Monday, May 08, 2006

My review of Mission Impossible III.

Thrilling, Entertaining and Occasionally Smart.

J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost, takes on the third instalment of the action franchise, which sees human yo-yo Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in rare human mode as he plans on making an early retirement to be with his nurse wife (Michelle Monaghan), only to be go on another impossible mission as he plans catching sadistic arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). To aid him are Ving Rhames, Jonathon Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q, and, this being a third, there are gadgets, explosions, sets and plot twists like now other.

You’ve got to hand it to Abrams – he certainly knows how to keep an audience on their toes. Drawing on a few of his popular plot devices from Lost (flashbacks, a crescendo to the turning point), he sets us up neatly into his little world, where Ethan Hunt is now a man trying to live a normal life. Whilst that scenario may be a hard to buy, this is redeemed by the many action scenes in the film which are each exhilarating. To go into detail would be spoiling it, but let’s just say there is an extremely breathtaking sequence involving a fulcrum, an amusing one involving Tom Cruise disguising himself as someone, and lastly, but by no means least a helicopter chase which is utterly awe-inspiring and barely lets the audience pause for breath. All this, and you get a Michael Giacchino score that perfectly blends action, anxiety, fear and anger.

The cast in themselves are a treat. Tom Cruise, though not given the most trying of tasks in playing an action hero, does a good job with his usual intensity. In the action scenes, his facial expressions are concentrated and focussed and utterly convincing. However, Cruise fails in having any genuine chemistry with Michelle Monaghan, for and the romance comes across as rather bland. This is not aided with the poor writing in these scenes. Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q merely look cool as his helpers, and Laurence Fisburne and Billy Crudup successfully bring that edge of moral ambiguity to their characters. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellently malicious as the elusive and extremely dangerous Davian, shining in his lizard-eyed role and bringing some genuine terror to the villain. His scenes aside Tom Cruise are superb, as they practically tremble in tension and quiet hatred on both characters parts.

You will go to see Mission Impossible III expecting some grand-scale set pieces, and you will not be disappointed here. Each one of the four is masterfully executed, with a breezy slickness that is both cool and exciting. We’re talking non-stop action, occasionally interspersed with those corny Hollywood love formulae, cruising as “emotion.” Its big, its bombastic, and it could be the Summer blockbuster of the year.


Dray said...

Haven't seen it yet, because I'm been trying to resurface from my GCSE revision, but I'm going to see it after my exams.

Maria said...

Dray! Anyone! Have you got to looking at the post-1914 poetry, yet? Because I can't think of anything to say about Claude McKay's poem.. I Shall Return? What do I write? I'll cry if I get this text in the exam! I need a B or higher in English to do it for A level!

Kate said...

Have you heard of this new... um.. Bra Vinci Code? It's really, really bad.

Anonymous said...

Bad site. As usual

Craig said...

Summer blockbuster of the year? Did you not see the part where she was doing CPR on him? Never laughed so much since Confetti!

Jason said...

Hey. Fantastic concert yesterday.

A little reward, just for ya:

Clips... Joy

Anonymous said...

I have been impatiently waiting for your soundtrack reviews, comparisons, pictures, or anything, and I couldn't figure out why you're not posting. But then I visited your livejournal page. I'm so sorry, I hope you get well soon, and blog away!

Get well soon. xx

Emma said...

Sorry for being away for so long, I was kind of ill. Thanks for caring. I'll reply to everyone via personal e-mail. Save the anons.

Cath said...

I like this site

Dave T said...

Got a couple of DVDs, want to watch them with at weekend?

Nikki said...


Gracie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason said...

Easy. And too blatant, girly, she isn't going to rise to that.

David Allen Coe

Emma said...

You geh!

Anonymous said...

