Sunday, August 14, 2022

Imaginary Balance

US media such as NBC were referring to Rushdie last night as "the controversial author" — controversial, like someone whose views are outside the mainstream...rather dodgy. 

Controversial, perhaps then to the same extent as the American "stand up" comedian who has just had his show cancelled at The Edinburgh Fringe. 

You can read the report on the BBC News website and end up none the wiser about the severity of dodginess involved. It's beyond the pale, yet they won't, for example, tell you that he flashed his dick at the audience or that he referred to Rishi Sunak as a Paki

And in between the shock factor of the intermittent stabby, shooty attacks, this is one of the main problems that free speech faces today: a self-censoring panic about causing offence, even in the business of reporting the offensive. 

Salman meanwhile, is an apostate, a committed atheist with long-standing firm convictions. And JK Rowling is a children's author who advocates for fact over ideology. Yet both can end up in mortal danger, at the very least culturally-tagged as "controversial", because we are afraid of pissing off the organised dickheads. 

As Slavoj Žižek explains in his new book, all would-be 'free' speech is now emitted into a space patrolled by a new kind of listener...

“The basic characteristic of today’s subjectivity is the weird combination of the free subject who experiences himself as ultimately responsible for his fate and the subject who grounds the authority of his speech on his status of a victim of circumstances beyond his control... The notion of subject as a victim involves the extreme narcissistic perspective: every encounter with the Other appears as a potential threat to the subject’s precarious imaginary balance."


Friday, August 12, 2022

Prey (2022)


Even before we sat down to watch this I could hear the tap tap tap of a  zombified franchise banging its head against the window. What was this exactly — prequel, sequel, reboot..?

And during the first twenty minutes or so my misgivings were accumulating: I know how this extraterrestrial beastie looks and behaves, so spare me the piecemeal reveal lark. Why do the northern great plains indigenes emit at most a single phrase in Comanche before collapsing into modern highschooler English? And are they really going with the whole high tech bully roughs up the Native Americans vibe? 

And then a horde — an 'orde? — of expendable, unreconstructed Frogs arrives, and from that point onwards, things start to get rather good. 

Other iconic alien nasties have been subjected to 'updates' which haven't quite worked, or stuck (viz Daleks) but this one has been conducted with both smarts and sensitivity. 

The movie sheds its early televisual quality to become one of the better Predator outings and one that works as a standalone, and almost certainly as a career stepping stone for Amber Midthunder. 

And at the end I found myself doing something I would never have imagined myself doing during those early scenes — looking up books on the history of the Comanche Nation on Amazon. 

Saturday, August 06, 2022

No soy codo, pero...

I've been suffering somewhat from tennis elbow for the past couple of months. All the more disappointing given the fact that I haven't played tennis, proper, for years. 

V and I often turned out on our local hard courts three or four times a week during the shortish British summers. 

But then just over a decade ago she suffered a fall from a reasonable altitude, landing very hard on her shoulder, and although we did try to go back out with our racquets, it was soon clear that her service was but a shadow of its former self and the competitive element of our matches was gone for good. 

This was especially traumatic for her as she had always been extremely sporty — Guatemalan national fencing champion and so on — and had worked her way back from an ugly knee injury which occurred just before we met, but as we all now know, unresolve-able chronic conditions begin at 40. 

And La Antigua has some lovely clay courts comparable with those we enjoyed playing on over on the mucky red continent in the late 90s. 

In my youth I never seemed to get how easily athletes come a-cropper. Years and years of football, rugby, cricket, tennis, badminton, soft ball, squash, real-tennis, swimming, diving and not a niggle. (Though V and I are on the same page on the unnecessary wrist pain of volleyball.)

But then in my thirties I made a lunge on the tennis court at Cascades against an awkward Aussie opponent and landed clumsily on an outstretched leg, which left me with a form of sciatica for weeks. 

I recall that my father suffered quite alarmingly from tennis elbow for an extended period of my childhood — in his case more properly golf elbow — and had it treated with hydrocortisone injections, but that is not my way.

Luckily I have discovered a handy Argie-manufuactured med called Reversal Flex here in Guatemala, which is extremely effective at targeting this sort of discomfort. Over the counter, but ought not to be, of course. 

Albañiles in LAG tend to rave about Vitaflenaco for back pain and other forms of inflammation, and I have experimented, but this is a painkiller one should avoid if at all possible. 

In my case the garden shears can take the lion's share of the blame for my codo condition — there are times of year when I insist on manually mowing the lawn, and last June was one of those. 

About eight years ago I had some fairly serious knee ligament trouble myself, which was settled almost overnight by a dose of electronic acupuncture in Pangbourne, but I doubt similar miracles can easily be accessed here in LAG. 

In the last couple of years in London we used to play badminton regularly at the weekends with some friends near Stamford Bridge (Chelsea FC i.e. deepest Fulham) and we still occasionally indulge in the same in our garden, as it seems feasible, even for the decrepit, and always generates some amusing canine mayhem. 

Perhaps the best part of our tennis championships in Wapping were the pints at the Prospect of Whitby afterwards. The lesson here is that one's compound experiences may start to fall apart as the years go by, but one is not necessarily left with the spotty bananas at the bottom of the bowl. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Not Okay (2022)

Zoey Deutch is so very good in this just-about-okay film, I ended up vicariously regretting her choice of being in it. 

We've only recently seen her in The Outfit, an obvious step up (and coincidentally, there too paired against a dickwad love interest played by Dylan O'Brien). Maybe she signed both dotted lines around the same time? 

The trouble is that she makes a character set up to be unlikeable, vaguely likeable. Writer-director Quinn Shepherd has tried to offset this problem by introducing a woke paragon in the form of school shooting victim Rowan, but this then breaks what I see as the golden rule of satire — nobody in the story can be excused from ridicule. 

The screenplay makes some questionable choices in terms of believability and good taste. It ought to have danced in step with the zeitgeist, yet often felt clumsily off beat. 

The more revealing dramas about social media tend to be projections — e.g. Black Mirror — rather than attempts to whack the highly mobile mole in the moment. 

The characters that share the office with Danni at 'Depravity' are perhaps the movie's biggest fail, especially a young man with South-Asian roots and a couple of unnecessarily nasty LGBT roles.