Saturday, December 07, 2019

Ad Astra (2019)

I first saw 2001 A Space Odyssey with my father at the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue a decade after it was first released. My 11-year-old mind was intermittently perplexed, but I don't recall thinking ‘How completely silly is this?' every five minutes or so. 

Nor indeed 'What this really needs is a bit of Mad Max with lunar rovers’ or ‘I wish those apes would stop throwing bones around and start devouring astronauts'.

Kubrick's film is one of those ‘philosophical' sci-fi yarns that retains the power to thrill and existentially disturb up to and beyond the 'near future’ it projects into. Here in Ad Astra Brad Pitt clearly thinks he's in another such landmark and his ponderous voiceovers gradually start to deliver an element of unintended comedy, as if from within a rather poor Terence Malick parody. 

Director James Gray must also want it to be that movie, yet he’s also desirous of delivering episodic reminders of others, such as Alien, or Total Recall, so the overall effect is Profound Sci-Fi Lite. 

Yet it definitely looks and sounds like the premium product, as he has taken on Interstellar’s cinematographer Hoyte van Hoyterna and had an ominous score done by Max Richter. (Though there were seemingly no actual scientific experts involved, as they may all have been off somewhere complaining about Brexit or the weather.) 

Meanwhile, the obvious literary reference is to Conrad's Heart of Darkness, yet again in severely diluted form, as the horror, the horror ultimately turns out to be a possible misreading of our cosmic predicament, an error of perspective, of the kind fathers are occasionally wont to have.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Earthquake Bird (2019)

This would have been little more than a run-of-the-mill, slightly disappointing, mystery-thriller but for two factors - the albeit under-used (and perhaps even a bit misappropriated) backdrop of late 80s Japan and another utterly compelling performance by Alicia Vikander. 

She, along with Riley Keough is a little let down by the screenplay (though not as badly as a pair of Tokyo detectives), yet it is what they both do with the gaps between words that is so impressive. As Teiji, Naoki Kobayashi is taciturn, yet still gets some of the movie's better lines.

The novel was 'critically acclaimed' and I find myself now rather drawn to it. Ridley Scott has some form with picking up top notch genre fiction for his production company and then handing the texts over to directors who squander the opportunity to some extent. (Viz Child 44.) 

The titular birdy is a narrative irrelevance in this adaptation. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

No Regard

Historians will judge Blair harshly for Iraq and Cameron for Brexit, yet one of the great ironies of the debate over the last few months has been Blair's trademark lack of self-examination across repeated interventions in favour of Remain. He appears not to acknowledge the pivotal role of his own government in laying the foundations for populist revolt.

There are clear parallels to see in Chile. A series of nominally socialist administrations in the post dictatorship years chose to adapt to the growth-inducing free market ideologies so favoured by Pinochet.

Just as New Labour in the UK had disaggregated and de-localised healthcare and education, Chilean socialists opened the path to ‘monetisation’ of these public goods and in just the same sort of short-sighted manner - no regard for the possibility of macro changes in economic conditions, no regard for the impact of globalisation, no regard for an upsurge in immigration and consequent pressure on resources and most significantly, no regard for the possibility that under these changing conditions they could soon be replaced by a government of the right, more purist in its laissez-faire intentions and willing to push on far more aggressively with the removal of the state from key areas of the public services.

Private Passions

Corbyn won't lose this election because he's been ‘smeared’ as an anti-Semite. He'll lose it as a consequence of his contributions to the Brexit debate over three years.

There are roughly 260,000 jews in Britain, proportionally tiny compared to the Muslim population. Corbyn is set to surrender 30-40 seats in the northern half of the island, where his support for the Palestinian cause ought not to be decisive.

Yet this high profile position serves as an analogue of his stated views on Ulster and his apparent willingness to rub shoulders with wrong-uns. And, as a resident of Latin America, I can see that Corbyn’s persistent support for Maduro demonstrates that the ideology in his head will always override his heart, something I can never abide in a political leader.

Furthermore, his support for Palestine is surely indicative of a man and a party with private obsessions, precisely at a time when the country needs leadership grounded in a more unifying narrative.

Defeating Boris should have been comparatively easy, especially as this time the Conservatives must gain a majority in order to govern, and because he and his party are liars.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Primal (2019)

This is essentially a very rudimentary and generic action formula flick at which even Stephen Siegal might turn up his nose, that someone has decided to spice up by adding a bunch of Amazonian animals, in much the same way that one might dump a load of chimichurri on top of a fried egg on toast. 

