Archive for April 2012

Television, books and reading   Leave a comment

We live in a world of gadgets, many of which we take for granted, but which one is the best invention, the one you couldn’t do without now?

I would hazard a guess that many will say their cell/mobile.  Security wise it is invaluable – if you breakdown or get lost you can call or text.  It can though make you constantly available and lead to many arguments – “I was trying to call you, you never answer your phone!”

I talk to Tom Cruise’s daughter on my phone and she tells me if I need to wear a coat or who I have to meet; she’s very efficient and still young!

The wheel seems such a simple idea; electricity; computers and laptops; planes still amaze me, all that weight with no strings to keep them up; and then you have the television.

Someone once told me that knowledge is power; I agree.  I am a fan of television, and hate the highbrow, snobby attitude of some people who say they never watch television, (ask them about a character on a soap and chances are they know them!).

Like many ‘gadgets’, television has moved on so fast.  I remember as a very young kid, and I repeat, very young kid, I asked a couple of American air force guys my father had brought home for dinner one night if they had colour television in America.  This was in Cardiff and my Dad had just bought a colour television.  They kindly smiled at me.

CHEVY CHASE

I love it in National Lampoon’s European Vacation (big Chevy Chase fan) when they arrive at the hotel in London and the son tells his parents that the television is broken, he can only get three channels!

Yesterday we had America’s 250 channel package installed – and will still complain about there being nothing on to watch!  The day before Bailey had told me he had watched Top Gear on his iPad whilst in the bath!  I am obviously a bad influence.  We do have a television in every room, except the bathroom – so far, you can even buy them or even one for outdoors!  It is all getting too much.

You can get apps for CNN, Sky, BBC, local Nashville television stations and more for your tablets and smartphones – watch last night’s match on the train and a film in a park – your very own drive in theatre, well, sort of.

Television can be hugely educational of course, National Geographic, the History channel and of course Elmo and Sesame Street has helped millions of children to read.

I’ve realised though that, much as I love doing so, watching television at night before you sleep does not help me to get a good night’s sleep – and at my age I need my beauty sleep more than ever!  it’s all to do with Michael Stipe, or rather REM.  Your eyes get tired but not necessarily your brain.

As a kid I used to read every night, without fail, (I had over 200 hundred Enid Blyton books by the time I was ten) and I have realised that I have stopped doing so and this is going to change.  

Curling up with a good book is unbeatable, even if it is on a Kindle or your iPad.  Reading is a great magic carpet ride into someone’s imagination and a good writer will take into their world, one that they have created, or maybe a biography lets you in to the see the real person behind their public mask.

Audio books have also increased in popularity, although I prefer to read a book myself rather than someone else put their understanding of say a character or a scene.

It just so happens that I can recommend the perfect book for this time of year – Spring; A Trilogy, three stories of betrayal, love, revenge, all written by yours truly and available now from Amazon!

  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007FB274E

A blatant plug I know but I have to pay for all these televisions and other gadgets somehow!

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Posted April 12, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Musicals, John Mellencamp and Stephen King   Leave a comment

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Over the past weekend Mary Poppins was on, yes once again.  It’s an easy film to watch but once again the whole premise of musicals struck me –there you are in the middle of a scene and suddenly a character starts to sing, backed by a full orchestra and backing singers – all in a children’s bedroom!

We accept these scenes; West Side Story, The Sound of Music, all the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, the list goes on.  Fame is one musical that works for me, the setting being ideal for a musical.  Irene Cara is simply stunning in the film, for me one of the best musical performances in a film – she won an Oscar.

Is Footloose classed as a musical?  Interesting.  It has transferred fairly successfully to the stage, as has numerous other films with music – Mamma Mia (which I’m sorry but I so dislike), Billy Elliot and recently the Dave Stewart produced Ghost, and for some reason, U2’s Spiderman show, which has been plagued with many problems.

The cost of staging a musical is high, very high.  For someone like myself who has bemoaned the cost of staging one of my own ‘two-hander’ plays, (plays with only two characters), to the point of cancelling the play in the end because it simply would not be anywhere near financially viable, the cost of producing and staging a musical is beyond imagination.

Possibly the two main theatre producers in the UK, and indeed the world, are Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh, who coincidentally used to lived quite close to each other, and us when we lived on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

From our bedroom you could see Watership Down, which Webber owns, or owned at that time.  I’ve never met Webber but have met Cameron a couple of times, mainly in the Carpenter Arms, a pub he used to own I think in HIghclere, by the castle they use for Downton Abbey.  It was there I met the late producer Simon Channing Williams, who was so encouraging about my writing.  Simon produced Mike Leigh’s brilliant films and was also the producer for the Richard E Grant vehicle, When Jack met Sarah, a romcom.

