Thursday, February 01, 2018

Sunbeds: ‘To The Back of Beyond’ Swimming Away From Home

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." 
~ Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
— Anton Chekhov, born  in 1860

When we cannot see, we don't judge. Small wonder when we kiss, cry, laugh, make love, are in pain, pray and listen to music, we close our eyes.

In keeping with the trend for charging for things travellers used to get free, it should perhaps come as no surprise that sunbeds are the latest feature of a standard holiday on which travel agents are slapping extra fees. A travel agent is trying to charge fees for sunbeds

It’s quite watchable (read: binge-able), if at times a bit anachronistic; the giant nightclub that many scenes are set in is far more reminiscent of the ’20s-meets-hip-hop production design of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Great Gatsby movie than Bob Fosse’s Cabaret. But the Netflix import is a detective story, not an epistemological history lesson; if you want to understand how German mores and morals hit rock-bottom and set the stage for one of history’s darkest hours, Babylon Berlin won’t do it, but it does make for gripping (if occasionally aesthetically vile) television.
(Classical reference in headline.)

PRETTY SURE THAT BABYLON BERLIN WAS NOT MEANT TO BE A HOW-TO GUIDE: “Femme Feral is the queer fight club that takes no prisoners and holds nothing back. Founded by artists Phoebe Patey-Ferguson and Anna Smith in the dark days after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the group allows women and femme-identified people a space to scream, shout, and pummel each other into the ground.”
“We want to destroy the Conservative government. We want to bring down the Patriarchy.” As David Thompson quips in response, “And if this doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.”

I don’t even have to close my eyes to see Grandmother Katarina.She leans over to stroke my hair.  Prettier in life than in the photo ...
She makes a habit of logging in to digest MEdia Dragon daily even though the servers do have many outages

Roseanne Barr

World’s first talking killer whale: Wikie the orca learns to say ‘hello’ and ‘bye bye’Telegraph (MGL

       Only in French, but at Radio Praha Václav Richter reportson Lidové noviny's (Czech) 'Book of the Year' poll from last month -- focusing on the top three titles: Marek Švehla's biography of Mahor, the latest Jáchym Topol, and the latest edition of Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which restores some passages. 
       The official results were published in a twelve-page-spread in Lidové noviny, but that doesn't seem to be readily accessible online -- just the article about the top title. But this list actually has it's own Wikipedia page, and the 2017 onedoes list the top eleven titles, and the votes each of those books got, out of 192. Czech works dominate -- with only Laurent Binet's The Seventh Function of Language slipping in, tied for eight. 

'Glass Houses’ by Louise PennyThree Pines must deal with the opioid crisis.   Some forms of fentanyl, the opioid that killed Minneapolis musician Prince, are 10,000 times stronger than morphine.  It only takes a relatively small amount of fentanyl to get its effect and even one dose can cause a deadly overdose. Fentanyl has been linked to thousands of overdose deaths in the United States and Canada. Being close to the Vermont border, Three Pines is an ideal place to sneak fentanyl across the border into the United States.One thing I particularly like about the novels is that they will deal with high-stakes moral quandaries.  If Gamache has discovered a route for fentanyl deliverers into the United States should he arrest small-time operators using it or should he wait for the big shipment?  He compares himself to Winston Churchill who was faced with a similar choice during World War II after British scientists had cracked the German top secret Enigma codes, and the Allies knew ahead of time that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry, England.  Should Churchill warn the people of Coventry thus informing the Germans that the English had their Enigma codes or not?

Paris once had a second river, la Bièvre, but it requires a dedicated hunt to find signs of it now.

‘To The Back of Beyond’ by Peter Stamm   – 140 pages    Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

Have you ever wondered what kind of adventures you would run into if you just walked away from your home and your family with no destination in mind? You don’t even tell anyone where you are going.  You just walk off on the spur of the moment for no particular reason.  Things were going good with the family but you just had the sudden urge to get away.

In ‘To The Back of Beyond’, there is no discord in this Swiss family, no easy explanation why Thomas decided to leave his comfortable home. His reasons for leaving are inscrutable, even to himself. Instead he just wanders off after returning from the family summer holiday.

Of course, in real life there would be a ton of obstacles to a man walking away and disappearing like that, but Peter Stamm with his quiet precision makes us believe that this could really happen.  The story takes on the quality and existential feel of an allegory.

His wife Astrid is not angry at him at all which to me is another unreal aspect of the story, and she reflects about Thomas:

“He had no close friends; his superficial relationships to colleagues at work, his clients, and his teammates seemed to be enough for him.  Neither of them had an especially active social life, and since the children, they hardly ever went out in the evenings.” 

Days go by, and Thomas doesn’t return. Astrid doesn’t panic even when the police come to the house and look in every room to make sure that he isn’t lying dead somewhere having done himself in.  Instead Astrid covers for him at his job, telling his workplace that he has shingles.

So we have this man walking through the woods and towns near his home.  He rarely encounters anyone as he tries to avoid people as much as he can.  The few people he does encounter seemed to me like oases of interest.  This being Switzerland, he eventually encounters the Alps Mountains.

The scenes in the novel alternate between those with Thomas on his massive strenuous walk and those with his wife Astrid and their kids at home.  The scenes involving Thomas are of a man who is mostly alone in nature.  I know there are some readers who welcome physical descriptions of rocks and karst and tarn and vegetation in their stories, but I am not one of them.  I found the excessive natural description somewhat tiresome and found myself looking forward to the scenes involving Astrid which were more sociable.

The bottom line is that Peter Stamm has achieved a quiet allegory about a patient understanding wife and the restless energy of her husband or perhaps of all men, but I wasn’t quite in the patient mood for a quiet allegory in nature myself.

Dragons CEO Peter Doust quits after almost two decades with St George Illawarra