Sunday, 1 October 2023

TV review: Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street, Netflix (2023)

Really nice docuseries, this show chronicles the promising story of Bernie Madoff who ran a Ponzi scheme from the 1960s to 2008 when the GFC brought it down as investors started to ask for their money back. Madoff was a crook of the most insidious kind, fooling an idiotic Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Wall Street watchdog, at multiple points despite having the fraud handed to them on a platter by a Boston quant. 

The SEC comes out of this debacle looking as foolish as the ratings agencies who enabled financial institutions to convince investors to buy their flawed home loan securities. In the case of Madoff, time and again the SEC was told that something about Madoff’s hedge fund was wrong, and on one occasion Madoff told the SEC commissioner, “I don’t have a hedge fund” when he had a whole office building floor of employees forging documents to keep investors happy. The scheme was grandiose and sustained over a period of decades and nobody ever looked into it apart from the Boston company already mentioned as well as a couple of journalists. These people ended up being vindicated but I imagine it was a bitter pill to swallow considering how many people had their life savings eliminated.

Netflix does these series really well and this four-part dramatic work, much of which uses actors to pretend to be Madoff and his family and employees (family were often employees) is a good example of how television can offer up something that is both true and interesting. We think of real life as lacking the drama of fiction, and of course it does, but it also has the added quality that only was is true can give: serendipity. In the Madoff case nobody would expect the SEC to so signally fail at so many points, and when finally the banking crisis brings the Ponzi scheme down it’s not just a relief but you also worry about the principals. 

In fact the disaster deeply affected the Madoff family as you can see if you take the time to watch the film. This is a pity, even though you are forced by your own conscience to deplore the criminal activities that Madoff was engaged in. I felt a deep sense of sadness and an allied sense of relief that nobody in my family was misted up in it.


Friday, 29 September 2023

Movie review: Worth, dir Sara Colangelo (2020)

A lot of shots with a hand-held camera doesn’t save this film from being heavy. This is unsurprising as it’s based on true events depriving the filmmakers of a degree of latitude in the scripting. Nevertheless I did work while watching the film as it didn’t really grab me. 

The idea behind the film is to describe the process following the Twin Towers where the government compensated people for the loss of loved-ones. Michael Keaton plays Ken Feinberg, a lawyer tasked with this job by the US president. Stanley Tucci plays a rabblerouser with a blog who tries to criticise the administration, and Feinberg in particular, demanding that the victims of the disaster be treated with respect.

When American movies try to be French movies you get this sort of ponderousness which can be offset by dialogue but there’s not enough of that here. In any case you wonder how much we really need to see a movie about the injustice that was 9/11. Sure it was an injustice but it had its reasons for occurring, and so far I’ve not seen any movie or TV show that delves into this part of the drama.

If it wasn’t a legitimate source of drama we wouldn’t get croakers like ‘Worth’.

9/11 certainly was dramatic but we must face the causes head on as a society (and perhaps Australia is as culpable as America since we joined the War on Terror straight after the planes struck the skyscrapers) so that it doesn’t happen again. So far we haven’t done that. There have been vague ideas thrown around but as a community we are still just beginning to face up to what happened in the decades leading up to 2001.

I’m really not sure that ‘Worth’ was worth making, in fact I’m sure it wasn’t and that the money spent on this lemon could’ve better been spent elsewhere, as I’ve suggested. When will we get a Netflix docuseries examining the intelligence and Defense failures that resulted in al Qaeda organising the pilots for this much-discussed but thoroughly misunderstood attack on US sovereignty. Some people think bin Laden a hero, some the devil, but the truth still hasn’t come out, that’s for certain.


Thursday, 28 September 2023

Movie review: True Story, Netflix (2015)

I had a personal interest in this movie because of the plot, which involves a New York Times reporter named Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) who gets laid off by his employer for falsifying information in a feature story. He’s then contacted by another reporter (Ethan Suplee) who tells him that his name had been used by an accused murderer when he was found living temporarily in Mexico. Finkel has his interest piqued so goes to see the guy (James Franco) in jail.

This is an interesting movie by a first-time director (Rupert Goold) and the acting is very low-key. Even at the points of highest emotional tenor the drama is pretty flat, though having worked as a journalist I probably felt the peaks and troughs keenly. More keenly than most? It’s difficult to say as I haven’t talked with anyone about the movie, but going by the quality of the directing and of the acting I’m sure everyone can come away with a good experience.