How much do you love PSH?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Betjeman is one of the most enduring and endearing of Britain's poets. I have an old volume that regularly comes down from the shelf to both inspire and amuse me. His verse always has something to say, even on fifth, sixth or seventh reading.
There is a down-to-earth quality to Betjeman's poems and the themes he covers. He is realistic about love, faith, life and human beings. Some of his most amusing verses poke fun at characters that one gets the impression might easily be reflections of himself (see Seaside Golf, for example); his ability to laugh at himself certainly adds an air of ease and approachability to his work. Nevertheless, he is also able to deal with thorny subjects without trivializing the difficult questions they provoke, even if he often does so with a rather wicked sense of humour. For me, the most fascinating of his poems deal with God, faith and religion. Betjeman was an Anglican, and he is not shy about his faith, nor about acknowledging its shortcomings. In Westminster Abbey takes the form of a lady's wartime prayer, and is a brilliant and witty expose of religious hypocrisy; On a Portrait of a Deaf Man is a heartfelt psalmic reflection on the problem of God and evil; Senex is a hilarious confession of struggle with sexual temptation.
Elsewhere, Betjeman treats sexuality with a candour that shocks, and firmly dispells any lingering suspicions that he is merely a fat, jovial and reserved old Englishman (see Late-Flowering Lust). At other times, he offers playful reflections on love, lust, romance and courtship, as in A Subaltern's Love Song or The Olympic Girl.
His attempts at blank verse are delightful, and eminently readable, or preferably listenable (English readers will recall the documentaries he made for British television some twenty or thirty years ago, for which he recited many of his poems, including the charming Beside the Seaside, included here). He is at home musing on the things that he loves most: people and places. Many (probably most) of his poems received their inspiration, and take their titles, from places mainly in and around the English coast. He writes of them with an obvious affection.
It seems that Betjeman has not received the attention he deserves on this side of the Atlantic (US/Canada). His books are few and far between in second-hand bookshops, and my review of his collected poems seems to be the first to appear on Amazon. This is regrettable. I am sure that those who take the time to explore Betjeman's world will find they are richly rewarded; his enthusiasm for his subjects, and his gentle and avuncular manner, surely elicit an appeal that goes beyond national boundaries. This comprehensive collection comes highly recommended.
Lustful, lyrical

John Betjeman, who was born 100 years ago next week, was a bold poet. You see it in the rhymes he attempts. He likes them within the same line - "Strong and willowy, strong to pillow me". In his poem, "Senex", he ends three lines in each five-line stanza with the same word, putting the rhyme just before it:
"To see the golden hiking girl
With wind about her hair,
The tennis-playing, biking girl,
The wholly-to-my-liking girl,
To see and not to care."
His boldness can be shocking, too:

