(Question: is the young man in one of the photos a fan is holding out to be signed truly Cranston some decades ago? Yikes, I wouldn't have recognized him.)
The director of Wakefield, one of his movies which are shown this year in honor of him (and yes, of course several Breaking Bad episodes are s hown as well), Robin Swicord, joked that both she and Cranston have German grandparents, and: "I don't know why they left, but you know, I think the fun is over. Might be a good idea to come back now, and I think you all know why. So thank you for welcoming political refugees." Former opera director Sir Peter Jonas outed himself as a Breaking Bad fan, complete with Heisenberg t-shirt, and held a speech praising the glories of narrative arc driven television. My only irritation with that one wasn't the series he singled out (other than BB) for being exceptionally good at this - The Sopranos, Oz, The West Wing and The Good Wife - , but the one he didn't mention. Babylon 5 still doesn't get as much credit in breaking ground with its narrative arc tellng format as it deserves.
Anyway, Bryan Cranston's own speech was lovely, mostly about the way being a storyteller is the best vocation (I agree), with both wry humor and sincerity. After the ceremony, Wakefield was shown, but due to an unshakeable real life obligation, I could only watch the first hour. Mind you, I had mixed feelings anyway. Because I could see why Cranston was cast (excelling as he does in playing dislikeable characters whose pettiness isn't air brushed away who are still interesting to watch) , and I enjoyed seeing Jennifer Garner again (playing his wife), and found the concept something of a suburban Hitchcock satire without crime (Howard Wakefield, lawyer, due some circumstances ends up disappearing into his own attic, watching his wife and family carry on without him with the bickering zest of a true voyeur while literally reduced to eating garbage) in a clever way, it still made my skin crawl. Because in the hour I watched, most of Howard Wakefield's voyeurism and assholery was directed against his wife, and while I knew the narrative was absolutely on the same page with me here, it still felt very disturbing to watch, and so it didn't exactly break my heart that I had to leave early. (Otoh I missed the Q & A with Cranston afterwards that way, alas.)
On to movies I could watch completely:
La Familia, a movie from Venezuela, directed by Gustavo Rondón Cordóva, currently stuck in Caracas and thus unable to make it to the festival, though he might make it to the Latin American directors general Q & A on Monday. This was a taut, intense story starting in the poorest quarters of Caracas. Our two main characters are Pedro, a twelve years old boy, and his father Andres, who works several jobs at once to make ends meet and thus hardly sees him. The introduction sequence has Pedro (Reggie Reyes) playing with some other children, and the playing has that edge of violence, those moments when shoving at each other suddenly threatens to become more, which has you sit up already. And sure enough, various scenes later, which establish Pedro's day with best friend Jonny and minus his father (who sleeps like a stone on those rare occasions when he's home), violence does explode, as a child threatens Pedro and Jonny with a gun and Pedro ends up seriously hurting the other child. His father Andres understands the implication at once because the child in question has revenge hungry people, and goes on a run with his estranged son, which is the plot line for the rest of the movie. "Going on a run", however, doesn't mean what it might were this a US film, because Andres still needs that money for Pedro and himself to survive, so he takes Pedro with him to his various jobs on the other ends of the city - they just don't go back to their own quarter, though Pedro urgently wants to because he's worried for Jonny, which makes for a big confllct with his father.
This is a movie which trusts its actors (Giovanni García plays Andres), because the dialogue is terse and rare, and you experience the shifting father and son relationship mostly through physical interaction, looks, gestures. Andres doesn' have a "killing is bad" conversation with his son, or a "how do you feel about what happened?" conversation - that's just not how they interact. And yet you can watch them becoming closer throughout the film, and at the end they truly understand each other, and even in their desperate situation have some hope for the future.
Clair Obscur, a Turkish-German-French-Polish coproduction (yes, these do exist) directed by Yesim Ustaouglu. With a female Turkish director and two female main characters, this movie explores, among other things, various ways of what it means to be a woman in Turkey. Our two heroines live completely different existences - Shendaz is a psychiatrist with a seemingly good relationship with her boyfriend, living in very well off circumstances at the Meditterranean coast, while Elmas is still a teenager imprisoned in a marriage to a much older man who revolts her, serving him and his mother in their small flat in a skyscraper. The two storylines eventually connect when due to various spoilery circumstances Shendaz becomes Elmas' therapist; by that time, the cracks in Shenaz' own life have been revealed, but refreshingly for therapists who tend to be either demonic or incompetent when presented in a fictional story, she's still able to truly help Elmas (especially once she figures out how young Elmas really is), and eventually finds away to escape the mess in her own life as well.
