I am going to express some unfashionable opinions. Not JK Rowling level, but I suppose near enough. Bear with me...
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Thursday, September 03, 2020
“Mr. Hooke, who is the most, and promises the least, of any man in the world that ever I saw.”
Friday, August 28, 2020
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!
Saturday, August 22, 2020
...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."
Beevor’s latest tome takes on the WWII battle that perhaps fascinates me the most.
“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.”
"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.
Saturday, August 15, 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.
Saturday, August 01, 2020
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
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?)
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.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
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
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
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
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
This set was actually part of an artwork, a short walk from our London home.
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
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.
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
Friday, July 03, 2020
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
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.
Monday, June 29, 2020
Back in the 90s I used to fly ‘direct’ into Guatemala from Amsterdam on the KLM flight out of Schiphol — a supersized, 1/2-cargo jumbo.
The urban myth about the end of the service goes that eventually one Dutch pilot took a look at the runway at Aurora and chose to abort his final approach before proceeding on to El Salvador. After that the airline didn't dare force their employees to try to plonk a 747 down on that roller-coaster. These days the only people to arrive here in wide-bodied airliners are government officials from the likes of the US and Taiwan.