peteg's blog

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Warm around midday, but the duration of the swimmably warm parts of the day is shrinking rapidly, and out of the sun the wind is starting to bite. Ate my lunch on the Coogee headland then went for a paddle off the beach at Gordons Bay. Fairly clean, the tide was up, and absolutely flat. Not as many people there as I expected. Tried to dry off a bit afterwards again on the headland.

Citizen Kane

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It's been a while. The parallels with the present day are striking: a lock-him-up rabble-rousing populist campaign speech; Kane being told to check his privilege (over working men, who might eventually expect things as their right, not his gift); a pile in Florida; a Gatsby-esque excess in a guilded age; the manipulation of the news; the vacuity of stuff; the over-extended mogul; etc. Still #74 in the IMDB top-250 but getting squeezed out by lesser works.

Bosley Crowther at the time. Roger Ebert in 1998.

Samrat Upadhyay: Mad Country.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Shorts from Nepal via a review by Robin Black. A bust: it too often slid into Bonfire of the Vanities or traded in cliches or got repetitious or found other ways to lose me.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Another warm-to-hot and clear day. Walked down to Coogee, read some book on the headland, got in the extremely flat water around 3pm. (It is as if the huge surf down south has sucked up all the ocean's energies.) Quite a few people but not as many as yesterday.

This is Spinal Tap

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It's been a while.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Late-afternoon trip to Coogee, where the pubs and parks were as packed as I've seen it. The beach wasn't so full. Read some book on the headland and then had a very brief paddle in the surf, then back to the headland to dry out.

His Girl Friday

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Second time around and just as funny. Continuing the recent run of Cary Grants. No longer in the IMDB top-250. I need to scare up more of Rosalind Russell's efforts.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

The run of sunny, warm-to-hot days continues. I wandered down to Coogee in the mid-morning, read some more book on the headland. Not too many people around but I imagine it'll be packed tomorrow. Got in at the north end of the beach around 11:30am: epically flat, clean-ish, a bit of a shore dump, a light onshore wind. Dried out once again on the headland, then headed home for some lunch.

Avengers: Endgame

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Opening day, The Ritz, 4pm, Cinema 1, $10 + $1.50 online booking fee = $11.50. Downstairs was closed because the previous session had made a mess of it. Upstairs was maybe a third full.

I'll just gesture at the paid noisemakers. Jason Di Rosso versus Jake Wilson. A. O. Scott got very sentimental. Dana Stevens: "Waiting for Thanos: Avengers: Endgame is like Samuel Beckett with superheroes."

Stoker

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Second time around. A Matthew Goode jag from Watchmen, and Park Chan-wook from The Little Drummer Girl. Doesn't really reward a second viewing.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Wandered down to and ate my lunch on the headland at Coogee. Heaps of people on this last day of the Easter break on another perfect warm-to-hot and clear late-summer day. Read a fair bit of Jarett Kobek's latest. A toddler was let roam by his parents, gifting strangers with seed pods and big smiles. I got in the extremely flat and seemingly-clean surf around 2:50pm then dried off again on the headland.

Jarett Kobek: Only Americans Burn In Hell.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. This is Kobek attempting to take a giant dump on Trumpistan following the epic commercial failure of his previous novel. (The last thing I read from him was the masterful Soft and Cuddly.) I learnt that he is a Guns'N'Roses fan, and that I may not presume that a character named Rose Byrne is white, although it's OK to think she's female. At some point he claims that his country is involved in a large covert and continuing war in Africa; unlike John Pilger he didn't go out and get the footage. That America has receded into infantility via comic books is news to nobody, as is the idea that U.S. ideology is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. I struggled to parse his seemingly sincere but muddied endorsements of the latter. He's become a fan of lawyers and cleverness and is on similarly shaky ground with science. I liked his trick of changing the past by merely fiddling with the details of the present; that's innovative magic, like Charles Yu's grammatical moves.