The director and several of the actors were there, though not the two leads. The actress who plays Elmas' mother-in-law said whhen she read the script, she thought that this was the best discussion of female sexuality in a Turkish movie. The sex scenes aren't just surprisingly frank in the case of Shenaz (with Elmas, who does not want to have sex, the camera stays on her agonized face, and later goes with her to the restroom because the aftermath is also very painful to her), but always make a character point. In the Q & A the director was asked whether the movie could be shown like this in Turkey, and she answered she had to cut around two minutes for the general release version (though she was allowed to show the full length in Turkish festivals), which since she knew this would happen in advance she could do without taking away the meaning from the scenes in question. Mostly the general release cuts avoided the full nudity of the complete version. Since the only Muslim women showing up in Western media tend to wear headscarfs and/or hijabs, in short, live Elmas' life, I suspect the fact that Shenaz is sucessful in her profession, has unmarried sex and enjoys wine when dining with her boyfriend (who does the cooking) would be as startling as the sex and the nudity if this movie gets a release in the US or Europe. At the same time, there's the awareness that Erdogan's government and party is doing its best to make Elmas, not Shenaz' life more common again in Turkey, and that subtext is also there if you're sitting in the audience watching this film.
Shenaz is played by Funda Eryigit, Elmas by Ecem Uzm, and they're both delivering terrific performances. In the Q & A, Ms. Ustaoglu mentioned that the incredible scene in which Shenaz gets Elmas to roleplay a dream she has (which finally allows Elmas to vocalize the pain in her life) needed only two takes, one for Elmas, one for Shenaz, that the actresses were that good. And having seen this movie, I believe it.
I am fairly hmmmm about this piece on empaths, and wonder if some of those consultant empaths are employing the cold-reading tricks attributed to psychics, but buried in it is actually an interrogation of how useful quivering responsiveness to emotion is and the suggestion that 'empathy alone is not a reliable way of coming to a moral decision', and
Empathy is not action. It’s much more useful to be knowledgable about what’s happening so you can effect structural change. If everybody’s swimming in a sea of feelings, it’s an impediment to action.
And possibly somehow related to this, on the advantages of scheduling over spontaneity.
See also, review here of Selfie by Will Storr: 'This engaging book links the ‘self-esteem’ industry to Ayn Rand and neoliberalism. But is the selfie-taking generation unusually narcissistic?'. And is there not something problematic about making a big deal out of a single young woman who takes a lot of selfies? (shoutout here to Carol Dyhouse's Girl Trouble and the constant motif of young women's behaviour epitomising what is supposedly wrong with These Here Modern Times.)
And in Dept of, Countering National Stereotypes, the French minister who wants sexual harassment fines and is annoyed by the cultural myths about Frenchwomen.
Born in 1799, Anna Atkins captured plants, shells and algae in ghostly wisps and ravishing blues. Why isn’t she famous? - how long have you got to listen to my answer?
A book on hares which is, it sounds like, more about hares than the writer's journey and epiphany from their encounter with nature
Pursuing political ladies, continued: with shoutout to gothickess
Another day nose-down in the Wallace papers, surrounded by that typical local record office buzz of family historians, clattering microfilm readers, etc. How very different from the rather sinister solitary sepulchral hush of the Mulcaster Muniments and its soft-footed and decrepit curator, straight out of a gothic novel (I was in constant anxiety that the strain of fetching files would do for him, probably on the wrong side of the door, leaving me locked in: no wifi, no phone signal).
Today’s box turned out to be pure gold: those copies of The Intelligencer in which Susannah Wallace’s political journalism appeared – marked up and annotated in Sir Barton’s hand with comments about his ‘clever wife’: Awwwwww, ded of kewt or what?
Furiously snapped away at these for future perusal in detail, but got distracted by the other contents of the paper: surely there must be historians who would be fascinated by ‘Sheba’s’ fashion tips? And, the fiction!
Particular shout-out here to gothickess: There is a serial ‘The Silent Simulacrum’ by ‘the author of The Gypsy’s Curse’ that I’m pretty sure you’ll be interested in for your project: intriguing conflation of the gothic, social comedy and feminist critique.
Alas, the final episode must have appeared in an issue to which Susannah did not contribute, so I can’t tell you how it ends, but, the story so far:
Our heroine is a lovely young widow so widely accepted in Society that she finds herself overwhelmed with invitations to the extent that she is in considerable concern that her inability to be in two places at once will give offence to those holding social occasions that she is physically unable to attend.
