When I was a little kid, this comic scared the bejesus out of me.
If you have forgotten how the story goes, Macbeth starts out as an OK guy but develops into the Idi Amin of Scotland. With his wife egging him on, he murders his way to the throne and later wipes out a host of innocents to keep the regicide from coming to light.
“Memories were meant to fade. They’re designed that way for a reason.” Mace, Strange Days (1995)
Strange Days, 1995, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, never got the acclaim it deserved. For that matter, nor has Bigelow.
Anyway, when Strange Days starts, our antihero has fallen on hard times in the aftermath of a love affair. He’s barely making it, a disgraced ex-cop addicted to a new illicit technology that replays the recorded experiences of others directly into your brain. He’s both an addict and a dealer in the underground market for experience clips recorded by people pulling robberies, having sex, racing cars, or simply being whoever they are that you aren’t.
Clips are illegal in Bigelow’s dystopian LA, both because they’re addictive and because people stage socially destructive experiences in order to make them. Other people’s experiences are what our guy sells, but they aren’t his vice; he obsessively replays clips he made of himself with the girl he lost, endlessly reliving their happy moments.
Ted Lewis was the godfather of British crime fiction—Raymond Chandler, Jim Thomson, and Mario Puzo rolled into a single Brit. There have been plenty of others since, but the entire genre in Britain traces back to Lewis. He’s less well known here in the US than in England, perhaps because English noir is so bound up with the particulars of the landscape, argot, and style. Nevertheless, many Americans will know Mike Hodges’ memorable 1971 film adaptation of Lewis’s 1970 novel “Jack’s Return Home” entitled “Get Carter”, starring Michael Caine (The novel was later re-published in 1990 as “Get Carter to match the movie.”)
Even today, fifty years later, the vicious milieu of Guy Ritchie’s films hearkens directly back to Lewis, much as every movie about the Mafia one way or another must acknowledge Mario Puzo, even if only to reject him.
The Irish painter Francis Bacon once complained that “Everybody likes Vermeer, except me. He doesn’t mean anything. He has no significance.” Bacon is obviously being combative, but artists and critics do that—it’s a thing—and he’s not wrong that Vermeer was unknown until centuries too late to influence anyone other than filmmakers. But did he really mean that he truly doesn’t like Vermeer?
Three Studies For a Portrait of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, 1969
Girl With a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
Not exactly—he meant something stronger than that. It’s such an amazing thing for a painter to say that it can go right past you. He’s not really talking about Vermeer—he’s saying that he does not like paintings. “Nothing personal, Johannes, but a painting has no value except insofar as it is on the path to something else.” Seriously—if you heard someone say “Oh, I’d never date X because X has no hot friends.” would you doubt that the person not only doesn’t care much for X but also does not care much for X’s entire gender?
I just saw yet another documentary on building the pyramids. Once again, it was the age-old question of how they got all those blocks up there. It’s been a favorite of archaeologist and crackpot alike since the return of the scholars who went to Egypt with Napoleon’s army in 1798. Why people still care, more than 200 years later, is a mystery in its own right because the building of the pyramids presents much more interesting problems, but it is fun to think about if you’ve ever moved anything heavier than a couch. Continue reading “Work Like an Egyptian”→