The Remains of the Day (1993)

A friend recently remarked to me how similar the British and Japanese are, for their rigid class systems, and stolid custom of surrendering personal indulgence and judgement to ritual obedience of customs that fix social and personal boundaries.

Today I re-visited the 1993 film The Remains of the Day.  An understated gem that makes my friend’s observation come to life.

How striking, still, after all these years, to see the privilege and tragedy of British aristocracy told quite so poignantly by Kazuo Ishiguro.  How odd, too, that he met with the approval of the British literary establishment, winning the 1989 Man Booker Prize for the novel.
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Thirty years tracking Hannibal Lecter

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Imagine a world in which Hannibal Lecter was unknown.  It existed until 1981, when Thomas Harris published the novel ‘Red Dragon’.  My own relationship with the Hannibal Lecter myth now spans three decades and takes in unimaginable changes in the world as well as in myself, which is to be expected in the span of almost half a life.  That relationship began when I was an undergraduate student, still naïve and inexperienced in the ways of the world with which I coincided.  That’s why I think of it as a personal experience.  A journey that has significance to me because of the way I experienced it, not as an impersonal series of film reviews.  A journey that did not come about as unaffected by changes in the real world, and the fictional ones I traversed.

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Otto’s loathsome brutopia

‘By undermining science’s claim of objectivity, these postmodernists have unwittingly laid the philosophical foundation for the new rise of authoritarianism.’

In making this indescribably anti-intellectual statement to oppose anti-intellectualism, Shawn Otto has tapped into everything that makes political rhetoric dishonest. In doing so where he did it, he suborned a de facto endorsement of Clinton by the Scientific American this month, and through that gambit, the apparent endorsement of American scientists as a whole.

What were the editors thinking? That Otto is a science rock star, is what. That science needs to be rescued from the forces of darkness that congregate in the grotesque confederation of Republican creatures whose sole mission it is to make people’s lives a misery … and to destroy the republic. Is what! That mercenary opportunists, reared on rôle models succeeding through crimes of greed, are bending old left ideas to new ‘me-all-the-time-now’ causes, is what. But mostly that science in the USA is pretty fucked if another Republican Neanderthal occupies the White House at the same time that his tribe controls Congress. Is what.

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The West Wing S01E13: Take Out the Trash Day

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Although the news cycle frequently referred to in The West Wing, and on which many of CJ’s dilemmas are based, no longer exists in its 1990s form, the title of the episode is still topical. It refers to the practice of burying information no one wants to see too much of again on a day, and at a time, which ensures minimal press coverage. Friday afternoon is still a preferred time slot for this practice. As Josh Lyman explains to Donna Moss – and the audience – there are only so many column centimetres ‘above the fold’ of a broadsheet newspaper (meaning attention-grabbing headlines immediately on display). If important news is mixed in with potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable news, the bet is that no one will spend too much time investigating the discomforting items, and even if they do, ‘no one reads the papers on Saturday’.

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Shorten cannot win against Turnbull

How lack of political talent and the rise of hand-held online chatter levelled Australian politics, and exposes the Labor fraud under Shorten of presenting itself as a desirable alternative to the Coalition.

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True speculation about fantasy-land

Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon and Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro in True Detective season 2.
Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon and Colin Farrell as ray Velcoro in True Detective season 2.

Scott Timberg’s Salon piece on the ‘troubles’ faced by TV show True Detective I wasn’t sure what he was channeling. Reporting on a ‘thing’, or helping to create a ‘thing’ while there’s nothing better to write about.

Timberg is less kind to True Detective writer Nick Pizzolatto than I am: Pizzolatto didn’t write as well for the opening of season two as he did for the debut season. What might work in a novel doesn’t fare so well on screen, particularly when five episodes are used mostly to establish the main plot rather than to elaborate it.

I remember thinking that Colin Farrell was completely wasted for three episodes, and that, being kind about it, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were patchy. But maybe they just had bad lines and direction.