"He liked old City dining-rooms,
Potatoes in their skin,
But now his mouth is wide to let The London clay come in."
How skilfully disgusting the word "skin" becomes in that context.
Sometimes his imagination amazes. He listens to the autumn poplars in Harrow-on-the-Hill and imagines that the whole place is being invaded by the sea. He looks up at the cliffs above Matlock and perceives them poised like a great wave "a tossed and stony ocean nearing". Indeed, the sea ebbs and flows throughout his poetry, giving it much of its beauty, strangeness and sadness. In one of (I think) only three poems he ever wrote about something outside the British Isles, "The Costa Blanca", the word "tideless" expresses everything that he dislikes. Betjeman loved to turn names and places into rhyme. There is Diss and "bliss", Bootle and "rootle", West Kirby and "rus in urbe", Pinner and "dinner", Ruislip Gardens and "Ta's and Pardon's", Wembley and "trembly", Lagonda and "wander", Pontefract and "flannel-slack'd". Only he could give such poetic weight to "Charrington, Sells, Dale and Co", or to Perivale. How I wish he were alive to find a poetic place for Ikea, or Center Parcs, or Eurostar.
What is going on here? Obviously, much of the time, Betjeman is being funny. You know before you read it that a poem called "Slough" is not going to be wholly serious (although it turns out to be terribly fierce as well). There is something about our names that we British find intrinsically amusing, and Betjeman plays up to it wonderfully. (The French, by the way, do not think the same way about their place-names. In French, "un pari" means a bet, and therefore their capital city means "bets". If our capital were called "bets", we would make endless gags about it. I have asked French friends if they do so, and they fix me with a pitying look.) But beyond - or rather, including - the laughter is something deep.
In his autobiography, Summoned by Bells, itself in verse, Betjeman records his infant desire to be a poet: "My urge was to encase in rhythm and rhyme / The things I saw and felt (I could not think)." His continuing failure to think exasperated his friend Evelyn Waugh, who wrote him brilliant, bullying letters about how his High Church Anglicanism ("a handful of homosexual curates") was "entirely without reason" beside the edifice of (Roman) Catholic truth. But while Betjeman's rather weedy, hand-flapping replies might be taken to prove Waugh right, it is not necessarily a bad thing for a poet to be bad at thinking. Milton could think, and so could Donne, but could Wordsworth, or Gray, or Tennyson? Not many of us are good at thinking, but we can see and feel, and we are grateful to anyone who can "encase" those sights and emotions for us.
Betjeman understood better than almost any writer of his generation how what is seen - and heard and smelt and tasted - affects what is felt, and recalls it later. His experience of his father's anger or his mother's love, of his first schoolboy crush or his early Christian faith, might have universal application, but only took form in the particular - at the end of a drive from London to Cornwall, on Hackpen Hill near Marlborough, in evensong in City churches.
So it never seemed a waste of time to Betjeman to explore unfrequented churches, streets or lanes, to write about Surrey houses of the 1920s, or Ealing on a Sunday. Prompted by the use of the single word "erstwhile" in an Edwardian book of colour-plates, he conjured up old Essex. He devoted an entire stanza of one poem just to the names of hymn tunes. He felt the power of the juxtapositions: "Glory" "Gospel" "Russell Place"
"Wrestling Jacob" "Rock"
"Saffron Walden" "Safe at Home"
"Dorking" "Plymouth Dock".
He was acutely aware that his own religion was born of this mixture - a faith for everyone, everywhere, yet one whose events are historical and whose sites - Bethesda, Siloam, Jerusalem - can be found on a map.
Bells occur so often in Betjeman's poems because their sound dies at once and yet carries so much upon the air. They stand for the human relationship between the present, the past, and the eternal. They remind us of one place and one time, yet speak of all time: "Imprisoned in a cage of sound / Even the trivial seems profound", he wrote about a funeral bell, in a poem entitled, with characteristic specificity, "Uffington". Perhaps he was speaking about his own verse, too. The Global Positioning System that some people now have in their cars directs the driver to a minutely exact place. Betjeman works in the reverse way: he takes you from the minute place and positions you globally.
