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...)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


I made this rather scrumptious dish for lunch today, based on a process for pre-softening the rice (with loroco and herbs) that I've only recently picked up, and then mixing in other ingredients — here chipotles, sweetcorn, carrots, longaniza de parilla, courgettes, olives, eggs, cheddar cheese, capers, onions, cream and so on — as the final bit of cooking is done. 

Served with a sauce made from the original liquid, soy, balsamic and apple cider vinegars plus a few dollops of honey. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

"Me next..."

Fractured (2019)

I’m not sure that the elevator pitch for this movie would have convinced me of its eventual merits. 

It’s an all too familiar thriller set-up: man wakes up and either reality is on the blink or he is. Cinema being a wholly visual medium, this kind of first person / third person ambiguity is often difficult to establish credibly and then hold onto until through to final act, particularly when one of the options is that much more far-fetched than the other. 

Fractured takes some of the inevitable liberties, but is generally successful and in many ways a bit of an education in how that little extra bit of quality across the production (acting, direction, score etc.) can make all the difference. 

(I'd add that it helps that as a Brit I tend to find American hospitals particularly scary places!) 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Boom Times

It seems almost a bit far out to recall this now, but as I was growing up my home was shaken, as if by an earthquake accompanied by an ultra-resonant, overhead lightning strike, by SIX terrorist bombs, five times thanks to Irish twats, one Italian. 

The second closest of this unfortunate sextet, at a distance of no more than 200m, were the devices hurled through the windows of this now defunct Belgravia pub by the so-called Balcombe Street Gang on November 30, 1974. 8 people were injured. 

I’d been watching some movie I really shouldn’t have about American colonists resisting pissed-off indigenous people and had seen some rather graphic representations of amputation just minutes before my bed was shunted across the floor by the blast. I was seven and the trauma was lasting. Especially after the September 5, 1975 bombing in the the lobby of the London Hilton, which reinforced the association with detached limbs. (The Moorgate tube crash earlier that year did not help either.) 

The first of the bombs, hurled by an Irish twat called Eddie Butler, consisted of nuts and bolts wrapped around gelignite with tape. Had it penetrated, the results would have been mass casualties - ‘carnage’ - but it bounced back off the windows. This was the BOOOM! that wobbled our house around 10pm. The second bomb, chucked by an another Irish twat named O’Connell, failed to explode. 

The Italian twat’s bomb in 1980 was an incendiary device which did for his nation’s consulate at #38 Eaton Place, located some 50m from my bedroom. Nobody was hurt, but the resulting fire is said to have destroyed documents on 140,00 Italians living in Britain at the time, and later ‘inspired’ architect Zaha Hadid. Overall, less of a kaboom than a spectacular, if disturbing light-show.

In terms of media reportage gruesomeness, the outlier was the bomb that took out a passing squadron of the Household cavalry on July 20, 1982. Our sitting room sash windows were severely rattled, and I can clearly recall the expression of the window cleaner suspended behind them at the time. 

Yet, of all these terrorist outrages, the one that instilled the greatest sense of immediate panic was the Harrods car bombing of November 17, 1983. The instant of combustion coincided with my shutting a kitchen cabinet but, as I turned and watched the black smoke rising out of the window, I was acutely aware that my mother was at that moment very close to the explosion, at a location in West Halkin Street. I also later learned that my girlfriend at the time had been emerging from the exit of nearby Knightsbridge tube station, only yards away from the vehicle. 

The bombing of The Walton's restaurant on November 18, 1975 was also ’close to home’ as the device, again thrown through a window, landed underneath the table where some friends of my parents were dining, killing two of them. Another, luckier, woman who been with the same group was left with shrapnel all over her lower body and I later remember watching her in a swimming pool in Spain doing what seemed to me at the time to be strange underwater exercises in order to restore movement in her legs.

