Thursday, December 18, 2014

Charles Chaplin - My Autobiography

Charles Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was a genius who has contributed lots of joy to the world. He was a comedian, director, writer, actor, composer, producer... a true performer.

His movies are still entertaining, even to my 11 year-old niece. In this autobiography he wrote about his poor childhood, how he joined the entertainment industry, how he made successful movies and founded the United Artists and how the American public were turned against him, accusing him as a communist. He wrote about famous people he met, like Gandhi, Einstein, Churchill, HG Wells, his partner Douglas Fairbanks, etc. 

After the released of the first film with sound, the Jazz Singer, in 1927; he still insisted to make two more silent movies: City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) and both were successful. The next movie, The Great Dictator (1940), which he called an anti-nazi movie, was not as good as his silent ones. It was very funny how he portrayed the dictator, which looked a lot like Hitler: why they wore the same moustache? When you think about it, Chaplin wore it first. Why would a country leader wore the same moustache as a comedian? Was the style a hit in the era?

My favourite Chaplin films are the full-length ones: The Gold Rush, The Circus, and Modern Times. When I was buying this book, what I looking for was how he had gotten the ideas for them. So I am a little disappointed because he didn't wrote about all of them. He only wrote about several of his movies, while he had made so many. In all, this is an enjoyable book and a good inspirational story about a poor boy from a destitute neighbourhood in London who became the world's favorite man. This book was first published in 1964, when he lived in exile in Switzerland. Only in 1972 he returned to the U.S.A to accept his Honorary Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

64-pages of pictures are grouped in the middle of this book. 
As he made his own movies, between them, he had to take break to look for ideas and inspirations. After City Lights (1931), he took a trip to the Orient with his brother Sydney, and he visited the island of Bali, between his trip from Singapore to Japan. He brought a camera along, because there was documentary films from this trip. It's available in YouTube and the year (it's said) was 1932.