Looking at the whole thing so far, though, the story is coming together, and the various episodes have had one constant that’s hard to pass up: Vince Vaughan as Frank Semyon. What a mesmerizing performance. I always thought of Vaughan as a comedy lightweight. In this piece he smoulders smoking holes through the audience.

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Narcissism

Tristam Langfo9rd/Claremont and Peter Strempel on a beach in Perth. Photos by our friend, Trevor Hilton.
Tristam Langford/Claremont and Peter Strempel on a beach in Perth. Photos by Trevor Hilton.

In the late 1990s I had a house in John Howard’s white picket fence zone. Holland Park West. Suburbia. I hosted my best friend Tristam there. He and partner Geri had just given birth to a baby girl. Her name was the compromise of a smoke-filled night. Pallas Hendrika Frederika Messalina Kelder Claremont. A goddess with Geri’s grandmother’s names and Tristam’s wonder at the life he had some part in creating.

I had a well-paying job and all the mod cons. Friends of Tristam soon became my gardners and pool service personnel.

We were, I thought, the shining light of a community. We’d gather by my pool and drink beers. We’d make love there too. Or at the Lychee Lounge in West End.

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The Roaring Twenties (1939)

A surprisingly candid tale about how the bootlegging business started for capable guys with little else to do.

Cagney and Bogart are almost as perfectly teamed up as Bogart and Edward G Robinson, though the psychopath angle for George Hally (Bogart) could have done with more development. No mention here, either, of the Italian Mafia, or the Jewish gangsters prominent in that period.

There’s some surprising truth here that slipped past Hays and Breen in the censorship office.

Some day I will pay more attention to this film.

Credits

Warner Brothers, 104 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Raoul Walsh. Written by Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen, from a story by Mark Hellinger. Cinematography by Ernest Haller. Produced by Hall B Wallis, Samuel Bischoff. Music by (uncredited) Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld.

Featuring James Cagney as Eddie Bartlett, Priscilla Lane as Jean Sherman, Humphrey Bogart as George Hally, Gladys George as Panama Smith, Jeffrey Lynn as Lloyd Hart, Frank McHugh as Danny Green, George Meeker as Harold Masters, Paul Kelly as Nick Brown, Elisabeth Risdon as Mrs Sherman, Ed Keane as Henderson.

The Lineup (1958)

Film spin-off from CBS radio (1950-53) and TV (1954-60) police procedural drama.

Forgettable except for Eli Wallach as the psychopathic gunman Dancer chasing a lost consignment of heroin smuggled into the country in tourist luggage.
I think I watched this only because I was looking into Don Diegel as part of my later film noir project.

The name ‘Dancer’ for the villain was re-used in the 1987 Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli film Rent-A-Cop in which James Remar plays a killer known as Dancer.

Credits

Columbia Pictures, 86 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Don Siegel. Written by Stirling Silliphant. Cinematography by Hal Mohr. Produced by James Del Valle. Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff.

Featuring Eli Wallach as Dancer, Robert Keith as Julian, Warner Anderson as Lt Ben Guthrie, Richard Jaeckel as Sandy McLain, Mary LaRoche as Dorothy Bradshaw, William Leslie as Larry Warner.

Cats and dogs, but not much else

INN533 – Information Organisation

WEEK FOUR: Reflections on council websites and pets.

Often we find that an existing system has been built as a monolithic solution that jumbles the raw plumbing of the system with the business process and the user interface. Unfortunately this leads to a brittle solution that can’t evolve with new user interfaces, new underlying systems, or new business realities.

– McManus (2000), para. 2.

In making brief assessments about Melbourne, Hobart and Perth city council websites, seen through the user journey of looking for information on pets, it becomes clear that city size, and therefore budget, is a principal factor in how much attention has been paid to user experience and interaction design, formal information architecture, and flexibility of access.

Unfortunately, for the council examples, this appears to reveal an inverse relationship with the planning and execution stages outlined by Garrett (2000, 2010), where usability considerations were excluded at the outset and information organisation and retrieval structures have become rigidly tied to portfolio and management focuses rather than those of users.

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