounded the joy of a return to The Regular Job with insufficient sleep and dehydration– not unlike having had a crazy, ill-advised Sunday night party, but without the merriment.

2) Italian Pens are no respecters of customer satisfaction.  One of my clients regularly sends me rather expensive Italian pens, and two more arrived last week.  The problem with them was the same as with just about every other one he sends; they can hardly be brought to write, through diverse issues affecting the point and feed.  They do nothing to undo my prejudices regarding Italian products, which prejudices suggest that the approach taken is one of “If it looks splendid it’s ready to sell.”  I also have some serious editorializing to do about some members of Delta’s “Indigenous Peoples” pens when I finally get around to setting up a page on my site for them, based not on performance but on some interesting notions of other peoples’ cultures.

3) Lego is not unadulterated joy; it is a compound of joy and petroleum-based plastic.  My son’s birthday saw a vast expansion of Lego, one set of which he’s actually of the recommended age for.  The subsequent two days were spent by the whole family in a G-rated orgy of creation and destruction, and several hours were spent with no more electronics on the go than the controller and power-pack of kit 7938, and even after that hiatus there was a patch where what was on TV was a feed from a computer offering Lego Digital Designer directions to build other trains.  As both my wife and I never quite had enough Lego to satisfy in our respective childhoods, this is a wonderful development.

4) Kiss of Death is somewhat misrepresented through praise in various passing references.  I refer to what many who recognize the name will be thinking of as that film with Richard Widmark in it.  This is a true description, but it should be thought of as that film starring Victor Mature, Coleen Gray and Brian Donlevy, in which Richard Widmark sometimes appears.  It’s a slightly tedious film, too, if you want the truth, and I feel a little cheated now that I’ve sat through it, as I could have spent that movie-watching time somewhat better.  I don’t say that Widmark doesn’t do a good job; his character is a creep of the first order, but he’s a bit of a one-note creep and my wife declares herself pleased at the prospect of never having to watch that actor play that role ever again.  If the movie were in fact about Tommy Udo, and there was a little more to him than “grinning psycho” (as would have to be the case), it would have lived up to our expectations… but it’s about some other guy who has intermittent contact with a grinning psycho, and that guy’s attempts to put his life on the rails after several brushes with the law, and the people who want to help him go straight and do right by his kids… sigh.  The most interesting thing about the film is its place in the chain of character development surrounding Batman’s long-standing nemesis, The Joker. Let me tell it to you.

Heath Ledger is said to have taken some inspiration from Richard Widmark’s role in Kiss of Death for his portrayal of The Joker.  Widmark, in turn, is said to have been consciously trying to emulate a villain he had enjoyed reading about in Detective Comics— that’s right, The Joker.  To put a tail on the circularity, The Joker is rumoured to have been inspired by an unrelated movie protagonist, but I’ve already told you about that part, I see.

5) Black Narcissus cannot be misrepresented by any praise derived from passing references.  There are no gangsters nor blazing guns in Black Narcissus, both of which figure in Kiss of Death.   Black Narcissus has nuns.  And Himalayan peasants.  Not what one would think of as the makings for a gripping film.  However, Black Narcissus has one thing that renders it mesmerizing and worthy of repeated viewing– Jack Cardiff, a man who knew how to make Technicolor sit up, walk on its hind legs, and leap through a fiery hoop.  The story is not, I should say, secondary to the visuals (a synopsis might be “look what happens to nuns who do in fact get very close to the creator”, and that doesn’t just refer to the altitude of their establishment), but the world is a substantially richer place for having those images in it.

6) Gin and tonic, consumed in an enviroment above 30ºc, ceases to be an alcoholic beverage.  I realized in the gulping down of a second tumbler in the space of about twenty minutes just what I was about, and prepared for the hammer of inebriation to strike.  It never appeared.  Did I sweat out the alcohol faster than it got into my brain?  Was I so delirious from the heat there was no more dizzy to become?  I can’t say, and mindful of the needs of my liver I’m not inclined to experiment too much with the phenomenon, but in much the same was as I accept the idea of ghosts from direct experience, I must accept that a cold G&T on a really hot day is nothing more than a coolant.  For me, anyway.  Your mileage may slur and stumble.

A productive couple of weeks, quasi-noir films notwithstanding.  I won’t say it’s good to be back at The Regular Job, but I’m glad to be back at this.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Defender (on its post-restoration shake-down cruise, with new tail packing and point)
Today’s ink: Herbin Lis de Thé

3 Responses to “The Giant Cardiff and Other Vacation Delights”

  1. I laughed at your observation about the Italian pens. My mother, who is of 100% Italian ancestry, would agree. She refuses to fly Alitalia, because she doesn’t trust Italians to fly or maintain a plane correctly. They can make things that look, smell or taste splendid, but functionality, that’s merely a bonus. Having said that, I will say that my Viscontis and Montegrappas have all worked just fine so far. Knock wood.

    Migraines are evil. I get them too, and usually at the MOST inopportune times. EVIL. And speaking of evil, Richard Widmark was STELLAR at playing evil, wasn’t he??

    Agree on the G&T issue in the heat. It’s 34C here (more or less, I’m estimating on the Celsius) and it’s the kind of heat that weakens the intoxicating impact of gin. Meh.

    • Oh, dear, that’s going to be a damp heat, too. Maximum condolences, and may your Montegrappas flow forever.

      I sometimes wonder if praising someone for being able to play a villain well is founded, since villains are by most reports the funnest of roles… but then I’d have to reduce my praise of Vincent Price and that wouldn’t do. Widmark did a wonderful job in the item under consideration… given the limited scope he had to apply himself. My wife’s response to Udo is a form of praise; she’s said in other contexts that it takes a big actor to put aside the human desire to be liked and effectively portray someone who is authentically repellent.

      …but I’m still in no hurry for a re-screening.

  2. […] since it laid down the trail of gunpowder in this story.  I’ve mentioned before (see item 2 here) that I have a rather jaundiced view of Italian pen makers, and recent events have not amended that […]

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