Along with this menagerie comes Nicolas Cage as a hunter-collector hitching a ride to Puerto Rico on a vessel which also just happens to be transporting an NSA-sponsored assassin who’s had a bit of a Colonel Kurtz moment and needs to be shipped back home (an expedient requiring a fairly absurd explanation) accompanied by a naval medic and a team of US Marshals. 

It’s bizarre to recall that Cage won an Academy Award for playing a drunk. Here he undoubtedly deserves the gong for ‘Worst (ever) rendition of an inebriated middle aged male’. 

That said, he still has the knack of making a one star movie feel like a three star one at certain points of its running time. 

From the poster you'd possibly never guess that roughly 90% of it takes place on a container ship and that the white jag has little more than a cameo role to play. 

Features some unpleasantness to parrots.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Bygone (2019)

Westerns were important to my father. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster and Custer of the West (1967) with Robert Shaw were very much part of his pop culture refractions of history. 

Custer plays an indirect yet increasingly relevant role here in Graham and Parker Phillips's 'neo-western', a movie that isn't content to tell a modern story using the tropes of the genre, rather it wants to be at once a social-realist complaint about the parlous state of the American West, greed, people trafficking, sexual abuse and so on...and an actual western. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. My father however, would have been utterly bemused by it. 

I was, it must be said, slightly thrown by its opening textual gambit, a bold restatement of the old noble savage chestnut and clearly written by someone with a) no understanding of how historical sources work and b) an unawareness that most of Mexico sits within 'North America'. 

Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Prior to every new addition to the Fallen franchise Morgan Freeman's Trumbull has had a promotion. When Olympus had fallen he was Speaker. Then as London came down he was Vice President. Now, as Butler's 'angel' Mike Banning is about to take the fall, Trumbull is the occupant of the Oval Office. 

One has to presume that should these characters get a fourth outing, he'll have to reprise his recurring role as God. Heaven Has Fallen

With these sort of franchises one finds that there is typically a solid preliminary feature duly followed by a sequence of increasingly ropey sequels. The process appears to have ended up a bit back to front here. 

Angel Has Fallen is being touted as the best of the three, and there's a good deal of truth to that, but the outrageous silliness of the format was part of its essence and something has gone missing in the furtherance of a belated seriousness. (A chunk of budget too, I would imagine.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Joker (2019)

However much I might enjoy taking photos, word and concept are always primary for me, the look of things merely surface. In that at least Luby and I are a bit different. When I need to make sense of the world I tend to write; she, on the other hand, draws. 

Being proudly ‘visual’ she found this movie just a little bit more thrilling than I did, as it is undoubtedly one of the most visually exciting films of 2019. Some of its scenes look almost absurdly good, unnecessarily so perhaps. 

Underneath the slick surface of the cinematography, it felt a bit flimsy at times. I found myself enjoying the production (and performance) so much that I kept having to ask myself if I was being equally captivated by the storytelling.  

I suppose that no matter how earnestly the material is approached, comic book characters are never going to have the heft that comes from proper mythology. 

Yet Joaquin Phoenix’s performance goes way beyond the sequence of riveting poses he is asked to strike, and there are two or three really excellent scenes which I could easily watch again and again. 

I don’t know if this was at all intentional, but Joker's self-choreographed entrance on Live With Murray Franklin (De Niro) reminded me of Michael Jackson, and not in a good way...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Havana 500

When it was Open Day at St Paul's all the High Master ever needed to do to make the place look a bit tidier was put out a few extra pot plants in the quad. 

Felipe and Leticia seem to require a dogrom. 
Charles and Camilla made it there first of course. 
Havana did once belong to Britain, but we swapped it for Florida, a tradition the locals have kept up.
When I was in Cuba myself a while ago, I noticed that a lot of the street strays around La Habana Vieja seemed to have that elongated look suggesting that they might have a bit of daschshund in them.
Istanbul is now justly celebrated for its cat population, yet the felines have flourished there largely as a result of Turkey's other unmentionable genocide: the exiling in 1911 of some 80,000 of the capital's dogs to the island of Sivriada, where many either starved or drowned trying to escape. 

¡Arriba, Arriba! ¡Ándale, Ándale!

A lesson perhaps on the perils of ignoring a 2016 referendum result. 