Excerpt from the book about Bali:
It was Sydney who had recommended visiting the island of Bali, saying how untouched it was by civilization and describing its beautiful women with their exposed bosoms. These aroused my interest. Our first glimpse of the island was in the morning – white puff clouds encircled green mountains leaving their peaks looking like floating islands. In those days there was no port or airfield; one landed at an old wooden dock by row-boat.
We passed through compounds with beautifully built walls and imposing entrances where ten or twenty families lived. The farther we traveled the more beautiful the country became; silvery mirrored steps of green-rice fields led down to a winding stream. Suddenly Sidney nudged me. Along the roadside was a line of stately young women, dressed only in batiks wrapped around their waists, their breasts bare, carrying baskets on their heads laden with fruits. From then on we were continually nudging. Some were quite pretty. Our guide, an American Turk who sat in front with the chauffeur, was most annoying, for he would turn with lecherous interest to see our reactions – as though he had put on the show for us.
The hotel in Denpasar had only recently been built. Each sitting-room was open like a veranda, partitioned off, with sleeping quarters at the back which were clean and comfortable.
Hirschfeld, the American water-colour artist, and his wife had been living in Bali for two months and invited us to his house, where Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican artist, had stayed before them. They had rented it from a Balinese nobleman, and lived there like landed aristocrats for fifteen dollars a week. After dinner the Hirschfelds, Sydney, and I took a walk. The night was dark and sultry. Not a breath of wind stirred, then suddenly a sea of fire-flies, acre upon acre of them, raced over the rice-fields in undulating waves of blue light. From another direction came sound of jingling tambourines and clashing gongs in rhythmic tonal patterns. ‘A dance going on somewhere,’ said Hirschfeld; ‘let’s go.’
About two hundred yards away a group of natives were standing and squatting around, and maidens sat cross-legged with baskets and small flares selling dainty edibles. We edged through the crowd and saw two girls about ten years old wrapped in embroidered sarongs, with elaborated gold tinsel head-dresses that flickered sparklingly in the lamplight as they danced mosaic patterns to treble high notes, accompanied by deep bass tones from large gongs; their head swayed, their eyes flickered, their fingers quivered to the devilish music, which developed to a crescendo like a raging torrent, then calmed down again into a placid river. The finish was anticlimactic; the dancers stopped abruptly and sank bank into the crowd. There was no applause – the Balinese never applaud; nor have they a word for love or thank you.
Walter Spies, the musician and painter, called and had lunch with us at the hotel. He had lived in Bali for fifteen years, and spoke Balinese. He had transcribed some of their music for piano, which he played for us; the effect was like a Bach concerto played in double time. Their musical taste was quite sophisticated, he said; our modern jazz they dismissed as dull and too slow. Mozart they considered sentimental, and only Bach interested them because his patterns and rhythms were similar to their own. I found their music cold, ruthless and slightly disturbing; even the deep doleful passages had the sinister yearning of a hungry minotaur.
After lunch Spies took us into the interior of a jungle, where a ceremony of flagellation was to take place. We were obliged to walk four miles along a jungle path to get there. When we arrived, we came upon a large crowd surrounding an altar about twelve feet long. Young maidens in beautiful sarongs, their breasts bare, were queueing up with baskets laden with fruit and other offerings, which a priest, looking like a dervish with long hair down to his waist and dressed in a white gown, blessed an laid upon the altar. After the priest had intoned prayers, giggling youths broke through and ransacked the altar, grabbing what they could as the priests lashed violently out at them with whips. Some were forced to drop their spoils because of the severity of the lashings, which were supposed to rid them of evil spirits that tempted them to rob.
We went in and out of temples and compounds as we pleased, and saw cock-fights and attended festivals and religious ceremonies which took place all hours of the day and night. I left one at five in the morning. Their gods are pleasure-loving, and the Balinese worship them not with awe, but with affection.
Late one night Spies and I came upon a tall Amazon woman dancing by torchlight, her little son imitating her in the background. A young-looking man occasionally instructed her. We discovered later that he was her father. Spies asked him his age.
            ‘When was the earthquake?’ he asked.
            ‘Twelve years ago,’ said Spies.
            ‘Well, I had three married children then.’ Seemingly not satisfied with this answer, he added: ‘I am two thousand dollars old,’ declaring that in his lifetime he had spent that sum.
            In many compounds I saw brand-new limousines used as chicken-coops. I asked Spies the reason. Said he: ‘A Compound is run on communistic lines, and the money it makes by exporting a few cattle they put into a saving fund which over the years amounts to a considerable sum. One day an enterprising automobile salesman talked them into buying Cadillac limousines. For the first couple of days they rode around having great fun, until they ran out of gasoline. Then they discovered that the cost of running a car for a day was as much as they earned in a month, so they left them in the compounds for the chickens to roost in.’
Balinese humour is like our own and abounds in sex jokes, truisms and play on words. I tested the humour of our young waiter at the hotel. ‘Why does a chicken cross the road?’ I asked.
            His reaction was supercilious. ‘Everybody knows that one,’ said he to the interpreter.
            ‘Very well then, which came first, the chicken or the egg?’
            This stumped him. ‘The chicken – no –‘ he shook his head, ‘-the egg – no,’ he pushed back his turban and thought a while; then announced with final assurance: ‘The egg.’
            ‘But who laid the egg?’
            ‘The turtle, because the turtle is supreme and lays all the eggs.’

Bali then was a paradise. Natives worked four months in the rice-fields and devoted the other eight to their art and culture. Entertainment was free all over the island, one village performing for the other. But now paradise is on the way out. Education has taught them to cover their breasts and forsake their pleasure-loving gods for Western ones.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mireille Darc - Tant que battra mon coeur (mémoires)

Is there another version of this book? I happen to have this pocket version, which is too small: 10,8 x 17,7 cm. There are 24 pages dedicated for pictures (divided in 2 groups); the ones from her childhood were arranged in an "economical" way that one page carries 4 - 6 pictures--> can't see them clearly in this size, the two pictures with her classmates, for example.

Ms Darc's writing style is easy to read & understandable. She chose things from her life that she thought interesting for this book. I really enjoyed reading this book. For me, what I like most is to read about her life with Alain Delon, her heart surgery, and the terrible car accident. She is an independent woman, very strong, yet very kind. Not much photos here as she burned them when she started a new life with her husband, Pascal Desprez, an architect.

She met Alain Delon in 1966, but only 2 years later they became close. After Alain Delon finished the filming of La Piscine, Markovic Affair started. That day, he called her, asked her to accompany him to watch an opera. Mireille Darc went to Yves Saint Laurent to borrow a dress/gown for the event and Pierre Bergé (the owner) asked her whom she went with. She told him that she would be going with Alain Delon. 
Pierre Bergé : Ah, OK... OK... with Alain... But you know?
Mireille Darc : Yes, I know.

It was a difficult time for Alain Delon, but she stood by his side. In this book she wrote about one incident when she was interrogated and threated by the police. She was truly a friend and that is why she is the only woman who stayed with Alain Delon for 15 years. They didn't have any children because she had a heart condition, a result of her poor childhood.

