Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn in the West

I look forward to the colors of autumn in the eastern states of the U.S. because we have a variety of colors. When I have traveled into New England and Canada, the brilliant colors of the various trees are stunning. I was quite surprised when I traveled to Colorado to find the yellows of the Aspen trees to be equally appealing. I've experienced other seasons in the West, but the fall of the year was a pleasant surprise. The areas south of Denver and especially the area around Cripple Creek have some fabulous colors this time of the year, but the yellow/gold of the Aspen trees dominate.

I like to travel in the spring and the fall because the summer or holiday crowds are gone and it is relaxing to play tourist. The weather is pleasant and we don't have to wait in lines to see the places I want to visit. We enjoyed our vacation to Colorado and spent our time wandering around the Colorado Springs region which has a large number of scenic spots. The Royal Gorge Bridge, the world's highest suspension bridge is an amazing construction in a very rugged environment at 1,053 feet high. 

The Garden of the Gods is a beautiful garden filled with huge, natural red stone formations. It is interesting to see that so many locals take their cup of coffee, find a beautiful spot to park and enjoy the view. I understand from the folks who live nearby, they never tire of seeing the beauty of those stones and the constant presence of Pikes Peak in the background. The view from the top of Pikes Peak is a dizzying experience from the thin air altitude of 14,110 ft. elevation.

At the foothills of Pikes Peak and with Cheyenne Mountain in the distance, it would be hard to find a more beautiful setting for the Air Force Academy and its main attraction,  the chapel.

If a stair master isn't hard enough, Seven Falls has a climb available with 224 steps from bottom to top for anyone with a strong heart. 

My camera worked hard and took over 600 pictures on this trip, but I will enforce some discipline and refrain from posting too many photos. Google posts many more pictures on all of those sites as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ghost

After seeing the movie The Ghost Writer, reading the novel, The Ghost, by Robert Harris, was an unexpected pleasure. In my previous post, I tried to make sense of the plot and answer some of the questions I found in the movie, so I read the book. Novels written by British authors are interesting for me because they work with our common language in clever, entertaining sentence structures and word choices that send me to the dictionary. It is very enlightening to read impressions of America through the viewpoint of people from other countries. We aren't always perceived in the light that we view ourselves.

Like the movie, the atmosphere of the novel is gray, gray, and more gray. The January weather on Martha's Vineyard sets the scene appropriate to the sense of events that are out of the control of the characters. The hopelessness is brought to mind by the groundskeeper who keeps cleaning up leaves and storm debris only to find it inevitably, repeatedly returns. His struggle is as pointless as the struggle of the characters to make choices that will lead them to more desirable circumstances.

The world that "the ghost" enters is unfamiliar and he becomes lured into it motivated only by the desire to complete his project. He is so unimportant to the outcome of events that we don't even know his name. As he tries to solve the puzzle that is the manuscript penned by his deceased predecessor, he fears he will fall victim to the same fate. The memoirs of the ex-prime minister is completed and published. In solving the puzzle of the life of his subject, the desire of the narrator/ghost writer to remain in the background is out of his control in the end. He becomes as much a pawn as his subject in global intrigue.

The experiences of the movie and the novel were not boring. I take my entertainment too seriously sometimes, but The Ghost makes one think a lot about the world and the powers that control it. Fiction, yes, but sometimes "truth is stranger than fiction." Not a happy thought, but it's realistic.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Ghost Writer

When a movie is produced from a novel that has been marketed first, my preference is to read the book before seeing the movie. Often that doesn't happen and I see the movie before realizing that it was a novel first. Novels have more details that can't be included within a screenplay and if it isn't written by the novel author, the movie loses much of the ambience that is created in a novel. It is a successful movie on some level if I am intrigued to the point that I will spend the time to read the book after seeing the movie.

The Ghost Writer was a movie that lured me into a plot I had not suspected. I deliberately try not to read reviews of movies before I watch them to see them through an open mind. I read the reviews after I see the movie. I like to make up my own mind and see if I agree with the impressions of the reviewers. The review of this movie in the New York Times was enlightening and provides more than enough analysis of movie making techniques: "Mr. Polanski creates suspense inside the frame through dynamic angles and through the discrete, choreographed movements of the camera and actors. He makes especially effective use of the enormous windows in Lang’s house through which the sky and ocean beckon and threaten." 

People and their stories always interest me more than movie-making techniques. After seeing the movie, I will read the book because I want to know more of this plot to see how Robert Harris, who wrote The Ghost, adapted the novel in the screenplay which he "co-authored" with the movie's producer Roman Polanski. Aside from all the negative connotations of that name, the movie is filled with political intrigue, sinister characters and enough dark moods to rival Citizen Kane.

For a story that begins innocently with a job to quickly polish the memoirs of a former prime minister, the job quickly spirals out of control for the ghost writer who begins some research and gets in over his head. The movie leaves more questions than answers for me. Why does a former prime minister spend time in what looks like a WWII German bunker on a beautiful island? Why does not a ghost writer just polish the pre-existing manuscript, take the money and run? Why is he compelled to assume the role of an investigative reporter to try to unravel the complicated lives of the principals of the auto-biography? Perhaps money and power being the root of all evils are much too simple as answers. This amateur movie watcher finds the ever-present alphabet agencies of governments and all-powerful corporations provide more than enough fodder for conspiracies. I agree with James Patterson whose motto is, "Tell me a good story." The Ghost Writer is a good story, and I have to see if the book ends in the same vein as the movie.