Secret Films…

On release of ‘The Post’, which I haven’t seen yet but which is on my ‘to do’ list, I got to thinking about films which had information in them as a substantial part. At first I limited myself to actual documents and didn’t get very far. There was Disney’s far fetched ‘National Treasure’ with a frantic Nicholas Cage or there was Tom Hanks equally ludicrous ‘The Da Vinci Code’. But I struggled beyond these. I included ‘All the President’s Men’ ( a masterpiece).

 

Then I decided to expand my search to include information, which catapulted my results, even more so with the inclusion of any old secret, which turns out to be a core component of many thrillers.

Take a moment to think about it. There are so many.

My favourites, some might say boringly, are older films. There is ‘Three days of the Condor’, incidentally a great book even with the utmost disappointment of its sequels.

Then there is 1974’s ‘The Conversation’ Gene Hackman’s masterpiece, the more modern 1998s  ‘Enemy of the State’ (there’s still a good one every now and then) and Mel Gibson’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’, a good cure for paronia.

These are all entertaining films. Begin by Trying out William Gibson’s ‘Marathon Man’ and a brother with a very big secret.

 

Or the equally engaging ‘Capricorn One.’

 

All from the political paranoia of 1970s America. I won’t get political though.

Fiction Time

 

Time travel, or the idea of it, has fascinated both author and reader, for a long time.
HG Wells, the first time-travel author, has to be mentioned. But his story focused on action and adventure. It did not address the metaphysics of time travel and the inevitability of the contradictions and paradoxes it will involve.
The 2004 film ‘Primer’ went to another level and sacrificed adventure for explanation and action for philosophy. It takes several viewings to get to grips with it.

For more mainstream viewing Netflix have two great offerings. ‘Continuum’ is an innovative drama and a clever one, addressing not only the science of time travel but also a future dominated by the corporation. It is a satisfying drama and a thoughtful one, with several surprises up its sleeve.
‘Travelers’ is a second drama available on Netflix. It raises several issues, has sympathetic characters as well as a unique approach to the idea of time travel.

There are far to many films to go into but two memorable ones for me are ‘The Final Countdown’ and ‘The Philidelphia Experiment’. Both excellent.

But above all of these is the novel ‘Time And Again’ by Clifford.D.Simack is an unusual and satisfying exploration of tme travel.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/876499.Time_and_Again

True Detectives

There have been many detectives in the fictional world, from the maverick and classic Philip Marlowe, to the traditional Sherlock Holmes to the more professionally acceptable Inspector Lewis. For whatever reason fiction is littered with mostly broken and psychologically disturbed crime solvers, who by determination or just accidentally, always ‘get their man.’ For today’s blog here’s a brief resume of some of the best I’ve come across in my lifetime.

Sherlock Holmes
This man has to head the list. For a start there hadn’t really been a fictional detective before him. Conan Doyle’s fictional character was hugely popular for his anti establishment ways and his ability to find the hugest clues in the smallest of places. His cases were always full of intrigue, always clever and always only solvable to one man, whoever played him. A marvellous creation in literature, but fine in radio and film as well.

Martin Beck

Few will have heard of Martin Beck, firstly because he’s from a small town in Sweden and secondly because the novels, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, were written in Swedish in the 60s and only translated into English after 2000. Have a look here: https://www.goodreads.com/search?q=martin+beck .
They are police procedural novels and were made into films for their native Sweden.
In 2012/13 the BBC adapted them into a series of radio dramas. That is where I came across them and loved them. Martin Beck solves his crimes through dogged hard work and common sense. And sometimes luck.
You can find them on Audible. There is a collection of them, which is much of a better buy than getting them individually.

Columbo

Columbo is a fine detective. He appeared on American television (NBC) in 1971. Played by the enigmatic Peter Falk he was incredibly popular and famed for his use of Socratic questioning as he went about solving his crimes.

Dr. Cal Lightman
Not a well known character, but he deserves to be. Played by Tim Roth, Lightman was the protagonist in the TV drama ‘Lie to Me’. The series unexplainably only ran for three seasons, but makes for fascinating television in its exploration of micro expressions and applied psychology.

Shardlake
C.J.Sansom’s creation is an unlikely addition to my list but a well deserving one. Introduced in the novel ‘Dissolution’ the 16th century lawyer has a series of books devoted to innvolvement in a series of mysteries. The BBC have done radio dramatisations but I preferred the novels. Highly recommended.