I say she chose interesting things for this book because there was this embarrassing story where she and Alain Delon went to an event in Lido. She wore the phenomenal dress from Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire and when she and Alain Delon were dancing, someone touched her natal cleft. If I myself ever published an autobiography, I would have omitted embarrassing things.

In March 1980 she had a heart operation where the surgeon opened her heart so she was clinically dead for a while. Even now, in 2014, I still think it was a difficult and very expensive operation.

In July 1983 she had a terrible accident in tunnel of Aoste where her Mercedes 500 was hit by a truck (she was in passenger seat, sleeping). Although her relationship with Alain Delon had been waning, she still worked for him. At that time she had visited some furniture factories for Alain Delon label and was visiting perfume and glasses factories. Because of the accident, her body was broken, and also her heart, because he left him for a girl half of her age. However, Mireille Darc was (and is) a very wonderful lady, since we all know that she and Alain Delon are still good friends.

The book was written in 2005. 343 pages.

Alain Delon contributed some pictures for this book. See the left side of each pic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Deadline - John Sandford

As can be guessed from its title, this latest Virgil Flowers' adventure is dealing with the death of a reporter. Virgil lives in Mankato, has a girlfriend with children. His friend, Johnson Johnson, in Trippton, called him for help because dogs in his area had been dognapped. Dogs are people's best friend, so Virgil took it (or tried to take it) seriously.

As a state police, Virgil went around and across Minnesota to work. Now it was in Trippton, in Buchanan County, "in the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River". To make it simple to get his boss's permission, Virgil at this time had some time after solving a case in New Mexico. At the same time, his boss Lucas Davenport, had been busy working on the black hole case-->read John Sandford's Field of Prey. I myself thought Virgil should have been helping his boss than working on this dognapping cases. Of course Virgil never clearly told his boss what he was really up to.

However, in searching for the missing dogs, Virgil found a meth lab and ended up working on murder cases, started with a dead reporter found in a ditch. It turned out the dead reporter had been working on an article about the local school board embezzlement, the biggest in Minnesota history. The school board tried to cover the embezzlement up by murdering the reporter, at first, but more bodies turned up because things were going more wrong and wrong. It was useless, by the way, because Virgil our hero had known about the school board's involvement from the beginning.

The story concluded with Virgil Flowers going home bringing a yellow dog. The latest John Sandford book Uncaged also portrayed the hero/heroin with a dog. Now if Sandford would also give Lucas Davenport a dog, that's a pattern.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alain Delon - en plein soleil

Published in 2012, this hard-covered book is smaller than I expected : 16,8 x 24,6 cm. The paper used are in good quality, though, so the photographs - which are quite a lot - have been very well reproduced. In 144 pages (not include covers), the book by Christian Dureau tells the story of Alain Delon: from his troubled childhood, his days as a marine in Vietnam, how he began to work as an actor, how he worked with great directors like Rene Clement, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Pierre Melville. Quotes from Delon himself are scattered throughout, in blue letters, inserted at right places for the readers' benefit. Most of his memorable movies' synopsis are also there, separated in pale pink backgrounds.

This book followed his steps as an actor, so if you are looking for juicy gossips you will not find them here. Even the Markovic affair was only told in 1 paragraph. [In Bernard Violet's Les Mystères Delon , an unauthorized Delon biography, the affair dominated several chapters.]


A scan from The Sicilian Clan days. Click to zoom in.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Uncle Scrooge: The Seven Cities of Gold by Carl Barks

The volume contains stories such as: The Seven Cities of Cibola (looking for Indian arrowheads in great deserts of the west, Uncle Scrooge, Donald, and the kids find the long lost Seven Cities of Cibola), The Million-Dollar Pigeon (to save money, instead of hiring a messenger, Uncle Scrooge sends a million dollars by a pigeon post, but the bird never arrives at the bank), The Mysterious Stone Ray (Uncle Scrooge and the kids find a bottle with a SOS message on a beach and they go for a rescue. When they arrive at the island, they find the Beagle Boys has been turned into stones), A Campaign of Note (Uncle Scrooge is a candidate for city treasurer and wants to win without spending too much money), The Lemming with The Locket (a locket, the key to Uncle Scrooge's new safe combination is accidentally stolen by a rat/lemming and to get it back they run after the creature all across the world), The Tuckered Tiger (to make the Duckburg Spring Festival a success, Uncle Scrooge holds an animal race. His horse vs Maharajah of Swingingdore's tiger. The winner will get the owner of the losing animal's weight in diamonds), The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone (whoever that owns it can turn anything into gold), Heirloom Watch (Uncle Scrooge can claim his inheritance to his great uncle Quagmire McDuck in Scotland if he can show the old McDuck heirloom watch in good condition), The Great Steamboat Race (Horseshoe Hogg challeges Uncle Scrooge to finish the unfinished boat race of long ago), Riches, Riches, Everywhere! (Uncle Scrooge shows Donald and the kids that he is the cleverest prospector and can find riches everywhere), and The Golden Fleecing (Uncle Scrooge wants to change his red coat with a golden coat, but the tailor needs some magical golden wool).