His interview with Alan Moore sounds like he writes: using repetition as a rhetorical device in a lit crit seminar somewhere in NYC. They agreed that the (US? Anglo?) culture has stalled since 1995.

To Catch a Thief

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A Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock jag from Rear Window, and Cary Grant from Notorious. Everyone goes to the French Riviera and the result is worse than when Audrey went to Paris (either time). Cary plays a retired cat burgler, noble due to an association with The Resistance, and despite being seriously north of 40, the young ladies (Kelly and Frenchwoman Brigitte Auber) can't help themselves. It's all a bit vacuous, but aren't the gowns, jewels, landscapes, etc. just fabulous.

Bosley Crowther got overly enthused at the time.

Gone with the Wind

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The Ritz, Cinema 1, $10, 1pm. We're deep into the pre-Avengers vortex now: all that's on offer are golden oldies (the 80th anniversary! in 4K! with an overture and an intermission!) and a Tarantino retrospective. First time around for me. Perhaps a third full, where most people looked like they might just have seen it back in 1939.

Is this the pre-Tennessee Williams mold for the Southern gothic? Is it just a dodgy, romantic, sentimental apology for the devil? It has its fans, then (8 Oscars!) and now (#163 in the IMDB top-250); the epic colour at Wikipedia gives some perspective. Here we have Southern princess Vivian Leigh husband hunting on the family plantation until the American Civil War interrupts. War profiteer Clarke Gable, looking a bit like Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or perhaps Omar Sharif, knows they're destined to marry but has to bide his time while she works through all the other men. (It could have been called three weddings and a funeral, but most of that isn't actually shown.) The storytelling is fluid for the first half then retreats with the war, leaving us with an unsavoury crowd. The scene at the railway station is timeless, and every so often a line crackles with knowing malice. There's a touch of the Gatsby, some dodgy accent work, and a strong assertion of property rights as understood by Irish migrants. It doesn't really have four hours of things to say.

The opening credits tell us that the Old South is "no more than a dream remembered" but the 2016 US Presidential Election shows there's more life in it than that.

Frank S. Nugent at the time. Roger Ebert around the 60th anniversary: "[GWTW] presents a sentimental view of the Civil War, in which the "Old South" takes the place of Camelot and the war was fought not so much to defeat the Confederacy and free the slaves as to give Miss Scarlett O'Hara her comeuppance."

Robert Caro: Working.

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Kindle. Caro has a huge reputation for his biographies of LBJ and Robert Moses (apparently the master sculptor of modern NYC), his thorough research and the length of the books. This short one was supposed to give us some insight into how he does it all but amounted to a bare assembly of articles I'd already read, such as this one in the New Yorker. There's so much repetition that I felt I'd heard all these stories before, making me think that he must not have that many stories. They are often quite good though, at least on a first encounter. He shields his researcher-wife Ina quite well, and his son almost completely. I think I'd prefer to read critical responses to his work than the work itself; say this one by Robert Moses.

Jennifer Szalai. Harold Evans.

Rear Window

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Second time around and I didn't remember a thing. Here Hitchcock would have us believe that globetrotting photographer James Stewart is equivocating about marrying "preview of coming attractions" Grace Kelly (!) while he mopes around his NYC apartment with a broken leg, passing the time by spying on the neighbours. The ending is too abrupt: I kept waiting for a twist that never seemed to come, which is perhaps in keeping with the steady ratcheting of the tension. #45 in the IMDB top-250.

Bosley Crowther at the time. Roger Ebert on its re-release in 1983 and in 2000.

Greg Egan: Artifacts (collected shorts).