 

I’ve only named five here but there are many, many more. 🙂

Humility

Jane Austen wasn’t a great fan of humility. She felt it a guise of deceit and was quite cynical when it appeared. In her studies of human nature humility was always a path to betrayal. Dickens felt the same, manifested in his character Mr. Uriah Heep, in David Copperfield. Both of these authors, who had fine moments in other ways, are misguided – for humility is not always false; it is one of humanity’s greatest traits. Eric Gibson, an editor for the Wall Street Journal, once wrote ‘Anonymity is the truest expression of altruism.’ Self effacing humility is perhaps our best expression of this, total anonymity is nearly impossible, given current technology.
Humility is an expression of intrinsic self worth. As such it is nearly always associated with religion. Perhaps this is why the likes of Austen and Dickens are suspicious of it, casting its lot with the general hypocrisy of religion, which they would have experienced all around them. It is unfortunate that the Catholic religion link humility to temperance and denial. For the Catholic, to be humble was to recognise ones own abasement and subject themselves to the whim of God. With this interpretation a secular man can not humble.
I disagree. I see evidence of humility all around me. For me humility is a moral agent’s proper perspective of himself. When someone argues ‘it is ok to blow your own trumpet’ I am immediately wakened to what their true motive might be. Firstly this person truly believes the achievement in question to be the sole result of their own ambition and drive. They lack an understanding of the fickleness of life. Yet, undesirable as this may be, it is an issue confused by the excesses of self confidence. Our world is geared towards rewarding the confident; we give them the best jobs; we bow to their greater ideas; we subject ourselves to their leadership. The world sees the humble man as the weak man.
But in order to be humble, one has something to be humble off. And given the necessity for their participation, the humble man will participate. And he will do it well.

The Small

For the most part ordinariness confers invisibility. The mundane and the small are generally overlooked, considered to be of no consequence and are invested with little value. In short the small things are of no importance but are as the smallest drops in the ocean – But then the ocean is nothing more than a myriad of drops.

There is an ancient Hindustani proverb: Men trip not on mountains, but on stones. This expresses an understanding that the small things are at the core of our lives and whilst often the true source of tragedy they are also the source of joy and contentment. There is not much difference in the magnitude of those things which engender dissatisfaction and discontent and those which give recurring pleasure, casting our lives in a positive glow.

For those involved in big issues, say the management of a nation, there is much that endangers their humanity and their path is littered with traps, such as arrogance and a belief in certainty. Their lot in life might not be as lucky as they consider it. That is not to dismiss the pursuance of the political and of other variables for change, but in order to understand the opposite of ordinariness one must have an awareness of the small, and accept that in order to bring the rich texture of the world into view also accept that the small can be large in meaning and that scarcely anything is ordinary at all.

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Before Books

Books are a relatively new phenomenon, mass production only a hundred years old. So before everything was written down how was knowledge and wisdom stored? Mainly, it seems, through word of mouth and memory.

My grandmother passed me loads of sayings, which sadly one hears rarely now. Here are my two favourites:

The difference between a rut and a grave is six feet.

Old sins cast long shadows.

Does anyone have any sayings to share, before they disappear forever?

 

 

Redundant

He took one final drag
Of his now damp cigarette,
Threw it in a puddle to float.
His form was indistinguishable
Beneath a heavy trenchcoat.
Which served to protect him from the rain,
Or not.
Frozen frame:
A man on his way to a building.
Even a colour shot
Would have appeared black and white.
It was a grey day.
The man’s face is bewildered,
Etched with fright.
He goes in,
Stamping his feet on the way:
Some ritual, placed when young,
‘wipe those feet young man’,
the order sung.

1. Take a number.
2. Sit down square.
3. Wait your turn.
4. Stare at thin air.

Then take a newspaper from the table.
It will tell you of jobs for which you are not able.
Eventually a number is called.
A woman, so much younger than he,
(She might be his daughter)
Advises him upon his present state.
‘It’s all a case of wait, wait, wait.
‘Have you looked at the boards sir?’
Is her voice etched with contempt?
Or just disdain, enforced by time.
He returns to eyeball
With the boards.
The rest of the day
He waits in line.
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Why do I blog?

