Saturday, October 03, 2020

The world awaits...

Trump's hospitalisation is the classic low information / high speculation event that renders 24 hour news channels virtually unwatchable for all but the chronically under-stimulated.

CNN have been carrying on as if the fate of the nation is in the balance and no one should dare getting on with their lives until the situation has played itself out.
Nonsense. If he croaks, he croaks. Another incompetent - if less newsworthy - fool will immediately get his mitts on the nuclear codes, and on we go.
This morning one anchor was speculating that the President's fever has been reported to have eased is a good thing. She cannot have been following the news much these past six months.
There are clearly some issues surrounding the timeline of this mass infection, and whether it took place in a closed-doors or outdoors scenario, both of which could end up being important in a middling sort of way.
Boris spent nine days putting a brave face on his symptoms before he was rushed to hospital. This overpowering story will be with us for a while yet.

With bated breath...but not yet entubado.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Fuera de moda

I am going to express some unfashionable opinions. Not JK Rowling level, but I suppose near enough. Bear with me...

The US is built on its somewhat silly constitution. If you think it is the 'greatest nation on earth', you are pre-committed to having to live with those rules.
However disappointing it might be for American liberals that one of the greatest of their own should be replaced by a woman they might consider a bigoted nut job, that is just the way America works.
As an unbeliever I can observe that until it is possible to run for the highest office without paying lip service to the supernatural, the fundamental issues will remain.
I guess with time these things iron themselves out. As an outsider I cannot see why the current POTUS, appalling as he may be, is not entitled to try to to force through his pick before the election.
Even if he fails, it will probably happen anyway as he is lame ducking around maliciously. His party and his viewpoint seem a bit doomed medium term anyway.
Perhaps the bigger worry is the way the judiciary is being more permanently sucked into the culture war.
There have been concerns about this in the UK in the past few years, perhaps in the other direction towards a more expert, metropolitan tendency, but judges are surely academics rather than politicians per se, and there will always be polarities that ought to be respected.
As for Breonna Taylor, I'm coming at this one from a position of greater ignorance. I studied the US Constitution at Cambridge not their contemporary, occasionally unhinged law enforcement system.
Yet some time before Lewis Hamilton started sporting that shirt, I swotted up on the circumstances, and this did seem to me to be one of those incidents where the people giving das orderz and the people issuing the warrants were possibly more to blame than the trigger happy cops at the sharp end this system.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Unpromising Genius

 “Mr. Hooke, who is the most, and promises the least, of any man in the world that ever I saw.”

Samuel Pepys made that perfectly condensed recap of the public persona of 'England's Leonardo', Robert Hooke on the 15th of February, 1665.
My own personal first proper encounter with 'the man who knew everything' took place at a sort of open day at the Greenwich Royal Observatory — the design and construction of which he played a significant role in — during which we were allowed to view a first edition of Hooke's famous engraving of a flea.

It is 18 inches in width, folding out from the Micrographia, and was almost certainly completed in the months immediately after Pepys's observation in his hidden diary.
Hooke's abiding obsessions were the largest and smallest objects in then visible reality. He is said to have been the first person to visualise a microorganism and constructed the earliest Gregiorian telescope to observe the rotations of Jupiter and Mars.
When Pepys first met him, Hooke was living in near poverty, but achieved financial security in the aftermath of the Great Fire in 1666 as a result of conducting architectural surveys across London.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Every four months...

Bumped into an old friend in town yesterday who is certain to have had covid-19 twice (from the same source - a nurse residing in his house). I had to restrain myself from taking a step backwards on hearing this news!

On each occasion he had no truly dramatic symptoms, just a high fever for four days and an inability to taste his wine — though the latter might be considered at least a little severe.
He's roughly my age, not pelón, of appropriate BMI and O+ as far as his blood goes.
He joked that he is due his next round in October, but he might as well start pencilling it in, because my wife's nephew the epidemiologist (employed by a lab in Atlanta), has since confirmed to me that he has seen reliable stateside data — based on the best available testing — that details a significant number of TRIPLE infections.
His view is essentially that we have always known from studies of pre-existing coronaviruses that the human immune response tends to be weak and almost never really long-lasting — and that any opinion to the contrary is wishful thinking.
I'd say there has also been some manipulation of public expectation by the second and fourth estates.

