Victoria Jelinek


When Politics is Personal…

I grew up through the 1970’s with a small group of girls in a town on the Western coast of the USA. We went to elementary school, middle school, and high school together. A couple of us moved away, but we always kept in touch and saw each other regularly over the decades. I flew back, in fact, to spend my 50th with them just before Covid-19 hit. We have a chat group in which we talk about the banalities within our lives as well as big issues – marriage, expectations, addiction, disappointment, fears, and motherhood. I always suspected one of these friends supported Trump, but I adopted something akin to “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Then, a few days ago, in response to video I sent of peaceful protests in our home state and things, perhaps, not being as violent as they’re purported to be, she told us about her vehement support of Trump and her plans to vote for him again in November, etc.. Moreover, while she has struggled to suppress her staunch support of him in order to be friends with me, she will cut off the friendship if I have a problem with her political affiliation. I was shocked and hurt. I can understand why she may have voted for him in 2016, but after everything that has happened during the last few years stateside, for her to vote for him again left me utterly stunned.

Below, is an email I sent to another member of our ‘gang,’ and my dearest friend in the world – the sister I have never had. That said, she and I have never really discussed politics because I felt she wasn’t particularly interested. Also, I know that her parents are Trumpsters, as are other members of her family, so I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable position and potentially have conflict with her (too). But, since the ‘breach,’ if you will, from the other friend, I wrote an email to her, below, because I can’t carry the confusion and unhappiness I feel about our mutual friend alone, and I feel the need to find out where she stands – to ‘lay it all bare’ and to ‘throw the dice’ (and a number of other platitudes), hoping that our friendship will bear the burden of potentially diametrical political perceptions.

I share it here because it illustrates how politics has become personal, and questions whether we can reach over (under, above) political divides to those who hold fundamentally different views from our own in our personal lives…

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“In politics, the middle way is none at all.” John Adams

Hello my dear,

I want to address what you said on the group with * and *, about beliefs and finding common ground and what-not. I absolutely agree that divisiveness and power struggles aren’t productive, and there is reason to trying to find shared values in order to collectively progress…and, actually, thinking about * and her vehement support of Trump, I find myself really evaluating how information we each look at, and the people we tend to ‘bond’ with and to hold close, generally do share our values and beliefs, and so it is like we’re all operating in a vacuum, including me, by gravitating and engaging with like-minded folks…and then, it only takes cynical would-be and actual political leaders to accentuate the natural separation between milieus…aided and abetted by targeted ads and ‘news’ stories on social media to encourage and perpetuate one’s biases.

And, I realize I was ‘indoctrinated’ by my father to certain political ideologies :).

However. As you may know :), I question things a lot. I truly try to be honest with myself, even with the ‘dark’ corners of my person. I remedy false ideas and admit when I’m wrong or don’t know enough about a subject to proffer an opinion. I also teach sociolinguistics and comparative linguistics (oh yes, the teens dig it :))

And, with my identity having undergone a seismic shift in 2018, I’ve deeply evaluated who I am and why I am and what I value most of all, etc. Add to that the very disturbing global politics and trends ‘forcing’ me to consider where I stand on political and social issues and why. Perhaps current events have done this for a lot of us?

The following points are not in an effort to persuade you to a certain view, but are offered, instead, as proof that I have thought carefully about my view of Trump and this current administration. That my dislike of him is not a ‘leftist’ ‘knee-jerk’ response to him or his party, but carefully considered reasoning.

While I do tend to favor newspapers and magazines that share my general sensibilities, I actually read a lot of information from ‘both sides of the aisle’ regularly. So, while I get a regular influx of “Harpers” Magazine and “Foreign Affairs” and “The Guardian” newspaper and “Le Monde” and “Mother Jones” (left leaning intellectual bias) I also regularly read Reddit, “Huffington Post,” David Brooks, “The Sun,” and Fox News (centrist & right leaning bias). Moreover, I’m quite well versed in global history and politics. Luckily, to understand literature and to teach a given book well, one must understand the context in which it’s written and so I’m forever researching and cross referencing various time periods and societal perspectives/values/expectations/political occurrences and undercurrents. And, while I concede that most things are arguable, as you note, and that even statistics, themselves, can be read and understood from different angles, there are some things that are my ‘line in the sand’ and that it would be very tough going to change my mind about. And which, consequently, leaves me in some distress as to whether I can, in fact, be friends with *, or she with me, without a degree of self-consciousness or falsehood…

