Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Room With a View, the novel

No, the title of this post does not imply that I intend to compose another long missive about the view of the natural world from the window of A Room Somewhere. What I plan to discuss, briefly, is the novel I finished reading this week, A Room With A View by EM Forster.

Forster uses the tale of Lucy Honeychurch, a British young woman on the brink of maturity, to explore issues of social class and propriety. There is a hint of an Austen-like tension between common sense and folly, though Forster does not quite have Austen's light touch or subtle wit. Still, his characters, who start out seeming like stylized caricatures, develop unexpected complexity and insight by the final pages of the book.

In Forster's writing, as in Austen's, people of good sense reign themselves in from mindless adherence to fashionable views and practices. Self-worth and lifelong happiness are valued over social climbing. The novel might seem senseless or odd to those unfamiliar with the mores of the period when it was written (1908). I found in it to be a surprisingly enlightened view of women and their capabilities, considering that it was penned by a male author in the Edwardian era. The story line takes a pleasantly unexpected turn or two, as well.

I saw the Merchant-Ivory movie version of this tale (starring Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands and Maggie Smith) when it was released on video several years ago. To the best of my recollection, the screenplay, was faithful to the novel, though some of the nuances of character might not have made it onto the big screen. I plan to rent the DVD sometime soon for a renewed comparison.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

This, That, 'n' Other Things

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, so, of course, there will be yet another food fest at work. Ay Carumba!

Ever since the doctor told me a couple of months back that my sugar level is creeping up (yes, there is diabetes in my family, so I have to be careful), it seems like there has been nothing but one pig-out after another around the office. I'm going to contribute something to the fete, in the spirit of the day, but I might not stick around the office for lunch.

I had a bit of a Mexican gastronomic cheat tonight. We ate out, and I partook of the chips and salsa, so I really must behave myself tomorrow. At least salsa has some redeeming nutritional value.

Putting my plans to abstain into print helps, since some of the folks at work drop by my blog from time to time. In the spirit of love and generosity (haha) they'll be more than glad to remind me if I should be caught with a taco or a piece of cake.

Between the sugar thing and some other stuff (mostly the other stuff), I've been feeling pretty lousy lately. There has been improvement, though, and I don't have headaches every day anymore.

Still, I felt bad enough to stay home on Tuesday. Every morning this week has been a struggle, and I'll be glad when Saturday arrives. Guess this is why my posting has slowed down a bit lately. I've been pretty tired, and my memory isn't what it should be. I keep putting the wrong dates on stuff, and I just plain forget things.


I posted about the wild dogwoods last Saturday. They grow in the woods around my home. They're still blooming, and they're still lovely. I know how pretty the Washington DC area can be in the spring, and I wonder if Random Kath and Virginia Gal are experiencing as much beauty right now.


I'm thinking of changing my blog template. I want to do more than mess with the color scheme and decor, I want to set up a different style. I would like to have only one sidebar, and I want it to be on the right side, so that my posts have a stronger presence on the page and are easier to read. If I do change templates, I guess I'll have to start all over again with the blogroll, etc, and I'll have to learn my way around the new template. Seems a bit daunting. Well, I guess it'll be OK if I save a copy of my current template so that I can go back if I make a muddle of things. Has anyone tried this? If so, how'd it go?


How 'bout those gas prices? Yes, the length of my commute increased sixfold this year, and I continue to be punished for it. Not only do I get a lot less sleep (I also go in earlier now) and have a long drive every day, but life conspires to add out of control gas prices to my lot. I know, it's not personal, and it's affecting everyone right now. But it feels personal when I pull out of the gas station a couple of times a week...

Still, the environmentalist in me thinks that the gas prices could have a silver lining. We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and we have to stop sending CO2 and other toxins into the atmosphere. Maybe higher fuel prices will make us see the light.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Search

We watched a movie on Turner Classic Movies last night called The Search. The movie starred Montgomery Clift as Steve, an American soldier post WWII. A little boy named Ivan Jandl played Karel Malik, a Czechoslovakian child separated from his family during the war and imprisoned at Auschwitz. Jandl is the true star of this film.

Karel is rounded up with other kids and taken to an orphanage or camp created by the Americans to help the children. He has amnesia and cannot remember his name or any information about his life or his family. When questioned, he will only answer, "I don't know," in the Czech tongue.

The depiction of the traumatic reactions of the children (most of whom do not speak English) to the no-nonsense military personnel and environment is moving. They find it difficult to trust the soldiers, who seem a lot like the German army to them. They are afraid of military transport and red cross ambulances because they were often used to take people away to concentration camps and gas chambers.

During one poignant scene, the children in an ambulance smell the exhaust from the vehicle and come to believe that they are being gassed. They break out of the ambulance and run away. Karel and another boy are not caught. The other boy drowns, and Karel is believed to have drowned as well. Only his knit hat is found.

Karel's mother has survived the war, though his father and sister have been killed. She begins a search for him on foot. Meanwhile, Karel is taken in by Steve (Clift), who dubs him,"Jim," because he cannot remember his name. Steve teaches Jim English and begins a search for his family. He is told that Karel's family must be dead, so he begins making arrangements to take him back to the US.

Jim gradually remembers some details about his mother and his traumatic separation from her. He runs away to search for her, but he is found by Steve and told that she is dead. Meanwhile, Karel's mother is told by the Americans that he is dead, and given the hat found in the river as proof. Both search for the strength to go on in the belief that they have lost everything, and they begin to heal.

The film's title becomes a recurring theme throughout this beautifully wrought movie, with searches both corporeal and spiritual depicted dramatically and effectively by all of the characters. Ivan Jandl's performance is especially remarkable. At only 11 years of age, he was already an accomplished actor. He won a junior Oscar for this performance in 1948.

This film was banned in Communist countries for 40 years. According to IMDB (as well as various other sites):

Ivan Jandl's performance in the movie The Search (1948) gave so much hope to the people of Czechoslovakia that the Russian Govt. took him out of school and put him to work in a rock quarry. He was forced to work there for a long time and never full recovered from the strains put on him at the time. He lived the rest of his life in a sickly state, and died relatively young.

Ivan Jandl died in 1987 at age 50. His life is a testament to the atrocities of repressive governments.