Sunday, December 26, 2010


In Paris, I once went, with two girlfriends, to a lecture by wonderful French director, Claude Chabrol.  It was a meaty, exuberant, sensual talk about all the little extra observations that go into making a film, enriching the screenplay, the mise en scene, the cinematography. 
    At the time, I was working as an assistant film director and my two friends both wanted to be actors. Surprising how many actor friends one has when one is an assistant director, n’est-ce pas?  Bubbles (not her real name) had studied mime and thought she might become a mime or maybe an actress, she wasn’t sure.  Supported by her rich family, she was a bit of a lost soul and didn’t have the drive or need to pursue her nebulous dreams. Her parents, both doctors, were tough, manipulative people, more interested in themselves than their daughter’s struggles. Some years later, I had occasion to save her life, after which, she never spoke to me again. 
     The other friend, Candy (also not her real name), was a teacher in Paris, had also studied mime and definitely wanted to be an actress. She struggled mightily because she had a pronounced American accent in French, so the roles she could play were limited. I subsequently introduced her to a director who gave her a part playing an American in a French TV show. But that was the only work she got. In despair, she returned to New York to be comforted by her family, study acting and marry the son of a mediocre TV actor. Now too grand for us, she never spoke to me again. She never did become an actress.
     But, back to the lecture in Paris. As we strolled out of the hall after Chabrol’s talk, a young French man rushed up to us. He asked me if I’d come with him because Chabrol wanted me to be in his next film. My jaw dropped. My friends’ jaws clenched. This was the sort of thing that only happened in movies or fairy tales. It was also very unfair. My friends wanted to be actresses, not me. I was embarrassed and told the assistant to pick one of my friends as I wasn’t interested in acting. Irritably, he replied that Chabrol didn’t want them, he wanted me and I didn’t have to know how to act. A revealing statement.
     This was very awkward. I felt it would be disloyal to my friends if I dumped them to go and talk to a famous director. Besides, what would be the point of going to Monsieur Chabrol just to tell him I didn’t want to be in his film? And anyway it didn't sound like an acting job to me. Part of me also resented being summoned like a peon. Okay, he was a famous director, but that didn’t entitle him to drag in anyone from the street whenever he felt like it. So I told the assistant no, I wouldn't go with him, thank you anyway. 
     Looking back, this was a monumentally stupid thing for me to have done, missing such an opportunity to talk to a talented director I admired. Neither of my friends would have hesitated for a second to dump me and rush off to meet him.
    I would have loved to meet Claude Chabrol, but, at the time, I was too intimidated, rebellious and ignorant to have been able to make the most of it.  But, unlike my friends, M. Chabrol has always continued to speak to me through his films.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


A while ago I aranged to meet a friend I hadn’t seen for eight years for coffee. Since we’d last spoken Daisy (not her real name) had made some major changes in her life: selling her house, packing up her cats and, with her spouse, moving to big sky cowboy country to begin a new life as a sculptor. 

Daisy, looking as pretty as ever, just a little stressed around the edges, was early. We soon got settled at a table, ordered and picked up our conversation where we’d left off eight years previously.  She grumbled about how hard it was to make a name for herself and get her work known and sold.

    “Have you tried Twitter?  It’s good for that.”
    Her face contorted with contempt.
    “Oh please. What a monumental waste of time.”
    “No, really, it works. You can connect with like-minded sculptors who could give you advice and tips and contacts.”
    “No, I don’t think so. I hate email.”
    “It’s not email.”

    “Well, I hate any internet thing that demands my attention.”
    “It doesn’t demand anything. You just put it in the corner of the screen and look at it when you want to and respond to Tweets if you want to.”

    It’s practically impossible to explain Twitter without sounding like a lunatic: It's like the world talking to its self, it's like friends reading different bits of the Sunday paper together.
    “You have to try it to figure out how it will work for you.”
    “No, I don’t think so. It sounds ridiculous.”

    "Just small effort for a big pay off."
    “No. I know that if I work hard enough and I’m brave and tenacious enough, I will succeed,” she concluded fiercely. 

But life isn’t that equitable. Life doesn’t give toss about hard work or bravery or good intentions. Luck and rich relatives are more useful to artists than virtues. Not that Daisy doesn’t deserve to succeed, she definitely does, she has the talent and the tenacity. But, understanding that life is sometimes ugly and cruel can prevent a lot of disappointment. 