What's the betting that this is not now turned into a hospital?

Corbyn has a Mexican wife. There's always somewhere for him to go. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Too Clever By Half

In theory at least, AI systems should get better and better at statistical guesswork.

Yet the AI behind Evernote has suddenly become less good at deciding where to automatically file any given article that I might feed it.

Yesterday I noted how it now wants to dump pretty much anything in the Sunday Times into ‘Technology’ even if the piece is about Homer and the Trojan War.

This left me wondering if it is reading the finished text or the underlying HTML and meta-tags.

Then this morning I observed how a review of a book about extraterrestrial languages in The Spectator would have been shoved into ‘Film & TV’.

I can see how that might have happened. Perhaps this is an AI that has learned to make cunning inferences. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

After the Wedding (2019)

Billy Crudup's IMDB bio commences by noting his rigorous career choices. So what went wrong here? And what about Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams? What could possibly have made them imagine this would be worthy of their talents, other than the reputation of the original? (The director, it has to be said is Moore's hubby and she co-produced.) 

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw called it 'insufferable' and as a one word review this is as good as any. 

The story is structured around human constants: birth, marriage and death. So it really ought to feel universal and yet somehow what it screams  and I so hesitate to use this term  is white privilege. 

The Danish/Swedish original — which I haven't seen — was Academy Award nominated in 2007. The essential confrontation between two parents, one a lifelong idealist and escape artist and the other someone who has tried to have it all, including a successful career as both parent and entrepreneur, somehow strikes me as something that would make more sense within the dimensions and context of Scandinavian culture. 

The remake gender-flips these characters, as if this would ensure that the underlying conflicts are now even more interesting, yet this is completely undermined by translating the action to a very particular New York milieu. 

Luby gave up after about twenty minutes. I was pulled through to the conclusion perhaps solely because the dilemma at the heart of it has some telling personal relevance for me. 

But it's awful nonetheless. Julianne Moore's 'I don't want to die' scene serves as a reminder that we have entered the season of the not-quite-Oscar contenders. 

Friday, November 08, 2019

Flag Trap

This pic taken inside La Real Casa de la Moneda reminds me of one of my formative experiences in late 80s Antigua: on entering Banco Industrial on 5a Avenida (now flanked on one side by Monoloco), I somehow managed to knock over the national flag and was quick to observe how all the employees stood up at once and looked at me as if I had just walked in wearing a suicide vest.

I was in there again today and relieved to note that there are no longer any flag-poles to unwittingly stumble over. 

We ran into two Guatemalan friends in town today. The first was busy persuading some game-looking foreigners to put down roots here whilst the second greeted us with premonitory words along the lines of "Get the fuck out of this terrible place...what are you still doing here?', a warning made that much more piquant by the knowledge that said chum is a direct descendent of one of this country's colourful twentieth century presidentes, whose distinguished career included a) coming to power via a coup d'état b) introducing the Quetzal as the national currency and c) dying in suspicious circumstances.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Puente La Reina

The other day on social media I commented that this was almost certainly my favourite location in all of Spain. (The pic is one I found on Instagram and is by Jfeliufotos.) 

I'm sticking by it, but V gave me a low-level ear-bashing, which included a range of alternative suggestions. 

Here they are, more of less in her order of preference. 

1. Segovia, Castilla
2. Garachico, Tenerife
3. Peñamellera, Asturias (also Cangas de Onís and Cudilleros...)
4. Cuenca, Cuenca
5. Covarrubias, Castilla
6. Lekeitio, Vizcaya
7. La Gomera, Islas Canarias
8. Timanfaya, Lanzarote
9. Puente Viesgo, Cantabria
10. Ronda, Andalucía

In the specific case of Puente La Reina, it's not just the bridge itself, but the mood of the town and the surrounding landscape of Navarra. Back in 2001 we picked up some embutidos and a great bottle of local vino tinto joven from a great local butcher's on the main street and then had a picnic in a field twenty minutes out of the town itself. 

This one of the Roman aqueduct in Segovia belongs to Soliverso on Instagram...

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Good Boys (2019)

Some of the British critics turned their noses up at this one. Dr K didn't even see it, while Robbie Collin of the Telegraph thought the very idea of Superbad for the pre-teens was super bad. 

Yet the essence of his critique - that the twelve-year-olds speak as if they have been scripted by adults - is little more than a factual statement about the way this functions as comedy. The gag even features on the poster...