On February 9, 1996 another Irish twat device was detonated in the Docklands, a few hundred metres from our flat there, but fortunately we weren’t in it at the time, and then on 7/7, 2005 I was 1.5 stops away from the suicide bomber at Aldgate East. I do however think that people tend to get a bit over-heated these days about the relative danger posed by Islamotwats.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Back in the 80s I twice dated girls hailing from upstate New York, from beyond the confines of Gotham. Along the way I learned the relative importance in their culture of urban myths and campfire tales. 

One of them told me a scary story — in the midst of a dark, thundery night while we were travelling in France — about a babysitter and her spine-chilling fate, giving the impression that she had heard it first hand from a friend, and only several years later did I realise that this had been the plot of a fairly missable movie. 

Young Americans of our generation are likely to have grown up with Alvin Schwartz's illustrated children's books of the same name as this new movie, though rather like Dr Pepper, they were not such a big deal back in Blighty at the time. 

Guillermo del Toro, also a Generation Xer, has had a big hand here in amalgamating a set of Schwartz's stories into a sort of compound plot (not entirely convincingly) for a modern YA audience. 

Period horror has become a thing, largely one supposes as a way to dodge the dilemmas of cellphones and digital communications. Here the action has been thrown back to 1968, just before Nixon's election, with Vietnam the metaphorical monster under the bed. It's been done quite well, yet somehow adds to the sense of aimlessness about the production. 

Anyway, André Øvredal's film is broadly entertaining, yet also possibly a bit too gruesome for the age-group it is ostensibly targeted at, whilst being neither scary nor coherent enough for us older folk. 

Yip Yap

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Index

In my third year at Prep School our form-master Mr Johnstone laid down a system via which we would record, in a not entirely voluntary manner, every book we read in his centralised notebook, where he would duly score them 1-5. 

It was a fairly simple system. Dickens earned you five points - maximum wholesomeness - a Doctor Who novel by Terence Dicks would barely scrape you one. 

Until fairly recently I took this initiative at face value. Mr J wanted to incentivise us to improve our reading habits. But then I read the first part of Norman Sherry’s biography of Graham Greene set in the recognisable world of a minor public school in the opening decades of the last century. (Greene’s unworldly father was the headmaster at Berkhamsted, and by all accounts a veritable Mr Chips.) 

It now seems that I had naïvely never considered the possibility that the reading league was part of a complex system of observation, control and censorship. Posh schools are part of the deep state. Who knew?

Minding other minds

In the year or so after we sold our company, our flashy new NASDAQ-quoted American owners and, perhaps even more urgently, our more staid primary partner organisation in London wanted us to start recruiting to senior positions from outside the original shareholder base. It seemed that what they had in mind was a set of individuals who waddled and quacked a lot more like traditional ‘communications professionals’.

Most of the founding principals were pioneers, yet more or less amateurs. The field was too new. 

One member of the fresh intake was the walking, talking archetype of what the instigators of this process had in mind. But once I had started to attend meetings with him, in his capacity as our new (and actually first) Director of Client Services, it became clear that much of this talking was emerging out of a one way channel. (Traditional communications are after all, more about the broadcast mode.)

From this experience I have learned just how important empathy can be in any state of negotiation or indeed in the daily workflow. Individuals who are comparatively unable to form accurate impressions of the motivations (or indeed) emotions that underlie words spoken in a commercial context will quickly find themselves at a disadvantage. 

My new colleague appeared to think everyone else had exactly the same picture of the world that he did. In scientific terms, he had no real theory of mind. In the end we had to let him go (though ultimately for reasons more complex than an inability to read people in meetings). 

Being an amateur has its drawbacks, but it is not an intellectual defect. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Nobel returns

Congrats to Olga, commiserations again to Haruki! 

Thunder Road (2018)

Is there a word for a spasmodic sort of smile that is at once an existential grimace? The Germans could possibly have one. Middle Americans almost certainly not. And that, in essence is the 'story' here. 

It first appeared as an award-winning short, and now thanks to $190K raised via Kickstarter, we have the feature-length version, which is both a re-imagining of its one astonishing scene, plus an extrapolation from it. 

