Jul 29, 2009

Micro-comment on the Gates case*

Two men got angry with one another. One of them was a cop. So he got to arrest the one who wasn't.

*In an effort to keep my 'opinion footprint' on overblown news stories down to an absolute minimum.

Jul 28, 2009

A book I will be reading

"Michael was a deliberate maker of music—he didn’t throw off dozens of records the way Prince and R. Kelly do. He made meticulous choices. You can see it in his dancing, as it evolves. For the video for Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough they used a green screen, and the background is these weird cubes. It’s startling how little money went into it—it’s a terrible video—but Michael is dancing really loosely, and you can see the beginning of his moves. By the time he gets to Thriller, they are codified, almost computerized. He was a perfecter, a practicing fiend. He thought, 'I am going to take off my hat in the most elegant way.' And he did, every time." — Sasha Frere Jones on his forthcoming book about Michael Jackson for Ecco.

Jul 27, 2009

My first appearance in a movie trailer

Here. I'm at 1.58, laughing, during a game of charades. That was my function in the movie, as far as I can tell: to laugh at my friends Colin and Michelle for doing something as bonkers as going without electricity for a year. (They wanted to get their carbon footprint down.) My wife and I were rather like the Ledbetters in The Good Life: the shallow snobs who pop around every now and again to take pity on their tree-hugging save-the-whale neighbours and check their fingernails haven't exceeded a length of six inches. Thus you see me mocking Colin's earth-worm compost, and puzzling, in scolded-schoolboy fashion, over what exactly is wrong with my Starbucks cup. (It was made of paper). Now that the whole thing is a movie, of course, my interest in his wacko experiment perks up a bit.

Can't buy me love

Tomorrow, Hannah (seen left, reclining on a copy of The Big Sleep) goes in for her surgery, which is going to cost somewhere in the region of $4,000, on top of the $4,000 we have already paid to get her diagnosed. Even after you subtract the anger I must be feeling about her having cancer in the first place, and also the natural squeals of a tightwad asked to fork over a large amount of money, this strikes me as an appalling amount of money — immoral, even. Vets in the UK charge fees, too, of course, but $4,000 for a diagnosis? I can't turn it down, and nor can I afford it. I am sure they have no need of my custom, knowing only too well that people are wiling to pay through the nose to extend the life of a dying animal. I resent them deeply for that discovery and the ruthlessness with which they wield it.

Postscript: turns out its going to cost $5,000.

Jul 26, 2009

Quote of the day

“We talked for a couple of hours, and I finally realized that he had the requisite insecurities and whatnot” — director Max Mayer on why he eventually cast Hugh Dancy as a man with Asperger's syndrome, New York Times

Because that's what Asperger's Syndrome really boils down to, isn't it? Insecurities and whatnot.The article also contains the strangest sentence I have come across in the NYT this year.

His delicate features and Byronic curls might scream “romantic comedy” and make him seem like a natural heir to older heartthrobs like Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. But Mr. Dancy’s brain yearns for more.

Traditionally, it is the heart that yearns. Or if you wish to remain physiologically neutral, Dancy himself: "He yearns for more." But his brain? One guesses that the writer wishes to make a point about romantic comedies being dumb, and roles involving Asperger's more cerebral, if only — presumably — because it is a mental condition. I'm not convinced of the logic here. The best acting comes from many places, but the brain is the least of them. A case could even be made for the opposite: that comedy requires faster synases than a role playing someone mental ill, because it requires you interact more carefully with your fellow actors. Someone with Asperger's is by necessity acting alone. That's why actors like it so much. It has nothing to do with "brains." It's about getting to be the only person in the room. But they'd never be able to write that: "but his ego yearns for more."

I've got a bad feeling about this

"Avatar tells the story of a planet named Pandora, a breathtaking place inhabited by a peaceful, beautiful tribe called the Na’vi—sinewy, blue skinned, tiny-waisted humanoid creatures with tails and pointy ears—whose existence is being threatened by the evil humans and their military. To save the Na’vis, scientist Sigourney Weaver sends forth to Pandora “Avatars”—laboratory-created human versions of Na’vis—to earn their trust and protect them with their human know-how."— Vanity Fair
I'm sorry but there's something I'm just not getting. This is the story of how one group of humans battles another group of humans, by pretending to be the aliens the first group of humans are threatening? It sounds a little complicated. It sounds awfully like the Matrix: our heroes have pretend fights in virtual reality, while sitting safely in a lab somewhere. Where's the suspense in that? And who cares whether the place is "breathtaking" or not? I'm suspicious.