If it hadn't stepped so defly beyond the confines of strict realism, it wouldn't have worked. The Bean Bag Boys are glove puppets, and knowingly so. 

Overall, we thought it was both funny and delightful. It seems like a while since a decent Hollywood comedy came along or indeed a movie about student life in the US that feels fresh. 

I enjoyed all the stuff about first kissing parties, spinning bottles etc. It has to be said that the loss of innocence came a little later in my day. 


Earlier this week I was handling some official business and noticed that at a nearby desk an Italian man and his local translator were up to something similar. 

Except Italians can almost never deal with anything independently, can they? Collectively they are like a flesh and bone refutation of the philosophical transgression known as solipsism. 

Soon there were three more of them, chairs had been pulled up and the entrance to the office pretty much blocked. 

They were either all talking (and gesticulating) at once at either the official or the translator, standing up to have a loud conversations in Italian in the middle of the room, or to temporarily depart in peremptory fashion in order to make a mobile phone call just outside, also loudly. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

What a screeeeam...

Tonight marks the thirtieth anniversary of my first Halloween in Antigua.

Things were a bit more low-key in 1989. Hardly any large scale trick or treating for sure.

It was a bit of a novelty for me, as even in the late eighties Halloween was still not much of a thing back in Britain.

There was one big party in town, mostly locals, which we attended albeit briefly. The venue was a ruin. I can't remember exactly which one, but I have a feeling it was Santa Clara. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

'Ditch Means Ditch'

'Mayan Storm'

Having the Grenadier Guards run around in the forest hardly sounds like the most environmentally friendly thing Britain could do in Belize right now. And the codename..oh dear.

Back in the day 'special jungle training' included a stay on the appropriately-dubbed St George's Caye, an army-only atol which functioned as a sort of Camouflage Club 18-30, equipped with windsurfing kit and, well, so on. (I seem to remember pedalos, but I surely must have imagined them.)

A former colleague of mine — 'Colonel Bob' — famed in the tabloids for having more or less single handedly taken on the dastardly Serbs in '95 with his Cheshire regiment, confessed over a beer to me that he had once brought together a bunch of northern Belizean drug dealers and the Parachute Regiment in a target practice exercise that overwhelmingly favoured the men in maroon berets. 

As well as helping to rid this region of scumbags, Colonel Bob also played a significant and largely unsung role in helping London win its bid to host the Olympic Games of 2012. 

He is now a Conservative-Brexiteer member of this most awkward, yet soon-to-be-over of Parliaments. 

His most recent contribution to the debate before a December 12 election was finally settled, occurred on Monday: "As I understand it, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that if we had a second referendum, she might not agree with its result. I wonder whether that is true."

My very first memory of Belize — crossing the bridge over the Rio Hondo on the first of April, 1988, includes a vision of its custodians, airborne forces whose appearance made me think (and this is probably a generational thing) of...

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Back in our London heyday, we were regular attendees at the September 15 parties thrown by the Embassy of Guatemala jointly with the delegations of the other Central American nations in the UK capital. 

These bashes were always memorable. OK, they featured an open bar, so some ended up being a bit more memorable than others. 

One that still stands out in the mind took place at Crosby Hall, a stone’s throw away from my father’s old bachelor pad in Cheyne Walk. Thanks in no small part to the Great Fire of 1666, this property is possibly the most important surviving structure of Medieval London. Yet the extraordinary thing is that it somehow (mostly) survived the conflagration and was later moved in its entirely to its current Chelsea location beside Albert Bridge in 1910. 

Whilst still part of the original mansion of Sir John Crosby in Bishopsgate, it featured as a location in Shakeapeare’s Richard III. 

This was surely our most indelible Independence Day fiesta, not just for the venue (and the fact that they even invited the Panamanians), but for the moment when the consul asked us to take under our wing a young Guatemalan called Ana who had been dispatched across the pond to London by her wealthy beau, somewhat obviously as a tactic for removing her from his own ambit. 

A few days after the party we discovered that the counsul had also entrusted Ana into the care of the local station of Opus Dei and that it was going to be very difficult for us to assist the unfortunate girl without also feeling a bit intruded upon by said organisation. Our new friend eventually found her way back here, and I have always wondered what became of her. 

