The film (2009) and the poem (1875). The poem’s terrific, the film’s good, Mandela’s an extraordinary man, and the reborn South Africa an uncanny successful ending to the most opprobrious modern nation-state.
On the Beach (1959) is a strange but powerful film, in the quiet way in which depicts humanity’s final days following a global nuclear war; and unfortunately relevant as of today, given the current state of affairs.
That film made me interested in director Stanley Kramer. Today I’ve seen his Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), that I hope you may have seen, too (and if not, I highly recommend it). But I don’t want to comment on its main theme —the responsibility, the degree of responsibility, or the lack of responsibility, of the German people in the atrocities committed in their name by their government. Quite a theme, very good scripted, appropriately nuanced, and wonderfully acted out.
What I want to bring here is a piece of dialogue quite at the beginning of the film that has touched me deep. Preparing for leaving the courtroom at the end of the first session, the chat between two of the judges goes this way:
—What’ve you thought doing at the weekend?
—My wife and I are going to Liege.
—Nothing in Liege, I’ve been there…
—My son was in the 101st. He’s buried in the American cemetery outside Liege.
I saw the film so I read the novel again —and boy I’m happy I did. There had been many years since I last read Highsmith and I had almost forgotten how good she was; now I think I’m going to come back and re-read all of hers. It’s my humble opinion that just a handful of novelists are in her league, in regard to the construction and development of tension, the understanding of the human psyche, and the subtle manifestation of the looming confrontation between man and society.
Read it and tell me if Vic’s character isn’t one of the most complex ones you’ve ever come across with.
The film’s gorgeous, but not entirely in the good sense —I mean, this is one of those movies in which everything’s perfect: the characters are pure congeniality and charm, everything goes smooth at work, the boss never yells at anybody, conflicts are worked out, highs are not so high and downs are gentle… An entirely make-believe world.
So why am I commenting? Because its director, Nancy Meyers, has the courage to vindicate men and ask for them in a world where personal choice, independent of sex, with the accompanying taking of responsibility for one’s actions and decisions, should be the way to go.
I’ve said before that we need, more than ever, strong women who stand up against the rampant sexism (and racism, bigotry, intolerance, authoritarianism) of this time of receding freedom and giving up of individual agency we’re passing through. Strong men, too.
I’ve started a project called The Calibre Project —I randomly pick up a book from my library, read it, and comment it on my blog. No further choosing and no rejecting or substituting, and no no commenting.
First book it came out of the random command was book #3155, Solo para adultos, by Asa Akira. Asa’s a renowned porn star, and this book is her memoirs, kind of. Awfully interesting, of course —where else can you hear first hand the ins and outs of such a peculiar profession?
Empecé este libro con la esperanza de arrojar una luz diferente sobre la industria que tanto adoro. No se puede decir que todos los días sean de vino y rosas, pero me da la sensación de que nunca se ha escuchado la voz sincera y sana de alguien que lo ve desde dentro.
Todo el mundo ha visto hasta el más pequeño pliegue de mis partes íntimas, pero, aun así, siento que este libro es la aventura que más expuesta me ha dejado hasta el momento.
Is their enjoyment real or fake? (adult content ahead, skip if not adult enough):
Mientras el cuerpo de Monica se retorcía, me situé delante de la cámara y le cubrí la boca con la mano. Le di una última oportunidad de tomar aliento antes de tapársela bien y empezar a frotarle el clítoris con fuerza mientras Bobby enterraba la polla en ella. No la solté ni dejé de frotarla, a pesar de lo mucho que intentó liberarse. Su orgasmo se mantuvo otros diez segundos, y sus gritos apagados escaparon de vez en cuando entre mis dedos, hasta que le permití que respirara con libertad. Mientras ella se relajaba después de un clímax tan intenso, dejé un reguero de besos desde su rodilla hasta los dedos de los pies, que se flexionaron cuando Bobby rozó el punto justo con su verga.
Bobby tiene una polla genial para el porno. Grande, recta, de color uniforme. En aquel momento brillaba debido a la lubricación vaginal de Monica, tanto que parecía que la chica la estuviera pariendo. Me agaché para chupar el flujo y, mientras volvía a introducirlo en su coño, me escupí en el dedo y lo deslicé lentamente en su ano. Ella gritó pidiendo más, así que le metí otro. Observé cómo la polla de Bobby entraba y salía de su coño mientras yo introducía los dedos en su culo. Noté la cámara sobre mi hombro, tomando un primer plano del hechizante movimiento.
