Monday, May 19, 2014

A movie about cats

I saw the movie Inside Llewyn Davis last night, and while I liked it a lot, I never realized going in that it was really a movie about cats.  The film follows the fictional Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer in the 1960’s in New York.

Now of course I can relate to and appreciate any film about a struggling artist trying to survive through his craft.  Not all that much happens to him though, but here is my general synopsis.  Spoiler alert, if you don't want to know what happens with the cats, look away now.  Otherwise, here we go:

Llewyn accidentally lets out his friend’s cat.
He takes the cat home.
He loses the cat.
He finds the cat.
He takes the cat back.
The cat he found was the wrong cat.
He takes the wrong cat on a road trip.
He loses the wrong cat.
He runs the wrong cat over in the car.
The wrong cat hobbles off into the woods to die.
Llewyn returns to New York.
The original cat comes home.
The end.

For those who haven’t seen it yet but wondered what the movie was really about, you’re welcome.  A few other notes: firstly I appreciated the fact that Davis was a merchant sailor in the Seafarers International Union, of which I also have a history.  Secondly, I really am tired of John Goodman playing overblown, over-the-top characters in every single Coen brothers movie, though his character this time was also left by the side of the road to die, so maybe that is that last we’ll be seeing of him?  One can hope.

To wrap my little review here, I do actually recommend the film.  Most struggling artists never do quite make it, even if they are talented, but that doesn’t make the journey taken any less worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Money Can’t Buy Happiness…

…at least not always, anyway.  Or intelligence or sanity.  This observation after reading the newspapers back home in California lately about the whole Donald Sterling affair.

For anyone who hasn’t been following the story, Sterling is the owners of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, who made disparaging remarks a few weeks ago about black people in general and basketball legend Magic Johnson in particular.

After those comments became public, the ensuing firestorm resulted in him being banned from the NBA and most likely he will be forced to sell the team.  This week he went on CNN to apologize.  He did so by making more disparaging remarks about black people in general and Magic Johnson in particular.  This guy just doesn’t know when to shut up.

Obviously Sterling is insensitive, ignorant and out of his mind.  That much has been widely discussed and agreed upon by just about everyone on the planet.  Another side to the story that strikes me, however, is that here is a guy worth nearly $2 billion, yet at the moment anyway, he seems to be one of the most miserable SOB’s around.

Sterling’s wife has apparently abandoned him.  Likewise his “friend,” the attractive woman he used to take to the games that released the recording in the first place.  His beloved team is in the process of being stripped away.  Even PR firms are refusing to take him on as a client.  It makes me wonder who the guy has to hang out with at all anymore.  I picture him sitting on a couch in some big fancy mansion, completely alone and despised.

This all reminds me of another story of a miserable eccentric millionaire from Los Angeles.  Back in the 1980’s, Georges Marciano rose to fame and fortune with his name brand clothing company, Guess.  As everybody knows, it was a huge success and he became very wealthy. 

Also somewhat paranoid.  He thought numerous former employees were stealing his money.  Marciano went after them in court with great zeal, spending millions of dollars and going through 17 different law firms. 

The charges were baseless and the figures minor in the grand scheme of things, but the issue consumed him, robbing his life of joy.  At one point Marciano’s assets were valued at $360 million.  But then his employees counter-sued, and won, leading to an original judgment against him of $425 million (later reduced to $260 mil).  Long story short, Marciano is now bankrupt.

There are plenty of other examples of very wealthy people who are unhappy.  I wonder sometimes about Donald Trump.  Is he happy?  That blathering blowhard of birtherdom?  Maybe so, but that doesn’t make him any less an idiot, forever craving the spotlight.

In any case, it is good to remember sometimes for the rest of us as we chase after our own material gain, hamsters forever running in the wheel of consumerism, that money isn’t what life is all about.  You can have billions of dollars and still be miserable.

Or you can be flat broke yet have your friends and your family and perhaps a sunny afternoon in spring to do with what you like.  Those are the things, after all, that really make life worth living.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bagging the Tallest Peak in Hungary

Here in Hungary I'm busy working away on my latest novel and enjoying the cafe life in the capital city, but that doesn't mean I don't like to get out and about now and again.  This week I went off on a nice excursion with my friend Gabor to climb the tallest peak in the country.  Luckily, this didn't prove too taxing.  K├ękes mountain is only 1,014 meters high (or 3,327 feet).

Up at the top is a TV tower, where if you pay 480 forints (about $2.17), you can take a lift up to a viewing platform.  The view is quite nice, and worth the price of admission:

The hike through the forest to get there is equally stunning.  Most people actually drive to the top, which means that the woods were a quiet and peaceful antidote to a crowded holiday weekend in Budapest. 

All in all, a nice day out, and despite plenty of thunder and clouds all around, we even managed to avoid the rain.  Good thing since I'd left my raincoat at home!