Enter her brother-in-law, a
mad scientist and inventor. She unburdens herself to him, and he proposes to make a simulacrum of her that she can send to those events that she herself cannot attend. But, says he, the problem is that although he confides that he can construct a simulacrum that will move, and even dance, he cannot see any way in which it might be made to speak.
Our heroine responds with a laugh that so long as it can look very intent at any that addresses it, she doubts any will notice.
The simulacrum is constructed, and indeed, no-one notices that it is not very conversational when it goes into society.
Our heroine sends it particularly to those occasions where her very unwanted, most objectionable, suitor will be present –
I suspect that there will be some horrid outcome involving him (castrated perhaps by the inner mechanism of the simulacrum when he endeavours a rape?), but this would need following up – have a nasty feeling that this would involve microfilm, don’t think The Intelligencer is yet available in any online databases. (Which was why I was massively chuffed to find these copies, even if they hadn’t been so usefully marked up.)
But, anyway, back to the correspondence files (Y O Y did they not date letters properly? ‘Tuesday’ is really not very helpful.)
Well, not literally.
But I have finally managed to have a discussion with the editor at the Very Estimable and Well-Reputed Academic Press whom I had hoped to get together with during the Massive Triennial Conference the other week, which did not happen for, reasons.
And they are very keen about a book I have been thinking about for ages, which is not the Major Research Project of the moment, though somewhat tangentially related, and I'm hmmmmmm about it.
Because it's a book where I haven't done more than research rather a small part of one angle of the bigger picture, but on the other hand, I do know what has to be in there and where to look.
And unlike the Major Research Project, which is large and contains multitudes, this would be a discrete project that wouldn't (I hope) keep starting yet more hares for me to go baying after.
In more fun Trek news, check out this vid about everyone's favourite Cardassian tailor-plus-spy:
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
(Every now and then I wish the movies instead of going for the nth version of Wrath of Khan (with or without a villain called Khan) would tackle the Cardassians instead. And then I conclude the movies would probably mishandle the Cardassians as badly as they did the Romulans, and am glad the Cardassians so far have been reserved for tv.)
And lastly, a BSG fanfic rec:
Rippling Light: tender and heartbreaking take on the friendship of Felix Gaeta and Anastasia Dualla, two characters for whom the phrase "they deserved better" might have been invented.
Now that the season is over, I'm still not sure whether Fuller's decision to stretch the main plot out and pace it the way he does is justified. I mean, we STILL haven't reached the House on the Rock yet, and I assumed that would happen in the third episode, as it's this story's Council of Elrond scene, so to speak. Just think of a LotR tv adaption where they've barely made out of the Shire by the time the season finishes. Otoh, all that Fuller & Co. have added does enrich the story and I wouldn't have wanted to miss it, so.
( And the moral of the story is... )
[R]ed tape also means regulations that protect citizens, at a certain cost to companies that otherwise have little incentive to sacrifice some profit to mitigate risk. It is because of red tape that you cannot buy a flammable sofa, and that you are very unlikely to die in an air crash.
Much red tape, indeed, is the frozen memory of past disaster. Modern regulatory regimes as a whole came into being in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of public outrage at the dangerous practices of unrestrained industry.
This is perhaps partly similar to the phenomenon that having effective infrastructure and ongoing regular maintenance of same is not as dramatic a story as horrendous accidents.
It's possibly also analogous to people becoming anti-vaxxers, because vaccination programmes have been so successful that there is no notion of the risks there used to be from common diseases of childhood.
For the first few years of 'there were no new cases of polio in the last twelve months' this is news. And then that becomes the default setting.
For those who decry 'Elf and Safety, I recommend a salutary reading of the London Medical Officer of Health reports from the C19th, freely available digitised and searchable online.
There are some Victorian values one can get behind, and the rise of public health is one of them.
On other Victorian values, however, and those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it, this person seems unaware that providing tied housing contingent upon working for a particular employer is nothing like a 'welfare state':
it was recently reported that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is spending is around $30m to provide short-term, prefab housing for 300 of its employees because Silicon Valley housing is in such short supply. Tech giants helped cause a housing crisis in Silicon Valley, now it seems they are becoming landlords. It’s feudalism 2.0.Not so much feudalism as C19th model towns, e.g. Saltaire, founded by businessmen to keep their workers contented and (I hypothesise) spurning the trades union movement (having had to do with a late C19th enterprise with some of the same elements of benevolent paternalism towards the workforce).
And, looking at that article, was New Lanark really quite the same thing? Enlightened capitalism not quite the same as utopian socialism.
Also had the thought that people who are 'regulation BAD' seem to reverse this opinion when it comes to panic measures against terrorism that are often symbolic rather than proven efficacious.