I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to persuade her to try Twitter, such a terrific resource for what she wanted to do. You can lead a sculptor to stone but you can’t make her chip. I wished we’d had the time to talk about the joy of creating and how we always have that even if our art is appreciated only by a few connoisseurs.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


It’s a commonly held belief/snobbery/stupidity, that those who amuse and entertain are less intelligent and important than those who teach and cure and govern. Comedians are considered foolish because they make us smile.
Good grief, where’s the logic in that?
Why is laughter considered frivolous and unimportant when it has been scientifically proven to reduce stress hormones, muscle tension, support the immune system and increase energy?

Comedians and entertainers’ opinions on matters other than jokes and frivolity are not solicited or taken seriously. Why is that?

Like the court jester, the king’s fool, who had a certain power and told the truth wrapped in jokes, Jon Stewart is America's court jester. Witty and smart, selected to interview Barack Obama in an unsuccessful effort to seduce voters in 2010, he got away with calling the POTUS, “Dude”, in true court jester style. The comedian actually came off looking more resolute, decisive and insightful than his interviewee. But we don’t see him interviewed on Face the Nation or Meet the Press. Why is that?
When a comedian gives a serious opinion on anything, people tend to start laughing before he’s finished speaking, even though what he’s saying isn't funny.

Not only are comedians considered foolish but they're expected to be light-hearted and happy at all times.  Comedians are multi-faceted human beings with highs and lows just like everybody else, in fact they may even have a few more lows than most of us. Jim Carrey
was once thought not to have a brain in his head because he made faces and did funny walks. Now we can see his more thoughtful work and interviews that shot down that theory.

Comedy is never taken seriously. 
There’s no Nobel Prize for humour.
Not even an Oscar.

Why is this?

It’s usually  the tragedies that get the acclaim and the prizes.
But, without cartoons and comedy there would be no philosophers, rocket scientists
, doctors, presidents or Nobel Prize winners. They would all have exploded from excess mental exertion and stress.

You may think it’s a waste of time to unwind with
The Simpsons,
P.G. Wodehouse,
Charlie Hebdo,
Ricky Gervais
Weird Al Yankovic
Eddie Izzard
Fran Lebowitz
Monsieur Hulot.

Try not doing it for a year and see how you feel.
Chances are you’ll be wearing a straightjacket, your co-workers will hate you and your spouse will be planning to kill you.

What is a PARADOX? A couple of physicians.
And what is the meaning of ILLEGAL? A sick bird. 




Sunday, December 5, 2010


There are some parts of human anatomy that are  poorly engineered and could be replaced by better bits of other life-forms:

Sharks’ teeth (polyphydont dentition), whereby old, damaged teeth are constantly replaced with new ones.  This would eliminate dentists, who are expensive and weird.
Ferns and moss instead of hair. This way we could have photosynthesis and not our current convoluted digestive system with the toxic end-product.  We’d have sap and nice green complexions. 
3)  Kangaroo pouches would eliminate the need for baby-sitting and handbags.
4)  Gazelle hooves would make shoes unnecessary, especially high heels. Little cat feet are also a good alternative. The claws could be useful and the furry toes would permit greater sneaking ability.
5)  Eucalyptus bark for skin. Smooth and grey/green and when it gets old and dry, it just splits, peels off and you have new smooth bark. A bit like human skin of course, but more dramatic.
6)  I'd also rather like having pangolin scales. So elegant, we could look like living artichokes and roll up in a defensive ball. That long tongue also looks like fun.
7)  Of course the dazzling good-looks of feline fur would beat clothes anytime. I don’t fancy all that licking, though. Since tigers swim, do they still have to lick?

8)  And definitely, a TAIL. We humans are always falling over because we were designed to walk on all fours rather than upright on two legs. A tail would stabilise us and we could wag it to show others that we were pleased or pissed off. A prehensile tail would be handy for strap-hanging and driving while putting on makeup. I do also quite fancy a peacock tail.  Useless, but spectacular. I’d be so impressed if a guy walked up to me and did this:
 Photo: Lassi Kurijarvi 2009
Thanks to Rhiannon Paine and Dale Evans 
for their participation in this fantasy.