Jul 25, 2009

Tanks down Fifth Avenue

"Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects... and declare them enemy combatants." — New York Times

Jul 24, 2009

The mainstreaming of morbidity

In his review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince, Anthony Lane asks "Why is it that, from Gotham City to Hogwarts, the official word has gone out that anything dark and edgy is a de-facto guarantee of weight and impact?"

I have long wondered this myself. I'm not exactly sure when it was that mainstream entertainment started to hanker for some of the grit of indieland, but Alan Ball has a lot to answer for. His movie American Beauty served up blackest misanthropy with the parsley of bright, knowing performances, which invited us, as an audience, to feel superior to the poor characters on the screen, leading their muffled lives of stifling bourgois convention. Which is where it gets tricky. You can pull off superiority to stifling bourgois convention in a novel, because you read a novel on your own. It can even work at the theatre, where a certain class of person is attracted that keeps the common rank and file at bay. But it works less well in a cinema, if only because you are are not the only one there: you are surrounded by people, all laughing in tandem, at the herd mentality of stifling bourgois convention. Which rather takes the sting out of it. Misanthropy can only really be practised alone. Joining a club won't do it.

Ball recalled that while the movie was in production, one Dreamworks executive asked him, "Could you just make it a little more fucked up,' which is not a note that you get in Hollywood very often. And I thought, 'wow' and that gave me free range to go a little deeper, go a little darker, go a little more complicated."

Maybe that was not a note Ball heard in Hollywood very often in 1999, but now you hear it all the time. Call it the mainstreaming of morbidity — a kind of spray-on gothicism designed to impart deepness, darkness, complication. A brief surf of the net gives me an artwork praised as “a dark and disturbing masterpiece”, a novel for its “raw, uncompromising, gritty” style, a TV show billed as “wrenching, raw”, a rock album that is sold on the back of “dark, disturbing, angry lyrics”, a comedian lauded for his “raw, edgy” stand-up, even a fashion photographer for his “raw and edgy locations”
. And while I'm used to hearing indie cinema touted as "dark, disturbing, unsettling”, I'm less used to hearing that said of summer blockbusters — kid's movies, comic strips. The new Batman movie is the “darkest yet ... tormented by demons both physical and psychological”, while the latest Harry Potter is “the darkest and most unsettling installment." Whatever happened to popular entertainment being, you know, fun?

Jul 23, 2009

"Against international law"

A US military spokesman has condemned the release of a video of a captured American soldier, 23-year-old Private Bowe Bergdahl of Ketchum, Idaho, which called for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Colonel Greg Julian said "the public humiliation of prisoners is against international law", and stressed that the US mission in the country was to "support the Afghan government and improve security". — BBC news
International law is so important in these cases. One would hate to see him waterboarded. Or hung from the ceiling. Or buried in a coffin with insects. Or repeatedly rammed into a wall. Or imprisoned without the ability to challenge his detention. Or found guilty without a trial. That would not be right.

No more masterpieces, please

“When access is easy, we tend to favor the short, the sweet, and the bitty. When access is difficult, we tend to look for large-scale productions, extravaganzas, and masterpieces,” writes Cowen. “The current trend—as it has been running for decades—is that a lot of our culture is coming in shorter and smaller bits.” Think 30-second YouTube clips instead of a full movie, iTunes singles instead of complete albums, two paragraph blog posts instead of an entire essay. And now the 140-character limit on Twitter instead of a blog-style free-form text box.
From Ben Casnocha's review of Tyler's Cowen's Create Your Own Economy.

I'm with the attention gnats on this one. It's a very rare masterpiece that I haven't failed to enjoy. I didn't like Ulysses, was terribly let down by Citizen Kane, couldn't understand the fuss over Raging Bull, and not only do I not get 2001: a Space Odyssey but suspect there is not much there to get. I'm sure some of this is simply a reaction against hype: few works of art can survive being acclaimed as a mind-shattering aesthetic event. I'm a chronic anticipator. No sooner has something been proclaimed a masterpiece than I start wondering if I'm going to like it, or be one the dunces who doesn't get it, and laughed out of school. What book or movie or album could possibly survive that anxiety load without at least a slight dip of disappointment?