Both the biologist and and the ex-pat in Antigua expect 2021 to be a horrendous year here.

The so-called Oxford vaccine is thought by many to be our best bet, but as it won't stop you getting infected or spreading it to others, even calling it a vaccine is also wishful thinking.

Suppose the borders were to re-open here and this thus permits me to return to the UK to get this jab on the NHS. I'd be improving my own chances of avoiding severe disease in as yet un-confirmed ways. 

But unless the same 'vaccine' were to be rolled out here in Guatemala, locals would have to trust me to continue to behave as if other people's health was as important to me as my own, as I could easily go around as a super-spreader.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sputnik (2020)


The Soviet Union of the 1980s is becoming a sort of cinematic sub-genre of its very own. 

This excellent Russian sci-fi horror might be open to complaints of Ridley Scott derivative-ness, but largely heads them off by virtue of being set within a highly-stylised version of that extraordinary period. 

I say stylised, because here the deliberate drabness occasionally occasionally comes across as rather attractive. 

And the USSR of this period in my own memories is anything but stylish. There were some prime colours around, just in all the wrong places. 

January 30, 1665

...and Samuel Pepys is having some trouble sleeping:

"At this all day, and at night to my office, there to do some business, and being late at it, comes Mercer to me, to tell me that my wife was in bed, and desired me to come home; for they hear, and have, night after night, lately heard noises over their head upon the leads.
"Now it is strange to think how, knowing that I have a great sum of money in my house, this puts me into a most mighty affright, that for more than two hours, I could not almost tell what to do or say, but feared this and that, and remembered that this evening I saw a woman and two men stand suspiciously in the entry, in the darke; I calling to them, they made me only this answer, the woman said that the men came to see her; but who she was I could not tell.
"The truth is, my house is mighty dangerous, having so many ways to be come to; and at my windows, over the stairs, to see who goes up and down; but, if I escape to-night, I will remedy it. God preserve us this night safe!
"So at almost two o'clock, I home to my house, and, in great fear, to bed, thinking every running of a mouse really a thiefe; and so to sleep, very brokenly, all night long, and found all safe in the morning."


Arnhem by Anthony Beevor

Beevor’s latest tome takes on the WWII battle that perhaps fascinates me the most.

For what occurred around that last bridge in September 1944 is forever poised in that uncertain space between heroic British failure and epic British cock-up.

Our lot were left to assign themselves the trickiest bit of the operation with the least logistical support, largely because they dared not run the risk of an American airborne division being wiped out whilst under British command. (The Germans later wrote up a report detailing how the whole air-dropped advance had been back to front.)

That said, the ‘plan’, as such, was flawed on so many levels and Beevor doesn't hold back...

“Many historians, with an ‘if only’ approach to the British defeat, have focused so much on different aspects of Operation Market Garden which went wrong that they have tended to overlook the central element. It was quite simply a very bad plan right from the start and right from the top. Every other problem stemmed from that.

“Montgomery had not shown any interest in the practical problems surrounding airborne operations. He had not taken any time to study the often chaotic experiences of North Africa, Sicily and the drop on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. Montgomery’s intelligence chief, Brigadier Bill Williams, also pointed to the way that ‘Arnhem depended on a study of the ground [which] Monty had not made when he decided on it.’ In fact he obstinately refused to listen to the Dutch commander-in-chief Prince Bernhard, who had warned him about the impossibility of deploying armoured vehicles off the single raised road on to the low-lying polderland flood plain.

“Yet towering over everything else, and never openly admitted, was the fact that the whole operation depended on everything going right, when it was an unwritten rule of warfare that no plan survives contact with the enemy. This was doubly true of airborne operations.”