Christian Longo, the accused, is a plausible foil for Finkel, they both have their own ways of communicating but find common ground despite differences in background and in experience. The ending is completely opaque so even though not much happens you have a good cinematic experience. I really liked the subdued mood the movie expresses, it is in stark contract to most filmic productions which rely on either violence or fast motion (the threat of violence) to sustain themselves. ‘True Story’ is miles away from your standard Hollywood production in this regard. Definitely worth watching even if you have no experience with news production. But, then again, most people believe that they do because they read newspapers.

The news media is often part of movies and TV shows because it’s an efficient way to show a change in the plot. Once something important becomes common knowledge, and is no longer a secret, then it’s on the news and you get reporters and TV anchors talking to camera, or else you get a gaggle of reporters with cameras and satellite dishes congregating outside someone’s house. The news is a plot device so it’s a commonplace. Where ‘True Story’ is different is in how the ethics of news is foregrounded. Instead of a dupe the media becomes a standard-bearer for morality, a sort of cult of veracity where sins are punished with expulsion. In a way that is uncommon, ‘True Story’ talks about what it means to be part of that industry.


Monday, 25 September 2023

Movie review: Lead Me Home, Netflix (2021)

Made my Pedro Kos and Jon Shen, ‘Lead Me Home’ is very short but very poignant. It’s incredibly difficult to make a topic like this palatable but using all the cinematic craft at their disposal the directors have achieved their goal. This is a stunning film that NEEDS to be repeated. 

In the film you come to know or at least recognise a few faces of people who are living rough. In America “homeless” only applies to such people so they count their homeless differently from how we do it in Australia. Different countries count homeless people in different ways. In Australia a person who is “homeless” can be living with a friend or relative, or else in some sort of precarious accommodation that doesn’t meet the necessary criteria to be called a home. In the US a homeless person lives on the street. Period. So the figure of 500,000 homeless that they plaster on the screen at the end of the movie is definitely an underestimate. Just as a matter of interest some countries count people in jail as homeless.

By focusing especially on a few individuals in the movie the filmmakers manage to humanise a complex problem. In one segment a person lists the reasons he has for being homeless, and yes that list can be long. It can include domestic problems such as DV, drug abuse, mental health problems, unemployment, or else a mixture of some or all of them.

I loved the use of establishing shots in the film, the way they used images of skyscrapers being built to contextualise the tents, the cars with flags draped over the windscreen for privacy. I just goddarn loved the visual qualities of this fabulous movie so much it almost made me want to cry. Because homelessness is such a confronting subject. The film only takes on West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle but homelessness is a universal issue, one that governments in some jurisdictions (such as New York and Finland) have successfully tackled. I’m not sure about New York but Finland has eliminated homelessness from what I heard last.

Everyone needs a home, and the subject of homelessness has found one in this touching film. Let’s hope there is a longer one soon, or else a docuseries that can focus in more depth on specific individuals, tracing their journey to destitution. Only in this way can we find a solution because politicians – who have the power to fix the problem – listen to what the community says as this film shows in the town hall meetings.


Sunday, 24 September 2023

TV review: Class Act, Netflix (2023)

A story about a businessman in France who became involved in politics, this show is wonderfully entertaining. Based in parts more strictly and in other parts more loosely on the truth – obviously the scriptwriters didn’t have access to day-to-day conversations between Bernard Tapie and his wife – this series is about what it means to grow up poor in a country where, even today, social mobility is low.

Much lower than it is in Australia.

Tapie is rough but engaging, a man whose father was a heating mechanic and who got into business by promoting one good idea – a subscription service for appliances. He parlayed his success into other ventures and ended up working as the manager for a football club, Olympic Marseilles. I won’t spoil the fun by invoking too much detail about how his downfall arrived, but let’s say that it involves fast practices. French readers will of course already know the truth, if not all the details.

Tapie is played by Laurent Lafitte and Dominique, his wife, is played by Josephine Japy, both of whom support their roles perfectly. Dominique is charming and intelligent, Bernard is likewise but he’s also a bit brash, a bit not-quite-the-thing. During the course of the movie Bernard’s daughter from his first marriage grows up and joins him in his undertakings. Bernard’s son with Dominique also grows up. Bernard and Dominique obviously don’t get older as they’re played by the same actors throughout, and while this seems a bit forced it ultimately works because of the pace of the program. 

