Scribbles would like to apologise for the lack of recent posts.
Somehow, I'm not quite sure how, I have ended up with too many things to do in relation to time available to do things. Fitting in my evening naps is becoming difficult and blogging impossible.
So, this blog post is to tell everyone that I don't have time to write a blog post, but that as far as I can ascertain, I am still alive.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Scribbles would like to apologise for the lack of recent posts.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Yesterday, I went to see Ang Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution. It was such a wonderfully seductive, lovingly crafted and sensual piece of film making that it just begged to be fallen in love with. But sadly, I didn't.
I can't seem to fall in love with Ang Lee films. The other two main hitters of Lee's, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain had left me with exactly the same sort of feeling - that Lee had just not managed to take me quite where he wanted me to go.
Lust, Caution has resonances with Paul Verhoevan's 2006 film, Black Book. Beautiful theatrical female must seduce High Ranking Enemy as part of the resistance, with disastrous consequences.
But it is no where near as complete and as fulfilling a film. Black Book is like being grabbed by the hand and made to run through the end of World War Two for two and a half exhausting hours. Lust, Caution is more like sitting a test. You have to pay attention very closely and try and answer the questions that Ang Lee either hasn't thought to answer, or answered so subtly it's perplexing. For instance:
Q)In the end, why was Wong Chai Chi unable to betray Mr Yee, even though he was a torturer and betrayer of the Chinese people and that it meant certain death for her and her friends?
A) Because she has been playing the part under such pyschological pressure that the boundary between her and the character she was forced to play, Mrs Mak, became too close. It was Mrs Mak who was unable to betray him.
B) Because she had found a chink of humanity in the monstrous torturer and rapist, and her own humanity prevented her from betraying that chink.
C) Because his subjecting her to sadistic and painful sex, and his being turned on by torturing her fellow resistance members, struck a real chord in this girl who was not long out of school.
D) No one had ever given her such a big diamond ring before, and she just lost her head for a moment.
Whatever the reason, Ang Lee should have made it a significant part of the film's story telling, because without it there is simply no pay off at the end of the film. I know how Rachel Stein was able to fall in love with an officer of the German Security Service, and it made the character's break down at the news of his death very powerful. I have no idea how Wong Chai Chi fell in love with a collaborator, and it made the character's decision to save his life perplexing and irritating. It's a serious flaw, in what sadly was almost an incredible film.
Just why was Mr Yee not allowed to be less sadistic and move redeemable? Because the film would have worked infinitely better if he had.
Perhaps Ang Lee felt that allowing Mr Yee more humanity would somehow be selling out - Mr Yee was a cruel and immoral man who had willingly shackled himself to a world of physical pain and death for material gain, and Wong Chai Chi fell in love with him. No exploration of how this unlikely scenario came about, but at least any sense of cliche has been avoided, so deal with it.
I'm glad that I went to see Lust, Caution, in just the same way that I am pleased to have seen Crouching Tiger and Brokeback Mountain, but I know I will never invest any time in repeat viewings in any of the films. Especially Brokeback Mountain, which stretched the meaning of 'ponderous' to breaking point.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
I watched a TV programme this week about a max security prison in American designed exclusively for seriously hard core gang members of seriously hardcore US gangs. You may have seen it yourself and I might trouble myself to find a link to the program later, if I can be arsed.
I never quite got what was the idea behind syphoning off gang members from the mainstream prison system and giving them their very own incarceration unit, but it was clear that the set-up brought with it its own unique problem. Mainly that the prison seemed to have become the operational unit for hardcore US gangs rather than a place where gang structures came to whither and die. Gangery flourished amongst all that concrete and barbed wire.
Seemed to me that this was because elementary mistakes were being made in how the prison operated, but that with only a few nominal tweaks the US gang culture in American could be cut down and finished off forever.
First off, the Head of the Gangs (sorry, not sure of their official title) were still able to command their troops both in and outside the prison, despite the fact that they were kept in single cells 24 hours a day, because they found devious ways to communicate their desires. But it didn't seem that difficult to stamp out their cheeky efforts to command distant rapes and murders.
For instance, the first way they sneakily communicated was by passing messages written on a bit of paper from cell to cell using paper dangled on thread pulled from their underwear. Now, imagine this; fifteen single cells arranged in three rows of five. Something like the maximum security prisoner version of Celebrity Squares. Now imagine bits of paper being dangled out of the cells on pant thread and figure how easy that would be to spot. Clearly, all that would be needed to sort that funny business out would be for someone to be on guard to watch the front of the cells all the time. See what I mean? Easy.
The second way they communicated was by getting themselves sent to solitary confinement and talking down the building's pipes to the other person in the other isolation unit. Seriously. I am not making this up. The guards would go up onto the roof to have a listen in at what the prisoners were chatting about down the pipes, which could obviously be quite useful, but it's not really in keeping with the spirit of 'solitary confinement' though is it? And what a mistake for the prison architect to make! I mean, if I were a prison architect here would be my priorities:
1) Walls so that people couldn't walk out.
