Archive for April, 2012

Watching the film Titanic is not a new experience for me, so I’m cheating on this one.  But I’d like to be ‘on trend’ for once.  Because of the centenary of the sinking, everyone else is talking about the ship so I thought I’d re-visit the film to see if my views have changed since I first saw it in 1997.  Also, it’s another stall while I work up the courage to watch a Stephen King film like I said I would.

Spoiler Alert: The ship sinks in the end. Plus, my views haven’t changed.

What is the allure of the sinking of the Titanic above, say, the Lusitania or any other vessel?  Lots of things. It was probably one of the first tragedies of the media age.  There were a lot of photos and there was plenty for the burgeoning mass media industry to write about.  And of course there was the rigid social stratification of the boat. But be honest, who doesn’t hanker for the simpler era when the lower orders knew their place?  Which is to say, below decks, behind locked gates, de-loused and after you in the queue for the lifeboats.   But mostly I think the allure stems from the sheer folly of the enterprise.    It’s difficult to avoid the sense that you could go back and prevent the terrible tragedy.   Watertight compartments not being quite watertight enough (or some such).  Heading out into the deep blue yonder without enough life boats.   Increasing speed despite iceberg warnings.  Not filling the lifeboats to capacity when evacuating.   Not turning the lifeboats around fast enough when the ship was gone.

But of course, deep in the recesses of your mind, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if you had been there yourself.  Who would you have been?  The cheery, welcoming, social transgressive, Molly Brown?  The honourable but tortured ship designer, Thomas Andrews?  Or the brave, resolute Benjamin Guggenheim?  He dressed in his evening wear and sat stoically with his valet waiting for death , saying “No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.”   (Although personally I would have let the valet take his chances)  Or maybe Ida Straus, who refused a place in the lifeboat to die with her husband, Isidor.  And this they did, holding hands at the waves swept them out to sea.  I suppose we all like to think we would have behaved honourably – eschewing a place on the last lifeboat in order to save countless shivering orphans, somehow surviving the sinking by sheer dint of personality (and also the foresight of having put on warm attire).

Whatever about the actual Titanic, surviving James Cameron’s 1997 epic film of the same name is an ordeal of its own.  Let me be positive and say it is a sumptuous achievement visually and technically.  And it brings the brutality and inhumanity to our understanding of the events.  The sinking of this boat is not a genteel affair.  People die cruelly, barbarically and arbitrarily.  Nonetheless, it is a fairly dreadful film in so many ways.  Chief among them is the dialogue.  My favourite was “Rose: You see people/ Jack: I see you.”  That just needed a “peekaboo” to complete the absurdity.  Equally absurd are the cyphers walking around masquerading as fully-drawn characters.  Although, maybe I’m being unfair.  Maybe all rich people are emotionally fossilised.  Maybe all Irish people are cheery, musical drunks who are embracing of cultural diversity.   Just because I myself am not musical, who’s to say?

I have no idea what I would have done aboard the Titanic, but I do know what I would have done had I been on James Cameron’s ship.  I would have kicked the boy Leo into the briney deep and rushed headlong into the warm, sultry embrace of one Billy Zane Esq.  Because this is the most absurd part of the film for me.  Thomas Andrews  (and, by the way, Worst. Northern Ireland Accent.  Ever.) seemed to think Rose was bright and observant, but clearly the girl couldn’t see what was staring her in the face like a looming iceberg.  In what reality does a girl wade through the freezing, rapidly-rising Atlantic waters to save Leonardo di Caprio when there is a warm, dry and preposterously gorgeous Billy Zane up on deck happily bribing his way onto a lifeboat on your behalf?  You may call it amoral venality, I call it a healthy solutions-orientation.  What’s not to like about that?  You’ve only got to stay with him as far as the lifeboats, you ninny!

Let’s pause for a moment to contemplate the loveliness of the man again.


I can ponder it all I like but the fact remains that had I been on the real Titanic I wouldn’t have got within forty fathoms of the first class deck.  It would have been steerage for me and my kind, cheerily dancing the night away with the huddled masses yearning to be free.  And then huddling in the rapidly rising stern and then finally huddling on a piece of flotsam, facing into the ugly reality of my own imminent demise.  But that’s still a more attractive prospect than watching the film Titanic again.


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I’m always open to new experiences.  So when people suggest the best way to enjoy Tequila is in the form of a margarita, I’m instantly on the case.  New horizons, here I come.  A bit of learning, a bit of personal growth and some booze?  What’s not to embrace?

I think there may be a reason why the whole cocktail experience has passed me by.  It is just too complicated for me.  I’m an open-pour-drink kind of gal.  I realised very early on in the margarita evening that I am under-equipped for the proper cocktail experience.  There are currently two wine glasses in my house.  And they don’t even match each other.  There is a set of champagne flutes in the shed that I break out at Christmas, but they were in the shed goddamit and it was a cold night.  Then there’s this messy business with the salt around the rim of the (not cocktail, just wine) glass.  That was inelegant to execute and in the end I decided it added very little to the whole experience.

But finally after a lot of messing around, there was the margarita itself.  It reminded me of drinking cans of Club Lemon in my youth.  (And I’m afraid either you get that reference or you don’t.) And I liked Club Lemon a lot, so it was all good.