That opening single-take, common to short and extended versions, finds us in a small-town Texan church, as Officer Jim Arnaud prepares to deliver the eulogy at his mother's funeral, a moment of introspective grief that is to mark the beginning of a proper meltdown, adding marriage, career and parenting to the mix.

The end credits start with the reminder that Thunder Road was 'written, directed and performed' by Jim Cummings. The element of performance here is unequivocal. In a number of scenes where all we have in shot is a single speaking character, one feels that they are alone even when one knows that they are not, and I cannot recall another recent release where the presence of the camera is felt quite so acutely. 

Cummings has cited Alan Partridge and David Brent as inspirations for his over-sensitive, self-obsessed and hazardously un-self-unaware cop. I also thought about Fleabag, though Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character, which originated as a stand-up one woman show, has acquired a bit more surrounding narrative structure since. 

This is a very good, low budget film and I'd recommend it, yet it is far from flawless. In particular I had trouble seeing around this set of vignettes to a viable version of Arnaud, outside of his immediate crisis.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

In The Tall Grass (2019)

Probably the best of the Netflix original horror movies we've taken in, certainly out of the high concept ones. 

The concept here, based on a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill, might actually be said to be tall rather than high, and the film is at its best at the level of its visual imagery and the conceit of a cryptically clinging section of prairie in Kansas with a mysterious, malevolent boulder smack in the middle of it. 

Yet when the screenplay tries to build on this, one is left just a little under-satisfied. Is this a very clever idea that has been dumbed down a bit for mass appeal, or an essentially half-baked one that has a character tossing out the name of a famous Borges short story in order to appear higher of brow? 

We have some of this very species of tall grass in our front yard, though possibly not in sufficient quantity yet to tell if it has any of the same warping effects on time and space! 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Into the Jumble

...has returned for a fourth season, and I have that familiar sense of mild panic as I cast my mind back to the last few episodes and realise that I am not sure that I really know where we are with this story, if I ever did. 

Sometimes I think they should have named it Farrago, with the extra R to avoid any confusion — at least as far as the name goes. 

Day Eight..?

This one is possibly a bit of a cheat, not least because the cover challenge was clearly supposed to be limited to seven titles. 

I did want to include Thomas Nagel's rather contrarian book as one I 'love', yet concluded that doing so might be a little presumptuous as I haven't quite finished it. 

And who knows, he might be prone to disappointing endings, rather like Stephen King. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


I've accepted the challenge for posting the cover of 7 books I love. One a day, no explanation, no review - just the cover.


Doors to manual and cross-check...

Some professions appear to incorporate slightly recondite, behind-closed-doors, on-the-job training regimes. 

I have always suspected that there is a hush hush facility somewhere in the UK where all future British Airways pilots are dispatched in order to learn how to speak in that way. 

There are probably signs outside to give would-be snoopers the impression that the only things one might encounter inside would be top-of-the-range flight simulators. 

My mother, a onetime Miss Bournemouth and later a catwalk model, had to learn how to walk in a very precise manner. Again, I have always suspected that similar deportment classes might have been made available to a recognisable sub-genus of little old ladies in Antigua, all of whom negotiate the roads outside with a sort of lilting waddle, their centre of gravity, already fairly low, shifting downwards to alternate knees with each step taken. 

Yet perhaps they have acquired this gait as an unconscious response to the cobbles. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

Parasite (2019)

Winner of the Palme d'Or in Cannes this year, Parasite is a reminder that Korean cinema at its best is near unbeatable. 

We are introduced to a family of JAMs in Seoul, of whose guileful, opportunistic approach to employment we quickly become aware, as each one separately acquires a position within the the Gangnam household of a wealthy businessman. (The appointment of mum and dad in particular requiring an element of displacement.) 

That they have to pretend not to know each other adds some farce to the social satire innate in this situation. Soon enough black comedy is the dominant mood, to the point of actual horror, yet at the end it is hard not to feel rather deeply moved. Masterful. 


I've accepted the challenge for posting the cover of 7 books I love. One a day, no explanation, no review - just the cover.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


I've accepted the challenge for posting the cover of 7 books I love. One a day, no explanation, no review - just the cover.