Hicimos que se corriera de nuevo y aparté a Bobby del plano mientras me encaramaba encima de Monica para besarla. Luego ascendí un poco más para ponerle mi coño en la cara. Pilló la indirecta enseguida y me lo comió hasta que me corrí y me tumbé de espaldas. Consciente de que la cámara enfocaba mi cara, me follé la polla de Bobby con la mirada y me lamí los labios. No me resultó difícil, ya que necesitaba una verga. Me gusta que me coman el coño tanto como a cualquiera, pero cuando hay una polla en acción, es algo así como ir a un asador de carne y pedir pescado.
Como si fuéramos animales hambrientos de sexo, Monica y yo nos turnamos para montar la polla de Bobby durante las tres siguientes posiciones. Al final, mientras Monica volvía a ofrecerle el culo a Bobby, yo me agaché y le lamí el ano a él. A los chicos europeos les gusta eso. Bobby gimió, y supe que estaba a punto de correrse. Seguí lamiéndolo hasta que finalmente alargó el brazo hacia atrás y me agarró del pelo para apartarme de su culo. Cogió a Monica de la cabeza también y nos colocó a ambas de rodillas delante de él para correrse en nuestra cara y en nuestra boca. Mientras el semen se deslizaba por mi rostro, Bobby me agarró del brazo, me llevó hasta el sofá que había al fondo, me inclinó sobre él y me folló hasta que alcancé otro orgasmo. Me dejé caer hasta quedar de rodillas y gateé hasta Monica. Escupí el semen que me quedaba en la boca sobre su coño. Utilicé la rodilla para empujarme la mano e introduje el semen con los dedos dentro de ella. La follé así hasta que se le nublaron los ojos y llegó al clímax una vez más. Nos besuqueamos mientras los ritmos de nuestros corazones se relajaban, y el director gritó: «¡Corten!».
Second book was book #1172, MBA Personal by Josh Kaufman. The author claims that he can teach you, for the price of his book, what you get for 150000 $ in an Ivy League MBA course. Without the credentials, that’s it.
I tend to believe him.
The book’s fine, and the citations on top of each chapter, superb:
Cuidado con los cerebritos que van con una fórmula debajo del brazo —Warren Buffet.
El mercado es lo más importante; ningún equipo estelar ni ningún producto fantástico le salvarán de un mal mercado. A los mercados inexistentes les da igual lo listo que sea —Marc Andreessen.
Lo que importa más nunca debe estar al servicio de lo que importa menos —Goethe.
No vaya por ahí diciendo que el mundo está en deuda con usted. El mundo no le debe nada; estaba ahí antes que usted —Mark Twain.
Si no se avergüenza de la primera versión de su producto es que lo ha lanzado demasiado tarde –Reid Hoffman, fundador de LinkedIn.
Si quiere tener público, empiece una pelea —Proverbio irlandés.
Le guste o no, la percepción del mercado se convierte en su realidad — Howard Mann.
Llegar a acuerdos es el arte de cortar un pastel de tal manera que todos crean que su porción es la más grande —Ludwig Erhard.
Ha gastado usted 150000 dólares en estudiar algo que habría podido aprender en la biblioteca pública por cincuenta pavos, si se hubiese retrasado en las devoluciones —Matt Damon en ‘Good Will Hunting’.
El secreto de la vida es ser honesto y jugar limpio. Si usted es capaz de fingirlo, lo ha conseguido —Groucho Marx.
And many, many more.
Three completely different films that share a theme —the consequences of bad parenting. And the three of them give some hope.
Nebraska (2013) is about a failed old man who wants, although in a very foolish way, and obviously to no one, to somewhat redeem himself. But more interestingly, it’s also about his adult younger son, who won’t let it pass the opportunity to get to know his father and, if not to come to terms with it, at least understand why he and his brother were so much neglected.
The Descendants (2011) and My Old Lady (2014) add to the main theme a second one —how dramatically your life may be affected by the wrongdoings in life of those who should’ve loved and respected you more and better but exist no anymore.
All three are subtle and rich in their depiction of human frailty and complexity.