These annual festivities also permitted us to rub shoulders with British citizens that had, one way or another, been doing business in Central America. Tales of corruption, extortion, even amenazas de muerte did, I believe, turn me off the idea of ever having my own business interests here, and for good. 

And yet, I have now come to realise that no matter now much you might try to keep your head down, these contagions will eventually come looking for you in Guatemala. 

(PS: We've been squabbling a little bit this week over the year this party took place. Was it '93 or '94? Then we remembered we were married in '93 and that the tramites were handled by a new, male, consul called Danilo. So, the Crosby Hall event had to have been held the previous year when Magda was still basically in charge. The sudden change of diplomatic personnel in Fawcett Street was afterwards prompted by the expulsion of Serrano Elias). 

Monday, October 28, 2019

English Dreams

Meek explains convincingly that English nationalism is grounded in two quite fundamental mythic narratives - the slaying of the dragon by St George (an event) and Robin Hood (a process). 

The mythic status of the NHS results from it being both the modern institutional embodiment of the Sherwood Forest redistributive project and possessing a very strong connection to the last major (pre-Brexit) enactment of the dragon slaying: the defeat of Nazi Germany. 

The dragon is of course a metaphor for any tyrannical foreign otherness that threatens the community. Since the end of WWII the European Union has gradually come to assume elements of this role in the English psyche. 

This explains why liberal-remainer ideologues have a problem getting any message across beyond the practical difficulties posed by a dead dragon in this instance. 

They have their own myths, not without serious contradictions, but these don’t make such an easy fit with the two above-mentioned national tales. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Feeling the Sicherheit?

This piece of campaign messaging by the (governing) Swiss People's Party is one of the most blatant pieces of political xenophobia I have ever come across.

(Sicherheit means security and/or certainty.) 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Kill Chain (2019)

Nicolas Cage has become a true specialist at making movies entertaining for all the wrong reasons. He's an actor for whom the question 'what was he thinking when he read the script?' has become almost completely redundant. 

This (very) sub-Tarantino tale about a collection of gangsters, hookers, hitmen (and women) and other ne're-do-wells floating in and around a run-down hotel in Bogotá, connected in ways that become coherent in an increasingly incoherent manner, did not get made because anyone enjoyed a read through of the script. 

At times it sounds like they are all reciting Internet memes at each other. One three-way scene in a police van features a few lines in Spanish seemingly only in order to enhance the stuttering incomprehensibility of it all. 

The high point (as such) comes when Cage's hotel owner come soul-scared assassin briefly shifts, not so effortlessly, from his default of wounded quiescence into a full emote. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Laundromat (2019)

A fairly typical Netflix Original offering in as much that it has been granted a far superior cast and director than the material appears to deserve. (See also Velvet Buzzsaw.) 

Stephen Soderbergh is at the helm, guiding appearances by, amongst others, Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone (OMG!), Matthias Schoenaerts and Jeffrey Wright. The presence of Will Forte, Melissa Rauch and David Schwimmer generates an unwarranted expectation of comic relief.

It's one of those movies, increasingly popular after 2008, where a slightly misadvised attempt has been made to dramatise a non-fiction work about high finance and the bad behaviour of the world's elites, in this instance Jake Bernstein's account of the Panama Papers scandal, entitled Secrecy World

Banderas and Oldman play the titular partners of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, at one time the world's largest provider of offshore financial services, at least until somebody leaked a cache of its sensitive client documents dating from 1970-2015. 

Here they also function as a sort of chorus, strolling through its loose collection of cameos and other mini-narratives, attempting to make complex financial arrangements that much more accessible with pithy observations. Oldman's accent is part Jürgen Klinsman, part Werner Herzog. 

Important moments in the story are set in China, Nevis and, of course, Panama. Yet the production never left the confines of the USA, which results in some painfully stereotypical renditions of the supposed locations. 

I found the representation of affluent Africans just as uncomfortable as the stark alternative of starving Africans would have been, especially as the scenes involving them have all too obviously been constructed solely for the purpose of explaining how bearer shares work. Overall the tone is both moralistic and didactic. Jocular too, though not to the point of actually funny. 

Meryl Streep's character serves to ground this exposé in the everyday calculations of 'the meek', before leading us in stages towards the more rarefied realities of the shell companies of Panama and the 'politburo' of the People's Republic. 

