Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday night

This is the sign which my grandfather put up over the gates of his apartment building here in Manhattan:

That's the kind of man he was.

We have been spending the last couple of days walking the downtown neighbourhoods, getting a feel for the different architecture and people. It is, however, very COLD. It's so cold that we need to stop every 20 minutes for a hot chocolate. Bliss.

Tomorrow morning we'll be driving up to Boston to reunite with my brother and his family. I still can't quite believe that this is all real.

Oh, and next week, I'm planning to meet blackbird for lunch! I may need to take photos of the several potential outfits I could wear and then you can vote on them, hehe. It's not every day that I get to meet blog royalty.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday midnight

Having a midnight snack (literally) at the Empire Diner.
Nachos followed by waffles "with the lot."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Peripatetic posting

First morning in Manhattan, walking along the High Line, deliriously happy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I have been waking up at this time for a week now, it's all due to excitement regarding our family trip to America. We're leaving tomorrow!!! It looks like I won't have time to write up my Avatar thoughts, too busy being excited, sorry about that. I'm not sure if I'll be posting during the next few months, I would like to capture some of my experiences as I travel but I do know from past experience that I'm often too busy living in the moment to step back and document my holidays. I'll see how I go. In any case, rest assured that I will be back at some point, because writing this blog has been one of the best things I've ever done. I've looked back at my posts from this past year and I am amazed to see how much fun I had with all of you. My dear blog friends, I wish you a wonderful December 09 and a superb January 2010. Blog on!

Eleanor from your commentbox xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, December 21, 2009

Compare and contrast

Rushing off this morning, but simply had to quickly tell you that the entire Commentbox family saw "Avatar" in 3-D last night and I'm very much looking forward to describing all of our reactions.

However, in the interests of brevity at this very moment, I just want to say that the 2-D beauty of "Bright Star" (story aside for now) surpasses James Cameron's digitally enhanced genius, and nobody is more surprised at this than I am!

There is a scene in BS when Fanny's mother walks into her room, which Fanny has been using as a butterfly "farm," and she swats at the butterflies as she makes her way towards her daughter who's laying in her bed and pining for her beloved John. All of Avatar's stunning scenes of Pandorian jungle beauty (and it is beauty of the most wondrous sort) do not even come close to that butterfly scene.

But then, I don't really think that I'm the primary target audience of Avatar.

Mr. CB is!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hollywood's new star

Saturday night plan to attend screening of "Bright Star" in my local cinema, Master CB dropped off at a friend's place for the night, boysenberry choc-top in hand, purple pashmina around shoulders (air conditioning at local cinema arctic, also necessary to feel stylish while watching the film). Seated between Mr. CB and Miss CB, in front of 4 elderly women speaking Hungarian and coughing, behind a group of 7 girls, probably around 12 years old, texting, munching on crisps and giggling. As the movie starts Mr. CB turns to me, "This isn't that film about the poet is it?" I nod, "You tricked me," Miss CB and I high-five each other.

I was, at first, excited by the type of audience this film had attracted. "How wonderful," I said, "to see both girls and elderly women enthusiastically waiting for the film to start. And just look at all the men," I pointed out to Mr. CB, "why...there's several gentlemen here wearing ties, and the younger men seem to be quite happily accompanying their arty-looking wives." As the lights dimmed, however, the girls' pleasant chatter continued, becoming annoying and rude. The booming voice of an anonymous man was heard - "Settle down now girls, settle DOWN." I nodded happily in Mr. CB's direction, I had predicted that many of the audience members would be English teachers.

The movie started, and there was Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) sewing, I smiled happily to myself thinking of all my crafty blog-friends who would enjoy this scene. Each of the following scenes made me swoon with delight - the fabrics of her dresses, the colour combinations, the hats, the ribbons, at one point she wore a tiny jacket which seemed to be made out of a multitude of tiny granny squares, exquisitely precious granny squares mind you. The photography, the colours, the light, such a shame that Ben Whishaw (Keats) isn't really my type, but hey, I'm not a young woman now I am? That's when I noticed that the young women in the audience were not particularly enthralled either. The girls began talking and giggling, a few turned their phones on and I wondered if they were already texting their friends "CRAP FILM, KEATS FUGLY" One of the elderly women hissed at them quite aggressively but this just made them giggle even more maniacally, and then half of them left the cinema while the other half made their way to the very front of the cinema where they lay down beside the first row and continued to chat.

