Category: God


AMORTALITY by Catherine Mayer (Vermilion, 2011)

“What a drag it is getting old”.

Mick Jagger wrote these words when he was still in his early 20s. It’s a line from ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, the first track on The Rolling Stones’ 1966 album Aftermath.

Far from being the usual affirmation of the ‘sex,drugs and Rock’n’Roll’ lifestyle, this atypical Stones song addresses the plight of stressed housewives who turn to prescribed drugs to calm their nerves. Jagger adopts a mockney accent in an attempt to convince us of his sincerity but it all sounds very mannered and false.

If Jagger still finds aging a drag he hides it fairly well. Now in his mid-70s he’s still performing concerts and impregnating young women with abandon. He is living proof of what Catherine Mayer calls ‘amortals’; those who refuse to ‘act their age’ and live as if it were impossible to die.

With improved healthcare, it’s not just the  wealthy who are living longer with plenty of energy left to burn. Mayer observes that “there is no such thing as age appropriate behavior anymore” and refers to the growth of this ageless living as a “grey tsunami”. Fast approaching 60 and having run my first full marathon last year, I feel that I’m an active member of this tidal wave of ‘amortals’ but found the book disappointing.

It was conceived as “a guide to an uncharted phenomenon” and in the opening chapters the author is at pains to reassure us that it is not intended as a polemic. However, by the end, she gives up any pretense of objectivity when she challenges institutionalized ageism, stating : “I hope readers will take from this book inspiration to push for change, on a personal level and as consumers and voters”. So much for not being polemical! Continue reading


THE PLACE directed by Paolo Genovese (Italy, 2017)

theplaceAt the time of writing, The Place is the most popular movie in Italy outperfoming blockbusters like Thor Ragnarok and Justice League.

In terms of budget, plot and special effects it couldn’t be further from these Marvel spin-offs. The whole movie consists of dialogues in a single location, a bar in Rome which appears never to close or else allows customers to remain for 24 hours a day.

Instead of of rip-roaring action we are drawn into the set of stories that subtly overlap and gradually reveal common threads. Continue reading

HOMO DEUS by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage Books, 2017)

Subtitled ‘a brief history of tomorrow’, Harari’s sobering study of where humankind is heading envisages a future in which secular sapiens are increasingly marginalised by the by now unstoppable march of technological innovation.

It is a quirk of human nature that we all like to think of ourselves as individuals. In reading this book you’ll quickly realise that we’re not as unique and irreplaceable as we’d like to imagine.

Although each of us has a unique DNA, the evidence of our online activity proves that our goals, desires and actions follow relatively rigid and wholly predictable patterns . Continue reading

SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage Books, 2014)

41mjx6yzfel-_sx324_bo1204203200_History is full of big mistakes and there’s a common notion that we should study it to avoid repeating the errors of the past.

However, Yuval Noah Harari explains one of the key problems with taking lessons from previous cultures and generations is that “History cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it is chaotic”.

Such a view could give credence to the belief that “History is just one damn thing after another”.

Harari’s populist approach to the subject is a breath of fresh air. He has been criticized for his lack of scholarly rigor but his non-elitist position is that historians cannot and should not assume an objective, dispassionate position. Continue reading

The heartless horror of Mother!

MOTHER! directed by Darren Aronofsky (USA, 2017)

Beware of films with exclamation marks in the title!

“Mother! is a movie designed to provoke fury, ecstasy, madness, and catharsis, and more than a little awe”.  This verdict is from a review in Vox that Darren Aronofsky says ‘gets it’.

It culminates in an apocalyptic finale that works on the theory that nothing succeeds like excess. It is shocking in the sense of being shockingly awful.

If Aronofsky’s goal was to get under my skin he succeeded but, while I usually gain a perverse pleasure from mindfuck or body horror movies, this one left me cold and with feelings of distaste and repulsion. Continue reading

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