But here's the thing. Accidental death is quite commonplace in Guatemala. I'm onto my second hand when it comes to using fingers to count the individuals of my acquaintance here who have departed this way. Yet 'ordinary Joes' in Central America have almost no expectation of a seven figure USD payout — with the resulting opportunity to afford a luxury Vegas apartment — following a fatal accident in which no one is obviously to blame. 

There are some assumptions in this film that perhaps reveal the corruption in American culture to be more systemic than this finger-pointing at unprincipled foreign lawyers and their elite clientele would otherwise allow for. 

Oxbridge Archetypes

In Cambridge nostalgia terms, Rees-Mogg inevitably reminds me of individuals I tended to come across at the Union, while Bercow more closely resembles the highest pay grade occupant of the Plodge (Porters' Lodge). 

In spite of the colourful ties, it's hard not to imagine in the bowler hat. 

Watching BBC Parliament this morning I've been daydreaming about being stuck in a lift with the pair of them.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Aurora de Antaño

This looks like the Ladybird Book version of Aurora. 

Yet I do remember this layout. Final, rather offhand, checks occurred roughly 5m beyond where they do now and non-passengers were able to congregate in the anterior space...which they did, in numbers. 

Nowadays one turns either right (or more likely) left after security and immigration. 

Back then, the only way was forward. 

In September '89 I remember sitting in this very space and fantasising about disappearing for good. There was far less of a grid to fall off at that time. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

'Targeted Assistance'

What this means for my sister-in-law, who works for USAID in the capital, remains to be seen. 

Her funds only recently appeared to have been redirected towards Venezuela. 

Here in Guatemala the 'targeting' would at first glance appear to be excluding those most in need of developmental assistance. On the plus side perhaps, they posted an 'employment opportunities' notice to their Facebook page this week. 

Sweetheart (2019)

Truly awful. The whole sorry exercise little more than an excuse for everyone involved to have a protracted holiday on a beautiful island near Fiji. 

Sweetheart is a sort of Predator with coconuts, yet the gurgling, reptilian, night-hunting creature here has no explanation whatsoever. Even Nessie has more of a backstory. 

The first half is basically silent and we found ourselves wishing the second half had been as well, such is the quality of the dialogue. 

In the end a reminder that I really have to read Robinson Crusoe

Friday, October 18, 2019

Judgment Day for Vivar

In the past I have been something of an apologist for Dr Vivar.

It was after all he who brought cobbled streets to El Panorama and many other improvements to perhaps more deserving communities around the periphery. 

I also felt at the time that his sudden demise could at least in part be explained by his having fallen foul of a far more heinous gang of crooks then in central government. 

I suppose I have always wanted there to be a clear distinction between offering jobs for the boys at favourable rates and the sort of systematic despoiling of the public coffers that we witnessed under Pérez Molina and co. 

As a former student of the medieval and early modern economies, I am of course aware that low level venality is not fundamentally incompatible with more general improvements across the relevant societies.

Yet the fact that Vivar jumped across from UNE to PP shows that the line I would draw is surely more mobile than I’ve ever been willing to admit. 

The list of municipal reprobates convicted yesterday along with our ex-mayor and his wife includes some that are on their way to the bote for the daily grind associated with the role of cómplice

That my wife has a long-standing relationship with two of the sisters of Susana has, frankly, provided us with insufficient protection against occasionally spiky encounters with some of her more opportunistic employees over the past four years. 

Yet the fact that she is also a close friend, from childhood, of the incoming (actually returning) alcalde, offers serious grounds for optimism in 2020. 

We're not thinking of exploiting privileged access. That would be hypocritical, to say the least. Just about feeling a good deal more shielded against the sort of nonsense that we have witnessed during the incumbent’s regime. 

Victor Hugo also has a solid reputation for getting stuff done. The highway passing through our village to El Calvario was his doing, and it remains one of the higher quality and longer-lasting asphalt roads in the municipality. 

The fate of Vivar's underlings has demonstrated rather clearly that one has to look at corruption 'in the round' and not just the specific actions of the head honcho. There are no doubt a few more ratas in the nido. A visit from the exterminator is overdue. 

Anna (2019)

If you didn't know that this deliciously eurotrashy movie was un film de Luc Besson, you'd probably guess within the first ten minutes or so. I did. 

It belongs to that evergreen espionage-thriller sub-genre we can refer to as 'The Russian Assassin Babe'. Viewers of Killing Eve will inevitably be drawing some negative comparisons, for Oksana and Anna are like borscht and tears. 

