Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper

no avid film fan this weekend would have been able to avoid feeling saddened by the loss of Dennis Hopper. yes, we've known he's been ill for a while and yes, considering his lifestyle, he's had a one hell of a life. when you think back on his many fine film appearances, though, you can't but help feel that cinema has lost one of its finest, iconic servants; someone who was never quite in the limelight but performed roles in a way you simply couldn't imagine someone else doing.

this whole interwebnet thingie is going to be full of tributes and biographies of this film legend. allow me, then, to contribute with a look at five of his greatest appearances.

a very easy first one to think of when thinking of Dennis Hopper is the iconoclastic, groundbreaking film Easy Rider. it's a controversial film in so much as people either "get it" and love it or just get bored to tears and hate it. there is one universal truth, though - whereas Peter Fonda is more closely associated with the film than Hopper, the reality is that if you were going to ride across America, you'd like to think you could do it looking like Dennis Hopper did.

Easy Rider is a sprawling, mostly deliberately incoherent snapshot of life across America. it claims to be neither accurate or all consuming; for that matter the makers of the film have not once claimed it to be anything beyond a "good, or at least interesting, time". it has to be seen and experienced to have any clue of being understood, don't ask anyone to just explain it to you as this cannot be done.

if Easy Rider made Dennis Hopper an iconic figure, then the film that underlined the fact that he was a fine actor as well as an image was the small, somewhat little seen but warmly remembered film Hoosiers. playing alongside Gene Hackman, Hopper featured as a small town alcoholic, drinking himself to death rather than following his own dreams.

lazy types might well say that it doesn't take much of a stretch of imagination for Dennis Hopper to play an alcoholic, but to dismiss the film in such terms is to miss out on a genuinely affecting story in general and an acting performance of note in specific. Hopper plays the part of 'Shooter' wonderfully, giving a fragility and fear to a man faced with the realities of giving up the comforts of booze to pursue a dream his abilities easily allow him to meet, if only he wouldn't be at war with himself. Hoosiers is about the closest Hopper came to making a "suitable for all" film, if you wanted to see what the fuss about him was all about then this is the film to find a copy of.

the film True Romance stands out from the crowd for the number of astonishing cameo performances in it. if we are honest, the greatest of those cameo roles was perhaps Gary Oldman in the deranged role of Drexl, a white guy convinced that he is a black pimp. a very close second, however, would be Dennis Hopper in the pivotal part of Christian Slater's compassionate, supportive and ultimately sacrificing father.

it's hard to discuss Hopper in True Romance without giving away those awful spoiler type of comments, but i will give it a try. in his brief role he manages to make you believe you do indeed live in a world worth fighting for, that all fundamentally is well and no problem cannot be overcome. his son comes to him in a world of trouble, and there he is, making him feel like all will be all right.

True Romance is exceptionally violent, often as disturbing as it is funny. one of the greatest scenes of 90s cinema, however, is the stand-off between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in this film, a scene referred to fondly and infamously as the "eggplant exchange". if you can stomach much of what this film throws at you, well worth seeing.

so, what is the greatest ever Dennis Hopper film role? very tough to narrow it down to just one, so i will go with two of his most famous parts. the first of these is easily the most controversial part he ever had, that of the sinister (to put it mildly) Frank Booth in the brilliant, if often misunderstood, David Lynch masterpiece that is Blue Velvet.

when people do those "ten best movie villain" lists, it's usually someone like Darth Vader or Dr Hannibal Lecter at the top of the list. that's because, no matter how "bad" or "evil" they are in their films, they are presented in a sedate, tame way when compared to Frank Booth. in Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper creates the most vile, warped, depraved, vicious, violent, repulsive, disgusting and beyond redemption villain the world of cinema has ever seen. the audience shivers in fear every time we see him after his first introduction.