Bernard is a symbol of something that France wants but doesn’t quite know how to attain: financial success. This is what draws Francois Mitterand, the president, to introduce Tapie to politics as the minister for urban affairs. Looking back Tapie’s innovations in regard to his portfolio seem spot on but political realities mean that he’s only in his role for a short period of time. Perhaps if the Socialists had kept Tapie on in the job he might’ve really achieved something, but his methods were too different (as usual) for those around him. Tapie thought at lightning speed and didn’t suffer fools gladly, so rubbing people up the wrong way not only caused problems but it stemmed from the same place that gave people something to admire.

A meteor who shone brightly in the sky of France’s fin-de-siecle firmament, Tapie was born to rule but never got the chance. Good miniseries though. Our gain is France’s loss.


Saturday, 23 September 2023

Movie review: Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t know Me, Netflix (2023)

Like a westerly wind the name Anna Nicole Smith had some resonance with me but I didn’t know anything about her life before watching this movie. From a small town in Texas to overdose on medications, Smith was a kind of phenomenon who used her natural charms to take on the world but lost.

It’s hard to understand exactly where things got out of hand but there appears to be a lesson in this movie somewhere, probably because it’s so well made. I felt like I was really looking at America for the first time, the glitz and glamour, the empty promises of beauty, the diet pills, the painkillers, the cocaine, more painkillers. If China ever wanted an ad to show the world in order to back up its claim to be able to do society better than the US this film is it.

There’s even a contested estate to ripen the mix. Money money money money. Money. I really liked Smith however, and felt for her at every step. As she said there’s more mileage to be made from sad stories than from the happy ones, an excuse she used to justify taking elements from a friend’s life to embellish her own biography. Smith didn’t come from a broken home though the father was absent, she just wanted to get out of Mexia, Houston strip clubs were her ticket to fame and she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Smith would go on to feature in Playboy and in ads for Guess jeans, it’s that Anglo dream of perfection again (see yesterday’s review).

Because there’s lots of money involved however it’s a lot of fun. Money is an elements of underbelly-type shows that always attracts a crowd of onlookers. Like paparazzi outside a Las Vegas disco we’re searching for that explosion of fame and stardom to enliven our lives. With Smith it was also commonplace, her reality TV excursions bringing her down to the level of the midday watcher of ‘Dr Phil’ or ‘Judge Judy’. Those lonely afternoons when you’re at home with nothing to do these days you don’t have to watch reruns of ‘Star Trek’ you can catch a documentary on Netflix. I did.


Friday, 22 September 2023

Movie review: White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch, Netflix (2022)

A fascinating view into the ways the world has changed in the past 25 years, ‘White Hot’ focuses on body image and race as they were used by the clothier for many decades. As far as I can tell the problems with managerial monoculture that the movie describes have changed at the brand but it took a severe deterioration in the public image to arrive here.

Abercrombie & Fitch has never really existed in Australia so the brand hasn’t had much of an impact here, we have Gap and Banana Republic but not A&F. For this reason the issues the show deals with haven’t played out, for example the off-colour printed T-shirts that caused Asian Americans so much discomfort.

I was drawn in as brand imaging is such an important aspect of life for me, I watch commercial TV a lot so am always surrounded by jingles, logos etc. I came away feeling as though I had been exposed to a rare thing, a brand laid bare. People go about their lives immersed in this matrix of signs, what postmodernists call the “socius” and really never think much about it. ‘White Hot’ gives you an opportunity to go into a lot of detail about how a clothing brand functions.

A&F prided itself on being able to package “cool” and this took the form of a certain type of preppy all-American buff and vigorous youth. In fact store imaging often featured bare male torsos with white skin. Things started to go south when it became apparent that featuring all-white store clerks and models, and all-white management was harming the brand because a lot of the broader community felt left out. Profits got pummelled and A&F brought in a diversity manager. Nevertheless the company’s senior ranks continued to be mostly older and white. It wasn’t until a number of lawsuits were brought against the firm, allied with plunging sales in the teens of this century, that the hierarchy buckled and started to morph into something more closely resembling modern America.

If you enjoy watching ‘Gruen’ you’ll love this show. It’s also good for people interested in, as mentioned earlier, the ways that America has changed in the past quarter-century.


Thursday, 21 September 2023

Movie review: The Bleeding Edge, Netflix (2018)

This amazing documentary movie is a game changer literally in its effects. It chronicles parts of the lives of some survivors of ineffective medical devices. The show focuses especially on the Food and Drug Administration, which is the US govt organ responsible for monitoring and controlling what pieces of technology can be used on humans.