His Collected Poems contain, as well as an index of first lines, an "Index of Places", which I have never seen in any other book of verse. Start there and work outwards. Betjeman was passionate and utterly professional about his duty to turn this personal and local experience into art. "The gap from feeling to accomplishment!" he lamented. It is a gap that almost all amateur poets fail to bridge. Betjeman succeeded. I have often heard his poems read aloud to non-literary audiences, and there is always a gasp, an explosion of laughter, or a sigh which says, "Yes, that's it." He has "got" our embarrassment, or snobbery, or regret, or longing, our strange relation between what we say and what we really mean. And the flattering thing is that these are his feelings, too. He is not talking down to us. Although no two men had more differing sensibilities, Betjeman shares with Kipling an ability to speak for people for whom "literature" is, precisely, a closed book.
Betjeman is almost the exact opposite of what is normally meant by a patriotic poet. He never thumps a tub. He is utterly unmartial, and almost completely unpolitical. The only aggression that he expresses in his poems is towards people who are themselves aggressive. Yet if true patriotism means love of country, then he has it, and evokes it. He sees what there is to be said for so many unregarded places, and says it. Cumulatively, he gives a picture of these islands (though if I were Scottish, I should feel short-changed) which shows why they deserve to be loved. As this is bank holiday weekend, read John Betjeman's poem "Beside the Seaside". It has something about growing up, about class ("The topic all-absorbing"), about dreadful boarding houses, about change. And then it obliterates what it describes:
"And all the time the waves, the waves, the waves
Chase, intersect and flatten on the sand
As they have done for centuries, as they will …
When England is not England, when mankind
Has blown himself to pieces. Still the sea,
Consolingly disastrous, will return
While the strange starfish, hugely magnified,
Waits in the jewelled basin of a pool."
Neil: "We originally wrote this for Patsy Kensit in 1987 and it had been a hit for her group Eighth Wonder earlier in 1988, at the same time as 'Heart' was a hit. We used to meet Patsy Kensit at parties and she'd asked us to make a record with her. We'd never produced anything for anyone else before, and Phil Harding and Ian Curnow did tons of the work. The original demo, which we'd written in 1985 in Camden Town at the same time as 'Love comes quickly', had been called 'A Roma'."
Chris: "One of my useless puns."
Neil: "It was only an instrumental. We thought it sounded a bit like Shannon. At the time Patsy Kensit had been in Absolute Beginners and she was in this group Eighth Wonder and they hadn't had a hit, and she was seen as a little girl and a controlled hype, and I thought the way that she was perceived could be changed. I thought it would be good if she could be seen as a strong woman. She seemed to me to be a very strong-willed person, slightly ruthless even, and I didn't think it was good that she was just portrayed as a sexy bimbo. Chris and I were obsessed at the time by this record Princess Stephanie had made, 'Irresistible'. We liked that kind of French pop music and we liked the idea of making Patsy a European pop star. I think we did a demo with four verses but there wasn't room for all of them in her version. I wanted the song to sound as though it was translated from French, hence the line 'what have you got to say of shadows in your past?' I've tried for years to rationalise the line 'tonight the streets are full of actors'. I suppose it's just about people posing. 'Take these dogs away from me...' is actually a quote, or a misquote, from a John Betjeman poem called 'Senex', which is about it being disgusting to feel sexy when you're old. In the song, the idea is that she's got this horrible gangster boyfriend who's pushing her around but she's going to stand up to him because she's not scared. The dogs are the hooligans and criminal elements around them. So when I sing it I'm doing one of my singing-from-the-point-of-view-of-a-woman songs. I'm singing it as a woman."
Chris: "You don't get the spoken French bit in our version."
Neil: "No. But, doing one of our filmic things, we decided to set it in 1968 in Paris, because there was something French-sounding about the track anyway. The band at the start is taken from 1968 news footage, and you can hear a fascist speech - it's from a counter-revolutionary rally in Paris. I had been reading a book about that period at the time. It was just the romance of revolution: students and workers. We got the tape from ITN but we weren't allowed to use the newscaster, which was a shame, because we wanted to put this bit over the end where he said, in this camp posh voice, 'the workers of France are marching...' For our version, we reinstated the missing fourth verse. It was after this track that I started singing much higher. If you listen to the first two albums I don't really sing high on them. We produced it ourselves with David Jacob. We did it in a much more Europop way with Patsy and we felt we could do it in a more luscious film soundtrack way, because the melody line is very string-based and romantic. Our version also sounds more electronic. It's very over the top. I think this is also the only song we've written with a coda where a whole new bit comes at the end."

