Books Read

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Lolita – I read it many years ago and decided to check if my thoughts are fogged in nostalgia or whether it really is written as well as I remembered. The latter is true. It could never been written in this era but the wordplay, especially on such a subject, is truly dark, astonishing and poetic.

A History of London Life – a book bought for a few pounds in Oxford last summer, written by two female professors and containing immense detail and humour about the city going back a 1000 years.

Don Quixote – I decided to try and while it is amusing and clearly a hugely impressive work, its huge and uncarryable to Singapore. I’ll finish it later.

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Train Dreams – Denis Johnson’s study of a lonely, lost man is brilliant. A great writer.

Iran: A Revolutionary History – A lot of background information into a deeply complex country and culture. Iran is like very little else.

Caligula – Camus’ best play pushing existentialism and absurdity to logic levels with his portrait of power, grief and tragedy.

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2666 – Roberto Bolano’s final book confirming what we lost too soon. Grand, funny and poignant.

Greatpowers

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers – Paul Kennedy masterpiece of political history rounding out what we suspected that war, economy and destiny are intimately linked.

Films Seen Over the Last Few Months

Black Sea – Jude Law is rather annoying in general but here he is pretty impressive in a tight, taunt thriller set on a submarine. Its very good. 4/5

Horns – Daniel Radcliffe number with way too many ideas and runs through them too fast. Its stupid of course but tries to be a horror, romantic comedy and ends up being reasonable at all of them with properly pulling it off. 3.5/5

Interstellar – While the first hour on Earth is logical to the final part, we all turned up for the last two parts so the first act was a drag. McCon’s drawl really gets on your nerves too. However despite its absurd science near the end, the over-the-top music and the clear emotional facefarts, its entertaining for a 3 hour movie. 3.5/5

Guardians of the Galaxy –  entertaining but nonsense. 4/5

The Imitation Game – its always odd to see someone you went to school with ‘acting’. To me Matt Goode was simply being the guy I remembered even down to the arrogance. Typecast or perfectly cast I don’t know but the film itself was a beautiful study of a man obsessed by numbers. 4/5

20,000 Days on Earth – Nick Cave documentary as interesting as the man in question. More of a film than a documentary, uniquely done. 4/5

I am Ali – Nice archive and personal footage. Doesn’t tell you much if you know Ali but still a nice reminder of the great man. 4/5

The Maze Runner – another kids book series written and sent to the big screen immediately (or are they written for the big screen essentially??). Predictable and fairly stupid but decent. 2.5/5

Sex Ed – with a fat Haley Joel Osmond – This is good. Predictable in its storyline but with some nice conversational tangents and good acting from Haley who looks remarkable as a tubber. 3.5/5

The Babadook –  old fashioned horror. Simple and well-crafted. The kid in it is excellent. 4/5

Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Wener Herzog films for the first time the caves painting in South France dating back 30,00 years. Slow but fascinating. 3/5

Tusk – Kevin Smith weirdness. Weird. 2/5

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films – These are the two Israeli guys who made a shit load of shit average to terrible films in the 1970s and 1980s. Think weird, wonderful and chuck norris. Pretty entertaining documentary. 3/5

The Trip to Italy – very funny semi-documentary film of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon going to Italy to make a documentary. These guys are great impressionists. Makes for some very funny conversations. 4/5

Horrible Bosses 2 – Its a lot of better than some reviews. Most of the criticism is based on it not really about horrible bosses any more. Well I haven’t seen the first one so who the fuck cares. Consistently silly rather than hilarious. 3/5

Dumb and Dumber To – awful 1/5 and that makes me sad

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – an intelligent spin on an old tale, one we’ve maybe seen too much of. Well made and predictable.