Not that the elderly Hungarian women sitting behind me were much better. They were coughing so often, and so loudly, that they made poor Keats look like he was merely suffering from a common head cold. During the scenes which were clearly meant to be heartbreaking, one of the Hungarians sighed dramatically, and although I am unfamiliar with the language, I was pretty certain from her tone that she was telling her friend that this film was not meeting her expectations. During the very last scene of the film that same woman let out a loud, sharp snort. There was no doubt whatsoever what that snort meant - "I've lived many years, I've loved and been loved and I KNOW some things about love, and this, right here, this is not the real deal."

So here's a film about the beauty and passion of first love, and it seemed to have failed to touch both the young and the old members of its target female audience. And what about ME you ask? What did I think of the film? Well.

I do think that I am the target audience Jane Campion had in mind when creating this film, and I did enjoy it, but it was hard work to do so. What I mean by that is that there is really no story here, he loves her, she loves him, and we all know he's going to die. This means that the film is an artistic meditation on young love, not a gripping story, not a multi-faceted characterisation, but a very very beautiful painting which just happens to move along a screen. If I had a bit more of a backbone perhaps I might say that "Bright Star" is boring, slow and dull, because that IS what I thought for two thirds of the film. But at the very end of the film, when Fanny is told that Keats has died, I found myself crying. Yes, I know, tears were POURING down my face and it came as a complete surprise as I hadn't, up until that scene, really cared at all about that pale, simpering, egotistical young poet. But it seems I did care a great deal about Fanny, and I cared even more about the feeling of loving someone with such passion. When she kneeled on the floor and sobbed, pointing to her heart and calling for her mother to come and help her because she couldn't breathe, well....I really believed her. Thank you Abbie Cornish, actress extraordinaire.

P.S. Miss CB and I would like to thank you all very very much for your kind comments and good wishes regarding the last post. It means so much to me to have this circle of encouragement and support and I send you my love in return!

Friday, December 18, 2009

An education

Miss CB received her final results for the HSC and did extraordinarily well. She is very happy, as are we all, and now we look forward to a very special family holiday in New York and Boston. In the meantime, Miss CB is out celebrating with friends and I am sitting here, still in my pyjamas, thinking about her.

As Miss CB finishes one stage of her education, her mother (that would be me) is beginning a new stage of her own. I have been accepted into the Graduate Diploma in Screenwriting and will begin my studies next year. I'm literally shaking with excitement as this is a dream come true for me in many ways.

But I may have lied to you about something in a previous post, and I must set the record straight. Poirot was NOT my first love, oh no, indeed, despite the beauty of his little grey cells. My first love was in fact Christopher Plummer (although Anthony Hopkins will also always have a place in my heart).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A sample of the many possible interpretations of Sophie Calle's break-up letter:


I'm afraid he really is, and always will be, a literary man and not a simple man. I can understand your sadness and, in spite of it all, I am not surprised by this letter which reeks of self-obsession. Well, in his defense, he does things properly: "disquiet" (not bad), "masquerade" (tragic), "irreparable" (solemn)...

He certainly has literary talent, and what a blessing that is!


Applicant with a convoluted form of speech.


To translate "tell you what I have to say out loud" I write: "say, I present you to present," as a pastiche of the famous formula used by Suetonius (Life of Titus, VII) when Titus leaves Berenice: Berenicen dimisit inuitus inuitam (he dismissed her against his will, against her will).


(in text message)

He thinks he's cool!


The first thing that struck me about X's letter is that he opted to express his unilateral decision in writing, as if he was worried that a discussion or confrontation with the protagonist might undermine his determination to put an end to a relationship that seems to be important to him, but that he can no longer cope with.