As time has gone on, and I've gotten more secure in my judgments, another explanation has come to the fore. There is something intirinsic to the masterpiece that I don't like. Something about its masterpieceness. It's the aspiration I think, whether fulfilled or not. Few things are as unattractive as ambition. I tend to prefer "craftsmanlike" or "good" over "masterpiece" and "excellent." I prefer Revolver to Sgt Pepper, Touch of Evil to Citizen Kane, Portrait of the Artist to Ulysses, Mean Streets to Raging Bull, Strangers on a Train to Vertigo. Who wouldn't? Strangers on a train does all the things people go to Hitchock for — the suspence, the plot, the glints of dark humor — whereas the thing that critics like about Vertigo, one suspects, are that it doesn't contain any of those things: the plot's a mess, the suspense sags, and there are virtually no jokes. The same with Ulysses: an anti-novel. So it gets acclaimed as Joyce's best novel. Or Citizen Kane: cinema's box of tricks turned inside out, so it gets to be as Welles's best film. Give me the solid little under-achievers, any day.

Jul 22, 2009

The last book but one

While looking for reviews of my new book online, I accidentally turned up some reviews for my last book, Blockbuster, over at livingsocial.com. They come from real readers, not those pale, doughy creatures of the night known as critics. Thanks, guys.

Quote-leftAs I was a film major at uni this was just like a big film geek flashback that I really enjoyed!
Academic, insightful and witty! No cinematic diatribes here - a great background into the growth of the 'summer' blockbusters in Hollywood and how it has evolved/mutated over the years. Its all about the money!
A film geeks dream - with all the facts and figures on ET, Alien, Star Wars, Indiana, Arnie, Empire, Lord of The Rings - its all there- every biggie ever made!
There is some fantastic insider information collected from years of interviews with the who's who of the film industry. Useful for film buffs and academics alike (a rare mix!) it will inspire you to support the independent film industry and cinemas of the world.
There is some scary $$$$ being spent!

Quote-leftAn intelligently argued case, by someone who grew up with the first wave of blockbusters (and is pretty much the same age as me, as it happens - he comments on how great it was to be a teen when “Raiders” first opened and, like him, I remember coming out of the cinema and wanting to be an archaeologist!), that attempts to put right the myth that Spielberg and Lucas, between them, killed decent films in Hollywood. Apart from a few niggles (he used “Skywalking” as a source, but makes some elemental mistakes regarding “Star Wars”, which bugged me), this is a good book, encompassing a wide range of films and talking indepth with a lot of directors. Well worth a read.Quote-right

Quote-leftHilarously written ... A great read. It's taught me, that whenever I make a film, the characters better be adaptable to toys and other marrketing merchandise for it to make money! But seriously ... a must read for Spielberg and Lucas fans.Quote-right

Quote-leftIt's fast-paced, easy to get into, and a thoroughly engrossing story, charting the history of the modern-day blockbuster from Jaws through to Lord Of The Rings.Quote-right

Quote-leftI loved this book. It felt like vindication for all the critics and art movie fans about how what they like is better than everyone. Shone took me back to the joy of seeing Star Wars, Raiders, and Titanic in the theaters. Good stuff.Quote-right

Quote-leftA call to arms for the great blockbuster movies of the 70s and 80s to return and a swift rebuke to anyone who claims that only 'art' movies are any good. I really enjoyed the refreshing approach of this book.Quote-right

Quote-leftEnjoying the background to films of my childhood and which I still love. Looking forward to finally reading 'Easy Riders and Raging Bulls' to allow contrasts and comparisons to be made. Biskind is made to look very selective in the conclusions he draws. Only a quarter of the way in so can't make to much of a judgement...Having completed the book I would recommend it to others although obviously the story of blockbuster films has not yet reached a conclusion as this year's slate of summer films (heading over the $150 million mark, budget-wise) shows.Quote-right

"Shone manages his difficult task beautifully. In terms of critical analysis, I found his approach much more nuanced - and certainly better written - than Biskind’s "the barbarians have taken the castle" approach. He is eloquent and evocative in his description of the early blockbusters of Lucas and Spielberg, reminding you what was great about the blockbusters of the period. Yet he is equally convincing and entertaining as he charts the gradual debasement of the form those directors pioneered.... late in the book he admits that "the audiences who trot out of Spider-Man seem content enough, and doubtless one of them will one day write a book rubbishing this one, pointing out what a bunch of bores we first-generation blockbuster fans are, still banging on about Raiders of the Lost Ark after all these years." He may well be right, but he is sufficiently rigorous in his approach that whoever tries to do so will need to be thoughtful and convincing if they are to debunk this analysis." — Cinephobia

