Friday, August 24, 2012

Vale: Leslie Nielsen - and his lesson for all of us

In a very sad day, Leslie Nielsen has passed away at age 84.

To a great many of us, Nielsen was best known as a comedy actor but this came very much in the latter part of his career. During his approximately 60 years in front of the camera, he was for the longer part a serious actor. Looking back, his was one of those faces that only in later years were you able to recognise.

In my opinion at least, Nielsen's turning point for wider-spread popularity and recognition was being featured in the 1980 film Airplane (Flying High in Australia). There he was able to play some very  funny lines with a wonderful deadpan attitude. I vividly recall seeing this at a drive-in theatre one evening in the small northern Victorian town of Kerang, together with my fellow boarder where I lived. We were both bored and he suggested we go see a film. We didn't know what was being shown and it just happened to be Flying High. And this became the start of Nielsen's career as a comic actor, best known for his role in The Naked Gun series of films although those were far from the only comic roles he played.

Nielsen was a real prankster behind the camera and sometimes in front of it as well. Some years ago I saw a clip of him being interviewed. He was answering things in a generally serious manner. But the whole time he had a rubber bulb secreted in one hand, squeezing it as he spoke, making copious farting sounds. And he had the poor interviewer completely fooled into thinking Nielsen was indeed suffering from copious flatulence until late in the interview when he revealed just what he had been doing.

It was this transition into comedy later in his career that saw Nielsen doing what he really wanted to do. And he was damned good at it in terms of delivery, timing, body language and facial expressions.

I think that there is a lesson there for all of us. What is that we really want to do? And if we aren't already doing it in some way, then why not?

Rest in peace, Mr Nielsen and thank you for the entertainment - and the inspiration.

Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Review originally posted at

Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Publishing

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament - fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin's heart be melted?

I did not initially realise that this title was actually young adult but I think it has sufficient story-telling to fit either young adult or adult markets. The protagonist, Celaena, is a strong character and in many respects this is a fairly strong and quite creditable novel. I did however have some concerns.

The first and biggest of these, at least to my anal retentive nature, is an error I like to refer to as Spidie Screw-up. In the 2002 film Spider-Man, our arachnid hero, Spidie, leapt off a tall building after his love interest had fallen over the edge. He accelerated through the air, caught her and with a deft squirt of spider web, was able to save her. That scene was strongly criticised for the simple reason that it defied the reality of gravity.  Even allowing for Spidie streamlining himself to be less air-resistant that his sprawling, arm-waving target, he simply could not have caught up with her as depicted due to the fixed nature of gravity and it should have been bye-bye to Kirsten Dunst.

Unfortunately Mass has made the same error, even worsening it by having Celaena not just catch up to someone in free-fall but at such as speed that the collision knocks the wind from her chest. Sorry, but that’s Spidie Screw-up all over again. It is disappointing that this was not picked up on and corrected during editing.

The above was a continuity or reality error. My other couple of concerns are more structural. Without being able to describe it too much and avoid spoilers, there were some unexplained and quite curious deaths around the Glass Palace. Overall there seemed to be much less concern being shown about these by people in general than one would have thought. This is also a country where magic was suddenly forbidden in relatively recent times. The appearance of some cryptic marks at the scene of the killings, apparently drawn in blood, did not appear to strike anyone much as possibly being magically related. For me at least, both of these points detracted from the