There are also a couple of 1 page stories of how Uncle Scrooge tries to trick a café owner into serving him more coffée.

Stoned Beagle Boys in The Mysterious Stone Ray: a horror for Uncle Scrooge
The Great Steamboat Race: my favourite then and now!
Panels from The Golden Fleecing. The kids' guidebook seems to have answers for everything.
Yup, the book has answers to everything.
A panel from Heirloom Watch. Even Uncle Scrooge thinks like this.

Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn by Carl Barks

The volume contains stories such as: Trail of the Unicorn (Uncle Scrooge pays Donald and the kids to bring back a unicorn from Himalayas for his zoo collection), Super Snooper (Donald drinks a magic potion and becomes a superman), the Great Duckburg Frog-Jumping Contest (frog legs cost too much so Donald decides to catch the animal himself), Letter to Santa (Donald forgot to mail the kids' letter to Santa, so he asks Uncle Scrooge to buy a steam shovel for the kids, but Uncle Scrooge wants to get the credit), Dowsing Ducks (the kids try to show Donald that their water diviner really works), The Goldilocks Gambit (Donald, the kids, Gladstone Gander and three bears in a cabin), New Toys (the kids want the toys they already have for Christmas. I think this is one of the sweetest stories Barks ever wrote), Luck of The North (with a fake map, Donald sends Gladstone Gander to the Artic Ocean and follow him to prevent something bad happened), Donald's Love Letters (Donald thinks Gladstone Gander has his love letters to Daisy and tries to get them back because they are embarrassing), Rip Van Donald (the kids makes Donald believes he has slept for 20 years and the world has changed), Land of Totem Poles (Donald and the kids in a competition: who is the best salesman?), and Serum to Codfish Cove (Donald brags being the greatest skier, so the mayor tasks him to bring a bottle of serum to the isolated village of Codfish Cove).

Panels from the title story. I hope somebody took pity of Huey and helped him carry the rock.
Panels from the Great Duckburg Frog-Jumping Contest. My most favourite story in this volume.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Man - Irving Wallace

It took me a long time to finish this book. Irving Wallace enjoyed writing so much that it seemed the book would never end. 'The Man' in the title refers to a character named Douglass Dilman, a black man who fictionally became The President of the United States of America in September 1964, about the same year when the events like in the Mississippi Burning movie happened.

What would happen if the president, the vice-president and the speaker of the House of Representatives died at the same time in an accident? According to the President Succession Act of 1947, the next in line was President pro tempore of the Senate, and that was Senator Douglass Dilman, who held the position as a political gesture, to shut up (black) demonstrators and rioters. The people around the late president, tried to run the same policies; but as time went by, Dilman began to show his own personality. It was then that they wanted to remove him from office on impeachment. Dilman fought back and tried to get a fair trial: if he was removed it was because he was incompetent, not because the colour of his skin.

Reading this book was like reading political transcripts. Some speeches were very long, and I thought, 'Why couldn't he edit them?" Some characters were interesting, like the president's personal guard, Otto Beggs; Edna Foster, the personal secretary; Sally Watson, the social secretary, who accused the president raping her; Secretary of State Arthur Eaton, and Lawyer Nat Abrahams. As a president, in making decisions, Dilman always chose the right things. He didn't try to please any side, but he chose the right thing, so whatever the outcome was, he had done his best.

Dilman was also not an angel, but when the war against him began, his faults were exaggerated. Some accusations were even fabricated. However, in the end, Wallace made him won and gave the readers a happy ending.

[Irving Wallace] was aware that in black ghettoes "The Man" was slang for "white man" or "the white boss". In The Man he place a black man in the role of the ultimate white boss. But the title had a second, more important meaning to [Irving Wallace]. In the early 1960s the vast majority of black males were used to being treated by whites as a separate species, as something less than a man. Douglass Dilman, the protagonist of the novel, after a lifetime of living as a milquetoast, token Negro, wants to be treated as a man and must learn for himself what it is to act like a man. ~David Wallechinsky