"If this was food, it would be a giant tub of fresh popcorn, covered in hot, molten butter, with an old-school choc top for dessert... Shone has the eye of a journalist and the discerning aficionado (one each); he treats us as he would wish to be treated. ... check this out. If you're a film fan and you want an alternate perspective on late-seventies, early-eighties moviemaking to Biskind's anti-blockbuster work "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls," then this is what you need." — Illiterarty.com

"It makes a pleasant change to come across a book on film that treats popular cinema as something to be celebrated. Even rarer for that book to treat its subject with intelligence... Shone articulates perceptions I’d not come across before, and which mark him out as a singularly astute commentator... an excellent book." — Youdothatvoodoo.com

The avalanche begins

“An intricate and paradoxical tale about innocence and experience, and the dangers and rewards of being truthful, to thine own self and otherwise” — Keith Miller, reviewing In The Rooms for the Times Literary Supplement

"It is rare for a writer to exhibit such bravery" — Toby Young, The Independent On Sunday

"Readable, amusing... well-written" The Daily Mail

“[A] cutting comic debut” — Phil Baker, The Sunday Times

Jul 21, 2009

So many movies, so little time...

Okay. No time to waste. Going Haiku. (Like Going Rogue. Only more poetic).

500 Days of Summer. Time-hopping sometimes arbitrary. But loved the idea. Loved the Hall & Oates song. Suspicion Zooey Deschanel would have been a little crueller in real life. Always loved her singing voice. Foxy. 

The Hurt Locker. Unbearable suspense. Best film about Iraq. (Not saying much.) Love all bomb defusal movies. But this one best. Guy deserves an Oscar. Never seen him before. Reminded me of Steve McQueen. Unlike most movie tough guys, he's nuts. Suspicion more tough guys are nuts than movies normally let on. Got lost in Whole Foods afterwards. Wandering. Numb. 

Bruno. Laughed like a drain for five minutes. Then felt my soul being slowly sucked out of me. Scenes shorter than Borat. People's hackles raised faster.  Prefer the promotional stunts. Interview on Australian "Rove", for instance. Vatever. 

Life beyond the bottle

No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it.

Gravy, by Raymond Carver, from my piece about sober novelists for Intelligent Life.

Jul 20, 2009

Some thoughts on healthcare

I recently had kidney-related reasons to sample the best and worst of what the American / British systems of healthcare have to offer. My conclusions are as follows: the British system is a bit like being dressed by Snow's White's tweeting bluebirds, the American system more like waking up in the middle of a five-lane highway.

I exaggerate, of course, but that's healthcare for you: help takes on an almost sacred dimension when you are in genuine need of it. I recently came off the plane at Heathrow with swollen ankles and within a few hours was checked into the ER, moved to a hospital bed, where I stayed for three nights, and from there moved to a renowned kidney specialist unit, where I received expert care for the next two weeks, leaving with as many medications as I could stuff into my suitcase. All for nothing. Free. Gratis. Paid for by the tax-payer dollars which here would have paid for the tiling on the tailfin of a single Patriot missile.

The only cloud on the horizon was what I was going to do when I returned to the US. Would my wife's insurance cover me? She'd just started a new job: would they exclude my kidney disease as a pre-existing condition? I began to wonder whether I would even be able to return at all, without being bankrupted by the medical bills. Eventually we found out that for the next few months at least, the bills would be covered, but it was not easy getting to see a specialist; after a round of calling, precisely zero called back. After much faxing, petitioning, auditioning and tap-dancing, we finally convinced one of these mythological creatures to take a look at me, but the fact remains: If I had not been married, and if my wife had not had a job, I would have been unable to return to the US, period.

As my old editor Andrew Neil argues in this week's Daily Beast:
The NHS is regularly dismissed by U.S. critics of American reform as "socialized medicine." This is strange to trans-Atlantic ears. Most Brits don't think there's anything "socialist" about the NHS—it enjoys all-party support, including all right-of-center parties. The British Conservatives, who gave the world privatization under Margaret Thatcher, are totally committed to a national health service, tax-funded and free at the point of use (and Mrs. T never challenged these principles either). The parties disagree about how to run it—the Conservatives and the Blairites want less central control, more patient choice, less bureaucratic distribution of resources—but all are agreed on the basic principle behind it.