Blue Velvet is one of the most disturbing films ever to be released as a mainstream film and it is disturbing precisely because of Dennis Hopper's towering performance.

finally, then, the film that first introduced me and i dare say many others to the magical abilities of Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now. as this is one of the greatest films of all time, it so follows that it is one of Dennis Hopper's best, if not the best overall, parts.

billed simply as the Photo-Journalist, Dennis Hopper's presence in the film is to serve as a chaotic, quasi-narrator for the last 3rd of the film. his character is a whacked-out oddball, delivering a stream of consciousness as dialogue that, in an inspired move from Francis Coppola, actually makes sense in the midst of the confusion and chaos of the world of Colonel Kurtz. the exact reasons for Hopper's borderline deranged performance are of course well documented, but the reality is without Dennis Hopper behaving and performing exactly as he does in this film, who knows if it would have remained as well remembered as it is?

the image of Hopper in Apocalypse Now is as iconic as that of him in Easy Rider for most. it's a performance you will not forget in a film you will not forget.

well, there you have it. somewhere, you'd think, right now Dennis Hopper is catching up with his old friends James Dean, Marlon Brando, Jim Morrison and Steve McQueen. in the mean time, thank you for reading my memories of his fine films, and apologies to fans of Speed and many others for trying to keep this post a bit shorter!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

four celebrations in one cake!

hey everyone

well, as all who know me and my lot are aware, May tends to be celebration month. our family has about (give or take) one thousand birthdays in May, and indeed at least one wedding anniversary. the producers of greetings cards tend to fair very, very well, then!

as a fair few of the thousand (or so) birthday celebrants were in the same place on Saturday, what better a thing to do then than have a cake for the occasion?

happy birthday once again, then, to all whose name feature on the cake! oh, what the heck, happy birthday to you if your birthday is in May and your name is not on this cake - Grant and Matt, that goes to you!

as for how the birthday celebrants spent the day, well, in a variety of ways, really. Richard, to start off with, was quite eager to do some stitching for me, as he fixed up one of those England flag thingies for my car!

he did a rather good job, too! my car looks ace, and Richard is really starting to feel like he has stepped out of the shadow of our Dad in the sewing stakes. i don't think there's much in the way of family rivalry in the field of sewing, though. i am, however, prepared to let Dad and Richard do all of that.

as for Dad himself, well, it was one of those days where his increasing eccentricities really excelled, if not flourished. when he was not busy putting stickers in his class new sticker book, he was either showing James how to cause damage with something as simple as an elastic band or he was off out and about purchasing several dozen flags - 32, to be precise. he did, however, at one point manage to sit still long enough to pose for a picture with William and Marmite!

happily, Michele and Erika were somewhat more enthusiastic about getting their hands on some of that lovely cake than they were in indulging in other hobbies! here they are blowing the candles out together, and you don't need me to tell you who was as keen as ever to help blow them out!

as far as James is concerned there should never ever be a lit candle anywhere in the world that should not have its flame taste his breath. this would be why, when we experience one of those all too frequent power cuts here, we try to stick to torches until James goes to sleep.

as for William, he isn't quite as keen to blow candles out as much as he wishes to try and eat them, along with everything else that he can get his hands on! he had a fun day being the centre of attention for all and sundry, at the expense of some sleep and some bottle times!

since William is very nearly 6 months old, here's another picture of him to mark the event! sorry, no doubt i will forget to do one during the week, so here you go!

the above picture, like the one below and many of the others above, were taken by Erika, by the way - i just post them here. nice one Erika, thank you for getting some great snaps!

now then, to finish off, here's a look at the (thus far) three grandchildren who all reside in the same timezone as each other! what could be more fun on a Saturday afternoon than gathering around Grandma and listening to a wonderful story?