So good, for all its verbosity.
My favourite passages here:
The foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. Period.
To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure.
When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice—it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.
Chaos and order are fundamental elements because every lived situation (even every conceivable lived situation) is made up of both.
No matter where we are, there are some things we can identify, make use of, and predict, and some things we neither know nor understand.
How could the nature of man ever reach its full potential without challenge and danger?
How dull and contemptible would we become if there was no longer reason to pay attention?
Question for parents: do you want to make your children safe, or strong?
Are you so sure the person crying out to be saved has not decided a thousand times to accept his lot of pointless and worsening suffering, simply because it is easier than shouldering any true responsibility? Are you enabling a delusion? Is it possible that your contempt would be more salutary than your pity?
Consider this: failure is easy to understand. No explanation for its existence is required. In the same manner, fear, hatred, addiction, promiscuity, betrayal and deception require no explanation. It’s not the existence of vice, or the indulgence in it, that requires explanation. Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits.
Consult your resentment. It’s a revelatory emotion, for all its pathology. It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld Trinity.
When should you push back against oppression, despite the danger? When you start nursing secret fantasies of revenge; when your life is being poisoned and your imagination fills with the wish to devour and destroy.
What you aim at determines what you see. That’s worth repeating. What you aim at determines what you see.
That’s how you deal with the overwhelming complexity of the world: you ignore it, while you concentrate minutely on your private concerns.
That’s human nature. We share the experience of hunger, loneliness, thirst, sexual desire, aggression, fear and pain.
You are telling the truth, instead of manipulating the world. You are negotiating, instead of playing the martyr or the tyrant.
It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. It is not anger at misbehavior. It is not revenge for a misdeed. It is instead a careful combination of mercy and long-term judgment.
Proper discipline requires effort—indeed, is virtually synonymous with effort. It is difficult to pay careful attention to children. It is difficult to figure out what is wrong and what is right and why. It is difficult to formulate just and compassionate strategies of discipline, and to negotiate their application with others deeply involved in a child’s care.
Because of this combination of responsibility and difficulty, any suggestion that all constraints placed on children are damaging can be perversely welcome. Such a notion, once accepted, allows adults who should know better to abandon their duty to serve as agents of enculturation and pretend that doing so is good for children. It’s a deep and pernicious act of self-deception. It’s lazy, cruel and inexcusable.
We must be continually reminded to think and act properly. When we drift, people that care for and love us nudge us in small ways and large back on track. So, we better have some of those people around.
Success makes us complacent. We forget to pay attention. We take what we have for granted. We turn a blind eye. We fail to notice that things are changing, or that corruption is taking root. And everything falls apart.
Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect?
It’s not precisely that CO2 levels are irrelevant. It’s that they’re irrelevant when you’re working yourself to death, starving, scraping a bare living from the stony, unyielding, thorn-and-thistle-infested ground. It’s that they’re irrelevant until after the tractor is invented and hundreds of millions stop starving.
I cannot merely make myself over in the image constructed by my intellect (particularly if that intellect is possessed by an ideology).
I have a nature, and so do you, and so do we all. We must discover that nature, and contend with it, before making peace with ourselves. What is it, that we most truly are? What is it that we could most truly become, knowing who we most truly are?
Make that an axiom: to the best of my ability I will act in a manner that leads to the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering.
There are no atheists. There are only people who know, and don’t know, what God they serve.
Memory is a tool . Memory is the past’s guide to the future. If you remember that something bad happened, and you can figure out why, then you can try to avoid that bad thing happening again. That’s the purpose of memory. It’s not “to remember the past.” It’s to stop the same damn thing from happening over and over.
Thinking is emotionally painful, as well as physiologically demanding; more so than anything else.
That’s key to the psychotherapeutic process: two people tell each other the truth—and both listen.
Truth and humour are often close allies.
When we’ve been careless, and let things slide, what we have refused to attend to gathers itself up, adopts a serpentine form, and strikes—often at the worst possible moment. It is then that we see what focused intent, precision of aim and careful attention protects us from.
Don’t ever underestimate the destructive power of sins of omission.