So I kept going with the experiment.  It was a drink that needed a savoury snack accompaniment, I felt.  And picking the right snack was a chore in itself.  But in the end I decided to enjoy margaritas the way the Mexicans intended – in my kitchen, eating Dorritos and watching re-runs of The Daily Show while my Present Husband played Angry Birds on his phone and drank Coke.    Excelente!

A thoroughly lovely evening spent broadening my cultural horizons.  And today, I feel no unpleasant side effects and thus can barrel onward with the task of scoffing the last of the kids’ Easter Eggs.  That’s the kind of new experience I can get on board with.

I suppose there is a thin line between “open to new experiences” and “easily led.”  And an even thinner line between “easily led” and “pushing an open door.”  But I’ll leave you to decide which one applies here.

PS: Eagle-eyed regular readers – which is to say, all of you – will have spotted that I have not yet gone near Stephen King, despite my earlier promise.  I’m still a bit too chicken and am working up to that one.

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Sometimes a cultural phenomenon is out there waiting for you all your life, like Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King (watch this space).  But sometimes in this internet age, a cultural phenomenon jumps up at you out of nowhere  – or, more specifically, out of two days ago – and demands your attention.  Such is the global internet sensation that is Samantha Brick.

For those of you who may have been sequestered on a jury or in a coma for the last few days – and I’m green with envy if that’s the case – Samantha Brick is a British woman who wrote a lengthy article in a UK national paper about how women didn’t like her because she is beautiful.  Yes, that really is the top and bottom of what she said.  And when, with Greek inevitability, this provoked an internet storm, she said this vindicated her view.  Women didn’t like her because she was beautiful and they were jealous.

I’m not going to give any space to whether or not Samantha Brick is correct in her assessment of her looks.  It doesn’t matter to me and what I think of her looks shouldn’t matter to her.  But it is worth considering that when people speculate as to why others don’t like them, they tend to pay themselves a compliment and insult others in the process.  People say things like “He doesn’t like me  because I’m so passionate in my views” and not, say, “He doesn’t like me because I’m a colossal pain the ass.”  Or they might say “She hates me because my work ethic makes her look bad” and not, for example, “she hates me because I’m vindictive, narrow-minded and have the personal hygiene of a troglodyte.”   You can see how “women hate me because I’m beautiful” might be tapping a similar seam.  If you needed to make others feel bad about themselves in order to feel good about yourself, it wasn’t worth the effort.

It is similarly perilous to make vast, generalised statements about women unless you are a trained psychologist or Oprah Winfrey.  I’ve been a woman all my life thus far, granted with mixed results, and I hardly ever speculate as to the nature of Women.  But tis the season, so I’ll give it a go.

1. Women really do like people who are beautiful on the inside.  And by ‘beautiful’ we of course mean sincere, warm, good-natured, funny, intelligent and self-deprecating.  In no other way would a Jack Black rise to the status of sex symbol.  Fair enough, the words ‘sex symbol’ preceding his name are themselves invariably preceded by the words “Hollywood’s most unlikely,” but you can’t take that label away from him.  It might not be nice that we seem to prefer beautiful women to be self-deprecating but, in our defence, we like it in men too.

2. After a certain point in your life, a healthy adult woman shouldn’t need  lots of people to think she is beautiful.  You just need one warm, kind, intelligent, responsible man or woman to think you are similarly warm, kind, intelligent, responsible and also sex on a stick.  Just one person who thinks you are manna from the gods.  Just one person for whom you being dressed is an endless source of dismay.  You don’t have to question it too deeply.  It can be the function of an advanced mental delusion.  It doesn’t matter.  Not loads of people.  Just one.  After that, it becomes a bit unseemly in an adult.

3. Samantha Brick believes the hostility she has provoked shows there is nothing more reviled that a pretty woman.  That shows a remarkable lack of understanding of women.  What women despise, with an incandescent fervour, more than anything else in the known universe is a bad mother.  And if you don’t believe me, ponder these two words.  Karen Matthews.  Even the appearance of being a bad mother, regardless of a tragedy that might otherwise provoke nothing but sympathy, will cause odium to be heaped on you with relentless vigour.  And if you still don’t believe me, ponder these words.  Kate McCann.  I would say the hostility Samantha Brick has provoked has very little to do with her looks and owes its provenance to her seeming lack of understanding of how women live and what’s important to them.  Despite Samantha’s assertion to the contrary, a lot of women can get past the fact that Angelina Jolie is an international sex symbol and a man-magnet.  She does not provoke universal outrage.  (At least, not for being beautiful, but possibly for being a bit nuts.)  She provokes occasional feelings of warmth because she does seem to be a devoted mother.  Not just that, though.  She also has that unfortunate medical condition that causes her right leg to act independently of her.  That has to be very debilitating, to say nothing of being socially awkward.  She’s really to be pitied.

4. I do hope the whole thing is a spoof or a publicity stunt for a forthcoming book.  You’d hate to think that a whole lot of bras were burned for this and for all that followed.

This sorry mess doesn’t deserve the attention it’s been given (including from me).  It’s just one woman’s take on her life and we can all agree or disagree.  Who has been harmed who couldn’t have known better?  And do we have so little to focus on?  People were starving in Africa before it was written and they are still starving now.  People were dying of terrible diseases before it was written and they are still dying now.  And celebrities were suffering from terrible physical disabilities before and still are now.  Where is the outcry for that?

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