And that's not just true of Britain. The fact is that all mainstream right-of-center parties across continental Europe regard some kind of national health service covering everybody and largely free at the point of use as not particularly "socialist." There is broad consensus on the left, right and center about this. Most people don't think of it as socialized medicine—just a key feature of a modern, rich, civilized society. When you try to explain this to those opposing a health-care overhaul in America, either they don't believe you or think you're making it up. It is striking just how far apart America's Republicans (and anti-reform Blue Dog Democrats) are from what should be their natural European allies, like the British Conservatives, the French Gaullists, and the German Christian Democrats on this issue.

The fact is health care on both sides of the Atlantic is rationed: in Britain, it is rationed by queue (though with the billions of pounds thrown at the NHS in recent years the queues are diminishing) and in America by price (no health insurance, no right to health care). Americans might like to ponder that it is better to be in a queue for health care that not qualify for any at all—which is the plight of those 47 million Americans who have no health insurance.

In England, Ive seen a sister treated for cancer, a grandfather receive a hip replacement, a mother hospitalized with a slipped disc. Ive been treated for a corneal ulcer and kidney sclerosis. And I can't remember anyone having to wait for any of it. I didn't once encounter a bureaucrat or feel the government inserting itself between me and my doctor. In America, however, I spent a full year trying to get reimbursing for my medical expenses by a company whose primary purpose in life, it seemed, was to give a no answer. By the end of that year, I had both my medical expenses and my insurance costs. One was bad enough but both? And yet this is the system that has Republicans beaming with pride — what they call "the best healthcare system in the world". Everything else is "socialism." They remind me of Plato's cave-dwellers, convinced that nothing lies outside their cave, openly mocking all this hearsay about "sunlight" and so-called "fresh air."

Jul 19, 2009

Where is the Situation Room?

The Situation Room is a show on CNN, hosted by Wolf Blitzer, named after the room in the white house where the president goes to huddle with advisors and make important foreign policy decisions. Beyond that, all is confusion. On some occasions, Blitzer invites viewers to join him in the Situation Room, thereby implying that it is the studio in which he stands, boasting an impressive bank of TV screens. Very Situation Roomish. But on other occasions he will say to viewers "You're in the situation room," implying that the viewer is in the Situation Room, or maybe that the room is more a state of mind than an actual place. So which is it? The room in which Wolf is talking or the room in which I am watching Wolf talk?  

Jul 18, 2009

Why my cat is like Chauncey Gardener

There I was, thinking that my new kidney disease had allcomers beat. It's lifelong. Its rare. It put me in hospital for three days and the diagnosis features the word "sclerosis". You can't get more serious than that. And then I get home to find that my cat has cancer. Even I can see that cancer beats funky kidneys. I have been upstaged. Hannah is now the centre of attention, lording it up while we scurry around her, feeding and tending and petting. She's not nearly as alarmed as I would be if I woke up to find a strange tube up my nose, a big plastic collar around my neck, making me look like a futuristic Elizabethan, and my owners injecting me with strange-smelling fluids. She doesn't look at me with accusation in here eyes. She doesn't implore me to take the tube out or the collar off. She is either incapable of blame or causal reasoning (maybe the one comes with the other). She seems to regard our trips to the vet with much the same equanimity with which Chauncy Gardner regards the elevator in Being There: "This is a nice room". As far as she's concerned, it's just one of those things. Which means that not only does her disease beat my disease but her attitude is a lot better than mine too.

Maybe I should try living a week without any causal reasoning whatsoever. X will not cause Y. Y will simply be Y. X is not responsible. X is too busy being X. All I will be able to say is that X is X and Y is Y. Beyond those two unbudgeable facts lies only painful and self-punishing speculation. 

Jul 13, 2009

First blood

From the New Statesman:
"soap-operaish predictability... tawdry prose.... not only is [Shone's] novel patronising, it is emotionally redundant, inaccurate and, worst of all, unamusing".
He thinks all that was easy?

I am, of course, going to be taking a leaf out of Sylvester Stallone's book: I will cauterise the wound with a piece of still-smoking shrapnel, then climb into the branches of the nearest tree where I will sew myself back up again, using a segment of my own gut, before loping off into the forest with a cold hard flame of vengeance in my eyes and a hunting knife strapped to my thigh.

