Archive for the ‘Ian Fleming’ Category

[WATCHED: March 11, 2013] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

ccbbAfter enjoying the audio book of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so much we thought it would be fun to watch the movie–it’s one of the first times we’ve watched a movie after reading the book with the kids so we thought it would be fun to compare them.

This proved to be an awesome opportunity to show that books and movies can be a wee bit different.  Holy moley, about the only thing that the movie has in common with the book is (some of) the characters have the same name and that there’s a magical car.  Oh, and there’s candy involved.  Other than that, there’s really no resemblance whatsoever.

The screenplay to the movie was written by Roald Dahl, which explains some of the weirdness (child catcher, anyone?), And yes the movie producer’s real name is Albert Broccoli.  But seriously, someone read the book and said, hey, that car is cool, I’m going to take it and make something totally different with it.  Oh, and I know, it should be a musical!  Oh, and it should be two and a half hours long!   Oh and even though it’s set in England, it will star Dick van Dyke!  Oh, and instead of him having that crazy accent like in Mary Poppins, he’ll be American, even though his children and father will be British.

I was going to talk a bit about the movie, but that only seems doable by comparing it to the book.  In this handy table format. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: March 2013] Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang

chittyI knew of this movie (although I haven’t seen it in decades) but I didn’t know it was based on a book.  And I had no idea the book was by Ian Fleming!  The creator of James Bond!  Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is his only children’s novel and it was released posthumous;y (he died a few months before it came out).  I’ve never read any James Bond and I don’t love the films all that much so I can’t really compare this to his more famous works.  But it seemed like it was written by a guy who knew from spies and scary villains (I actually guessed that he had written this before the Bond books and it was a kind of lead in).

So the story starts off simply enough.  We meet the Pott family: Caractacus, the father, a former Navy commander and now an inventory of slightly wacky things–known in town as Crack Pott (ha); Mimsie, the mom, sweet and good natured and up for adventure, and the eight year old twins: Jeremy and Jemima.  Most of Crack Pott’s inventions aren’t very good but he eventually makes up a candy that is also a whistle and sells them to Lord Skrumshus and his candy company for a tidy sum (and Fleming goes into the details of the money saying how it’s a small sum up front but since Lord Skrumshus sells billions of candies it’s  good deal–Fleming is full of grown up ideas like that in the book and is clearly trying to impart some wisdom to his audience).

Since they live near the motorway, they decide to buy a car.  But they don’t want one of those black beetles that you see everywhere.  He wrote this book in 1961 so I’m not entirely sure about what kind of car he was talking about there.  The family decides to buy a one of a kind old car from an old man in a garage.  The man raves about the car and wishes he could keep her, but he has to sell it for scrap.  Pott offers him a few quid (everyone loves the car and its license plate read GEN 11 (like Genii)) to have the car delivered to his garage.  He spends the next several months fixing her up.  And when she starts, the noises she makes gives her the name Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Their first test drive is a marvel and they get her up to 100 miles per hour!

WHAT??  100MPH?  In Rural England??  Wow.  And who knew they used miles and not kilometers (it’s pointed out much later in the book that they use kilometers on the continent) in the 60s?  (It became mandatory there in 1978).  The car is  marvel!  She even has all kinds of buttons that Pott hadn’t figured out what they do yet.  And on their next venture they decide to go to the seaside on a warm day.  But so do 20,000 other cars, so there is a massive traffic jam.  Chitty Chitty shows what she can do and takes over the controls–she grows wings and a propeller (which all come naturally from the car parts) and she flies over the traffic!

When they fly to the beach it is crowded so Chitty flies the to an island in the middle of the English Channel.  And they have a lovely picnic together and take a nap.  Until the tide starts to come in.  Chitty escapes and they take off.  But they head away from London and towards France!

And here’s where the story turns into a wild Bondian adventure rather than a cute family story about a magical car.