I’ve been writing for twenty five years. I geared my education towards a career in journalism. I was halfway through a degree in Political Science and writing about the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia when I became I’ll with a brain tumour. I had surgery and finished my degree only to spend the following summer to be back in hospital with a diagnosis of Von Hipple Lindau Syndrome.
So my plans went awry but I kept on writing. Lots of ups and downs later and I never did become a journalist or a published author. I tried and sent off my efforts when I had the opportunity but the rejection letters came fast and thick. Eventually I began to question why it was I needed the approval of editor and publisher. Who were these folks who could judge my work and stop anyone from reading it? I turned my mind to other things. I completed an MA in Education and volunteered to work in a school. Sadly I find myself back in hospital on a fairly regular basis. What is important to me is that people get to read what I write which is why I post my work in a blog.
For some it may seem unjust that I post my work free of charge and without commercial motivation. There are two reasons that I, as an individual author, have chosen this path. The first is that I am 42 years old and I have quite a large archive of writing, which no one has read. This blog site gives me a voice, although sometimes I think there are too many voices. What I hope to achieve is a repository of quality writings. The second reason is that I feel I owe the world in general for keeping me going. This is part of my social contribution. Please enjoy.

Parodoxes in Medicine

Good medicine has the potential to transform lives for the better. in Britain the NHS is something people are fiercely protective off, and the whole area is one resistant to criticism. This institution saves and improves lives. its compassion is humanity at its best.
But a brief look at the history of medicine reveals paradoxes the main one of which is the contradiction between hospitals as a source of power and hospitals as a source of hope. The likes of Foucault see the hospital as a physical imposition of will, with its roots firmly embedded in the history of power. Most people view the hospital as a necessary place, that is sometimes needed. Few question it because it is linked to positive outcomes which improve the lives of individuals.

But this shouldn’t be the case. Appearances can be deceptive. For some, particularly the elderly, the hospital can be a source of oppression.

Education

It begins with the question ‘what is education?’ Is going to school the same thing? Has it ever been? There was a time, not that long ago, when there weren’t any schools. So what are they if not a social construct and in the extreme a convenience. And does the same thing extend to our ‘institutions of higher education’ where our finest minds are supposed to reside?

Different cultures have approached ‘education’ in different ways. Some nations favour behaviourism and the transmission of knowledge, others make the unlikely claim that their schools are based around creativity. Teachers proudly proclaim they are all learners, but is this just rhetoric, the language of the moment, prompted by whichever group is in power? ‘Education’ is now in the remit of the professional teacher, who sadly responds to the agendas, desires and wants of the political landscape. This is through no fault of their own and it is ironic that political discourse dominates educational choices.

In the west a consumer approach to education exists, gradually developing since the war and going hand in hand with the growth of consumer culture generally. When a young, enthusiastic adult enters the world of education as a teacher they have to fight the agendas of overbearing politicians and it probably takes a few years before a sense of powerlessness sets in and a grim realisation that there were good reasons that the teachers that they remember from school seemed limited in what they said and did. Governments repeatedly attempt to reform the formal educational landscape, each putting their stamp on what has been determined an important vote earner, and the result in the UK has been a system full of contradiction, whose cumulative effect has been to destroy the soul and purpose of the teacher. This may seem an embellishment and an overstatement but it is not. Whilst we proudly proclaim there is nothing more important than the education of our young, remember Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ speech, we do not invest and support our teachers. Instead we deride them: they can’t do, they teach. This is so wrong it is hard not to overstate how wrong it is. Schools are not a place where anyone wants to be, not staff and not pupils. This needs to change, and not in a small way but in a massive one, which might require a seismic cultural shift.
Way back, in the aeons of history, education was treated differently. The Greeks and the arab world saw it as the bringing forth of something already embedded in human nature. They believed a man could not be happy unless he was educated. Of course this has much to do with what one thinks education is, but it certainly isn’t the consumerist version which all of us seem to think it is. Phrases like the ‘knowledge economy’ and other buzz words reveal the intricate system of impression management which plagues our pedagogical world. Facts are taken in isolation and out of their contexts then held up as certainties. Our world is deemed a black and white one and we pass this message on to our young, though there is much evidence to convince that the opposite is true, that there are no absolutes or certainties. When school leaving age is reached one leaves in the certainty that there are answers to be found, only to be denied such a simple interpretation of the life we lead. Instead we face the realities of a relativist world, one of liquid modernity, which flows from shape to shape, and the secure knowledge we have been given is suddenly questionable, likely to evaporate and disappear. Seen in this light school can be a danger, offering a false sense of security. The confidence we have given to our young isn’t a secure one, it is something which can dissolve at any moment and invariably does.