Senex is Latin for old man. In Ancient Rome, the title of Senex was only awarded to elderly men with families who had good standing in their village.
Sir John Betjeman CBE (28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack". He was born to a middle-class family in Edwardian London. Although he claimed he failed his degree at Oxford University, his early ability in writing poetry and interest in architecture supported him throughout his life. Starting his career as a journalist, he ended it as British Poet Laureate and a much-loved figure on British television.
Contents[hide]· 1 Life o 1.1 Early life and education o 1.2 After university o 1.3 After the Second World War o 1.4 Honours · 2 Betjeman and architecture · 3 Work o 3.1 Printed § 3.1.1 Verse § 3.1.2 Prose § 3.1.3 Recordings § 3.1.4 Radio/Prose o 3.2 Television · 4 Bibliography · 5 References · 6 Other sources · 7 External links
[edit] Life
[edit] Early life and education
Betjeman was born John Betjemann, which was changed to the less Germanic "Betjeman" during the First World War. He started life at Parliament Hill Mansions on the bottom edge of Hampstead Heath in north London. His parents Mabel (née Dawson) and Ernest Betjemann had a family firm, which manufactured the kind of ornamental household furniture and gadgets so loved by Victorians. His father's forebears had come from Bremen, Germany[1] more than a century earlier, setting up their home and business in Islington, London. In 1909, the Betjemanns left Parliament Hill Mansions, moving half a mile north to more opulent Highgate, where, from West Hill, in the reflected glory of the Burdett-Coutts estate, they could look down on those less fortunate:
Here from my eyrie, as the sun went down,
I heard the old North London puff and shunt,
Glad that I did not live in Gospel Oak.[2]
Betjeman's early schooling was at the local Byron House and Highgate School, where he was taught by the poet T. S. Eliot, after which he boarded at the Dragon School preparatory school in North Oxford and Marlborough College, a public school in Wiltshire. While at school, reading the works of Arthur Machen won him over to an allegiance to High Church Anglicanism, a conversion of vital importance personally and for his later writing and interest in art and architecture. He was also influenced by the ghost stories of M. R. James and attributed his interest in old churches etc to these tales in his introduction to a book about M. R. James by Peter Haining He was a contemporary of both Louis MacNeice and Graham Shepard.
Betjeman entered the University of Oxford with considerable difficulty, having failed the mathematics portion of the university's matriculation exam, Responsions. He was, however, admitted as a commoner (i.e., a non-scholarship student) at Magdalen College and entered the newly-created School of English Language and Literature. At Oxford Betjeman made little use of the academic opportunities. His tutor, a young C.S. Lewis, regarded him as an "idle prig" and Betjeman in return considered Lewis unfriendly, demanding, and uninspired as a teacher. Betjeman disliked the coursework's emphasis on linguistics and he dedicated most of his time to cultivating an active social life, to his interest in English ecclesiastical architecture, and to private literary pursuits. He had a poem published in Isis, a university magazine, and was editor of the Cherwell student newspaper during 1927. He famously brought his teddy bear Archibald Ormsby-Gore up to Magdalen with him, the memory of which later inspired his Oxford contemporary Evelyn Waugh to include Sebastian Flyte's teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited. Much of this period of his life is recorded in his blank verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells which was published in 1960 and made into a television film in 1976.
It is a common misapprehension, cultivated by Betjeman himself, that he did not complete his degree because he failed to pass the compulsory holy scripture examination, known as Divinity, or, colloquially, as "Divvers." The facts of the matter are, however, more complicated. In Hilary Term 1928, Betjeman failed Divinity for the second time. He was rusticated (i.e., temporarily sent down) for Trinity Term to prepare for a retake of the exam and was permitted to return in October. Meanwhile, he wrote to G.C. Lee, secretary of the Tutorial Board at Magdalen, stating his position and asking to be entered for the Pass School (a set of examinations taken on rare occasions by undergraduates who are deemed unlikely to achieve an honours degree). It is thus also a myth that Lewis said "You'd have only got a third" (i.e., a third-class honours degree); rather, Lewis had informed the tutorial board that he thought Betjeman would not achieve an honours degree of any class.
Permission to sit the Pass School was granted, which was the occasion of Betjeman's famous decision to offer a paper in Welsh. The story told by Osbert Lancaster that a tutor was engaged twice a week by train (first class) from Aberystwyth is probably also apocryphal, since Jesus College had a number of Welsh tutors who would have taught him. Betjeman was finally sent down, permanently this time, at the end of Michaelmas Term 1928.[3] It has recently been clarified that Betjeman did pass his Divinity examination on his third try but was sent down after failing the Pass School, having achieved a satisfactory result in only one of the three required papers (on Shakespeare and other English authors).[4]