So, for example, I’m a devout Social Democrat. I’m not an American type of Democrat at all, whom I see as centrist and still adhering to big business and the almighty sway of capitalism (in this, I can understand why Trumpsters are disenchanted with the system stateside. That said, I know that USA Democrats created Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and free school lunches, for example, so they are different). I believe that taxes should be paid equitably by all in order to secure the infrastructure of society. That it is our civic responsibility for our children, as well as for our neighbor’s children, and ourselves. This is not to say that I don’t believe in capitalism – I do. BUT, I think unfettered capitalism is destructive, corruptible, and will ultimately lead to hyper inequity and corporate fascism (meaning that corporations and business interests ‘own’ the governments of the world and motivate their interests and dictate their respective policies). Again, sort of like a Trumpster, I suppose, I think that it’s arguable as to whether it’s even possible to operate outside of that system anymore in the USA. I mean, for example, it takes SO much money to RUN for office – which means you’re giving favors in return for said money no matter how you look at it – that I think it’s a colossal feat to be able to operate outside these moneyed interests there…

It’s so strange to me, though, that Trumpsters see Trump as ‘outside’ the system, when he is born of it. Literally. He inherited 240 million dollars from his dad, attended private schools, did poorly in university but wasn’t flunked due to donations from his father. He’s the type of student I (hypocritically) might teach in a private school in Switzerland.

Anyway.

I believe in universal healthcare. I don’t see it as those paying taxes taking care of those who don’t or who are lazy, etc., and the odd sense of exceptionalism and individualism and personal convenience in disdain for universal healthcare. I see it as a mark of a collectively oriented society. A civilized society. The Trump administration is hell bent on rolling back even the ‘kind-of, sort-of universal healthcare’ the Obama admin. enacted.

I believe in a strong public education system, with heavy investment in teachers, schools, administrators and students. This goes for elementary through university. I believe that a solid, democratic, functioning society comes from investment in public education and the possibility that anyone who has merit and interest can go to school and not pay for it for their rest of their lives. It’s the long view, not short-term planning. I find it saddening and appalling that in the USA, for example, more is spent on maintaining a single prisoner in a penitentiary than on a single student. The current Secretary of Education stateside has never worked in education, donated 30 million dollars to the Trump campaign in 2016, and is an advocate of charter schools and private faith-based schools. Despite what American founding fathers said about the separation of church and state in order to have true religious freedom and to avoid a conflict of interests.

I do not believe that anyone should be prejudiced against because of the color of his or her skin. And in the USA, blacks have been actively and systematically repressed since their arrival as slaves over two hundred years ago. The Trump administration has commended white supremacists, invited them to the White House for visits, and has condemned the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as created the narrative that Antifa is a “terrorist” organization even as the KKK is not.

I believe women are equal to men. Different, but equal. I also believe women have a right to make choices about their bodies, and this means birth control and abortion. Trump has openly insulted women, bullied female congressional leaders, incited his followers to violence against female political leaders who disagree with him, has had numerous harassment cases against him, paid off a call girl during his admin., and speaks in a sexualized manner about his own daughter. What HE has said is what I’m going by, not what others have said about him. His administration has made it difficult for women to have reproductive care covered by their insurance, even as sexual ‘aids’ (sic) are now available to men under general insurance policies.

I believe that global treaties are necessary to avoid world war. Again. This administration has condemned NATO, the EU commission, and pulled out of the Paris Agreement. It has actively antagonized China and Africa, at the same time that it has openly invited foreign intervention in the USA federal elections. Again, I’m going on what HE says and what a tribunal in the USA found, as well as what various INTEL agencies in the USA and the UK have said. I understand the USA has given a TON of money to these organizations, bolstering them up, and led them, but it’s spending a nickel to save a dime if history is anything to go by, and it is.

I believe that climate change is real and that there is a new future possible in clean energy and sustainable practices. It’s economically viable to boot. The Trump admin has, again, pandered to fossil fuel interests and the agricultural industry in order to ensure campaign donations and practical support. Meanwhile, bolstering rhetoric to working class souls who rely on these jobs in fossil fuels. BUT, they could be retrained with a modicum of investment and then have jobs that are more secure. But we go back to economic interests.

I believe vaccinations are a godsend, so to speak, but it’s not faith based at all. Science has eradicated polio, measles, and mumps — made it possible not to die of pneumonia or an infection, for example. Not to vaccinate your child is willful ignorance and negligence for the rest of society as well as your child. Any ‘research’ on the possibility of autism with any vaccine has been repeatedly debunked through extensive quantitative research. Similarly, not to wear a mask or maintain a distance during a virus pandemic will hurt those around you. Yet, the Trump administration has repeatedly berated and ridiculed “experts” and “scientists,” long before Covid-19 came to visit. Why? Because a lot of education is not the profile of his base.