French Intelligence Officer

Encoded the letter using the Vigenere encryption system, keyword chosen for the encryption was "Rupture."

Talmudic exegesis:

At the end of the debate we say:
"Teku." It cannot be decided. Cowardice or sublimity?

[The Talmud uses the word "teku" to indicate that the rabbis could not reach a decision on the matter under discussion. Derivation uncertain, possibly from "tekum" meaning "it will stand/remain a question." May also be an acronym of the Aramaic phrase "Tishbi yetaretz kushiot v-abayot" - "The Tishbite [Elijah] will answer all unresolved questions" [when the messianic age is proclaimed].

Some responses to "Take care of yourself" (which ends the break-up letter)-

Consultant for savoir-vivre and protocole:

At last, he is thinking about someone other than himself.

Graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure:
"Since you have not taken care of me"? "Since I am incapable of doing so?" "Do what you can with all this"? The lexical field remains admirably consistent: care is the only avenue in this viral climate, in which love is like an incurable sickness.

Linguist, semiologist, medievalist:
Has it occurred to you how a woman might feel when you tell her that?

And the final murderous sentence: "Take care of yourself." Here we grasp the brutality of the vacuity of this action...The nerve! Of course, because I will no longer be taking care of you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

107 interpretations

My parents, who are enjoying a holiday in London at the moment, spoil me terribly. It's a tremendous burden, but I do the best I can with what I have been given. In this particular case, I have been given an armchair holiday, meaning that all I must do is sit back and enjoy their travels stories, while occasionally needing to stand up and open my front door so as to accept the latest package they send me.

Their apartment is walking distance from this shop. Needless to say, a package is on the way. Dad says it'll arrive on Friday, and I believe him. Dad loves tracking parcels and often calls me 5 minutes after I have signed for a package to tell me: "You just received the package, I know."

Another package arrived yesterday, and Mom (I write the American "O" in Mom, but only for my mom, because she's American and hates being "Mum") had already told me that "It's a book from the most wonderful exhibition, well...we liked it...but we kept saying that YOU should have been there." See what I mean, spoilt rotten. Sigh.

This is the exhibition, and this is the book. Mom and Dad were quite right, I really should have been there, I ADORE this project by Sophie Calle.

I believe that my experience of blogging is equivalent to Sophie's collection of 107 interpretations. Every time I publish a post, I receive in return interpretations of the words I have sent out to the world. Each interpretation is unique, and each has something to give and something to teach. At times, my words may be misunderstood, just as I may misunderstand my commentboxes, but the free flow of communication continues and everything is better understood in the process.

Some of the women who interpreted Sophie's break-up email:
Talmudic exegete
Children's writer
Ikebana master
Rifle shooter
Chess player
Sound engineer
Radio host
Translator in SMS language
Nursery school teacher
French intelligence officer

If you like, tell me which one interests you and I might post a few quotes.

Oh, and out of interest, what do you think of letters which end with the phrase "Take care of yourself" ?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The only fictional character to be honoured with a front page obituary in The New York Times

Miss CB and I spent the day together, it's been a busy month and it felt right to take a day off to unwind and reconnect. We ignored our respective to-do lists and settled on the sofa to watch an Agatha Christie mystery. We both love dear Dame Christie, and we both agree that David Suchet is the perfect Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov is a close second).

David Suchet's Poirot almost always wears a tiny vase as a lapel pin, with a miniature flower in it, usually white, but often red and even purple. Is it called a boutonniere? It's more than just a flower, it's a tiny water-holding VASE. Miss CB and I want one each, we have decided Poirot will now be our fashion icon.

But Monsieur Poirot is really much more than that. Poirot is really my first love. Stop it Eurolush, stop LAUGHING, that is NOT funny. Hmph.

Now, where was I? Ah. Yes. I first met Poirot when I was 10 years old and I came across an entire shelf of Agatha Christie books in my local library. I proceeded to read every single Christie starring Poirot, I tried Jane Marple but it just didn't feel right. Only Poirot would do.