Betjeman's academic failure at Oxford rankled him for the rest of his life and he was never reconciled with C. S. Lewis, towards whom he continued to nurse a bitter detestation. This situation was perhaps complicated by his enduring love of Oxford, from which he accepted an honorary doctorate of letters in 1974.
[edit] After university
Betjeman left Oxford without a degree, but he had made the acquaintance of people who would influence his work, including Louis MacNeice, W. H. Auden, Maurice Bowra, Osbert Lancaster, George Alfred Kolkhorst, Tom Driberg and the Sitwells.
After university Betjeman worked briefly as a private secretary, school teacher and film critic for the Evening Standard. After some freelance pieces for the Architectural Review he was employed on its full-time staff as an assistant editor between 1930 and 1935. Up to this point Betjeman had been an admirer of Victorian decoration; he changed his views, or bit his tongue, while writing for The Review — the editor was a vigorous proponent of Modernism. Mowl (2000) says, "His years at the Architectural Review were to be his true university." At this time, while his prose style matured, he joined the MARS Group, an organisation of young modernist architects and architectural critics in Britain.
On 29 July 1933 Betjeman married the Hon. Penelope Chetwode, the daughter of Field Marshal Lord Chetwode. The couple lived in Oxfordshire and had a son and daughter, Paul, who was born in 1937, and Paula (better known as Candida, now Candida Lycett Green), who was born in 1942.
The Shell Guides, a series of British county guides, came from an idea developed by Betjeman and Jack Beddington, a friend who was publicity manager with Shell-Mex Ltd. The guides were aimed at Britain's growing number of motorists who drove out to churches and historical sites at weekends. They were published by the Architectural Press and financed by Shell. By the start of World War II 13 had been published, of which Cornwall (1934) and Devon (1936) had been written by Betjeman. A third, Shropshire, was written with and designed by his good friend John Piper in 1951.
In 1939, Betjeman was rejected for active service in World War II but found war work with the films division of the Ministry of Information. In 1941 he became British press attaché in Dublin, Ireland, which was a neutral country. He may have been involved with intelligence gathering and is reported to have been selected for assassination by the IRA until they decided that a published poet was unlikely to be involved in such work.
[edit] After the Second World War
Penelope Betjeman became a Roman Catholic in 1948, and the couple drifted apart. In 1951, he met Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, with whom he developed an immediate and lifelong friendship.
By 1948 Betjeman had published more than a dozen books. Five of these were verse collections, including one in the USA; although not admired by some literary critics, his poetry was popular, and sales of his Collected Poems in 1958 reached 100,000.
He continued writing guidebooks and works on architecture during the 1960s and 1970s and started broadcasting. His work was not limited to these activities; he was a founder member of The Victorian Society in 1958 and put great effort into the protection of old buildings of architectural merit which were in danger of demolition. Betjeman was also closely associated with the culture and spirit of Metro-land, the name by which the outer reaches of the Metropolitan Railway were known before the war.
In 1973 he made a widely acclaimed television documentary for the BBC called Metro-land, which was directed by Edward Mirzoeff. In the centenary (2006) of his birth, his daughter led two celebratory railway trips: one from London to Bristol, the other, through Metro-land, to Quainton Road.
He fought a spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign to save the Euston Arch, although he was victorious in the battle to preserve the iconic Gothic hotel at St Pancras Station.
In his public image Betjeman never took himself too seriously. His poems are often humorous and in broadcasting he exploited his bumbling and fogeyish image.
His wryly comic verse is accessible and has attracted a great following for its satirical and observant grace. Auden said in his introduction to Slick But Not Streamlined "... so at home with the provincial gaslit towns, the seaside lodgings, the bicycle, the harmonium." His poetry is similarly redolent of time and place, continually seeking out intimations of the eternal in the manifestly ordinary. There are constant evocations of the physical chaff and clutter that accumulates in everyday life, the miscellanea of an England now gone but not beyond the reach of living memory. There is Ovaltine and the Sturmey-Archer bicycle, and ...
Oh! Fuller's angel-cake, Robertson's marmalade,
Liberty lampshades, come shine on us all.