I don’t think Trump believes even half of what he says. I think he says whatever he needs to say to please the 36% of Americans who believe in him. To them he says Mexicans are rapists and drug addicts (let us not get into the historical creation and political interests of drug cartels in South America). To them, he calls the press ‘the left wing media,’ when he knows that without the media he wouldn’t have gotten the office AND the majority of the news outlets/radio/TV stateside are corporate owned, so they like Trump in office ‘cause he’s giving their owners tax cuts and profit-making incentives, and he, simply, SELLS newspapers/magazines, etc. He makes them money any way you look at it.

Always follow the money for answers, no? It’s the same everywhere. While I can understand/it’s logical that many people support Trump ‘cause he has cut taxes exponentially for the wealthiest and he operates in the interests of business, I do not understand why poor, working class Americans support this man.

So, while I agree with you that we need to find shared ideas and values to make peace and progress, I’m not sure how we do this now when there are such spectacular divides… I’ve lived abroad a long time (and some USA admins were harder than others to live through here with my Yankee accent) but in 20-odd years, I have never seen the fear, pity, and contempt that Europeans appear to feel about America and Americans now. It breaks my heart. It’s like watching a fatal car crash in slow motion. To them, it’s the inevitable fall of yet another empire that begs the question of who will fill that vacuum?

And, I’m actually very confused about maintaining a relationship with *. I love her, I respect her. I know her to be practical, wise, kind, and funny – qualities I admire and hold to be ‘true’. I trust her in a way that I don’t most. Perhaps in a way that you can only trust someone because you’ve grown up together?

But. Too much is at risk today and politics is personal for me. Particularly with such an explosively divisive man in office in the USA (and, again, I don’t for ONE second think that HE is the problem – only the lightning rod – for what has been happening to a great extent since the inception of the USA, and in an acute sense for the last fifty years). What he represents and what he does and says is abhorrent to me and I truly fear for the world if Americans don’t vote him out in November.

Yet * has said she will vote for him. Again. That he’s the “best candidate.” (Keep in mind, I get that Biden is no great shakes – yet another old, white, rich dude – but he won’t do what Trump has done in terms of all mentioned above and the attitude – and actions – of being ‘above the law’). She has been my friend since I was seven-years-old. We haven’t kept in close touch consistently over the years, but I always saw her when I’d go back and I hold her very dear. And our group chats through this terrible time, through the confinement especially, has been the MOST comforting thing for me truly (thank you). It’s very confusing and I’m very sad. I also know that I’m a ‘flight’ rather than ‘fight’ person and find it easiest to not confront…to ‘simply’ withdraw and have yet another piece of pain and confusion and disappointment to try to unravel.

Again, I absolutely agree that divisiveness and power struggles aren’t productive, and there is reason and logic in trying to find shared values in order to collectively progress…and I am – even more in the last 48 hours –evaluating the information I look at, and the type of people I tend to ‘bond’ with and hold close, and who generally share my values and ‘beliefs,’ and so it IS like I’m operating in a vacuum…and this violates the truest definition of what it is to be ‘liberal,’ which I consider myself to be…

Know that I’m considering it all. And I’m sorry for such a loooooonnnnnngggg missive (damn Home Ec class taught me to type quickly). And, I apologize if I have unwittingly offended you in any way with this note. Please forgive me if so. I did not write this to you to incite, to convince, to cajole, to persuade or any other number of verbs for manipulation. I simply wrote it to share my confusion and the intensity of my own opinions with YOU. I feel as though it may seem ‘preachy’ to you, but I want to illustrate to you that I HAVE thought about each-and-every element of why I find Trump loathsome – and, again, that it’s not a knee-jerk thoughtless “Trump sucks” kind-of thing from the “left” side of the playing field without consideration for WHY he might be appealing to many.

Thank you for ‘listening.’

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Covid-19, May 4, 2020

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal

France decided to open up the schools in phases starting May 11th. The first to go back are elementary school kids. Our son is in the equivalent to third grade.

We received a form from our son’s teacher to fill out on Friday stating whether we’d return our child to school or not so that they could submit it to the Mayor’s office on Monday – today – to begin making plans for the rentrée. I opted to speak to the teacher about it to see what she thought (she rose exponentially in my estimation since quarantine). She said that not only are spaces limited, the same principles of the confinement remain: the objective is still to keep infection down in order to permit hospitals to tend to those who need help. That there are small children being left at home because they have a single parent who needs to work, or both parents work, or there are children whose parents can’t, or won’t, help the kids with their schoolwork. Reopening the school for little ones is an effort to help these kids and their parents. This sealed the deal for me. Yes, I’m anxious about working with a precocious single child at home. I’m worried about being able to work, and I also need time alone to replenish myself. With a small child at home, who doesn’t seem to be able to be autonomous unless he’s on a screen (watching TV, or a film, or playing an electronic game), which is, perhaps, normal, I don’t know, it’s incredibly disruptive for both my husband and me. We consequently argue about who does what and who has done more. (I often end up working after the boy and the man are in bed, going to bed very late, then waking up early when they wake up – I’m very tired…zzz…).