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As the cover of this album notes: “Ben Folds adds music and melody to Nick Hornby’s words.”  And that is true. The only surprising thing about this combination is that Folds is quite a good lyricist himself, so it’s surprising that he would sacrifice his words.  But regardless, the fit is a good one.

Sometimes it seems like Hornby is challenging Folds to come up with melodies for some of his more difficult lyrics which Folds lives up to).  But they have such similar sensibilities that (aside from occasional references to British things) the words could have come from Folds himself (although, Hornby’s a better writer, so Folds wouldn’t have written exactly the same things).

The big surprise is the diversity of musical styles on the disc.  Folds of course does play lots of different types of music on his previous discs, but I guess since the cohesion is Hornby’s words so Folds can really let loose.

The opener, “A Working Day” is a keyboard pop confection, a surprisingly 80s sounding synth song with some wry lyrics about being a writer/performer (“some guy on the net thinks I suck and he should know, he’s got his own blog”).  “Picture Window” is a beautiful downer, a string-filled song that seems like a companion to Folds’ “Brick” (“You know what hope is, hope is a bastard”).  It’s just as sad but the melody is gorgeous.

“Levi Johnson’s Blues” is a strangely topical song (in fact, it took me a minute to remember who he was when I first listened to the song.  Anyhow, it’s a silly song about what happened to the father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild.  And yet, despite the novelty of it, it’s actually a somewhat sympathetic portrait of the guy (sure he’s a redneck, but he’s just a normal guy thrust into a ridiculous spotlight–the liner notes say the chorus came from Levis (redacted) Facebook page).

“Doc Pomus” feels like a classic piano song.  While “Young Dogs: is a fast romper (with great vocals) and more keyboards.  “Practical Amanda” is a slow ballad (and Hornby says it’s not autobiographical at all).  While “Claire’s Ninth” is a story about a young girl of divorced parents who hates having two birthdays.  (With sweeping choruses!) Hornby states that this was his first accepted short story (modified for the song, of course) but the magazine that accepted it stopped publishing before his appeared.  D’oh!

“Password” is a wonderful song which only makes sense when you know the name of it (which I didn’t at first, as I usually don’t look at titles right away).  Throughout the song Ben spells words which leads to a cool conclusion–it’s wonderfully clever writing and it’s done in a fascinating R&B-lite style.

“From Above” is a jaunty rocker about people who never meet, although their paths cross quite often.  “Saskia Hamilton” is the “single” from the record.  It’s another great 80’s keyboard fueled romp.  Since I have a friend named Saskia (hi, Saskia) I’m fond of this song–her name is fun to say.  They have a bunch of fun in the recording too.

The final track, “Belinda” is designed like a classic 70s piano ballad (there’s a lengthy email printed in the notes that explains the construction of the song–reading that makes the song even more impressive).

It’s a great Ben Folds album.  It’s not as tidy as some of his other ones–but all of that experimentation leads to some new avenues of melody. It’s a risk that paid off.

[READ: May 10, 2011] Five Dials Number 7

This issue of Five Dials was primarily about Memoir.  Typically, I don’t like memoirs, but I’m finding (and this coincides with what one of the memoirs below states), that I just don’t like celebrity memoirs.  Or perhaps I just like three page accounts of an incident in someone’s life (which these are).

Each of the writers below is given an introduction in which they summarize WHY they write memoirs.  It’s interesting to see that many of them do, in fact, take other people’s feeling into consideration (not as seriously as Mark Twain who waited 100 years for the publication of his), but they try to do something or other to spare people’s feelings.  I was intrigued also that several of the writers also talk about finding themselves through writing.  One or two of them make the exercise of writing memoir sound obnoxiously solipsistic (which of course it is), but it’s nice to read ones that are interesting and not too self-centered.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: “On Audio Detective Work and Memoir”
This letter explains the extent of the audio detective work that went into the interview (presented later) between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming.  Since I love playing with audio software, this was of especial interest to me.  And it made me really look forward to the interview. (more…)

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