When I started watching this show I wasn’t all that impressed but if you persevere – it is serious and confronting – the rewards are there. In particular the show deals with a contraceptive device made by Bayer called Essure, a small coil inserted in the fallopian tube. It is designed to create scar tissue so that pregnancy is rendered impossible, but the reactions of the bodies of some women caused pain, incessant bleeding, and associated life problems such as an inability to have intimacy, unemployment, and homelessness.

When I say this movie is a game changer I mean it but I won’t spoil the suspense by revealing now how that happens. Needless to say I was impressed by the efficacy of the filmmakers and equally disappointed by the FDA. The threshold for getting a medical device approved by the FDA is far lower than for drugs and there is an indecent amount of lobbying done. In addition to the money being spent to convince lawmakers to vote a certain way is the revolving door of lobbyists, manufacturing company executives, and the FDA itself, so that an FDA senior official will be later employed by a manufacturer once their time with the administration is over. This cosy relationship between the FDA and industry resembles the situation in Japan where senior bank employees are employed in the ranks of subordinate companies in a process known as “amakudari” (which translates roughly as “sweetness descending”).

‘The Bleeding Edge’ mercifully censors the operations so that you’re not shown all the gory details, but the stories of the women involved are sufficiently difficult to learn about that it indeed becomes easy to switch off. When I came back to finish the program I was enlightened and amazed that this story hadn’t been more fully reported by journalists. I hope many people watch it in order to understand better how Capital can destroy lives when the main purpose of its organs is to make money. In the world of medical devices the primary purpose should be to improve lives.


Wednesday, 20 September 2023

TV review: Who Killed Little Gregory, Netflix (2019)

This French docuseries uncovers for overseas viewers who might know – probably won’t know – anything about it the story of one of the most high-profile murder cases in the country’s history. A small bot, aged four years, is thrown into the Vologne River in eastern France and drowned. Prior to the murder a series of phone calls and letters aimed at the family had occurred, making this case all the more startling.

The Villemin family and its extended branches of cousins and uncles comes into focus and a style of “omerta” (a Mafia-type silence practiced in order to protect members) making the situation distinctly creepy. There is a gun. The Villemins struggle against a national media intent on uncovering the truth about the death, and a storyline not dissimilar to the case of Madeleine McCann in Portugal ensues.

Running to five episodes, ‘Who Killed Little Gregory’ is wonderfully quirky and unique. I came away refreshed for having watched a show in a different language (one I have some knowledge of) and on account of the particular fashions of the 1970s and 80s, because the bulk of the footage belongs to that era. The French judicial system worked slowly however so that parts of the story play out in more recent years. Definitely worth watching if you like cop shows.


Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Movie review: Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl, Netflix (2022)

Of course I knew the name vaguely and once I heard the songs I knew the songs but I had no other knowledge of Shania Twain before watching. So it’s a good movie because I didn’t need to be a fan. There’s something genuine about the movie, as though everyone were singing from the same songsheet: Twain is an honest broker who grew up poor and made it big in the world of entertainment.

She’s a true star but she is still rooted to the earth. 

Perfectly paced, the sections follow one after the other in order, the subtitles sparkling with different colours just like the singer’s life. Probably you know more about it than I did, but a few facts won’t be out of place. Her mother supported her development from the age of eight, taking her to bars to sing in rural Ontario, so from an early age she was acclimatised to the stage. Her mother was a force behind her when she was small and then later she met Mary Bailey a Canadian singer who helped her develop. Then Twain met producer Mutt Lange.

The rest of the story is best left to the moment you watch it on the screen, suffice to say it’s no secret that Twain made it big with a string of hits.

The thing about this movie is that it’s not necessary to be a fan to enjoy it. It doesn’t fetishise the subject. It doesn’t try to make you accept one position over another. It’s just a straight recount of success and aren’t we all interested in success? So even if you don’t particularly like Twain’s music you can come away from this show with a sense that you’ve learned something new about life.


Monday, 18 September 2023

TV review: Marcella, Netflix (2018)

Running to 3 seasons, ‘Marcella’ is a standard police procedural where the lead character, Marcella Buckland, has mental illness problems. In this way it joins the excellent ‘Bordertown’ from Finland where the lead detective was borderline autistic. I’m watching another cop show right now titled ‘Paranoid’ where one of the detectives has problems with panic attacks, so this type of show with this variety of difference seems to be the norm nowadays.