Monty’s reputation has certainly taken a a bit of a beating since my schooldays. As an Old Pauline he was quietly venerated in that institution, especially for his role in planning the D-Day landings. One of the key spaces in the school was permanently adorned with an example of the massive Normandy planning maps he’d apparently used.

I’d witnessed his state funeral in Windsor live on TV and was also aware how my uncle had served under him as a ‘desert rat’ in North Africa. Alamein was still seen as a key turning point in the war pre-Pearl Harbour.

But these days there’s no getting around the way he allowed ‘office politics’ to cloud his judgment in the formulation of Market Garden.

Beevor even suggests that part of the problem was that Allied commanders then felt somehow released from the need for extreme care that had preceded the establishment of the beachhead.

So far this is Beevor's most readable bit of wartime history, probably because he appears to be prioritising the narrative elements over the military detail that he has previously been over fond of. In the very first chapter he allows himself the levity of referring to 'A German regiment...' without further ado.

No matter how much one thinks one knows about these events, they retain their inevitable power to shock on re-acquaintance...

"Generalleutnant Walter Dornberger, the Inspector of Long-Range Rocket Troops, was later recorded secretly in a British prisoner-of-war camp speaking of the activities of his colleague SS-Standartenführer Behr. ‘In the Netherlands he made Dutchmen build the sites for the V2,’ Dornberger told fellow officers, ‘then he had them herded together and killed by machinegun fire. He opened brothels for his soldiers with twenty Dutch girls. When they’d been there for two weeks they were shot and new ones brought along, so that they couldn’t divulge anything they might discover from the soldiers."


"Approximately 110,000 Jews out of 140,000 were deported from the Netherlands, and only 6,000 of these survived the war."


Thursday, August 20, 2020


A couple of days ago we received a call with the very sad news that a near neighbour, a man my wife as known for most of her life, had lost his fight wit covid.  

This man was personally responsible for the erection of the bell-tower on our local church. His family home is less than 200m away. 

Another denizen of this village, a first cousin of my wife’s, has also been taken into hospital with the graver form of the disease. 

Guatemala is currently reporting around 50 deaths a day, especially around mid-week, but this is only the mortality recorded in hospitals, so that individual who dropped dead in the pharmacy outside the Bodegona last week, or the woman who passed away on a Litegua doubledecker, will presumably not have made it onto Worldometer. 

Yesterday, as they announced a record 91% drop in profits, the Australian airline Qantas suggested that international travel is unlikely to recover at all before the middle of next year — and even if a vaccine should turn up in the meantime, they won't be restoring the US to their market before the conclusion of 2021. 

This has to be a clear indicator of the ongoing challenges faced by countries like Guatemala, which have tended to depend on the more adventurous, longer-haul forms of tourism. 

Spain tried to salvage its short-haul summer holiday season, yet it has been left in tatters. In per-capita terms they now have post-lockdown infection levels on a par with us here in Guatemala. 

Unlike Spain — Italy and France too — the UK is now comparatively well off. For levels of active infection in England are now at the equivalent of ‘green’ status in Guatemala. 

Yet the late summer surge on the continent has to be a source for worry for the government, especially as local spikes continue to occur in northern cities, in particular those with a larger proportion of families of south-Asian ancestry. Oldham may be about to be put in localised freeze. 

The enormous challenge presented by the re-opening of schools nationwide is also just around the corner. 

A new poll just released seeks to tease out just how brave Britons are feeling amidst the prevailing mood of uncertainty...

95% say they have left their home in the last seven days. 

However, 26% say they still feel uncomfortable about doing so. 

73% have met up with friends or family to socialise. Of these, 47% say they observed social distancing. 

Just 40% say they would feel comfortable sitting inside a pub or restaurant.

20% have cancelled plans to travel abroad.

Only 14% say they would be comfortable visiting a swimming pool.

Monday, August 17, 2020


There was talk this morning that economic activity across continental Europe is likely to settle at a level around 10% lower than the pre-pandemic one, for the time being at least.

Meanwhile a poll in the UK found that 86% of people say workers should be able to work from home until a vaccine is found. Of course, a complete medical solution to this problem may never present itself. 

