Perfidia (2014)

Perfidia book cover

As with all of James Ellroy’s fiction since the 1990s, I am infatuated with the book.  With the prose and the characters.  Unlike Ellroy’s previous fiction, this one exposes something new, hinting at something that was never Ellroy before.  Or maybe it is a change in my perceptions, seeing something that isn’t there, or was always there.

What I think connects me with Ellroy’s fiction most of all is an old-fashioned idea of passion.  The kind that drives courtship and romance, but also anger and violence.  It is the id unleashed to dramatic effect, where the base expectation is of chaste and civilised containment in an orderly, ordered society.  Writing for The Telegraph, Chris Harvey relayed some of Ellroy’s thoughts on this powerful driver of life and dramatic tension:
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Ellroy bleeds for Hopkins

Book covers

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway

 

The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best.  But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it.  Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough.  It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive.  A genius cop who breaks all the rules.  A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way.  A dark past that hovers over him.

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Mark Felt: extended metaphor

Mark Felt poster

Peter Landesman’s film Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017) annoyed the hell out of me.  So much that I felt compelled to isolate the elements that motivated my displeasure.  And whether these were of my own confection.  Or whether they lay in the structure and content of the film.  After being annoyed long enough, I concluded the film is likely to become more significant as time passes.  With hindsight.  With the Trump administration in the rear-view.

My mistake, at first instance, had been to expect a story about Watergate.  Or Nixon’s FBI.  Or a G-Man.

That’s what Landesman’s script led me to believe.  On the surface.  Because I fell into the trap of an idiotic literalism in my interpretation.  A literalism of the kind I despise in the last two generations.

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Censorship in the most censorious age

This essay is a reply to a comment by Michael H on an editorial I wrote in August about the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the Tor Project defending the right for the American neo-Nazi online Daily Stormer to be granted hosting and DNS propagation.  It started as a reply to the reply, but grew longer than expected, and is therefore presented as an essay in its own right.

Fifteen, twenty years ago I would probably have agreed with all of Michael H’s points.  What happened since then included the personal experience of watching Western centre-left parties become conservative, and conservatives become openly, unashamedly corrupt lackeys of short-sighted plutocrats.  Short-sighted because they act nihilistically to destroy a consumer base they need to sustain their own profitability over the longer term, and to maintain stable societies in which consumption, not civil strife, is the leitmotif.

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Media more shallow than politicians

Only today I yet again had cause to link political decline to simpleton journalists.

This time the obvious candidate is the ABC’s Queensland commentator, Chris O’Brien, turning out two stories that are so shot through with ignorance, and an absence of a single clear thought, the ABC should feel cheated to have paid O’Brien this week.

Chris O'Brien
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THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 1 of 4

Notes on the overpowering documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

APERÇU

Nothing compares to this film in terms of that daily sense of obligation, of responsibility, coupled with the possibility for art and expression.

Ken Burns.

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THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 2 of 4

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

GESTALT: AUDIENCE

As already touched on, all non-Americans are made ‘aliens’ in an exceptionalist conception – ‘aliens’ being the pejorative, bureaucratic term the USA applies to ‘foreigners’.  It is a concept that doesn’t just reference ‘foreignness’, but the implication that people who are not American are in fact a different species altogether, like extra-terrestrials.

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THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 3 of 4

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY

One of the things I learnt in the war is that we’re not the top species on the planet because we’re nice. We are a very aggressive species.  It is in us.  And people talk a lot about how, ‘well the military turns,’ you know, ‘kids into killing machines’ and stuff.  And I’ll always argue that it’s just finishing school.

What we do with civilization is that we learn to inhibit and rope in these aggressive tendencies.  And we have to recognise them.  I worry about a whole country that doesn’t recognise it.  ‘Cause you think of many times we get ourselves in scrapes as a nation because we’re always the good guys.

Sometimes I think if we thought that we weren’t always the good guys we might actually get in less wars.

– Karl Marlantes, former Marine, about 48 minutes into episode five.

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THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 4 of 4

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

DISPATCHES: PARTISANS

Of all the press treatment the film received, only a handful of writers had interesting things to say, both positive and negative.

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Big Little Lies (2017)

‘Come around.  I’ll cook steak with mushroom sauce … the way you like it,’ Giovanna said with that alluring Italian lilt.  ‘We can watch the rest of Big Little Lies.’

The offer of steak was pretty well irresistible, so I knew there had to be a catch.

‘Can we do the steak without indigestion afterwards?’ I moped at her over the phone.  I would have turned up on her doorstep without the offer of any dinner or entertainment.  I think she knew it, but we conspired to play the game regardless.

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