Thirty years ago or even less the idea of a policeman with mental health challenges would have been unthinkable though ‘New Tricks’ a decade ago flirted with the trope through Brian lane played by Alun Armstrong. There seems to be a sense now that the nature of policing invites health problems and this is probably closer to the mark than the opposite.

Anyway ‘Marcella’ is replete with incidents to do with violence as you’d expect since you’re dealing often with murder. There are three cases, but I won’t talk about any of them in detail because to do so would spoil the suspense. Marcella is an interesting character who thrives in a high-pressure environment and is competent but whose private life is fractured. She seems to have problems with all of the people who come close to her but your sympathies are cemented in place by her frailty.

I was entertained in season two by the presence of Jason Hughes as Vince Whitman, who is a suspect. Hughes for many years played the detective sergeant in ‘Midsomer Murders’ so to see him on the other side as it were is amusing. He’s suitably menacing.

Anna Friel has a lot of work to do as marcella and her role demands that she be not only thorough but attractive. It’s an interesting character for this reason, and I assume that ‘Marcella’ will go down as a seminal moment in police shows. Directed by a Swede on Wikipedia it’s categorised as Nordic noir.


Wednesday, 13 September 2023

TV review: Unabomber, Netflix (2018)

It’s remarkable how prescient Ted Kaczinsky – the Unabomber – was and how – in an age where whole towns are seemingly daily swept away by floods or flame – he seems to be relevant now, 40, 50 years after he went on his killing spree. There’s something incredibly quixotic about a man who thought he could bring down Capital by murdering innocent functionaries like university academics.

The pain he cause is real but nevertheless it’s not every day you come across a cold-blooded murderer with a manifesto as assured and complex as Ted’s.

This multi-part series uses interviews conducted with Kaczinsky when he was alive as well as interviews with his brother and sister-in-law (she was the one who initially thought that the Unabomber might be Ted). It’s an assured and interesting production that gets to the heart of the case right up to the point where Kaczinsky was committed to prison.

Even though we already know the outcome the journey through darkness is worthwhile. What strikes me is how similar to artists are career criminals such as Kaczinsky. It’s the application, a word that nowadays has mostly to do with software, the single-minded approach to finding a way to achieve your goals. This doesn’t mean that every artist is a murderer, but certainly the idea that your goals lie outside of the rules of polite society makes the two classes of individual look alike.

Kaczinsky lived in a small hut in the forest in Montana, a site he chose so that he could be away from society. He communicated his endeavours with no one apart from the press and he did this only so that his ideas could be promulgated widely. In taking this step he sealed his own fate because it allowed his sister-in-law to understand who was behind the killings. Something about his prose style convinced her. His brother furthermore came across a document in their mother’s house that Ted had written previously on the same subject. Upon showing this new document to the FBI the authorities knew that they had the right guy.

Kaczinsky will live on as a symbol for many people. The identikit portrait of the killer that the police first made after an attack in California endures as an icon for many. It is instantly identifiable, the hoodie, the aviator sunglasses. If you see it you know you are dealing with something Else.


Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Movie review: Nail Bomber, Netflix (2021)

A nice docuseries focusing on events in 1999 in London where a far-right terrorist killed and maimed hundreds of people. I won’t spoil the plot by saying too much but it’s fair to say that this is perfect for lovers of police procedurals like me.

I peripherally remembered something of the attacks but it’s such a long time ago that I watched the show with fresh eyes. The details of who what why had escaped me over the long period – more than 20 years now – since those days. At the time I was living in Japan anyway so it would have been hard for me to access information about such things. If I’d have been living in Australia I would now be better informed, I was sort of existing in a news black hole for most of the nineties.

The show uses a lot of light effects in order to increase a sense of suspense. I was intrigued by this technique. Often with cop shows you have an out-of-focus shot of a road at night, and the lights slipping by each other, all the different sources of light, create a sense of unease because though you sort of know what you’re looking at you can’t be absolutely sure. In ‘Nail Bomber’ these effects are ramped up and used as background for voiceovers, so you get people talking as these lights are slipping around on the screen. It’s as if you are looking at a different, parallel world where things sort of resemble things in your own everyday world but also are quite different.

I guess that sort of sums up the far right.