‘Kvetch’ aside, I feel relieved with our decision to keep our son home for the ‘bigger picture’ (in addition to what seems to be an unnecessary risk for the moment). I think the interesting element to this corona experience – the whole social phenomena’s we’re witnessing will be, I believe, written about sociologically for a long time to come (or until we humans make ourselves extinct), is that at the same time we’re isolated from each other, forced to distance physically from each other, we’re thinking about each other now more than ever. Or MUST think about each other now more than ever. We must work together to ensure the survival of our species, and the way to do that is to distance ourselves from others when possible. It’s not just ourselves and our own interests we’re thinking about for the first time in a long time. We’re being asked to consider everyone when limiting contacts, our potential exposure to the virus (with outings, errands, plans, etc.), washing hands. Even wearing a mask is a sign of consideration, a, “I’m helping YOU keep safe” sort-of-thing. It’s quite lovely, actually, when you think of it this way. It makes one feel less alone, more purposeful, and, arguably, reinforces the argument that humans are worth saving (perhaps).

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“Toutes les misères des hommes dérivent de ne pas pouvoir s’asseoir seuls dans une pièce calme.” Blaise Pascal

La France a décidé d’ouvrir les écoles par phases à partir du 11 mai. Les premiers à y retourner sont les enfants des écoles élémentaires. Notre fils est dans l’équivalent de la troisième année.

Vendredi, nous avons reçu un formulaire de l’enseignant de notre fils indiquant si nous devions retourner notre enfant à l’école ou non afin qu’il puisse le soumettre au bureau du maire lundi – aujourd’hui – pour commencer à planifier la rentrée. J’ai choisi d’en parler au enseignante pour voir ce qu’elle en pensait (elle a augmenté de façon exponentielle à mon avis depuis la confinement). Elle a dit que non seulement les espaces sont limités, mais les mêmes principes de confinement demeurent: l’objectif est toujours de limiter l’infection afin de permettre aux hôpitaux de soigner ceux qui ont besoin d’aide. Qu’il y a des petits enfants à la maison parce qu’ils ont un parent seul qui doit travailler, ou les deux parents travaillent, ou qu’il y a des enfants dont les parents ne peuvent pas, où ne vont pas, aider les enfants dans leurs devoirs. La réouverture de l’école pour les tout-petits est un effort pour aider ces enfants et leurs parents. Cela a scellé l’accord pour moi. Oui, je suis impatient de travailler avec un enfant célibataire précoce à la maison. Je suis inquiet de pouvoir travailler et j’ai aussi besoin des temps tout seul pour me reconstituer. Avec un petit enfant à la maison, qui ne semble pas capable d’être autonome à moins d’être sur un écran (regarder la télévision, un film ou jouer à un jeu électronique), ce qui est peut-être normal, je ne sais pas , c’est incroyablement perturbant pour mon mari et moi. Par conséquent, nous discutons de qui fait quoi et qui a fait plus. (Je finis souvent par travailler après que le garçon et l’homme soient au lit, se couchant très tard, puis se réveillant tôt quand ils se réveillent – je suis très fatigué … zzz …).

«Kvetch» ​​mis à part, je me sens soulagé de notre décision de garder notre fils à la maison pour la «vue d’ensemble» (en plus de ce qui semble être un risque inutile pour le moment). Je pense que l’élément intéressant de cette expérience corona – l’ensemble des phénomènes sociaux auxquels nous assistons sera, je crois, écrit sur le plan sociologique pendant longtemps à venir (ou jusqu’à ce que nous, les humains, nous nous éteignions), c’est qu’en même temps nous ‘nous sommes isolés les uns des autres, forcés de s’éloigner physiquement les uns des autres, nous pensons plus que jamais les uns aux autres. Ou DOIT penser les uns aux autres maintenant plus que jamais. Nous devons travailler ensemble pour assurer la survie de notre espèce, et la façon de le faire est de nous éloigner des autres lorsque cela est possible. Ce n’est pas seulement nous-mêmes et nos propres intérêts auxquels nous pensons pour la première fois depuis longtemps. On nous demande de tenir compte de tout le monde lors de la limitation des contacts, de notre exposition potentielle au virus (avec sorties, courses, projets, etc.), du lavage des mains. Même le port d’un masque est un signe de considération, une sorte de chose «je t’aide à rester en sécurité». C’est plutôt joli, en fait, quand on y pense de cette façon. Cela fait que l’on se sent moins seul, plus résolu et, sans doute, renforce l’argument selon lequel les humains valent la peine d’être sauvés (peut-être).