Something is out there in the woods. You know that with certainty. But often it’s only a squirrel. If you refuse to look, however, then it’s a dragon, and you’re no knight: you’re a mouse confronting a lion; a rabbit, paralyzed by the gaze of a wolf. And I am not saying that it’s always a squirrel. Often it’s something truly terrible. But even what is terrible in actuality often pales in significance compared to what is terrible in imagination. And often what cannot be confronted because of its horror in imagination can in fact be confronted when reduced to its-still-admittedly-terrible actuality.
Overprotected, we will fail when something dangerous, unexpected and full of opportunity suddenly makes its appearance, as it inevitably will.
If you read the depth psychologists—Freud and Jung, for example, as well as their precursor, Friedrich Nietzsche—you learn that there is a dark side to everything.
I believe it was Jung who developed the most surgically wicked of psychoanalytic dicta: if you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences—and infer the motivation. This is a psychological scalpel. It’s not always a suitable instrument. It can cut too deeply, or in the wrong places. It is, perhaps, a last-resort option.
Who decided, anyway, that career is more important than love and family?
Thus, not only is the state supporting one-sided radicalism, it is also supporting indoctrination. We do not teach our children that the world is flat. Neither should we teach them unsupported ideologically-predicated theories about the nature of men and women—or the nature of hierarchy.
When softness and harmlessness become the only consciously acceptable virtues, then hardness and dominance will start to exert an unconscious fascination.
And if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.
Imagine a Being who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation .
What shall I do with my parents? Act such that your actions justify the suffering they endured.
For your information, the 12 rules are:
RULE 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back
RULE 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
RULE 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you
RULE 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
RULE 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
RULE 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
RULE 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
RULE 8: Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie
RULE 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
RULE 10: Be precise in your speech
RULE 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
RULE 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
by Amos Oz. I finished it a few days ago, I liked it, gave it three out of five stars, which is my standard score for unremarkable good books, but I’m finding the book hovering over my head and refusing to go away, which is what happens to me when I happen to read a remarkable good book.
Perhaps it is, with that soft but indelible impression of unavoidable sadness that leaves upon you, about how human life is and cannot help not being sorrow and loss.
(some spoilers below)
American Honey. Can there be romance, happiness, on a rundown bus and in dirty motels, selling mags?
King Jack. He just fell off his bike. That outmoded.
Eye in the Sky. You and me are not in that room.
Morris From America. Everyone should be a stranger some time somewhere.
The Shallows. Visually stunning.
Elle. Everything is unusual here: the approach to rape, to virtue and vice, to lesbianism, to work relations, even to religion and fatherhood.
Hell or High Water. Men in all ways authentic, for better and for worse. Superb acting and storytelling.
Nocturnal Animals. Failure to comply with the ancestral bases of both femininity and masculinity will lead to this mutual revenge.
Florence Foster Jenkins. Frears could have followed the usual cynical path but deliberately chooses to tell the story the benevolent way, what makes the film unique, and touching, funny and pathetic.
The Edge of Seventeen. Maybe the story is not about her, after all. Great performance again from Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross in the extraordinary True Grit), and a good one from Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some, excellent film by the way).
Saturday morning ride, as Strava puts it. I spot some doodles on a traffic sign, Kill cyclists, then mended, Love cyclists.
FELLOW BIKERS. I can’t help noting most of the cyclists I bump into on the road are old men; that leaves me wondering in misery, whether this is just and old men’s sport or if the routes I take are so insultingly easy for the aficionados that younger cyclists avoid them altogether.
DEAR FELLOW BIKERS, young or old. Since a smile is obviously way too much to ask of you, what about just a simple, trifle, uncompromisingly merely-acknowledging nod when we run into each other? Won’t settle even for that?
ON THE ROAD. But I ride like a pro this time for the first time! I enjoy my way hills up, even attacking them although briefly at certain spots. I try to swing my body left or right on my way down and have a pleasant feeling of the road and the wind as a result. I don’t set my foot on the ground not a single time —and when I arrive at my destiny goal I feel strong enough to keep on going a little further up.
Saturday afternoon. Zidane orders Cristiano out of the field. He shows himself braver than I thought, but less intelligent?
Saturday evening. Steve Jobs—the film, the one from 2015. A fine work of dramatization, which manages to keep a high level of tension from start to end—kudos to the film editor and to the great performances both by Seth Rogen as Wozniak and Kate Winslet as Hoffman.