A stampede of unicorns

Publius is arguing that Bad is the best Michael Jackson album. I applaud the attempt to upend received wisdom, and I know how tempting and easy it is to bore of Thriller, but that's the point: just because we're bored of the front-runner doesn't stop it being the frontrunner. Therefore I must respectfully disagree. There are really only fourgreat tracks on Bad — the title track, The Way You Make Me Feel, Another Part of Me and Smooth Criminal — whereas you can't move for great songs on Thriller. Listen, too, to the production on Bad —all those tinny snares and over-reverbed bass drums, clanking  away. Its cumbersome, angular, noisy production which clearly apes the more mechanical, ritzy sound made fashionable by Bobbie Brown — the first time Jackson and Jones had followed trends rather than setting them, and the beginning of the end. It's all knees and elbows when placed next to Thriller, or the first 16 bars if Don't Stop Til You Get Enough. But then nothing sounds as good as the first 16 bars of Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, except maybe the gathering hoofs of a stampede of unicorns. 

Jul 12, 2009

Sobriety and the Arts

"It was a bold enough experiment, you have to admit, lasting the best part of a century, in which any suffering artist worth his salt was systematically deranging his senses before noon, getting into the kind of bar fights that make a man feel truly alive, before shrugging off his mastodon hangover the next morning to pound away at his typewriter..."
From my piece about sober artists in the Sunday Times.

Jul 10, 2009

Better than a kick in the kidneys

Toby Young, myself and Cosmo Landesman at the launch of my novel, In The Rooms, at Daunt's Bookshop on Fulham Road last week. It was a lovely evening, as they say in Jennifer's Diary. I saw a lot of friends I haven't seen in ages: the poet Craig Raine, Cosmo and Toby, with whom I used to work on The Modern Review, a contingent of the Sunday Times gang, headed up by my old boss Harry Ritchie, and a clutch of other fellow writers, most of whom have committed the cardinal sin of writing bestsellers, at one time or another, some of them repeatedly. I can only imagine how tiresome a string of unblinking megahits must get after a while, how insulated from the real world. Most of them have lost all sense of every day reality, and have only the scantiest grasp of basic right and wrong. Nick Hornby is a vicious, hooded creature these days, snarling over the top of his beer bottle at anyone who dares come near him, and Helen Fielding last smiled some time in 1992, I believe. As for Gavin Pretor-Pinney, who seems able to write popular science bestsellers almost at will — I believe his new book is a history of dust — the less said the better. To see the effects of fame and success in such vivid close up is... well, it's a salutary experience. 

The only downside to the whole evening was that somewhere between getting on the plane at JFK and getting off the plane at Heathrow, I appeared to have contracted a rare and debilitating kidney disease that required three days in the ER, a series of blood tests, daily injections and enough pills to fell a small bison. This put my guests, some of whom hadn't seen me in several years, in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between congratulating me on the publication of my book and inquiring as to the state of my kidneys. It is a measure of the sophistication of my guests that most managed to pull off this impossible task with a minimum of fuss and some grace, I thought. There is no question in my mind that were the positions to be reversed, I would make a complete hash of it. Congratulate them on their kidneys, and commiserate over the book, or some such. 

Jul 5, 2009

When the revolution comes

"When will it come, Ma?"
"Soon. It's inevitable."
"Will I be seven years old?"
"Well, now. That revolution is going to take a little longer than that."
"Will I be 10?"
"Will I be 11?"
"Will I be 18?"
"Yes, Saïd. You'll be 18. When you're 18 the revolution will come."

My interview with Said Sayrafiezadeh about his strange Iranian-Jewish-communist childhood here.

Jul 2, 2009

The Brits discover hyperbole!

I've only been back in London a few days but my overriding observation is how widespread — how humungously ubiquitous, how overpoweringly omnipresent, how gobsmackingly knock-my-socks-off pervasive — the use of hyperbole has become. Everyone on the TV is caught up in a competition to out-do one another with superlatives. Is the Michael Jackson story big? Its ginormous. How ginormous? Its massively, unbeliveably globe spanningly massive etc etc. The same goes for the Odeon cinema chain's boast of being "fanatical about film." I'd always assumed that went without saying: the enthusiasm of a cinema chain for the medium of film. But no. Everything goes to eleven now. I'm guessing it has to do with a forcible expulsion of the English reputation for understatement but its coming across as if someone at the BBC has sent around a memo instructing all presenters to give it a little more oomph,  a bit more welly. There's something a little over-compensatory about it, to this Brit's ears, but then maybe I've been away too long.