This will inevitably feed the discussion about the likely medium term fate of the big metropolises like London and New York

San Francisco has also witnessed a massive exodus since the start of the year.

In Britain certain conservative factions would like us to feel passionate about the prognosis for Pret A Manger, poster boys for the important economic activity seemingly squandered in major city centres during lockdown.

Yesterday morning V and I were reminiscing about the lunchtime grazing options available in London during the nineties and then the noughties. Chains like Pret and the various branded coffee outlets clearly contributed to the fairly rapid decline of traditional sandwich shops in the West End. I’m thinking in particular of Battista’s in Charing Cross Road, close to the old Foyles, which eventually turned into a Caffe Nero. (Superficially, still kind of Italian, right?)

If there is some nuance to be added to the immigration discussion surrounding Brexit it is this. The old-style coffee and snack shops were the product of pre-globalised, twentieth century immigration. Most were family run, single outlet businesses. Wherever these little clans hailed from originally, they had come to stay.

Once displaced by the likes of Costa, Starbucks, Pret and so on, a newer, more opportunistic form of immigration took hold. London started to fill up with workers from abroad who, in the main, had little intention of putting down permanent roots. It was simply there as the most humungous short term opportunity in the EU block, and as such, just had to be milked.

Companies founded by British marketing and business consultants then took full advantage of this new mobile and temporary workforce. The immigrants of previous generations hadn’t a hope of competing, at least not with their existing models.

I’m no Leaver, and I have not been any sort of Londoner either for over a decade, but I do understand why many of my local-born friends in London of more or less the same age as myself, and equally averse to populist rhetoric, find it hard to worry all that much about the fate of the post-millennium coffee and sandwich industry in the capital.

They had their moment and they exploited it ruthlessly and not without collateral social damage. So if it is now gone, so be it.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Bay Of Silence (2020)

This can only really be enjoyed as a sort of anti-thriller, a movie that lurches around trying to tick all the boxes of the visual tropes of the genre, but is utterly clueless about how they are supposed to function narratively.

It is packed with irrelevances, starting with the Italian location that gives it its title, and which viewers are taken to, irrelevantly, at the beginning and then again at the end.

Then there's a possible lost twin and his (albeit briefly) surviving sibling, who turns out to the most glaringly irrelevant thing in the entire story.

His mother is less a character to care about than a walking plot device, while her own father would have had a sign on his head from first entrance saying 'bad'un' even if they hadn't chosen to cast Brian Cox in this role and then given him an entire Chekhovian cabinet of pistols.

As for Claes Bang. We enjoyed him over Christmas as Count Dracula, but it showed how he needs to ham it up a bit to escape from the innate limpness of his anglicised persona...although of course this is what worked so well in The Square.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

The Rental (2020)

Dave Franco's take on Airbnb paranoia and, appropriately enough, fraternal collision. 

His direction is solid (carefully avoiding the direct portrayal of violence against women; unusual for this genre) but the material has certain weaknesses — that unfortunate combination of predictability and slowness to ripen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Come oooooon. This is taking the piss. How can it even begin to be allowed under current restrictions? 

Eagle-eyed viewers last night may have spotted that in ‘red zones’ like ours, reopening restaurants seem to be permitted one customer per ten square metres. (Must everyone eat alone?) 

It was all a bit blurry and flashed by pretty quickly. But a buffet adds a level of confusion and avoidable risk that has to be properly discouraged by our municipal authorities e.g. people getting up from their tables, utensils being shared and so on. 

Indeed, buffets were one of the first things stamped out in Singapore for that very reason. OK, they are especially keen on stampings out over there, but they have squished the coronavirus quite successfully too. 

Two weeks ago Dr Giammattei established the principle that activity would be recommenced based on a daily tally of cases. Utter madness. 