Lyla and James were really enjoying the story, it has to be said, almost as much as William was really enjoying trying to grab the pages and eat them!

well, hope you have all had a good weekend too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

....that said

woo-hoo, persistence pays off!! well done Mum & Dad, despite the best efforts of the organizers not to sell any tickets you got some, so off we go to watch England and America!

it should be a class day out for me, Richard and our Dad, along with a gent called Scott! it's going to be a long drive there and back for a cold night in one of, if not the, smallest stadiums being used, but boy is it going to be worth it!

less that two weeks to go to that, can't wait!!

in the mean time, my Dad has been enthusiastic about my comments around it being rather difficult - to put it mildly - to get tickets. he has, however, made a very good point. for some reason they decided to make the tickets all "cash only" affairs, apparently in an effort to speed up things. whereas you can understand them not wishing to accept cheques, suggesting that people have to go off and use cash machines to get money instead of swiping a card is faster is about as comical as their claims to have "always only ever sold tickets over the internet". another amusing anecdote about their "cash only" approach to the tickets would be exactly what one of their sponsors, a well known credit card company, thought of their services for the event being rejected!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

curb your enthusiasm......

hey everyone

well, it's two weeks to go before a certain event is held here in South Africa. the vast majority of us here are enthusiastic and excited about it, but there is a certain organization who are doing their absolute best to make sure you can't get too enthusiastic or excited!

for reasons that this certain organization feel are valid when they are rather comical bordering on ridiculous (more on that later), it is only now that one can go and purchase tickets for this event in the conventional way - i.e. hand over money, get tickets.

needless to say, there has been huge interest in obtaining tickets, as displayed by the lenghty queues for them.

alas, this certain organization are apparently strangers to technology and anticipating demand as the ticketing systems, like on the first day they tried this, have failed like few systems have failed before and thus people are unable to purchase anything.

i know this because Mum & Dad have been trying all morning! they are stood in a queue that is closer to just a formation line, since it doesn't seem to particularly move!

it would be tempting to blame another organization, one that is considered by some (many) to be the single most incompetent organization in the history of mankind, but alast they are not at fault here. the internet and data stuff is all working fine (as you can see below), the problem is with the owners of the site that you need to access to get the tickets.

now then, this certain organization are claiming that the problem is that they are selling tickets over the counter. they state, with a straight face, that they have "never ever done this before", and with an even straighter face advise all that they should purchase tickets online.

in regards of them never having sold tickets over the counter before, oh really? how then did they sell tickets for the same events in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and indeed 90s? i was not aware of this whole "internet" thing being available then, and neither were credit cards for at least two of those decades!

further to that, this idea they have of purchasing the tickets over the device or concept known as the internet. well, whilst Mum & Dad are tyring to buy them in the conventional way, i am indeed trying to do it "online". i am, as a consquence, rather familiar with this appearing on my screen :

whilst i have been writing this and checking for changes on the status of the above page (and......nope, none) it seems that they have issued an apology for the tickets fiasco. it may be an insincere, empty promise that just seeks to shift blame and doesn't particularly help, but it is an apology all the same i suppose! how lacking is this apology in help? well, the links to purchase tickets has gone from the site, if that's a clue!

now, if they had made tickets available for direct purchase at the start, or at the least in December 2009 when everyone knew who was coming and who would play where, there would not be the level of frustration and demand to get the things. if it was simply the case that they were all sold out it wouldn't be an issue, but the case is that there are tickets available, this certain brilliant organization claim they want people to buy them and then go and make it all but impossible to get your hands on them!

ho hum, we shall keep trying, but i suspect we won't be able to hand over any cash to this certain organization!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

walking wishes.....

hey everyone

just a few pictures of William earlier in the week to let you see how he is getting on. considering how eager he seems to be to get crawling and walking, i would suggest that you enjoy these clear pictures of him whilst you can - no doubt soon i will be taking many blurred ones as he crawls and wanders off!

William really does love "walking" up and down me, with my assistance of course! he has certainly found his voice over the last week, and he giggles away as he marches up and down!

i don't think he is quite ready for all this walking and crawling business, though, as much as he loves the idea. what he really likes is having a lie down and watching what's going on!

as for eating, well, i really think we did miss a trick with not using the name Hannibal. whenever we sit down to eat he sits and looks at all the cool food stuff on offer and you can see in his eyes he wants to give it a try! he is eating cereal, and a touch of RoboCop endorsed apple baby food, mind! the zip on the jumper i am wearing must be particularly tasty, by the way, as William does like to grab and chew it. when he is not grabbing my face!

no pictures of James at the moment, i'm afraid. he's far too busy with some new Ben 10 toys, so unless you wanted an overhead shot there's not a great deal to see!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Zealand images released!

hey everyone

well, we all know that New Zealand prides itself on being as environmentally conscious and protective as possible, but who knew that this stretched to blocks on the more controversial methods of being environmentally sound? i refer, of course, to their apparent block on recharging batteries.

i can only assume that New Zealand frowns upon one recharging batteries, really. this is something i draw from Gillian proudly claiming that she had "finally" got their camera batteries charged up and thus was able to send some pictures. there must, then, be strong and strict rules and regulations around doing that there; otherwise it would have to be the case that they haven't charged them because they could not be bothered too and this is why they have not sent pictures for a while.

moving on to the actual pictures and i am delighted to see that all is well in the land called New Zealand. those of you who are enthusiastic about the curious hobbies of my dear brother-in-law Grant will be disappointed to know that there are no pictures of him. other, more normal, readers will however be delighted to see Katie and Daniel are doing well!

first off is Daniel, getting ready to head off to a party. which would be why, i imagine, my dear sister has given him a rather eccentric hairstyle....

looking quite smart and dapper, there, Daniel! i am led to believe that Daniel is quite the wizard of timing when it comes to pass the parcel. a skill i never ever managed to master, so well done!

next up is Katie, and another revelation. up until now i was under the impression that New Zealand frowned upon the ways and whims of Lego as much as they did recharging camera batteries. no longer do people in New Zealand have to hide away in basements and build things with the stuff. oh no, not at all - not only can they use Lego in daylight, they even have open, celebratory building competitions!

i am not sure why New Zealand frowned upon Lego, mostly because i am not sure that they ever actually did. however, it's a nice thought - one that gets me through the day - that the people of New Zealand, in particular my dear niece, get to play with the stuff so enthusiastically. it must be something close to all those mental drinking games they came up with in Chicago after prohibition ended, really. well, maybe rather than really.

well, many thanks to Gillian for sending these pics on. i understand that they are clearly limited as to what they can and cannot send on, but let us all keep our fingers crossed that more boundaries are broken and that she can send on even more soon!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

new Bret Easton Ellis novel!

hey everyone

well, i recall hearing about this late last year and then it kind of slipped my mind!

Imperial Bedrooms, the sixth (or seventh, depending on how you define The Informers) novel from Bret Easton Ellis will be published in June in the States, the rest of the world having to wait until July.

it is, by all accounts, intended as a sequel to Less Than Zero. as the film rights have already been sold, could a certain Robert Downey jnr. be persuaded to return to the part that established him as an actor rather than a teenage sensation?

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Squire's annual final denial time....

hey everyone

well, as was the case around this time last year, former musician and current artist John Squire has once again issued a "final denial" saying that he will never ever play with or reform The Stone Roses. this year he has elaborated a bit, saying it is music entire he will never return to and not just the band which made his fame for him.

in 2008, of course, he announced that he "would not mind doing that" after seeing Led Zeppelin reunite and perform. this new "last ever" comment is a bit disappointing then, as it seemed like he was going to take an "odd year = no, even year = yes" approach to questions about The Roses.

to encourage him in making this most recent comment an actual, final statement about the band, here are a few points for one of the most gifted guitarists the world has ever heard :

* John Squire did not break up or otherwise dissolved The Stone Roses. he quit the band. The Stone Roses getting back together again then would not be his decision alone to make.

* whereas i imagine no one wishes anything but success for his career as an artist, perhaps he should consider allowing his artistic works to draw attention for what they are instead of constantly drawing attention by mentioning the band.

* if the only thing you have to say about The Stone Roses is that you are not interested in being part of a reunion then stop talking about it, we heard you the first time.

* stop saying "if Ian Brown phoned i would....", please. you left him in the lurch and let him know that you were no longer in The Stone Roses via a letter from a lawyer. i doubt he will be phoning you; if you are that excited about telling him this, that and the other then phone him instead of speculating about a conversation with various journalists.

* basically, stop trashing former glories for future success. if you can't discuss The Stone Roses as something you were proud of, stop using it as a tool to show how much better you think you are now.

whereas there would be immense commercial success should The Stone Roses reform, i think from a music perspective people would be more excited about and indeed keen to hear Ian Brown do something with recently out of a band Noel Gallagher, really. Brown and Gallagher getting a band together would make interesting new music; if Mani and Reni could be persuaded to join, well, so much the better.

in the mean time, i can't wait for next year's "last ever comment" from John Squire on the subject.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

the things we throw away.....

hey everyone

well, the internet harbours some truly fanatical types. rarely are they more on display than when one googles "Star Wars figures".

a link on the fine site imdb about the top 100 Star Wars toys took my interest, so i went to have a look and see how many of them i had.

i was rather delighted to see i had a few of them! i am not sure how cool some of their selections are, but if memory serves correct, i had numbers 84, 64, 61, 24, 21 and 3. their number one choice is indeed very cool, and no i had not seen that one either.

there are numerous sites claiming to list the most valuable or sought after of the Star Wars figure toys. i have no idea which is the most accurate or one to be believed, but if it is the list on this site then i had numbers one and two!

had is of course the operative word - they were thrown away, or hopefully given away, many years ago!

i am pretty sure i had all of the ones listed on this site too. Mum & Dad, you may not want to look at the value of some of the toys that you dispensed with!

a lot of people tend to get all excited, if somewhat a touch dramatic, about the value of Star Wars toys, somehow of the view that they have lost or thrown away a fortune. the reality is that the mega $$$$ for Star Wars toys is only applicable to those which are in mint, sealed condition. there is no chance any of my collection, if it were still with me, being worth much - not only were they unpacked and played with in a very ruthless manner, they did move from England to Australia and back!

still, seeing the article reminded me of just how cool the Star Wars toys were, and indeed how lucky i was to have many of the "extras" that went along with the action figures.

one of the coolest was certainly my very own Death Star!

i remember this one; it was class! oddly, not much of the packaging shows off one of the best bits of it - there was indeed a chute on the top level, and you could drop the characters down into the garbage compactor! you could even make the walls of the compactor move!

i also had this one, which was very cool. well, OK, it was cool but disappointing as it didn't fly itself.

and, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to very generous parents, i also had the greatest Star Wars accessory of them all!

that's right, i was one of the lucky ones to have my own Millenium Falcon! it was as ace as it looks in the picture, although that isn't actually me in the picture. honest.

you have to remember that for those of us who were "there" at the time, kids between 1977 and 1980, this whole "force" and "jedi" business were rather trivial, and remained that way until The Empire Strikes Back was released. all we wanted to do was to be Han Solo and Chewbacca, as they were by far the coolest!

well, there you have it for a trip down memory lane. i have no idea what exactly happened to all my Star Wars toys; with some good fortune they ended up in the hands of someone who enjoyed playing with them as much as i did!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!!!!!

Please allow me to introduce our Dad
a man to meet; you'd be glad
He'll be your shoulder when times are bad,
just like he lifts your mood when you're sad

For quite a few years he's wandered this world
all the sights he's seen and music heard
He's stood in the oceans and all seven seas
but being with us is what make him please

He was around when they put man on the moon,
it wasn't him, he was being the groom
Dad knows all of the rock and roll stars,
but a family strips being in stretched cars

Dad raised us all well, Lee, Richard and Gillian,
and with grand kids, he gets to do it again
It's everyone that loves him to bits,
even if his oddities keep you on your wits!

Looking back today you've had a life in full
more to come, no doubt there's more tricks to pull!
Hope you've enjoyed today as much as you've enjoyed most,
from us, we're glad we have you to make our boast

The best Dad in the world will be on your book cover,
no idea if you are, but we know we wouldn't want another
So, wherever we are, wherever you may go,
you should always know, we love and cherish you so!

happy birthday, Dad, from Lee, Richard,Gillian, Michele, Erika and Grant. a big big happy birthday Grandad from Katie, James, Lyla, Daniel, William and all others to follow!!!

and of course, a big, big, big happy birthday from your favourite........