 



37°2 le matin: Version Integral (Betty Blue: Director’s Cut)

Zorg, a handyman, is living a peaceful life in rural France, working diligently and writing in his spare time. Then Betty, a vivacious and unpredictable woman, walks into his life. Initially, her wild ways are fun and spontaneous and Zorg falls in love with her, but Betty’s behavior slowly gets out of control as she spirals into insanity.

indexThe film opens on a shot that creeps up on a couple making love on a bed – their sweating intimacy is contrasted by a voiceover telling us that they’ve only known each other a week. Every moment of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s film carries the seal of its country of origin as well as the era in which it was made. Only in the 1980’s could such a tragic film be created with such a visually-gorgeous-but-empty style. Only in France could a story of passionate love open so erotically. Only in France could a film’s tone be misogynist, seeming to blame Betty’s insanity on the inherent ‘madness’ of the female of the species, and yet seem authentic.

Betty’s descent into insanity and destruction is well paced and compelling. Beatrice Dalle (Betty) didn’t make another film worth noting again, but this film alone was enough to make her an icon of late 20th century cinema – this fact, as well as the insight into the French psyche this film gives the viewer, makes this film one to see even years after it was first released.

 



Arrested Development

The third season of Netflix’s series Ozark was recently released and everyone is talking about it and whether a fourth season will be greenlit. I’m keen because Jason Bateman executive produced it, is directing and starring in the series, and he’s fantastic and talented. An extra boon is that the brilliant and wry Laura Linney co-stars. I always liked Bateman, but he won my admiration through the TV series Arrested Development, so I thought to revisit this work of genius in case you’ve already binge watched season three of Ozark.

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Arrested Development is based on the radically dysfunctional family Bluth (fictional of course). It’s more subversive than Modern Family (btw, I like Modern Family very much). Each season of this brilliant sit-com was always in danger of cancellation despite numerous awards, including several Emmy’s. But this didn’t stop creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the rest of the team (inclusive of Ron Howard, who is its narrator) from defying the usual crowd-pleasing antics of the genre. It made them more satirical and absurd as though they had nothing to lose. The show flouts political correctness as it takes clever and humorous swipes at everything in contemporary society: the comfort of family; the general incompetence of businessmen, inclusive of the television and movie industries (the narrator critiques the art of narration during an episode); war, via “mama’s boy” Buster Bluth’s progression in the US army; and the flawed things we all do to get through our day. One of my favorite episodes includes the montaged intervention for alcoholic mother Lucille Bluth, which turns into “one of the Bluth family’s better parties.” There are running gags about self-absorption, repressed sexually, physical shame, fecklessness, and naiveté. At the center of it all is Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, whose dry, self-effacing wit and deadpan comic delivery, are ideally displayed here.

Watching Arrested Development is time well spent any way you look at it, but especially during our period of confinement.

 

 

 

 

 



British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I’ve Read

This post was published by Michael Stevenson*, aka Dai Bando, Johnny Foreigner, Monsieur Pas De Merde, a blogger of French and British culture. It was some time ago, but I feel that as Trump becomes increasingly dangerous and cruel, and the world – a veritable mess – longs for (reasonable) American leadership, it’s worth looking at this piece again in order to both appreciate great writing as well as to consider, yet again, how fundamentally distasteful Trump is as a human being.

 

British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I’ve Read

 

Someone on Quora asked “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote the following response:

A few things spring to mind.   Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.   And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.   Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.   And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.   He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.


And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.   There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.   He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created? If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

 

* https://pasdemerde.com/2019/10/18/british-writer-pens-the-best-description-of-trump-ive-read/



Rentrée scolaire…

Une lettre a un ami concernant l’ouverture d’ecoles en France dans quelque semaines…

unnamedMerci pour le «heads up» de Facebook sur le retour des enfants à l’école (dates, groupes annuels, etc.). Je dois dire que je suis d’accord avec mon mari ici (quelle surprise!): nous allons attendre les notes officielles et voir quels sont leurs plans concrets et quelles mesures tangibles pour protéger les enfants contre le virus seront dès le premier jour, et faire un décision éclairée à ce stade.