Another Jack met Diane, as in the great John Mellencamp song Jack and Diane.  Mellencamp is not that well known in the UK, but most people will know this song.  In the States he has somewhat perhaps been overshadowed by Bruce Springsteen.

Mellencamp started out as Johnny Cougar, signed to Rod Stewart’s label Riva.  He had a couple of hits but then started to use his real name, Mellencamp.  As he matured as a writer and artist he has in many ways become the voice of the Heartland, rural America.  His songs are so ‘American’ they are probably the reason he has not enjoyed much recognition out of the States.

A few years ago he starred in and directed a surprisingly strong movie, Falling from Grace, written by Larry McMurty – check it out if you get the chance.   He is also a driving force with Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Dave Matthews behind Farm Aid.

His latest venture though interests me greatly; a musical he has written with novelist Stephen King!  An odd pairing at first glance, but then it really makes sense.

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STEPHEN KING, JOHN MELLENCAMP AND T BONE BURNETT

Of course better known for his horror books – Carrie, the Shining, Misery, Pet Cemetery, Salem’s Lot etc., my favourite King books or stories are the human drama ones – Stand By Me being the outstanding one.

King also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the short film Ghosts.

The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is the name of the musical they have created together.  It promises to be a must see.

It is based on a true story; Mellencamp bought a cabin in his home state of Indiana only to find that fifty years ago by the cabin two brothers had fought over a local girl, and one of the brothers had killed the other.

He loved the story and wanting to write a ghost story, well why not go to the best ghost writer in the business, which is what he did.  Both Mellencamp and King are Tennessee Williams’ fans, hence a couple of nods in the script to the great writer.

It has taken many years to come together, twelve in fact and the musical opens tonight, April 11, for previews at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta.  The show features a stripped down, four piece band, all playing roots instruments, and the music director is T Bone Burnett.

I hope it is a huge success for them and transfers to film shortly.

Here is a link to Jack and Diane – http://youtu.be/h04CH9YZcpI

and I had to add this, a link to Irene Cara, singing Out Here on my Own, from Fame – http://youtu.be/i4mkRwkQRoQ

Posted April 11, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Cheaters, cops and humans   Leave a comment

ImageLast night I capped a day of watching a load of films on television – Footloose, Big, On the Buses, the Likely Lads (which I loved, great dialogue), See Spot Run (I know?!?) – with my son Bailey, by watching an episode of the American series, Cheaters.

I’ve watched it for years, always preferred original host Tommy Grand.  Over the years have seen hundreds of couples torn apart by betrayal.  I’ve also seen the host stabbed by a ‘cheater’ – was that staged though?

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The first ‘fly on the wall’ series I seem to remember was ‘Cops’, which still runs today.  It was very hard-hitting, all the more so because it was obviously real, and certainly, unlike many ‘reality’ shows today like Made In Essex, did not have scenes set up for entertainment.

Cheaters is a bit like a guilty pleasure; I am by nature very sceptical and over the years have believed some scenes are indeed set up but in many cases the pain and anguish of a betrayed lover is all too evident and real, and that sometimes makes me feel as if I’m intruding on a private moment, which of course I am, and of course all the audience.  The cheated partner though has chosen to go on international television though and this does make one question their motives.  It’s the same of the Springer show and the awful Jeremy Kyle, who has recently started a similar show in the States, trying to break that market.

Why on earth would any woman admit in front of millions of people that she doesn’t know who the father of her child is?  Unbelievably many women do not know who the father of their child is, or perhaps do and yet have kept it a secret, for various reasons.

There was last week a case in Conwy in North Wales of a woman who had led a man to believe that he was the father of her daughter.  He had contributed thousands of pounds to the daughter’s upbringing.  The daughter wasn’t his; he wasn’t her father.   How devastating must that be, to find out after many years that the child you have raised, have believed to be your child, isn’t.  In most cases I believe it doesn’t change the relationship between the child and ‘father’ but the knowledge of the betrayal, the lies that the mother must have told over the years, must be something that obviously shatters all trust.

The mother in the case in North Wales has quite rightly been sent to prison for fraud and deception.  What about the daughter though?  Did she believe the man to be her father?  How does she feel now?  Some people are so selfish that they simply don’t consider the consequences of the actions.  We always tell our kids – “Do the crime, do the time.”  Take the punishment, deal with the fallout, don’t try and blame other people or make excuses.

In Cheaters the excuses for infidelity are sometimes laughable, if they weren’t so hurtful to the person’s partner.  People never fail to amaze me; to be honest I guess that I hope they never do.  In creating characters for my writing I delve deeply into human characteristics, and their shortcomings, and it is fascinating.

We are all just human after all.

This song highlights just that – Eric Carmen – Boats against the Current.

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http://youtu.be/o_3J-x7YIzM

“and it seems we’re all just human after all, and we’re both taking a fall”

Posted April 9, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized