This Storm (2019)

It took many night-time sittings, before going to sleep, to finish James Ellroy’s latest novel, This Storm (2019, Penguin, 608 pages, a hair-raising $33 for the paperback), the second book of his second ‘LA Quartet’.

When I discussed his last novel, Perfidia, I raised the dreadful possibility that maybe Ellroy might be past his prime.

I cannot now honestly say that he isn’t, but it might just be that he’s allowed his editors greater leeway than he should have.  To sanitise his prose and rob the story of Ellroy’s trademark manic flavour.

This Storm continues a story arc set in LA during the early 1940s (so far), using most of the same characters as Perfidia.  However, as ever, Ellroy is fond of killing some of his characters off along the way.

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Planning from the head must follow statement from the heart

It’s not that I was surprised to read Peter Dutton making Coalition policy by media statement on Friday. It’s more that he would do so for the Indigenous Australians portfolio. It signals to the public and the party that the responsible minster, Ken Wyatt, is thus publicly stripped of any authority by the LPA’s extreme right wing, presumptively led by Home Affairs Minister Dutton after nihilist-in-chief Tony Abbott was voted out of Parliament.

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Werk ohne Autor / Never Look Away (2018)

Frankfurt School and Heidegger infuse von Donnersmarck’s film

The distraction of almost obtusely misleading subtitles aside, I was pretty much mesmerised by the first 45 minutes of the film, which had me close to tears on several occasions.  Elisabeth May’s (Saskia Rosendahl) composition for Hitler, her desperate pleas with the stony SS doctor, Herr Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), and the shower sequence, condemned as gratuitous and in bad taste by some reviewers (the New Yorker’s Antony Lane showed a rare lack of judgement in joining that choir).

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The Fourth Protocol (1987) … sort of

This was going to be a film review.  And it is.  Kind of.

Actually, it’s probably got more in common with a potty old geezer messing around in an overgrown backyard, pretending he’s gardening, muttering to himself, and occasionally actually pulling a weed or two.

And so … I came across a preposterous ranking of Michael Caine’s films in the Guardian this weekend.  Some plonker with the title of film editor at the UK branch demonstrated a serious lack of taste and insight into Caine’s films by putting Harry Palmer in the middle, Alfie at the front, and giving the number one slot to The Man Who Would Be King.  Utter tosh.

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Why overlook the Saudis?

Reading about the solidarity between the USA and UK about pointing the finger at Iran for the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman recently, and the haste with which Western media uncritically reported these pointed fingers, I couldn’t help letting my mind wander a little. Why were Western analysts so quick to endorse ‘official’ statements? What should they be doing instead?

‘Teleology!’, I thought. The analysis of phenomena not by looking for causes, but by examining who benefits.

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Morrison regime threatens press freedom

'Unfailingly' polite federal police arrive at reception, ABC Ultimo headquarters in Sydney
‘Unfailingly’ polite federal police arrive at reception, ABC Ultimo headquarters in Sydney.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst’s private residence, are clear indications the AFP is being used to intimidate journalists and ‘whistleblowers’, meaning public servants willing to leak information about questionable government activities.

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Folau, Morrison are just wrong

Folay scores

Gifted Australian rugby player Israel Folau has been in the news quite controversially lately.

He claims to be a devout Christian, as justification for social media posts that seem, to me, to be more hate speech than religion.

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How neo-fascism reveals itself

Scott Morrison, prototype Australian neo-fascist, with Dutton looking on.

Ideologies always assume that one idea is sufficient to·explain everything in the development from the premise, and that no experience can teach anything because everything is comprehended in this consistent process of logical deduction. The danger in exchanging the necessary insecurity of philosophical thought for the total explanation of an ideology and its Weltanschauung, is not even so much the risk of falling for some usually vulgar, always uncritical assumption as of exchanging the freedom inherent in man’s capacity to think for the strait jacket of logic with which man can force himself almost as violently as he is forced by some outside power.

— Hannah Arendt, 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

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‘As if’: Fiction and reductionism

Belatedly reading Thomas Nagel’s review of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s book, As If: Idealization and Ideals, in The New York Review of Books (5 April 2018, vol LXV, no 6, pp 36-38) was a double take moment.

In that review I recognised some of my own philosophical thinking since the later 1990s.  Until I have time to absorb both the work of Appiah and Hans Vaihinger, from whom Appiah draws some foundation for his concept of ‘idealization’, this is a preliminary comment.

Hans Vaihinger.

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A Prayer for the Dying (1987)

SSince early December I have been reading my way through Jack Higgins’s novels.  He had first used the character Martin Fallon in 1960 (Cry of the Hunter), reprising him in 1973 for the novel A Prayer for the Dying.

It’s a mournful story of an IRA soldier, haunted by the innocents he’s killed, trying to get out, but finding it hard to quarantine his particular skills from the bargains he must strike to escape.

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