So yesterday evening back he comes, having reached — or been helped to reach — the obvious conclusion that his traffic lights would have to be driven by a calculation factoring in a fortnightly account of active cases, the number of tests and the positive test rate

In other words the very methodology he should have announced two weeks ago, except back then he was really quite specific about the numerical checkpoints, yet on this occasion he seems to be leaving us to try and figure it out on our own. 

Last time he also left himself with a proper backstop, such that should we experience another major spike, red would actually mean red. 

Red has instead been rejigged to mean pinky orange, such that no matter how many people start to croak, the bleeding Esmeraldas and Orellanas will still be carving each other up on the carreteras.

At this rate we'll end up like Texas en un dos por tres

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The ex-pat pastel...

Broadly speaking, outsiders putting down roots in Antigua do so to become either a somebody or a nobody.

There are various ways to cut the cake, but this particular distinction between the individuals that settle here is significant, and perhaps never more so than during the present pandemic. 

For those who are here as a retreat from ambition tend to be coping a bit better than that other group dedicated to making this city their theatre of dreams.  

Amongst the retreaters, so to speak, you might expect to find the bulk of those who are literally on the run, people who in their previous existences have been a serious disappointment to themselves, or more awkwardly, to others. 

Yet in practice there appear to be just as many of their sort striving away amidst the more goal-orientated gringos.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Oxford vaccine news...

As a member of Cambridge I have some disclosable lack of objectivity, but I found today’s announcement regarding preliminary trials of the Oxford vaccine underwhelming. 

It’s safe e.g. minimum requirement met. And yet can cause a fever, and so inevitably will create some disruption during rollout and a possibly larger number than otherwise might elect to refuse it. 

We still don’t have a proper sense of how protective it is or, maybe more crucially, if it reduces infectiousness. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Relic (2020)

First time Aussie director Natalie Erika James has set about trying to do something unwonted with the horror genre, examining the age-related onset of a consuming loss of mental acuity and balanced personality in terms of a haunting. 

I started to develop reservations as I read the synopsis and never really shook them during viewing. The movie has to juggle three elements: the trappings of the genre, a situation in the county outside Melbourne that is almost excessively metaphorical and the very non-supernatural spectre of incipient dementia within a multi-generational family unit. 

During the first half, as the tension builds and the aforementioned elements are blended, the experience is suitably creepy and captivating, but ultimately the mixture doesn't seem to hold together. 

There’s a lot left unsaid in this scenario such as the absence of male partners, the fact that mother and daughter appear to be only-children, and while some of this has a positive dramatic impact, overall the effect is a bit swiss-cheesey. 

I suppose part of the issue here is that the film is better directed (and performed) than it is written. It ventures into extremely interesting territory only to leave one with a sense of having been led into a dead end. And there are times when it feels like a drama of people running around shouting ‘Mum’ a lot. 

It does however pass the Bechdel test with flying colours.

Oddly enough, this is the second haunted house movie we’ve watched during lockdown where the internal dimensions of the home prove somewhat unreliable. 

I’m starting to think that there’s a subset of developing chill features that should be equipped with a dialogue box that pops up three quarters of the way through warning viewers that they might not find the finale entirely to their satisfaction and providing a little button to discreetly bring proceedings to a premature conclusion.

There are horror movie third acts that essentially ruin the whole experience. This isn't one of them, but James had left herself with nowhere else to go other than off the ranch. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Mission Creep

In a press conference pitched as positive news, Dr Asturias spoke today of Guatemala’s recent success at flattening the curve. 

On a day that Miami ran out of ICU beds, and the pattern of infections across the US broadened noticeably, not an achievement to be sniffed at perhaps, but travelling alongside this announcement there was a more disquieting bit of information. 

Two weeks ago the models guiding local experts like Asturias suggested that the pandemic would peak here during August. Last week this slipped to September. Now it’s October. 

You can no doubt spot the pattern here. 

Back in March I mentally wrote off the whole of the year, and that at a time when some around here were planning their big post-covid knees-ups for June. But I remain vulnerable to disappointment in 2021. 

In much the same way the 2020/21 Premier League season seems set to commence just a couple of weeks after the final of the restarted Champions’ League, Guatemala is potentially leaving almost no interval between the first and second waves of ‘ésta maldita enfermedad’. 