The whole thing resembles a 90's straight-to-VHS escapade, except it has proper thesps like Helen Mirren in it, and it has been set in a version of the 90s that never was, with tech from the latter part of the decade, whilst the USSR is still apparently very much up and running. 

There's an almost farcical scene in a Paris park at the end, which has echoes of the 'EEEEEEVeryone’ moment in Leon, that was at once peak Luc Besson and peak Gary Oldman. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

1066 and all that...

In this instance, there was actually a sort of ‘second referendum’, as many of the defeated Anglo-Saxons set off for Byzantium, where they soon formed the core of the Emperor’s Varangian Guard...and were duly slaughtered once again by Norman invaders.

The analogy doesn't quite capture the lose-lose nature of the current tussle. 


Notice how the artificial deadline, the stated purpose of which was to blackmail our EU partners into a better deal, may now actually be used to blackmail Parliament into accepting it. 

Yet, unless said body has a collective 'ahhh, fuck it' moment on Saturday, Boris's tweak of Theresa's deal   largely the addition of the word 'great',  spoken with the the sort of enthusiasm his predecesssor could never muster   is unlikely to be voted through within the existing timeframe. 

Some of Parliament's logjammy characteristics are more fixed than others:
  • The DUP (“They’re waiting for us to blink, but we’ve cut our eyelids off”) will not vote for trade arrangements that leave Northern Ireland at what they perceive to be a relative disadvantage
  • The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems will not vote for Brexit in any form
  • The Labour Party doesn't want to take any noticeable stance before an election they'd rather fight on social justice issues.

In practice Labour's official position may turn out to be an attempt to square the circle by agreeing to the deal on condition of a second referendum. 

It's hard to see how they'd consent to give the Tories their election before the Brexit wave form has collapsed.  But in the background blame game the spotlight this weekend will be shining uncomfortably brightly on Jeremy Corbyn.

Boris is going to have to bring almost all his own rebels back on board while teasing a significant number away from a weakened Corbyn. He may end up with the votes he needs to prevent the second plebiscite, but fall short of getting his deal passed. 

At which point the EU 27 may have a collective "Ahhh, fuck it" moment. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Keep your kitties indoors...

Puerto San José today, looking like a publicity still for Crawl

So, it's actually OUR fault...

Trump’s views on the circumstances of Harry Dunn’s death expressed in a WH press gathering, were depressingly familiar. 

According to POTUS, the boy died because an American driver didn’t realise that she had to drive on the left. The blame therefore lies with apparently aberrant laws in the foreign jurisdiction and so the American driver-killer has no real case to answer. 

Blame the rules, not the behaviour. Dodge the responsibility. Morally, it’s only marginally better than ‘I can’t be tried for my crimes while I am President’. 

150 Today

Central Hating for Kids

Crunch Time

Today may be the day when we discover if Brexit is even theoretically possible. One could characterise the rest of the debate and disagreement over three long years as little more than a fog obscuring the one ineluctable issue. 

Put simply, there can be no customs infrastructure on the border between north and south in Ireland, because of the GFA. 

There could in theory be a line drawn down the middle of the Irish Sea, but this is unlikely to be acceptable to the Unionists in Ulster, who will surely never agree to the territory being treated differently to the rest of the Union. (And nor frankly, should anyone else in it.) 

So here we are; the fundamental choice between two unacceptable alternatives. They were always there, and this is why Cameron had no business promising a YES/NO referendum on EU membership without addressing all the treaty obligations first. 

Legally, the options on the ballot should have been NO/NO. For all the rest of the contentions thrown up by this controversy: sovereignty, immigration, trade and so on are secondary. To some extent irrelevant. The UK needed to look long and hard at its own constitutional arrangements, before it could propose to opt out of the treaties that made it part of a 'United Kingdom' and of the EU 28. 

Right now, given that all sides must know that this problem is not open to solution, especially given the artificial deadline, all they can do in order to at least appear to be trying to resolve it in good faith, is to come up with a fudge whereby the customs infrastructure and the 'invisible' line are shunted somewhere in between the Irish sea and the actual border. In practice that would be almost as unworkable as the original two non-options. 

'No deal', now formally also illegal thanks to the Benn Act, was also no solution.

The only matter that can be properly clarified now is a political-historical one. Who gets the blame for this strategic mistake of epic proportions? (Other than David Cameron of course...)