March 13, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 19: Tobago

Tobago rainforest (after a violent storm), July 2005

March 9, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 18 / The Gallery: Lonesome (in Galapagos)

This post is also for Tara Cain’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers. 2 for the price of 1! Well, we are having to economise these days…

I’d set myself a bit of a challenge with this. I’d decided that whatever came up using my usual random selection method I would use for the Gallery, the theme of which this week is “One Word”. It could have been tough, but when I saw the photo that came up I was delighted. I knew immediately what my one word was:

Lonesome

Meet George.

Or more correctly, Lonesome George.

He lives in his own enclosure in the Charles Darwin Research Centre in Santa Cruz, one of the Galapagos Islands.

Why ‘Lonesome’? Because he is truly the last of his kind, the last remaining Pinta Galapagos Giant Tortoise: the world’s rarest animal.

In the 19th century whalers & sealers used the tortoises as a food source: they could live up to year without food or water so seemed perfect for long journeys at sea. Also, in the 1950s goats were released onto his island of Pinta, also as a food source. They then out-competed the slow-moving tortoises for their food, & also caused much erosion.

When he was found alone on the island by National Park Wardens hunting goats it was decided to take him to the safety of the Research Centre.

There are many other different types of giant tortoise there, including many lovely ladies. In trying to continue his species the staff there are only too keen to set George up with any lovely lady of his choosing, setting the ambience, choosing the finest cuisine to set the mood for lurve. You would think that this would be a gentleman bachelor tortoise’s paradise, but apparently not. He’s just not interested.

Very unpleasant things have been done to his private parts. Ladies skilled in the Art of Lurve have been brought in to attempt to, um, engage his interest. I kid you not! All to no avail.

I wonder if it’s occurred to anyone that he might prefer the company of gentleman tortoises: must be worth a try, surely?

Personally I wonder if it’s just time to just leave the poor old fella alone & let him live out the rest of his life with all the food, drink & shelter he could ever need. He’s probably had a tough old life, he’s in his 70s; isn’t it time for a rest?

So for now, he’s still Lonesome George, the last of his kind – & looks like staying that way.

Why not have a look at all the other One Words in Tara’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers?  (click the pic.):

March 8, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 17: Otago

The Otago coast a little south of Dunedin;  New Zealand, December 2008

March 7, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 16: Switzerland

A view of the Swiss Alps by helicopter, July 2004

March 5, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 15: Cape Town

This is just a flower, right?

Look more closely: wrapped around the stamen are actually 2 small frogs, camouflaging themselves brilliantly. Well it fooled me, anyway!

From the excellent Cape Town Aquarium, July 2009.

March 4, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 14: New Zealand

New Zealand native flora & fauna. The bird I think is a Tui; I can’t remember what the tree is. Taken by my sister, a prominent Botanist.

March 2, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 13: Galapagos

An unknown bird in the Galapagos Islands, June 2006

March 2, 2011

Psycho

"Shower Power"

Image by brizzle born and bred via Flickr

I think it’s hard to realise the magnitude of Hitchcock’s achievement with this film with the handicap of hindsight; I wish I could somehow erase all knowledge of it from my mind so I could view as if for the first time: I think only then could I appreciate just how revolutionary & subversive this film really is.

It seems Hitchcock deliberately set out to change the film-going habits of the Western world, & it also seems that he succeeded. Apparently when it was made (1960) film-goers were in the habit of wandering in & out of films at the theatre irrespective of the film’s starting & finishing times. Trailers for ‘Psycho’ blazed the message: “Make sure you watch this film from the beginning”. Those who heeded this advice could have been forgiven for wondering why: a young woman (Janet Leigh) steals a large sum of money from a business partner of her employer. On the road, she stops at the Bates Motel in order to divert attention from a suspicious cop, & with her boyfriend, her sister & a private detective also on her trail. The proprietor is one Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who, although a little edgy, seems basically OK – apart from a slight maternal fixation. What’s the big deal, they might ask – psychological drama, girl on the run etc. etc.: so far, so Hitchcock. After chatting with Bates for a while she retires to her room for a shower, which in hindsight was probably not such a good idea…

In an age when Hollywood was still largely dominated by the star system, half an hour into the movie Hitchcock takes his main lead – an attractive, curvaceous blonde – & kills her off, & with a savagery rarely portrayed on the big screen. He then takes what seemed like a fairly conventional movie & turns it on it’s head. No longer is the lead character an attractive yet vulnerable young woman on the run, it is now a twitchy nervous antithesis of a Hollywood or even a Hitchcockian leading man (i.e. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Gregory Peck); no longer is the film a run-of-the-mill crime thriller, it is now a journey into the mind of a madman.

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho

Image via Wikipedia

I have heard that Hitchcock himself regarded this film as a comedy, & although I’ve never seen it this way myself I wonder if this is where for him the humour lies: the delight of taking accepted Hollywood movie conventions, turning them upside-down & inside-out & yet still producing a hugely successful blockbuster by mangling all the rules. I’m sure it made him laugh anyway!

Mention has to be made of Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates – he is simply magnificent & puts in one of cinema’s greatest performances. His representation of an unhinged madman masquerading as normal is brilliantly done & totally believable. His desperate attempts at normal behaviour & conversation are overlaid with a nervy touchiness; & his twitchy, constantly changing facial expressions make it clear before you know anything more about him that you’re looking at a man torn with internal conflict. He delivers lines such as ‘Mother isn’t quite herself today’ with a superb drollness that is somehow also loaded with hidden meaning, & in hindsight also very funny. The end scene where we finally see Norman in his true colours done by anyone else would just look silly (i.e. the recent remake) but he makes it extremely chilling – for me one of cinema’s great scenes.

The directorial craftmanship is equally superb: who else but Hitchcock could come up with anything like the famous shower scene? Shot over 7 days using 70 different camera set-ups for a minute or so of a naked girl being stabbed in a shower – & yet not showing any nudity that would have upset the censors of the time, or even showing the knife plunging into her flesh, such was the attention to detail. In my opinion it probably still is the greatest cinematic sequence ever made.

psycho3.jpg.output

Image by Dave & Bry via Flickr

And how can I do a review of ‘Psycho’ without mentioning the score? Definitely one of the best ever, it helps create a mood of tension throughout, & complements the direction & cinematography beautifully. Certainly the shower scene wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective without those high-pitched staccato violins mimicking screams & the stabbing knife, then the plunging doom-laden bass strings.

The scripting, the cinematography, the acting, the music, the sets, but particularly its subversive delight in turning conventionality on its head to stunning effect make this film a masterpiece by any standards, a description that still applies 50 years later & I think will do for generations to come.

This review was originally on this blog in the Film Reviews page; I’ve posted & prettified it here  for Metal Mummy’s Movie Meme. The theme this week is “Black & White”, so why not hop over & take a look at the other entires (popcorn not included)

March 1, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 12: My Office!

In March 2010 I got some powerful friends together to help Save BBC 6Music. And they succeeded! 🙂

February 28, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 11: Conwy

From beautiful Bodnant Gardens, Conwy, Wales, June 2007