2) Impervious floors that people couldn't dig their way through.
3) Sewers too small for people to crawl through.
4) Pipes arranged so that communicating through them is not possible.
I would suggest that a better way for the guards to earwig on private conversations rather than scrambling about on the roof, would be to secretly bug the cells. Simple.
Also simple would be not letting the inmates have paper and pens so that they can't write their coded messages in innocent letters which then get posted to the outside world. I'd give them a choice of standard paragraphs on a sort of 'letter menu' so they couldn't build code into what they were saying and I'd change the menu every week so that they couldn't devise a code out of that either. They could tell the prison guard a choice of A B or C for the opening paragraph, and continue on through an extensive range of ABC paragraph choices that covered all aspects of prison life. I mean, how extensive would that be, actually? They are in a single cell in a prison building, after all. I'm guessing that trips to the theatre and drinks down the pub are kept to a minimum.
And if messages did somehow manage to get to the troops in the other section of the prison where bog-standard hardcore gang member were kept, there seemed an easy way of not letting that be such a big deal anyway.
For instance, all the gang members were allowed out together in the really quite massive yard for their breaks. So the McDonalds hung out by the bench, and the Red Sox hung out by the exercise equipment, and the Coca Colas hung out up the corner (I made those names up, by the way). This was the dangerous time when a Red Sox might try and carry out his order to kill a Coca Cola. So, my idea, don't let the gang member out into the yard at the same time. Let them excercie in their little cliques at different times of the day and there will be no bitch-slapping going on. Simple.
Although, perhaps there was an idea behind allowing them to attack each other, because seriously, anyone dumb enough to try and commit murder in full view of surveillance cameras, armed guards and snipers in watchtowers probably needs to be taken out of the gene pool anyway.
And 'gene pool gone wrong' is pretty much what springs to mind when looking down on this sad pool of prison life. Men obsessed with creating weapons out of innocent bits of kitchenware and wrapping them in cellophane and paper so that they can be hidden up their arse and used to kill someone after which they can get shot in the head by a sniper. Not much of a lifestyle choice, really.
The film also showed us two inmates who had renounced their gangs and had consequently been allowed to spill out into a nicer part of the prison, where they were seen sitting at a table together good humourdely, looking as if they thought they had stumbled across Elysium. They and their families were marked people however and a lifetime of looking-over-the-shoulder paranoia was ahead for all of them. Still, I expect that in exchange for turning informant on their gangs, the authorities grant them some protection. Although it might be hard for the guy who was tattooed from head to foot, including all over his face, to assume a new identity. And that 'NAZI' tattoo across his belly would have to be covered up at the swimming baths.
Friday, January 04, 2008
I was so looking forward to today. For the past week, weather reports have been predicting catastrophic attacks of snow. And you know how bad things get in this country when we have a flurry of the white stuff. Absolute chaos. Things can get so bad, that if we aren't made to stay at home under mounds of duvet surrounded by stock piles of canned food, candles and flash flares, then often we are at least forced to leave work early. It's great.
But, you know, I'm looking out of the window and things are not looking very snowy. In fact, it looks the very definition of 'lack of snow'. It's a no show for the snow.
As I write, desperate TV weather crews are roaming the country in frantic search of the fabled 'patches of snow' appearing nationwide, where scared and lonely weather reporters will stand and say desperate words about how they expect (hope!) things will get much worse later today. They have to goddamn it, because they've had the whole country on snow alert for one week now - being wrong is not an option!
There is still time, I suppose. Perhaps when we wake up tomorrow, the stuff will be piled so thick on the ground that going to work will be impossible. The whole country will be forced to stay at home and make a start on all those DVDs and books they got for Christmas. Then it'll be the weekend when nobody really works anyway. Snow is great.
The Chutzpah of the TV weather reporters is astounding. Last night, their fizogs filled the TV screens as they tried to tell us that the predicted snow had now turned to drizzle, and that they had never said it was going to snow much, and you'd only likely get some if you lived on 'high ground' or 'Scotland' in any case. It was like they were trying to make out that the whole thing was just some mass delusion conjured up in the minds of the General Public and had been nothing to do with them at all.
Then, this morning, it's like it never happened. No apology, no explanation. Just, here's the usual January weather, cold, windy, blah, blah, blah. I suppose they'd like the whole miserable thing swept under the carpet. Well not while I'm alive.
Snow Post 2007
Snow Post 2005
Thursday, January 03, 2008
People will be having sex with Robots by 2050, predicts an 'artificial intelligence expert'. Not building world peace, solving famine, or curing disease, but having sex with Robots. Good to know that the human race will still have its priorities right going into the next half a century.
Still, bad news for female macaques who may find that their 'market value' has dropped to nil as their male monkey counterparts stop bothering with all of that 'nit-picking for sex' rubbish and discover easy sex with a monkey-bot. Or maybe not.