Sunday, March 7, 2010

The General

Last night was a good evening. Anne went to hear ‘Sing the Truth’ a tribute to Nina Simone by four top-class jazz divas. Also on stage were the original members of the the great singer’s band. Anne arrived home rapt.

Murray and Sue spent the evening here. They came from separate golf games, bubbling over with enthusiastic accounts of their rounds. Jenny, my niece, is staying with us again. Her vitality is contagious. I realise with my health problems my moods are more than ever, chameleon, dependent upon surroundings. So life feels rather full at present.

We watched the rain-shortened one-day cricket. It looked like New Zealand might bring off a miracle win but it was not to be. Vettori scored a whirlwind 70 runs before being last man out 12 runs short of the required total. Exciting stuff.

We then watched a DVD, Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent classic The General. I’d seen it ages ago. A strange mixture of epic and slapstick it’s a great movie. And a trend-setter for much of subsequent Hollywood. Goodies and Baddies. The damsel in distress. The hero who wins out over adversity. (Single-handed). The blowing up of a railway bridge with the engine on it – shades of River Kwai. The hero under the table – shades of Danny Kaye. The scary forest scene – lightning and black bears.

Keaton’s stunts are breathtaking. And his heroines are not nearly as passive as Chaplin’s. Though at one stage she did pick up a broom to sweep the engine’s cab floor.

I’m reading on and off Jenny Uglow’s ‘The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future, 1730 –1810.’ Most historians locate the late 18th century powerhouses of Britain in the late 18th century as London and Edinburgh. Not so, Uglow. For her it’s Birmingham and its surrounds. A group of friends, mainly dissenters – that is, not adherents of the Anglican faith – formed a club to discuss philosophical and scientific interests. They used to meet monthly on the nearest Sunday to the full moon. Being practical men they realised the full moon gave them a better light to ride home. Their ideas and experiements did indeed help to shape the future

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