Predestination – Aussie movie with Ethan Hawke isn’t much more than a cameo. Time travel and such malarky. 3/5

Boyhood – its a good study and very watchable but I am not fully convinced by the acting. 4/5

Nightcrawler – Great performances, narrative and production. It sticks with you for days. 5/5

AND THE BEST FILM WAS:

birdmanposterBirdman – its mesmerizing. You sit there watching these long scenes acted out, music playing in the interludes and some fantastic acting. 5/5

I Give It a Year

i-give-it-a-year-poster09We watched their movie the other night and it reminded me of a few things and started me thinking about relationships and how and why they last (or don’t). In the movie, the couple get married after 6 months and at the wedding, the groom’s sister whispers to her husband, I give it (the marriage) a year. It seems a harsh, hard statement to make and cynical at the time but with a high divorce rate approaching 50% it’s not unreasonable. A greater statistics can be used for non-martial relationships. We’ve all had exs! But the facts are more revealing.

The movie set the couple up to fail. They have different approaches to problems. She sings lyrics and gets them wrong much to his annoyance. He empties the bin when it’s completely full rather when needed. She goes to parties to network. He likes to party. She has limits. He doesn’t know when to stop. He is charming but hopeless at times. She is organised but stuck-up.

It reminded me of when I found myself talking to a Japanese marriage counsellor once. Not for any personal reasons, but we simply found ourselves chatting in a café. She informed me there were two main times in life when people get divorced in Japan; either after a year when they see it isn’t working or once the kids have left home and the wife can finally say she has no use for the husband. In the first instance, the marriage is often forgotten and never mentioned when the members get remarried. Being a divorcee is worse than being unhappily married for some. In the second case, the man receives the shock of finding out his wife simply tolerated him and possibly can’t stand him. In both cases, they can walk away from each other. There main responsibilities, notably the kids have moved on themselves and probably wish to see their parents happy.

In relationships, we are quicker to cut our losses. It’s no shame for a relationship to end especially if it simply isn’t working. There are plenty more fish in the sea. How it ends is the key to moving on easily. Relationships are work and the idea you just get along is bullshit. People have different understanding of the same situation and being flexible and non-judgemental is the key to making it work. Constructive advice when something isn’t to your liking is more effective and efficient than criticism. On most issues there are different ways to look at it. If you want to make it work, you have to understand where each of you is coming from.

divorce460The divorce rate across the world from the West to the Arab world to the Far-East is probably the result of two factors. The pressure from society to gain social or religious consent leads to many forced marriages but in these areas of the world the divorce rate was lower. Marriage was a form of economic security sacrificing happiness.  This is now less the case, raising the divorce rate because of the second factor. The more modern ideal of giving yourself a happy life clashes with the first. We live in an era of individualism driven by economics and liberty where we all have access to information, are informed we have our own power, our opinions are important and must seek utility through wealth and Benthamian happiness. We are utility maximisers and masters of our own domain. Our happiness is paramount.

Now the divorce laws have liberalised, women have their own economic power and together with men, they seek happiness, together or not. This also explains marrying later. Further pressure comes from a selfishness linked to individualism which shortened our tolerance to a temporary compromise to our maximum utility. We want it now, all of it when a little compromise is often all it took. The median age of divorce is in their early 40s for men and women after around a decade of marriage.

I’ve often be accused of moving on too quickly but trying to make it work is sometimes just not compatible with everything else I wish to do. I get frustrated when I am unable to read, exercise, write, slob around, watch football, in essence criticised for being myself. I’ve got to this age fairly smoothly by doing what suits me and making the right compromises at the right time. It’s been bumpy but I’ve enjoyed it. However relationships are perfect for us. They just don’t work perfectly. You’ve just got to give it time. Yet we need and strive for them naturally. The shy and the arrogant are both lonely. You have got to move to the middle, again the compromise.

So here is the spoiler alert for the movie. Of course it was never going to work but unlike American movies and, to ruin the film for you, they happily break up but hugging and thanking each other for ‘agreeing to divorce.’ That’s fine in this instance. It made sense for the film and gave it something unique to tell the audience. However in ‘real life, neither in this film or Friends, let’s just try a little harder. Modern divorce rates are the result of liberty and often that is a very good idea. No one wishes to be stuck in an unhappy marriage. The liberty to be who we want to be can clash with the compromises necessary for a successful relationship. It also lend to arrogance, the idea that we are all so special others are simply a burden. But they don’t have to if we treat it all as a synergetic compromise. Try to allow each of you to be the best you can be and be as happy as you can be.

So, sorry for ruining it for you. However it’s still very worth watching. It has some seriously funny moments.