Thursday, September 27, 2018

Every man or Everyman

In Straw Dogs John Gray famously observed that "Humanity does not exist. There are only humans, driven by conflicting needs and illusions, and subject to every kind of infirmity of will and judgement."

Yesterday an auditorium full of multilateralists laughed at a self-styled patriot. If it had been a room full of patriots listening to a multilateralist they had pre-disrespected, there would probably have also been a few guffaws picked up on the mikes. It's always fun to mock someone else's needs and illusions. 

It seems to me that the key question now is which of these illusions might be better equipped to handle the catastrophes to come: the every man (as long as he's a patriot) for himself worldview, or the wishful thinking approach to everyman worldview.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Guests and Fish

In as much as he is President of this country, Jimmy Morales is very much a big fish from CICIG's perspective. 

Yet in almost every other respect Jimmy remains a little fish. In a sense this is what got him elected and formed the undertone of 'Ni Corrupto, Ni Ladrón'. 

The contrast with his predecessor is surely obvious to almost everyone, but Iván Velásquez himself may have lost track of the distinction.

And thus we may have reached the moment when it might be appropriate for CICIG to sacrifice its illustrious, tenacious jefe in order to find a way to secure its own future and that of the wider fight against impunity in Guatemala. 

Even if Iván were to stay, the current international situation (Trump..) may already preclude the kind of high profile probing he apparently favours. Outside support could at best be described as wavering right now. 

Continued obstinance may lead to an escalation of attacks on the judiciary by a President who cannot stand again next June. And may damage the cause of any pro-CICIG, anti-graft candidate in the next election. 

Though, for this not to be notched up as a victory for the fish, Iván would have to be readmitted to the country first before stepping aside.

Hasta Duendes

There's an individual who passes in front of our house every morning at the same time wearing precisely the same malapropos get-up - a baggy grey sweater, loose yet heavy pants, oversize dark sunglasses and what also appears to be an XXL black wig. 

We've provided him/her with the nickname Groundhog, but V sometimes prefers Sinibaldi

When we had our security cameras installed one of the technicians opined that we were likely to see all sorts of things, 'hasta duendes'. 

It is certainly true that we have since seen a good deal of stuff that cannot be unseen, resulting in a small folder of miscellaneous clips that could never be shared on social media. A pair of siblings making out against our front wall and an orgy inside a police car have really been the least of it. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

DENIS NORDEN, 1922-2018

Back in the 80s and 90s Denis was a partner and the leading scriptwriter at my father's firm and I was in awe of him, always.

The obituary quotes him expressing somewhat regretful sentiments about the rise of the word processor, but it is as an unlikely champion and early adopter of such technology that I will remember him. Long before the company had a room full of Vydecs, Denis had his own little handheld WP, of which he seemed immensely proud.

Before proper fame came with It'll be Alright on the Night (V could never cope with the way he held his clipboard or notebook - awkwardly - at his waistline), he used to host a mid-afternoon slot with a panel of retired and forgotten celebs who competed to guess the origins of clips from black and white movies of the classic 1930s musical era. Whenever at home pulling a sickie from school I'd come across this unwelcome interruption in programming aimed at my own age-group, and wonder who on earth could possibly be interested in this sort of nostalgia for wrinklies!

He must surely have been the last of that great generation of British comedy writers and performers that came out of the forces at the end of WWII.


This article on the phenomenon of skim-reading had me musing along parallel lines about how contemporary travel too has become a process of skimming.

My second visit to La Antigua in early September 1989 had a duration of three months, including five weeks at a Spanish school.

Yet beyond those who come to settle, I come across far fewer medium term 'inhabitants' these days, and consequently, perhaps, there are fewer Spanish schools around town as well.

In the late 80s Antigua was a natural hub, pretty much the only location in the country and nearby region geared up for foreigners. There were no hotels close to the ruins at Tikal and Flores offered only the most basic options. Ditto Pana, which was a tiny, somewhat scuzzy destination.
You came here, settled for a while, and moved around when you could.

For millennials however, every day spent in one place comes with an opportunity cost, for travel in their world is essentially a stream of shareable micro-experiences. They use Tripadvisor (not Revue or Que Pasa anymore it seems) to maximise the efficiency of their stay.

A perhaps not unrelated phenomenon I have noticed in the past year or so, is the rise of the boutique hostel in La Antigua. Just like those cut-rate, booze-deluged sanctuaries for migrating tishudos...but so much more instagrammable!

Monday, September 10, 2018


In as much as Jaws is not really about a killer shark, a tennis match involving Serena Williams is hardly ever just about tennis. Yesterday we got to see more of the thematic underpinnings than usual.

Serena’s game is all about asserting her own power against the power of others, not just her opponents, but the whole rule-making and imposing system. I cannot be the only person to have noted that she often seems psychologically a bit more fragile when playing another woman of colour (...that isn’t her sister).

Yesterday it was as if she wanted to play the race card in her head, found that she couldn’t, played the gender card instead - with motherhood bonus - realised how absurd that made her look and then duly descended into a more generic spoiled American celeb strop, questioning the umpire’s integrity and threatening his career with the power she wields without a racket.

'Tennis was the loser', says Sue Barker. Only if you must have your sport without subtext. For me, this was a better than average spectacle for a women’s final at Flushing Meadow.

The toys don't have to come out of the pram every time, but just knowing that they might establishes an extra level of entertainment. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


There’s a strong possibility that historians of a generation hence will look favourably - and wistfully - at ‘Chequers’ and conclude that this was, after all, possibly the best bash at solving what will probably even in twenty years' time look like an almost intractable problem.

They will note though how this sensible attempt to cut the Gordian Knot fell almost midway between the various dogmatic positions, both in the UK parliament and the EU negotiating team, and was thus doomed to failure.

The fact that its key sponsor - the discrepantly-dancing Maybot - had proposed it from a position of self-induced weakness, will be bewailed in turn.