I also liked to read Poirot's dialogue out loud, and I often did, so often in fact that my family took it for granted. "Oh, that noise from Eleanor's room? Why, no, she doesn't have a deep-voiced friend with a French accent, that's just Eleanor reading Poirot. To herself. Out loud. It's nothing."

Poirot actually helped me learn English, because a little Israeli girl with a thick Hebrew accent needs to practice reading English quite a bit. That can be pretty dull and often frustrating and difficult, and sometimes a little Belgian friend with a thick accent and a disdain for British pomposity is just what is needed. N'est-ce pas?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hairstyling and chocolate

I woke up this morning thinking about my friends in the Northern Hemisphere, many of them sitting by their warm fires as snow falls outside. Thought to myself that it's really only fair to share a little hairstylin' secret which I've been using for the past year, because a girl can't be running down to the beach and diving into the ocean every day now, can she? If I were to put together a Christmas present recommendation list this would be number one. Funny thing is - it's made in Sweden.

Last night I attended Mr. CB's company Christmas party, a small gathering organised by a lovely young woman who sat next to me, anxiously looking around the table to check that everyone was having fun. She had placed a small box beside each plate, and inside were three gorgeous little chocolate truffles. We all peeked inside and then continued talking, drinking and eating. Tea and coffee was served at the end of the meal, and I shocked Mr. CB by ordering an espresso (guaranteed to keep me up all night) but it was an Italian restaurant and I had to drive us back home (designated driver). As I began to sip my coffee the lovely young woman beside me leaned forward and whispered to me "I made the truffles myself". I turned and looked at her in surprise. "One is Turkish Delight, and the other is Eggnog," I smiled at her in amazement. "They would go very very well with your espresso." She MAKES CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES and modestly offers them as gifts to co-workers, I know I don't have to tell you how amazingly wonderful that is!! I announced this to the group gathered around the table and suddenly everyone turned to this lovely woman who had worked so hard behind the scenes to make the evening a success. She blushed quite a bit, but it was praise she so rightly deserved.

At the end of the evening she gave me an extra box to give to my daughter, because I had mentioned to her how much Miss CB enjoys baking. She also whispered to me:
"The recipe is from, your daughter might like to know that." I thought that you'd like to know that too. So here is the Eggnog Truffle and here is the Turkish Delight Truffle. Something else I'd add to a Christmas present recommendation list, if I was putting one together.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The shack

Tonight is the second night of Chanukah (you know, the fried foods festival). Do you remember what I was doing this time last year? That was a magical week last December when you all accompanied me to the beach, squeezing into my little shack and building sand-castles.

We all walked down to the beach once again this morning. It felt good to get out into the bright sunshine and stroll hand-in-hand through the quiet Saturday-morning streets.

Here is the cafe where we stopped and ordered our take-away lattes, because we were celebrating coffeelady's birthday. Happy birthday my little caffeinated friend!! See that little blue container on the pavement? The cafe owner leaves it filled with water, for Blue, Bryn, Tex and Clover to enjoy while they wait.

Look at that!!

This was our view from the shack.

It was a wonderful day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shep nachas

שעפּן נחת

To derive pleasure or pride (especially from one's children)

This Yiddish phrase summarises my feelings today.

Miss CB returned last night from a four-day camp for children with disabilities. Miss CB decided that after finishing her final exams she wanted to volunteer as a carer at this camp, and she came home glowing with happiness, completely exhausted, and impatient to share her experiences with us.

Upon opening her mail, Miss CB then began racing around the house shouting with joy. She had just opened a letter announcing that her HSC artwork has been chosen to be exhibited in next year's Artexpress.

I'm really shepping nachas over here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


"Where The Wild Things Are"

I'm not sure that it's possible to review this film while sticking to my rule. You know the rule, the one about not comparing a book to a film. I'll give it a go, because I'm a stickler for rules, but it'll be a challenge.