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fletch likes Porridge.....

hey everyone

well, if you are an avid Ronnie Barker fan visiting this site i would imagine that the title of this post won't be anything like new news to you. for followers of the development of William Norman Stanley, however, i guess you have clocked that this means he is eating!

sure, he is not quite 6 months yet, but going on the size of him and how he had already shown all the physical attributes associated with being ready to eat, we have rather slowly been trying him out on food.

when we have been eating young William has sat and watching with a look of longing on his face, so we were not too surprised to find that he loves his little meal every day! so far Michele has tried him out on some rice cereal (porridge, if you will) and a touch of butternut. not too much of either, mind, only a couple of spoons of each a day.

his bottle intake hasn't dropped and he seems none the worse for it, so i guess i am back in the world of buying loads of jars of baby food!

or maybe not, actually. William has a touch of a temperature today, and clear signs that those little teeth are on their way in a hurry. i suspect that he will be wanting steaks and burgers rather than mashed up fruits before long!

otherwise, James still sees food pretty much as a distraction, and doesn't get excited at all about the idea of eating. ho hum, we try our best to make sure he eats well enough!

another thing James is not that keen on is bath time, which happens to be the time right now. let me try and coax him on the way to appreciating the wonders of hygiene - wish me some luck, for i shall need it.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

happy birthday Richard!

hey everyone

in celebration of my dear brother Richard's birthday, i have decided to put some classic moments from his life and times up here. they are mostly for him to enjoy, but if any and all readers of this site enjoy them too, so be it!

one of the best Richard moments was from the days of his Rod Stewart look, which gives me all the excuse i need to put this pic here again!

at some point in the late 70s, or even 1980, we were driving home from Scotta House Farm. Richard, ever the stuntman, wondered what would happen if you opened the car door whilst you were driving. he then did this, thankfully whilst Dad was navigating the road out of Scotta very slowly. he soon closed the door, though, as Dad hit a puddle at the moment Richard had opened the door, leaving Richard with a face full of mud! i remember it being one of the funniest things ever!

now then, two years in Australia cannot pass without having some bearing or affect on your life. for me it was probably the discovery of music in general and Adam & The Ants in particular; for Richard it was most certainly the film Convoy.

i believe it would have been 1982 when we first saw that film, and ever since Richard has held it up as a guideline and a way of life; the character of Rubber Duck of course being his ultimate Role Model. Richard would, when not watching the film itself, spend his days recreating the film with his mates on their bikes; him at the front wearing his ace Evel Knievel gloves and brandishing a smart walkie talkie! i am sure i have a pic of him dressed like that somewhere, will try and find it!

as for other classic Richard moments, well, there are a web page and a half full of them, really. one of the best ones was when he came to spend a weekend with me whilst i was living in Cape Town. by the Sunday afternoon we were flat broke and busy nursing the last of our money in the form of a pint down at the River Club, watching the match. Richard grabbed the last few coins we had and disappeared. i didn't pay much attention to the sound in the background, but as it turned out with his usual luck he had a go on the "fruity" and had hit the jackpot! he came back proudly carrying a couple of hundred in coins in his shirt, dumped them on the table and thus we could remain well refreshed for the remainder of that afternoon!

to say that Richard is a chap with many strings to his bow is an understatement, unless you are speaking of the biggest bow with the largest number of strings attached in history. if that needed illustrating, consider this picture.

yes, that's right, Richard can master a mobile phone and a bottle of water at the same time! the trick is, though, if he so wished or was required to, while he was doing that he could also change a car tyre, win a hand of cards and recite the entire script of The Sword And The Sorcerer too!

so, what are the best things about Richard? well, beyond being the most supportive and helpful brother i could have ever wanted, beyond being a wonderful husband and father to his family, i would guess that it's that he is Richard, really. nothing gets him down or stops him, and if you try to do either of those things he's pretty good at switching off if he's not particularly interested in hearing it, as shown here!

hope you have had and continue to celebrate your birthday, brother! all the best!!!

that's a big 10-4, good buddy..............