Category: Education


AFTERLIFE written, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais

(A Netflix Original, 2019)

Screen shot 2019-03-11 at 18.59.48Yesterday, I blogged about Gus Van Sant’s flawed attempt to deal with complicated issues of guilt and grief in ‘The Sea of Trees’.

In that movie, the death of the lead character’s wife drives the leading male into a narcissistic flirtation with suicide until he finds some vague spiritual redemption. This kind of cop-out is all too often the way these stories go.

God’s reputation for moving in mysterious ways allows scriptwriters to sidestep the less palatable, but all too probable, conclusion that when this mortal coil is cut there is no heaven or hell, no all-knowing deity. …. nothing.

These too infrequently voiced non-beliefs are squarely addressed in the unlikely form of a new comedy vehicle for Ricky Gervais. Since Gervais has been outspoken advocate of atheism, it is with a knowing sense of irony that he should choose to call his six part series on Netflix ‘Afterlife’. Continue reading

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Movies for perverts

THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA written and presented by Slavok Žižek (Directed by Sophie Fiennes, 2006)
the_pervert27s_guide_to_cinema

The title of this enlightening three-part documentary is eye-catching but likely to be misleading.

A pervert is someone whose sexual behaviour is considered abnormal or unacceptable but this film is not a guide for those seeking gratification from soft or hardcore porn in modern movies.

The unconventional Slovenian philosopher & psychoanalyst examines how the function of cinema is to mediate between our ‘illicit’ drives and our socially conditioned actions.

In Freudian terms, this is the internal struggle between the id and the super-ego. Žižek states provocatively states that “we need the truth of a fiction to express what we really are” or, more ambiguously, “desire is a wound of reality”.

Watching movies, he argues, is not merely an escapist pastime but an essential means by which to show how reality is constructed. Continue reading

goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’. Continue reading

bollocksThis is not a political blog but I can’t let the year pass without posting at least one piece about Brexit.

This is a topic that has been discussed and debated to death but still nobody seems clear what the actual consequences will be.

My perspective is as an ex-pat living in Italy who, like many others living abroad, found the result of the vote for the UK to exit the EU both shocking and bewildering.

All of my friends in England voted to remain but one from Northern Ireland close the leave path. This was, for me, an unfathomable decision because she had always struck me as rational woman whose radical left-wing views seemed entirely at odds with self-righteous rightists in the leave camp. What follows is adapted from a reply to a letter she wrote explaining her choice.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I didn’t think I was being so blunt about your decision to vote remain in the referendum. Perhaps my shock/surprise came over stronger than I intended but I didn’t set out to offend and I apologize if this is the way it came over. I certainly didn’t want to suggest you were blindly following leaders. I’ve known you long enough to know, and admire, your free-spirited independence.

I think fear of mass immigration was made into a big issue (playing upon inherent racism) but I recognize that this was not the only factor and was clearly was not what swung the vote in your case.

I agree with you that frustration and powerlessness led to people flexing the limited political muscle they had. This is the nature of most referendums and you now see it happening in general elections too.

People are no longer dependent solely on state propaganda or the mainstream media for information. The distrust towards the so-called experts and out of touch politicians is now at a feverish level and anyone with an internet connection now has a voice. However, even in this climate, lies written on buses and cynical poster campaigns still contribute to influencing public opinion. Continue reading

doughnut book.jpgIn this important book, English economist Kate Raworth sets out an optimistic, many would say idealistic, vision of a new global economy that creates a thriving balance thanks to its distributive and regenerative design.

She is searching for the “sweet spot for humanity” arguing convincingly that the time is ripe for a radical rethink of the profit-driven model that runs, and ruins, too many lives stating that “now is a great moment for unlearning and relearning the fundamentals of economics”.

Given the way the world is rapidly spiraling out of control, it is sadly a case of now or never: “Ours is the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with the chance to do something transformative about it”. Continue reading

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