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Kindle. A (possibly bootlegged) collection of shorts, some of which look like Egan working things out in public. Thematically he's fixated on equating consciousness with computation (Dust which became Permutation City — Paul Durham makes me think of Le Roux; Wang's Carpets) and corporate totalitarianism (Beyond the Whistle Test sounds like Facebook; Yeyuka on medical technology monopolies). There's an extended riff on Tim Buckley's big tunes in Worthless, with a namecheck of This Mortal Coil's eternal cover. Reification Highway tries to make sense of solid logic: a fuel, a mystical space of nonstandard substances? Is "Chalmer" a dig at the type theorists? Tap and others has it that infrared is the local wireless tech. Others riff on deals with the devil, vampires, made up physics, the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, whatever.

It's more hard-boiled noir than cyberpunk.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

I figured I'd attempt a snorkel off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay as it's been so long. The tide was right out, which in combination with many people's tendency to loiter at the choke points made it slightly tricky to get in. (The people diving probably had it even worse than I did.) I'd never seen the bombora off the southern cliffs exposed before. Visibility was not great, and I didn't see much: a couple of small gropers, a larger one on the turn, ludderick, small fry. A perfect late-summer's day: warm, sunny, no wind. Dried off a bit by reading my book on the Clovelly headland.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

The BOM has forecast rain for the past several days but instead it has been sunny and warm for the most part, and dry as far as I can tell. Lunch and a lazy paddle at Little Bay around 1pm. More people around than I would have expected. The traffic is stil a bit impatient even though school is out.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Mid-afternoon paddle at Coogee after laksa for lunch. Still a few people about, not too many in the water. Seemed clean-ish, flat, still warm enough. No wind, warm in the sun.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Lunch on the Coogee headland in the early afternoon, and afterwards a brief paddle at the sourthern end of the fairly empty beach. A few people walking about on what cleared into a fine and warm day. Flat, not as clean as a few days ago, a brisk but not overly strong onshore wind.

White Hunter Black Heart

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A jag from The African Queen. Over two sittings. In 1990 Clint Eastwood tried to become John Houston as he chased his white whale (elephant) in the Congo while filming his Kate/Bogey classic. Clint set a few people straight on the need to fight for what's right, and not be ugly racist bitches; what he lost in fisticuffs he mostly won in verbal sparring. I was a bit surprised that Timothy Spall took on the minor role of the japing pilot. Jeff Fahey looked about the same as he did when working for ex-Ms Eastwood, as did George Dzundza. Some of it is funny, most is farcical. Apparently some was filmed onsite-ish in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Roger Ebert. Janet Maslin.

The Maltese Falcon

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John Huston's first effort as director, and what a way to start: babe-magnet Bogart leads in a black-and-white adaptation (also by Huston) of Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled noir. Second time around for me. There's a bit too much saying and not quite enough showing towards the end, and it seems highly doubtful from 2019 that anyone gave the SFPD that much lip and survived let alone thrived. The convoluted storyline is juiced for suspense. #225 on the IMDB top-250.

Bosley Crowther at the time (1941) — apparently this was the second mouse that got the cheese (the source material). Roger Ebert in 2001 — he claims this is the third.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

A beaut day to be back in Sydney: warm in the sun, coolish when the clouds came over. Walked down and ate my sushi for lunch on the Coogee headland, and read some book. Quite a few people about, not many in the water; I got in around 3pm. The beach was epically flat, a bit cooler than I remembered, and seemed clean. Afterwards I dried out by reading some more book.

Watchmen

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Apparently fourth time around. Roger Ebert. A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

Us

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With Dave at the Odeon 5, 8:30pm, $17.50 each. Stuck for choice: I hadn't seen Jordan Peele's previous Get Out and everything else screening seemed worse. It's a horror movie. The kids were the best, particularly Shahadi Wright Joseph who has some great comic timing. Lupita Nyong'o worked hard. I didn't really get into it, but was sufficiently engaged to be unimpressed by the switcheroo when it arrived.

Manohla Dargis reckons it's heavy on the symbolism. Dana Stevens.