Pour moi, me sentir bien à l’idée de retourner mon tout-petit à l’école, un plan pour déplacer les enfants à l’extérieur – à la “Forest School” et au danois – comme le note le mari, serait un très bon début pour améliorer mon niveau de confort.

Et / ou il y a des tests pour chaque enfant, enseignant et membre du personnel de l’école pour vérifier s’ils sont infectés (pas uniquement  lorsqu’ils présentent des symptômes et / ou se rendent à l’hôpital pour obtenir de l’aide, comme l’a dit Macron dans son discours – et , aussi, pour l’instant, les tests sont défectueux). OU, peut-etre, quelqu’un prend la température de chaque enfant et membre du personnel tous les jours quand ils entrent dans les portes (comme le fait l’Asie du Sud-Est pour entrer dans les lieux publics), puis les interdire de l’école, appliquer cela serait essentiel, mettre en quarantaine ceux qui sont malades et retrouver leurs contacts — il peut s’agir d’une application facultative, comme le font les Allemands, les Autrichiens et les Suisses, par opposition à obligatoire, comme les Coréens et les Singapouriens pour protéger les idéaux de la liberté civile. (Cependant, je ne vois pas cela se produire parce que je connais parents qui envoient régulièrement leurs enfants à l’école et qui soulèveraient l’enfer sacré s’ils perdaient leur droit de faire ce qui leur convient le mieux).

Et, comme le dit le chef du syndicat des enseignants en France, en alliance avec le chef des services de santé et des services médicaux en France, ALORS ils doivent embaucher des personnes supplémentaires pour surveiller les enfants dans leurs petits groupes (éloignement social, apprentissage du matériel, lavage des mains – etc. et afin d’aider les enseignants respectifs). Encore une fois, je ne vois pas cela se produire parce que c’est trop cher et que dieu sait que l’éducation publique connaît des difficultés exponentielles. (Les gens – in general – ne réalisent pas que c’est un investissement collectif dans la société de l’avenir et une assurance pour la survie de la démocratie). ET, enfin, ils doivent distribuer des masques à chaque personne (puis imposer le port de ceux-ci).

À l’exception de ces mesures de sécurité, que je pense que ce serait un miracle de voir se produire dans ce délai, SI du tout, j’aimerais qu’il y ait quelques mois au cours desquels le taux d’infections se soit stabilisé, du moins pas augmenté. En l’état, il y a encore beaucoup de nouvelles infections chaque jour en France (ainsi qu’une nouvelle résurgence à Singapour et en Chine, et les dieux savent que le Royaume-Uni et les États-Unis n’ont pas encore atteint leur “crest”) et cela malgré un confinement strict.

De plus, pour qu’une «immunité collective» se produise, il faudrait laisser beaucoup plus de gens tomber malades (ce qui est peut-être POURQUOI ils veulent envoyer nos enfants en premier – des cobayes au nom du plus grand bien) et puis testez l’hypothèse que cela fonctionnera pour créer une sorte d’immunité, comme nous l’espérons / comme il l’a fait avec d’autres virus …il y a un certain sens a cela. Et, nous devons sortire a un moment donne…

Hmmm.

Mon fils me dérange, nous sommes en hémorragie d’argent (la saison de mon mari a été perdue, je n’ai pas travaillé l’année dernière, donc je ne peux pas réclamer d’aide malgré les années de taxes payées) et j’ai une tonne de travail pour me préparer à entrer dans le à nouveau à plein temps en septembre (pour essayer de «keeping the wolves at bay»). MAIS, je ne veux pas prendre un “risque inutile” (comme l’a dit le chef de l’association médicale France) en ce moment. (Mais, c’est encore dans quelques semaines…).

Je comprends les raisons de l’ouverture des écoles. Lancez l’économie. Cela va être une sacrée récession telle qu’elle est (en particulier si les gens continuent de résister à une augmentation de l’âge de la retraite pour aider à payer les avantages que beaucoup reçoivent!). Et beaucoup – y compris nous, comme mentionné – sont hémorragiques et n’ont pas d’épargne, je comprends donc le désir de continuer. Je lève mon chapeau à ceux qui envoient leurs petits courageux (ou inconscients) à l’école, malgré les risques. And, maybe, we will also send our beloved junior to school shortly…

(Je suppose que cela doit être similaire à la façon dont les parents se sentent envoyer leurs enfants à l’école aux États-Unis? Mon enfant ou mes enfants iront probablement bien. Les statistiques soutiennent que tel est le cas. Cependant, avec la prolifération des armes à feu et la violence armée dans les écoles et les espaces publics, il y a toujours une chance qu’ils soient blessés…).