This is a film which is best enjoyed by adults in the company of other adults. I suggest seeing it at an evening session on a weeknight so as to ensure that no children are in the audience. Just as the best time to appreciate childhood is after you've grown up, just as the best time to appreciate your own children is when they are fast asleep, so is this film best watched in a peaceful, silent cinema. This will allow you to envelope yourself in the fantastic world of Max and his wild friends, and it will ensure that the images of his tiny boat, his massive nest-like fort, and his feathered and furred comrades in arms, all reach their mark.

This film enters new, uncharted territory and it will take patience, concentration and an open heart to understand and feel it, much like parenting, and more specifically - much like parenting boys. Also very much like the creating, developing and nurturing of a young family. Yes, the protagonist is a young boy, yes, most of the other characters are dressed in massive monster outfits, but this is not a film for children as much as a film ABOUT children.

If there's a boy in your life that you loved or love or dream of loving, then you're guaranteed to find a connection with this film. If you are still a novice to the many mysteries of childhood then this may not be the film for you, but that's all right, perhaps you'll meet a Max one fine day in your still-unmapped future, and this film will be there for you, quietly biding its time until you sail onto its shores.

Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema mesmerised and a bit disoriented. You know that saccharine Hollywood taste in your mouth? The one that you get after seeing a Hollywood film starring children? Well, this is its antidote.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Parent Trap

"2012" is a disaster film, so you can be absolutely sure that there will be no surprises. This is the sort of film for people who like to get what they see. Film trailers often tease you into expecting a certain movie, and then the film is disappointing first and foremost because it's simply not what you expected. A bit like real-estate ads in Sydney, you must read between the lines and realise that a "surprisingly uplifting" film is a probably a downer, and that "the funniest comedy of the year" probably has a cynical twist. But "2012" is a long film about the end of the world, loaded up with fabulous special effects and endless scenes of mayhem, destruction and panic. Simple.

This is a film to enjoy when you're tired of THINKING. You've been reading and writing and analysing all week, and now you'd like to switch off and forget about anything meaningfully deep. You'll be able to buy that extra-large popcorn because the film's soundtrack is so loud that nobody will be bothered by your jolly opened-mouthed munching. Every so often you'll turn to your partner and repeat a funny bit of the dialogue and share a laugh, and if you look around you the cinema will be packed with happy film-watchers getting what they paid for - a big, bold, fabulously ridiculous disaster film.

This film is best enjoyed in a huge cinema complex on a very busy Saturday night, the atmosphere is half the fun with this type of film. It is also helpful to have a good sense of humour, because taking the end of the world seriously is NOT what this film is about. You should be the kind of person who thinks it's hysterically funny to see the Queen of England shuffling along with her two corgis, making her way towards a huge, metal ark which will survive a tsunami. It would also be helpful if you thought fake Russian accents are very very funny, because there's a lot of that. However, most importantly, you need to be able to appreciate the cunning ingenuity of a scriptwriter who chooses to make the protagonist of the film a negligent and disorganised father who's recently divorced. This is a man who will reconnect with his children and his estranged wife only because the WORLD is about to END. That's what it takes for this family to live happily ever after.

The secret treasure at the end of this film is that you realise it's really "The Parent Trap" for adults. Like I said, take this film seriously at your own risk.

Final words: You'll come out of the cinema a bit dazed, giggling and reminding each other of the silliest scenes (so many to choose from). You might also hearken back to the 70 odd times you watched the original Parent Trap film, and make your partner laugh by singing your very own rendition of "Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah."


There might be a delay in delivery of the next film review. The sartorialist is in town!!! Must rush off and wander the streets, just in case.

Monday, December 7, 2009


"The Time Traveler's Wife"

There's something in this film for the woman looking for a romantic experience, just as there's something for the man she'd dragged along with her. But it's not what they were expecting, not even close. She won't have a really good cry, and he won't tease her about it, instead they'll both sit quietly and UNDERSTAND the story rather than FEEL it.

