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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Ruth Ware's The IT girl


No, not internet IT, but IT from the swinging Charleston era, when the IT girl had everything, the beautiful and rich sex kitten supreme.

And April had IT all -- until someone strangled her ....

Ruth Ware is a clever, clever author. I love the way she entwines other books -- classic books -- into her plot development. Rebecca, Turn of the Screw, and so forth.

I assume that this one is based on the classic play by Euripides, Medea.  The author gives this away quite early on. The main character -- April, the victim of the murder -- definitely echoes the mythic queen. Blessed by the sun, with magical qualities, and yet murderously inclined. April is all of that, beautiful, rich, entitled, glamorous, and yet vicious. She doesn't quite kill, but she plays really vicious practical jokes on her victims. So well portrayed that after just a few chapters I was willing to give a medal to whoever topped her.

But who was it? That is the mystery. And it is a good mystery, too. I didn't guess the murderer, and enjoyed the surprise.

Apart from April, though, the characters were tenuous. Hannah, the other main protagonist, was so one-dimensional and crippled with angst that I couldn't understand why her saint of a husband put up with her. The others were even more sketchily drawn, but as bit players in this very Greek drama they served their purpose.  

I found the BEFORE/AFTER format irritating. Halfway through, I contemplated reading all the BEFORE chapters and then the AFTER ones, but that would have meant I lost track, so I bore with it.

And, because Ruth Ware is now classed as a bestselling author, the editing isn't there. Awkward sentences kept popping up to spoil the tempo. And why this fashion for "like" instead of "as if"?

But I do recommend this book, and will keep following the author.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Haunting wildlife image a big winner


A confronting photograph of a humpback whale carcass and circling sharks on the ocean floor in Coral Bay, Western Australia has won the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition for 2022. ‘Nature’s Prey’ by Ashlee Jansen captures a harsh act of Mother Nature, but an important part of the natural ecosystem.

Based in Western Australia, Ms Jansen captured this winning shot in July 2021 after a sub-adult whale died while making the annual migration north along the Ningaloo Reef.

The judges were united in selecting this powerful image as the overall winner and praised Ms Jansen’s photography skills.

“The beauty of the image lies in its artful circular composition, seen in the curves of the whale’s skeletal ribs mirroring the patterns in the sand, keeping our eye within the frame moving between the living and the dead,” they said.  

Image: Nature's Prey, by Ashlee Jansen, Overall Winner 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Friday, September 2, 2022

The ghost with the dancing horse



I have been watching Clint Eastwood since the age of about twenty, starting with "Rawhide."  It was the era of westerns, and I never tired of horse operas.  Perhaps it was because I'd had an after school job of ushering at a movie theater and westerns were standard fare.  And Clint was among the best of them.

So I kept on following, through the spaghetti westerns to Dirty Harry and then his self-directed films, and never tired of watching Clint Eastwood playing Clint Eastwood.  That lean, laconic, stone-faced style, so oddly attractive.

This film was made ages ago, in the seventies, but somehow I missed it. And this one is different.  Well, Clint plays Clint, just as he always did, but the story has a most unusual message.  

If you want revenge, take care not to sup with the devil.

Clint, playing a nameless stranger, rides into a small mining town, the usual western outpost with clapboard houses, a stable, a church.  A few of the local men accost him and threaten his life.  Predictably he proves himself -- with a gun, naturally.  So impressive is he that the townsfolk propose a contract.  They need a gunfighter, as three men they put away for murder are coming out of prison next day. The anonymous guy with a gun accepts it, but on his own very strange terms.  He has a mission of his own.

That mission is gradually revealed as he arms the townsfolk, drills them into a faint semblance of efficiency, and literally paints the town red.  His motives come in horrifying glimpses that leave the viewer to make his or her own conclusions.  Because of this, the ending is both thoughtful and satisfying.  As a western, this film is remarkably intelligent.

But the star of the show?  Not Clint, believe it or not.  It's Clint's equally nameless horse.  The dance as the gunfighter rides into town is startlingly clever.  That horse was so good, in fact, that I was on tenterhooks throughout the rest of the film in case that lovely, graceful steed was stolen, killed or hurt.

Scan through the credits of the clip above, and at three minutes into it, turn up the music and watch that horse dance.