Monday, July 13, 2020


Traffic lights are perhaps not as simple as they might first appear. My supervisor for political theory at Cambridge tried to explain the output of every great thinker in this field in terms of ‘traffic light theory’. (Another day...) 

This set was actually part of an artwork, a short walk from our London home. 

Originally located in the middle of a small roundabout at the entrance to the Isle of Dogs, they occasionally caused more confusion than Giammattei’s Sunday speeches, at least amongst those drivers who weren’t already in the know. 

The colour-coded system for regulating our journey down the highway towards the new normal announced by the President tonight has the potential for making this set up look relatively uncomplicated. 

This is due in large part to his failure, so far, to commit to a timeframe for defining the alerts. If this is done on a daily basis, utter chaos will duly ensue. 

The only reasonable decision-making process would involve — at the very least — a seven day rolling average of reported new infections. And the prevalence of testing and the rate of positive tests by department or municipality surely also has to be factored in. 

So in effect you’d need a nested system of traffic lights.

Oh, by the way, a big thank you to all the moronic pelaverguistas around here who have continued to throw (or attend) clandestine fiestas or other social events throughout lockdown. Your collective efforts have lost us half of Saturday now too. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020


We are in the midst of a pandemic of promises that politicians make with barely the minimal intention of following through: testing, tracing, covid-compliance and so on. 

If we can learn anything from the Guatemalan experience of attempting to contain the contagion it is that there are only two broadly valid administrative approaches: Not-arsed (Sweden, Trump etc.) or completely-arsed (China). 

Giammattei’s half-arsed approach just isn’t a contender. 

Meanwhile, the aerosols from Antigua’s Ayuntamiento were back last weekend, engaging in an activity that V has likened to the scientific equivalent of trying to dry one’s clothes outside in a thunderstorm. (At least it was not actually ⛈ on this occasion.)

Let’s just suppose some sneaky little SARS viral particles were lying low in the crevices between the cobbles early on curfew Sunday. They would surely be patas arriba by Monday morning whatever anyone does. In a sense that is the whole point of having one day a week when nobody circulates. 

ERGO, this is a complete waste of time and money. 

To paraphrase the Donald: anyone with 1/100th of a brain can tell that if you really think this might help, the time to do it would be just before curfew concludes, not just as it commences. 

They even brought a woman with them to take pics of them being utterly useless.

Sneaking up on us...

Word reached us yesterday of the first death from covid in our immediate area: the sister of the local ‘MP’, a family that have been our neighbours in the village for decades. It’s right at our doorstep now. 

The location of the affected household suggests to me that the main cluster of small shops is compromised. (We’ve long referred to it the zona roja, yet now it surely deserves the name.)

And yet some of the residents living around the little triangular park out front (two restaurant owners and one former restaurant owner) continue to hold clandestine gatherings during this period of lockdown, as if they owe no responsibility to themselves or anyone else around here. 

All have staff that come and go and some of their recent guests have rather obviously crossed departmental lines to get here as well. Others are over 60 and should not be outside at all. One of these reunions took place last Sunday. 

V’s nephew the epidemiologist said something insightfully non-epidemiological the other day. Introverts are all set to do better in this situation than extroverts.  He himself hails from the smartest, most introverted wing of the family. 

It probably doesn’t help that in my experience extroverts are often not all that bright. (Still if they frolic around outside at least they’ll be getting their recommended dose of vitamin D.)

Meanwhile, another family has to mourn without a proper vigil or funeral. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

The King of Staten Island (2019)

Most of the movies we've been watching during lockdown have been either subtitled or the sort that in the past would have been dispatched down the path known as 'straight to DVD', so what a sense of relief (or indeed release) to finally stumble upon one that would have made it onto the big screen had 2020 not been 2020. 

Judd Appatow directs (and co-scripts) another comedy of a life in crisis, this time with a solidly mature sensibility. 