John Betjeman's grave
I have a Slimline brief-case and I use the firm's Cortina.
In every roadside hostelry from here to Burgess Hill [5]
It has been astutely observed that Betjeman's poetry provides the reader with a skeleton key to a long lost past which he will instantly recognize even if he were never there. It is this talent for evoking the familiar and secure, however homely, that makes a reader feel similarly disposed toward Betjeman himself. He is the font of wry, well-painted, avuncular reminiscence.
He was a practicing Anglican, and his religious beliefs come through in some of his poems, albeit sometimes in a rather light hearted way. He combined piety with a nagging uncertainty about the truth of Christianity. Unlike Thomas Hardy, who disbelieved in the truth of the Christmas story, while hoping it might be so, Betjeman affirms his belief even while fearing it might be false. Even in Christmas, one of his most openly religious poems, the last three stanzas that proclaim the wonder of Christ's birth do so in the form of a question "And is it true...?" that is answered in the conditional tense, "For if it is..."
Perhaps his views on Christianity were best expressed in his poem "The Conversion of St. Paul", a response to a radio broadcast by Humanist, Margaret Knight.
But most of us turn slow to see
The figure hanging on a tree
And stumble on and blindly grope
Upheld by intermittend hope,
God grant before we die we all
May see the light as did St. Paul.
Betjeman was, however, deeply insecure, and this imbued his writings. It was said that "Depression was for him what daffodils were for Wordsworth" (BBC programme on the occasion of the centenary of his birth: 28 August 2006).
He became Poet Laureate in 1972, and this combined with his popularity as a television performer ensured that his poetry eventually reached an audience enormous by poetic standards. Like Tennyson, he appeals to a very wide public and manages to voice the thoughts and aspirations of many ordinary people while retaining the respect of many of his fellow poets. This is partly because of the apparently simple traditional metrical structures and rhymes he uses (not nearly as simple as they might appear).
In 1975 he proposed that the Fine Rooms of Somerset House should house the Turner Bequest, so helping to scupper the plan of the Minister for the Arts that they should house the Theatre Museum.
Sir John was very fond of the ghost stories of M.R. James and supplied an introduction to Peter Haining's book M.R. James - Book of the Supernatural.
For the last decade of his life Betjeman suffered increasingly from Parkinson's Disease. He died at his home in Trebetherick, Cornwall on 19 May 1984, aged 77, and is buried half a mile away in the churchyard at St Enodoc Church[6].
A number of memorials have been created to Betjeman's memory, including a window at All Saints' Church, Farnborough, Berkshire designed by John Piper. The Betjeman Millennium Park is at Wantage, Oxfordshire, where he had lived from 1951 to 1972.
[edit] Honours
· 1960 Queen's Medal for Poetry
· 1960 CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)
· 1968 Companion of Literature, the Royal Society of Literature
· 1969 Knight Bachelor
· 1972 Poet Laureate
· 1973 Honorary Member, the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
[edit] Betjeman and architecture
Betjeman has often been portrayed as a compulsive protester who idolised the past, who had a special fondness for Victorian buildings even when they were third-rate and leapt into action whenever any kind of ancient relic was threatened with destruction. He was alleged to be a snob, a romantic, out of touch with the realities of contemporary life and steeped in nostalgia.
This is something of a caricature though it has elements of truth. He responded to architecture as the visible manifestation of society's spiritual life as well as its political and economic structure. He attacked speculators and bureaucrats for what he saw as their rapacity and lack of imagination.
The preface of his collection of architectural essays, First and Last Loves says:
We accept the collapse of the fabrics of our old churches, the thieving of lead and objects from them, the commandeering and butchery of our scenery by the services, the despoiling of landscaped parks and the abandonment to a fate worse than the workhouse of our country houses, because we are convinced we must save money.
[edit] Work
Despite being a prolific poet, Betjeman remains best known for just a single poem, Slough, written in 1937 about the community outside London which typified the transformation of the rural landscape wrought by industrialisation. It opens "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough...."