De plus, des articles paraissent soudainement dans les journaux français et anglais sur un enfant de neuf ans (peut-être le même enfant) qui a eu Covid-19, de nombreux contacts et n’a infecté personne. L’hypothèse est qu’ils ne «shed» pas beaucoup de virus et sont moins susceptibles d’être infectés or to infect.

Cependant, je soupçonne qu’il y a des machinations en place (publicite, propaganda?) pour nous mettre à l’aise d’envoyer nos juniors à l’école, parce que ce que j’ai lu dans une variété de journaux – viables aussi – est qu’il est “probable” que les enfants iront bien, et le taux d’infection augmentera, mais il sera «gérable» pour les hôpitaux, etc. Les mots clés étant «probable» et «gérable». (Mais, imaginez si tous les enseignants et educateurs tombent malades! J’ai aimé chacun des professeurs de mon fils des ans, et j’apprécie excessivement son professeur actuel! Perdre l’un d’eux serait une vraie perte.).

Donc, nous allons attendre et voir ce que les fonctionnaires proposent sous peu, et prendre alors une decision eclairee…

 



The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage

Book of DustMany years ago, I remember working at a film school and talking to a colleague about the wonderful J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. My then-colleague said, “You’ve not read Philip Pullman, then, have you?” I hadn’t. Later that day, I found my way to a bookstore and bought the His Dark Materials trilogy (written by Pullman) and gulped them down. Once read, I realized there was no comparison: His Dark Materials is, in my opinion (as well as my respected colleague’s), the better series. It’s complex and imaginative as it combines magical creatures and alternative worlds in an uncompromising story about religion, authority, and individual freedom. Topical themes in any age, really.

It has been nearly two decades since Philip Pullman completed his renowned trilogy. In its first installment, The Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass, depending on where you’re geographically located in the world), he introduces readers to Lyra Belacqua, a girl from a parallel world, who sets off on an epic mission to rescue a missing friend. In the His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman depicts a world ruled by an oppressive church, known as the Magisterium, that dictates the rules and mores of society. The worlds created in both His Dark Materials and his latest series, The Book of Dust, are almost like our own world, but just slightly changed. A primary difference is that every human is linked to their own daemon, an animal-shaped manifestation of their soul. (I love this idea!).

In Pullman’s long-awaited follow up, The Book of Dust, and its first volume, La Belle Sauvage, we’re introduced to the prequel (to the original trilogy) set ten years before the first adventure, when Lyra is just an infant in need of protection from the burgeoning powers of the Magisterium. In Lyra’s place as ‘hero’ is Malcolm Polstead. He’s a bright, curious, and capable eleven-year-old who helps his parents at their Oxford pub and also spends a lot of time helping out the nuns at a local priory. In his free time, he’s out on the river in his canoe, which he named “La Belle Sauvage.” One day at the pub, he overhears the news that the local nuns have taken in an infant – Lyra – who is the daughter of two powerful figures — a man named Lord Asriel and a woman named Marisa Coulter. At around the same time, he sees a man arrested by agents of the Magisterium, and later discovers that the man has mysteriously drowned in the river. Going over the area where he first saw the now-deceased man, he finds an item that the man lost — a brass acorn with a hidden message inside. He discovers that the acorn is used as a means to covertly deliver messages to a local scholar who belongs to a secret anti-Magisterium society, and who has access to an alethiometer, which is a truth-divining tool that figured prominently in Pullman’s original trilogy. When a massive flood overtakes Oxford, Malcolm and a teenager, Alice, spirit Lyra away in Malcolm’s canoe in order to avoid a murderous scientist and agents of the Magisterium who are keenly interested in kidnapping the infant.

As this is a prequel to the original trilogy, the Magisterium has not yet established its oppressive control on society, but it’s well on its way to this kind of power. In The Book of Dust-La Belle Sauvage, Pullman illustrates how the Magisterium is infiltrating the very core of society and tightening its grip on every aspect of daily life. Its security force assassinates, assaults, and makes dissidents vanish, while it introduces a youth-oriented group to Malcolm’s school that encourages his classmates to report to the Magisterium the “heretical actions” of their peers, teachers, and parents. Teachers who object are reprimanded or fired. Tension and suspicion escalate. This League and its fascistic movements are similar to the Inquisitorial Squad in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but the anxiety and fear that Pullman creates with the onset and actions of this League, believably conveys the insidious and hypocritical rot fascist tendencies have on democracy.