Topsy-Turvy

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A Mike Leigh effort from 1999, and one of the last of his features for me to see. Many of his usual cast (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, also Trainspotters Kevin McKidd and Shirley Henderson) participate in this portrayal of what may have been a pivotal point in the creative partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan. It's not at all my thing but there are loads of fine details to enjoy and the performances are uniformly excellent.

Graham Greene: The Heart of the Matter.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. At a loose end for something to read, I picked this one up on the strength of Greene and it being on some list of 100 great English-language novels of the twentieth century. As always it's cinematic, just waiting to be shot. Somewhere on the coast of Africa, policeman Scobie is a similar character to George Smiley: a certain kind of wise Englishman who's hoping to go to a quiet grave having found his situation and making peace with an unsatisfied wife. The booze certainly helps. There are shades of A Quiet American: some intrigue, probity, corruption, cluelessness. But really, like The Power and the Glory, it centres on how Catholic theology ties ones hands: Greene has it that one must save one's own soul even at the potential cost of others'. Perhaps this was Greene-the-convert himself working it out in public.

Orwell nailed it in his review for The New Yorker: "Scobie is incredible because the two halves of him do not fit together. If he were capable of getting into the kind of mess that is described, he would have got into it years earlier." (etc)

Grindhouse: Deathproof and Planet Terror

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Second time around with these ultra-trashy Tarantino/Rodriguez exploitation flicks: it's just like From Dusk Till Dawn but more so. This time around I noticed Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from The Terminator).

Notorious

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A black and white Hitcock from 1946. Second time around apparently, but I don't remember a thing. Daughter Ingrid Bergman is supposedly everyone's but she's only got eyes for party crashing Cary Grant, who plays the straight G-man until he can't. In between she gets hitched to Claude Rains in a plot to bust open a uranium-fueled Nazi plot in Brazil. It could have been 50-100% longer and I would still have been there.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Mid-morning paddle at a mostly-deserted Coogee as the storm clouds rolled in. Pleasant with the occasional large shore dump.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Beaut clear day with no rain. Went for a mid afternoon paddle at Coogee after updating vast piles of software on my machine at UNSW. Seemed clean. Quite a few people but nowhere packed. I stepped on a large dead spiny fish (?) getting out; fortunately my foot seems OK. Afterwards read some more book and dried out on the headland while a bloke played guitar further down the slope facing the beach. I wonder how many more of these days we have.

Jasper Fforde: Early Riser.

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Kindle. A pointer from Charles Yu. Drug-assisted hibernation, dreams and their manipulation, corporate corruption, zombies! — all in a snowy landscape that felt very familiar: wintry wastes like something Adam Johnson wrote or maybe just Game of Thrones, mixing in Total Recall and Ishiguro's spare parts, with Atwood-esque breeding units and random psychologising, building worlds via information dumps ala John Brunner. I often felt cheated by the narrator, wondering just how much was a dream and how much a cliché. There is lots of wordplay (the names of the Pool breeding stock), endless reversals (skinny shaming, a new ice age, a declining human population) and far too many secondary characters: soon enough I lost track of who knew what and who killed whom as it didn’t seem to matter. The ethical conundrums are dubious. I don't understand why anyone would feel obliged to preserve the English aristocracy. It's supposed to be fun, like a Douglas Adams, but it doesn't quite get there.

Fans and critics alike at Goodreads.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Grim and cloudy, but with the window of opportunity closing I headed up to Manly to have lunch with Pawel and Sylwia (a pokè bowl at Momo), and attempt a snorkel at Shelly Beach. We got in off some stairs halfway from South Steyne where there's some conveniently smooth rocks and shallow sand. Good visibility, somewhat clean-ish. Almost immediately I spotted a big blue groper. There were loads of small fry and grown up yellow-fin fellers, ludderick. Pawel encountered a wobbegong on the way back. While we had a warm-up coffee across the road from South Steyne, fog seemed to roll in. (The morning rain had been light but it got more serious in the late afternoon. The ride over and back was more relaxed than previously. Somehow the traffic was placid.)