Anonymous said...

Scene Three
It is around 2:30 A.M. Steve, Pablo, Mitch, and Stanley are playing poker in the Kowalskis’ kitchen, which is bathed in a sinister green light. Their talk is heavy with testosterone and the effects of whiskey, several glasses of which litter the table. Stanley dominates the table with his tough talk, while Mitch, who frets about whether or not he should go home to his sick mother, shows himself to be the most sensitive and sober man at the table. After exchanging a few harsh words with Stanley, Mitch rises from the table to go to the bathroom.
Stella and Blanche return. Blanche insists on powdering her face at the door of the house in anticipation of the male company. Stella makes polite introductions, but the men show no interest in Blanche’s presence. When Stella asserts that it’s time to stop playing for the night, Stanley refuses her request, tells her to go upstairs to Eunice’s, and disrespectfully slaps her on the buttocks. Stella is shamed and joins Blanche, who is planning to take another bath, in the bedroom. Mitch emerges into the bedroom from the bathroom and is sheepish and awkward upon meeting Blanche, indicating that he is attracted to her. Once he has left the room, Blanche remarks that there is something “superior to the others” in Mitch. Stella agrees that Mitch is polite but claims that Stanley is the only one of them who will “get anywhere.”
Stella and Blanche continue their sisterly chat in the bedroom while the poker game continues. Stanley, drunk, hollers at them to be quiet. While Stella is busy in the bathroom, Blanche turns on the radio, further angering Stanley. The other men enjoy the music, but Stanley springs up and shuts off the radio. He and Blanche stare each other down. Mitch skips the next hand to go to the bathroom again. Waiting for Stella to finish in the bathroom, he and Blanche talk. Blanche is a little drunk and unabashedly flirtatious. They discuss Mitch’s sick mother, the sincerity of sick and sorrowful people, and the inscription on Mitch’s cigarette case. Blanche fibs that she is actually younger than Stella, and that she has come to New Orleans because Stella is ailing and needs her assistance. She asks Mitch to put a Chinese lantern she has bought over the naked lightbulb. As they talk Stanley grows increasingly annoyed at Mitch’s absence from the game.
Stella leaves the bathroom, and Blanche impulsively turns the radio back on and begins to dance, slyly engaging the clumsy Mitch and preventing his leaving to go to the bathroom. Stanley leaps up, rushes to the radio, and hurls it out the window. Stella yells at Stanley, and he advances violently toward her. He follows her as she runs offstage, and the stage directions call for sounds of him beating her. The other men pull him off. Stella cries out that she wants to get away, and Blanche scrambles to gather clothes and take Stella upstairs to Eunice’s apartment. Mitch condemns Stanley’s behavior to Blanche. Then the men attempt to revive the now limp and confused Stanley, but when they try to force him into the shower to sober him up, he fights them off. They grab their poker winnings and leave.
Stanley stumbles out of the bathroom, calling for Stella. He cries remorsefully and then telephones upstairs, but Eunice won’t let him speak to Stella. After calling again to no avail, he hurls the phone to the floor. Then, half-dressed, he stumbles out to the street and calls for his wife again and again: “STELL- LAHHHHH!” Eunice warns him to stop, but his bellowing cry continues. Finally, a disheveled Stella slips out of the apartment and down to where Stanley is. They stare at each other and then rush together with “animal moans.” He falls to his knees, tenderly caresses her face and belly, then lifts her up and carries her into their flat.
Blanche emerges from Eunice’s flat, frantically looking for Stella. She stops short at the entrance to the downstairs flat. Mitch returns and tells her not to worry because Stella and Stanley are crazy about each other. He offers her a cigarette. She thanks him for his kindness and waxes poetic while he quietly listens.
Scene Three underscores the primal nature of Stella and Stanley’s union, and it cements Stanley’s identity as a villain. After Stanley’s drunken radio-hurling episode, Stella yells at him and calls him an “animal thing,” inciting Stanley’s attack. Later that night, Stanley bellows “STELL-LAHHHHH!” into the night like a wounded beast calling for the return of his mate. Their reunion is also described in terms of animal noises. Stanley’s cruel abuse of his wife convinces the audience that genteel Blanche has her sister’s best interests in mind more than Stanley does. Yet Stella sides with Stanley and his base instincts, infusing the play with an ominous sense of gloom.
Audience sympathy may establish itself in Blanche’s favor, but nothing about Blanche suggests that she will emerge as a heroine. The sense of mystery surrounding Blanche’s peculiar arrival in New Orleans takes on a sinister taint, and Blanche’s reluctance to be in bright light calls attention to this mysterious nature. Both metaphorically and literally, bright light threatens to undo Blanche’s many deceptions. While conversing with Mitch, she asks him to place a Chinese lampshade on the bare lightbulb in the bedroom, claiming that the naked bulb is “rude” and “vulgar.” Bright light, whether from a naked bulb or the midday sun, reveals Blanche’s true age. She can claim to be a woman of twenty-five in semi-darkness, but the glare of sharp light reveals a woman who has seen more, suffered more, and aged more. In addition, probing questions and honest speech function as a metaphorical light that threatens to reveal Blanche’s past and her true nature. Blanche is in no mental condition to withstand such scrutiny, so she has fashioned a tenuous make-believe world. Her effort to create a more flattering, untruthful portrait of herself for Mitch continues in upcoming scenes.
Mitch and Blanche clearly feel attracted to one another, perhaps because both have a broken quality as a result of their experiences with the death of loved ones. Blanche lost her husband and Mitch the girl who gave him the cigarette case with the poetic inscription. Both also nursed their parents through lingering deaths. However, whereas Mitch’s experiences have engendered in him a strong sincerity, Blanche seeks refuge in make-believe and insincerity—insincerity that is painfully obvious in her remarks about the sincerity of dying people. The difference in their reactions to similar experiences and in their approaches to life suggests that they are not an ideally matched pair. Blanche thinks on a spiritual level, while Mitch behaves practically and temperately. When they dance, we see that they are ill suited to one another even on a physical level—Mitch dances clumsily, awkwardly mimicking Blanche’s grand movements.
Prior to Scene Three, the piano music that sounds throughout the play functions chiefly to create atmosphere, suggesting the play’s setting in a somewhat seedy section of New Orleans. Over the course of the poker game and the Kowalskis’ fight, however, the piano’s sound changes, registering the turbulent emotional shifts of the action onstage. For example, discordant sounds play as the violent drama heightens

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