She'll understand that Rachel McAdams' relationship with Eric Bana is really the secret poetry of her own experiences, men are by definition absent from so much of their women's inner lives. She will understand that Eric Bana's empty clothes and shoes are much like the wardrobes of men she has known and loved and lost to death. The experience of losing an unborn baby as shown on the screen might even make her nod in wise understanding, yes, babies do travel through time far too soon sometimes. He will see the story through a man's eyes, feeling a kinship with this husband who can never fully be everything, all the time, for his beloved wife. But neither of them will lose themselves in the story, because there's something just a little too plastic, a little too simplistic and a little too neat about this film.

Rachel McAdams is not truly convincing as an artist, she's far too calm and rational and perfectly beautiful in an unappealingly airbrushed way. Eric Bana is not truly convincing as a time-traveller, sure he's sad and serious and confused, but have you ever met a traveler (whether spatial or temporal) who looked so clean and white-washed? He needed a hat, and a scruffy beard and some attitude; just as poor little Rachel needed a halo of crazy-mad, curly red hair and a curvaceous figure and a glint of madness in her eye.

Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema desperately wishing that it had been more emotional, more moving, more romantic, but you won't go so far as to say it was a complete disappointment. There was something there, it simply wasn't enough.

P.S. I've decided that all films which are based on books should be reviewed solely on their own merit. Comparing a film to a book is akin to comparing a piece of music to a painting which was inspired by that same music - an impossible and unhelpful comparison.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Four movie weekend

I think film reviews are, on the whole, useless.

First of all, they are usually written by film buffs who are enthralled with film culture and the "art" of it all. That's just fine, if you're a highly-educated film buff yourself, but the average movie-goer is not. These so-called academic/ arty/ cultured reviews usually contain a plethora of snide remarks about popular culture. I classify these as "snob reviews", and (as Kim would say) they make my neck itch. Secondly, film reviews have stopped having any effect whatsoever on the film-going public. It's all about word of mouth these days, and in this modern age word of mouth is lightning fast. It used to be the case that if you had a lousy movie to distribute you'd be able to get at least one good week out of it before word of mouth killed it off. But nowadays, the audience is busy texting their opinion of the film while they're still sitting in the cinema.

Film reviews might be more helpful, and more accessible, if they tried to determine who the target audience for each film might be, and then tried to determine whether this type of film was well-made enough to appeal to the audience for which it was made.

Now I'll give it a go. I don't think it's as easy as it seems.

"A Serious Man"

This one's great for after-movie dinner conversation. Go with your partner and another couple, and you're guaranteed to be able to steer the conversation away from their kitchen renovation, their children's school fees and their baby's adorable cuteness. You might not be able to agree on what the first scene with the dybbuk means, or how it's connected to the plot. If you're not Jewish you might not be able to understand why some of the audience found certain scenes hysterically funny, then again, even if you are Jewish you'd probably disagree on the humour. Is it funny? Depressing? Self-hating? Meaningful? Meaningless? It's all up for interpretation. This is a thinker's film, you won't lose yourself in the characters or the story, but you'll have a lot to ponder afterwards. It's entertaining in the way a well-written book is, you don't love it, but you'd recommend it to your friend the Professor of Literature.

Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema with a bemused expression, stifling a yawn, but reticent to say exactly what you thought of the film until your more clever friends tell you their opinions.

"The Invention of Lying"

This is great for a Saturday night when you need to get out of the house and detox. You don't care that it's not really that funny, and that it's not really well-acted, you want to see comedy on that big screen for at least 90 minutes. You want to eat that packet of Maltesers in a dark, air-conditioned cinema, sitting next to your partner who's munching on his choc-top like it's his last meal and he's gonna be executed tomorrow. You want to forget that you need to pay the bills, that your son is playing too much Xbox, that the dog hasn't been washed in a month and that you need to start eating more healthy shit and exercising more. You just want to tune out.

Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema with a small smile and chocolate smears on your t-shirt. You'll agree that it was an original concept, that it had some very clever moments but it just wasn't that funny. One of you might find the Pizza-Hut-box-10-commandments scene funnier than the other, but hey, that's what makes it interesting. of "Time Traveller's Wife" and "2012"......

I'm rushing off now to see "Where The Wild Things Are."