In the interest of being judicious, there are a couple of storylines presented and dropped, and the concept of “dust” is really underdeveloped. However, the character of Malcolm holds the narrative together. He’s different from Lyra as the central hero, but he’s vibrant and compelling in his own right. Throughout the course of the novel, he transforms from a quiet, stout child to a hero willing to take radical steps to keep Lyra safe in the name of justice.

Ultimately, Pullman is a master storyteller, and La Belle Sauvage is worth the 17-year wait. Moreover, a tale about battling a rising tide of fascism as authoritarian ‘strongmen’ claim political power and alt-right groups spring up across the world, is timely. This is a tense, thrilling, and magical book that feels like a natural part of the saga that began with His Dark Materials.

 



Jack Goes Boating

(Rendez-vous l’été prochain)

indexA limo driver’s blind date ignites a humorous and poignant tale of love, friendship and betrayal focused around two working-class New York City couples.

Jack (the late, great, Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a limo driver with vague hopes of getting a job with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). He has an obsession for reggae that has inspired him to attempt to grow his hair into dreadlocks, and he spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend and fellow driver Clyde and Clyde’s wife, Lucy. Clyde and Lucy introduce him to Connie and they like each other. Being with Connie inspires Jack to learn to cook, to take swimming lessons in order to take Connie on a romantic boat ride, and to pursue a new career. Meanwhile, Lucy and Clyde’s marriage begins to disintegrate.

Hoffman’s directorial debut is a very independently spirited and produced film. Hoffman made a career doing interesting, indie films such as Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Capote, and The Boat That Rocked, among many others. During his career, he was the Artistic Director for an off-Broadway theatre company in NYC for ten years, which is where this play originated. In putting together this film, he gathered around him wonderful talent, both on-screen and off-screen, from both the theatrical and the cinematic world, both independently financed and studio financed. And, the result is a small, gently paced, gem of a film, perfect viewing during our days of confinement.

 

 



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal SunshineI recently read an article in Aeon Magazine, which investigates the scientific possibilities and implications of purging one’s “bad” memories.* Haunted by news stories and terrible images during this pandemic, and as a teacher to too many troubled adolescents, I find my opinion is conflicted: memories construct who we are, for-better- or-for-worse, but there are such horrible things that happen…

Hungry for more insight into the subject (and a film buff) I decided to re-watch the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In it, introvert Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets outgoing Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they start a tumultuous relationship. Then one day, Clementine doesn’t recognize Joel and he finds out that she had all of her memories of him removed. Angry and hurt, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but in the process of it he finds that he has second thoughts.

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is ingenious. His films Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are also high concept ideas that explore neurosis and the possibilities of the mind scientifically and perceptually. The movie begins slowly, as we experience the confusion Joel feels because his girlfriend suddenly doesn’t know him, with him. However, once Joel discovers she has had her memories of him wiped out and decides to have the same procedure done on himself, the bulk of the action takes place over one night in his rapidly disintegrating memory. When Joel’s subconscious decides that the procedure is a bad idea and he enlists the ‘memory’ of Clementine to help him escape, the film moves at a rapid pace. Here, director Michel Gondry showcases true visual verve (and most of the effects are created in camera!) as we delve into repressed memories, teenage humiliation, and childhood helplessness. But then a miracle happens — just as Joel’s situation seems most hopeless, the tone of the film becomes more hopeful. We travel through Joel’s mind back to those initial, profoundly romantic first days with Clementine, and we are able to view both the beginning and the end of a relationship at the exact same time. It’s poignant and beautiful. At this moment, Kaufman’s objective comes into sharp focus, and we, the viewer, are left to ponder what we’ve just seen, and to consider whether we would, indeed, purge our minds of painful memories if given the chance. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a relevant and weird and wonderful film with genuine heart and a thoughtful mind.

*Aeon Magazine, Aug. 1, 2016, Would You Purge Bad Memories From Your Brain If you Could by Lauren Gravitz. https://aeon.co/essays/would-you-purge-bad-memories-from-your-brain-if-you-could



A Serious Man
April 16, 2020, 7:49 am
Filed under: Film reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A potential film to watch while in confinement…

A Serious Man posterDid you like The Big Lebowski? Fargo? Raising Arizona? Oh Brother Where Art Thou? No Country for Old Men? Then you should watch A SERIOUS MAN by The Coen Brothers if you haven’t watched it already.

The setting is 1967 Americana suburbia: Larry Gopnik’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) life is beginning to unravel -his wife wants a divorce because his incompetent brother is sleeping on the couch and his son owes the school bully $20 for a bag of marijuana – and he just wants to know how it all went wrong and what he can do about it.

The Coen Brothers have made some great films and this one is marvellous – a suburban dysfunctional family drama meets metaphysical mystery that stands out as their most human and relatable film yet.