This crisis in question is something of a 'what if?' extrapolated from the real world biography of the film's star Pete Davidson, who lost his fireman father on 9-11. 

Maybe current circumstances inclined me to like this movie more than I otherwise might have, but I REALLY liked it. It is well written, genuinely funny, undoubtedly touching and quite extraordinarily well cast. 

Davidson is at the core of what makes it work, but there are great contributions from Marisa Tomei and Bill Burr, and Bel Powley is simply outstanding. 

The in-depth quality of both direction and performance is perhaps best encapsulated by Ricky Velez, who places his character Oscar so perfectly and comically on the line between sinister local sociopath and sad small-town loser.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Racist Fish ad Beer

Is this all getting a bit silly? 

The Guardian thinks so, especially after it was recently accused of being racist for not having openly supported Abraham Lincoln all those years ago. 

The BBC's Countryfile programme also self-flagellated in public last week when it suggested that the entire British countryside might be inherently racist, or at least a place where only whites would ever feel comfortable. 

Yet thanks in large part to Donald fucking Trump, we are all getting used to hearing racist dog whistles a lot of the time, and it does seem that a significant proportion of them are in all probability, non-imaginary. 

If we take the Donald at his word, perhaps he was unaware of the reference when he posted that 'when the looting starts...' tweet, but when it comes to dog-whistling, it doesn't matter whether it begins as intentional or not. 

Here in La Antigua the impulse behind Cervecería Catorce's stance on reggaeton was almost certainly not knowingly racist, rather a kind of smug tribal/musical elitism, but it certainly has the potential to be taken as something a bit more objectionable. 

Just imagine a 'no hip hop' sign above the entrance to a bar in Kentucky, for example, and remember the furore kicked off by Howard Stern's opinions regarding Tex-Mex music following the unfortunate demise of Selena. 

Musical taste is a minefield and quickly gets co-opted into the culture wars. (And culture wars are America's #1 invisible export these days.)

As a ‘funny’ sign behind the bar this wouldn't bother me all that much, but as the basis of a high-viz consumer brand — a proud identity — something to print on a surgical mask in the midst of a pandemic, it is unmindful, shall we say, particularly from a foreign-owned entity. And as such, it does actually bother me, even though I do like those Impunidads

You might only listen to Charlie Mingus or Robert Wagner and have high-browed, lowish opinion of reggaeton, but it is currently the music of the street in this part of the world and has a strong association with artists of mixed race. And also with youth, which makes this bit of marketing all the more fusty and 'old', as well as crassly snobbish. 

The image above has seemingly been removed from the Interwebs, so maybe someone had a rather belated attack of common sense. These aren't times when it pays to alienate any potential customers. 

Heaven knows I don't (usually) like banda, but I wouldn't open a bar grounded on an extravagant antipathy towards it here in Guatemala, largely as I might end up dead as a result.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

You Should Have Left (2020)

This tale began life as a sort of Krouty sub-Stephen King clone, set in a remote part of Germany. 

The first thing the film-makers did wrong was to relocate it to Wales - shorthand I guess for the sort of back of beyond destination where Old Nick might have a holiday cottage - and then shoot it in New Jersey. 

There's a portentous shopkeeper in a bizarre village store who has the right kind of accent, but really, this is POOR. 

Kevin Bacon stars and also lists himself as 'producer', indicative of the movie's status as a sort of vanity project for the actor, who works to spoil it by never really working out if he is to be hero or villain. 

On the plus side, there's the house, the sort of gaff you'd never come across in the real Wales, and not just because it's a kind of evil TARDIS with enhanced interior dimensions along with visually-interesting aesthetics in both the rooms and the stretchy connecting corridors. 

And there's the appearance of young Avery Essex, laying down one of those performances, like Elle Fanning in 2004's The Door In The Floor, foretelling a worthwhile career beyond childhood. 

Yet overall it's a masterclass in the squandered build-up. 

One review I came across had the waggish remark that, if we had been permitted to see it in cinemas, the title is basically what most audience-members would no doubt have been thinking at the conclusion.