It might be facile to say something at this point about the far right, we’ve seen it emerge more forcefully here in Australia as well, but more in recent years as an adjunct to street protests that attract a range of different participants. There seems to be a lack of circuit breakers in the UK, maybe people feel cornered in a way that they don’t here so there’s no need in New South Wales or Victoria to go the last step and actually kill someone.

I’m just grasping at straws here. ‘Nail Bomber’ expresses something essential but also something that it would help us better collectively to understand. I would like to see more shows like this but not necessarily ones about crime. Perhaps someone could make a series about the far right across Europe generally and how it manifests itself differently in different countries. Would you watch such a show? Would making it just encourage people to participate in more anti-social ways?


Monday, 11 September 2023

TV review: Wild Wild Country, Netflix (2018)

Amazing docuseries about a religious cult in Oregon, I knew of Bagwan Sree Rajneesh before watching this but not all the details of the story, which takes you from India to the USA to Germany and beyond. When a religious leader is attacked in India by an irate Hindu terrorist the Bagwan moves his followers to rural Oregon after buying an enormous piece of unpopulated land.

The Bagwan has strong ideas about the way life should be lived however, hardly surprising for a person who has amassed a huge flock of people to idolise and adore him. Such strong ideas rub locals up the wrong way. The Bagwan’s secretary Ma Anand Sheela is an effective organiser but perhaps too effective, as she alienates people outside the community. 

The Rajneeshis try to use the instruments of government to achieve their aims but come up against opposition at every turn. The TV series is about the cult but it’s about much more than that. In order to make the series the filmmakers get post-Rajneeshpuram members to talk in depth about what happened, including Sheela who at the time the show was made was living in Germany working as a nurse.

I was mesmerised by this show, it’s “about” freedom, democracy, belief, the separation of church and state, it’s about the individual and what it means to live a meaningful life, it’s about justice and core social values, what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy, it’s “about” so many things. It’s an amazing production.

After watching the show it struck me strongly that the foundational values of the Rajneesh community were viable and perhaps superior to those of the ranchers and law-upholders who surrounded them. There were flaws, it’s true, but the basic problem was one of aesthetics not anything concrete. People like the ranchers who lived in Antelope prior to the Rajneeshis arriving just didn’t like the sound of ‘em, it’s a simple as that. It was a clash of world views that led to the Rajneeshis being forcibly expelled from the United States.

Nowadays the 260-km-sq Big Muddy ranch is owned by a Christian youth foundation and is used for activities and camps.


Friday, 8 September 2023

TV review: The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, Netflix (2019)

The basic outlines of the story should be familiar to most people because of the media coverage this case drew all over the world. Netflix takes the watcher behind the scenes in fabulous detail. I was particularly interested in this show as my parents went to the Algarve in the 90s to spend time and to meet family. I felt I knew the place from photographs in my mother’s archive that came to me when she died.

I didn’t know a lot of the facts that the Netflix show reveals however, including the incompetence of the local Portuguese police. Another variable never displayed before is the secrecy with which crimes are investigated there. This holding of the cards close to the chest played out in strange ways. The police on the ground also had very odd ideas about the British friends among whom were Madeleine’s parents, and the public seemed to (perhaps rightly) blame them for leaving the children alone and unsupervised for long periods of time. It’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that Gerry and Kate McCann brought this disaster upon themselves by going off the have dinner with other Brits while the children slept in the holiday apartment.

Other things surprised, such as the suspicion that was heaped on innocent bystanders, some of whom became actual suspects targeted by police. The cops don’t come out of this looking very fresh, with one inspector who was dismissed from the case taking revenge by publishing a book that got turned into a TV series. I guess stranger things have happened.

This is a nicely made show and the mystery continues. At the start of each episode the filmmakers place on the screen an appeal to contact Portuguese or British police in case viewers have information. This detail adds a flavour of intrigue, regardless that it is extremely unfortunate that nobody has been able to ascertain where the child is now. I cannot imagine what that must be like.

Gerry and Kate McCann were perhaps unfortunate in being rather controlled people not prone to revealing their emotions. Their impassive faces and clipped words animate the drama is odd ways, and this is another way that the show is slightly uncanny. It might have been this characteristic that caused the Portuguese community to react in the ways they did when confronted by the horror.


Saturday, 2 September 2023

TV review: Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, Netflix (2023)

Continuing my troll through Netflix for true crime, ‘Murdaugh Murders’ reprises a scandal I’d been aware of from the news. The docuseries adds further information to what had previously been common knowledge – common at least for news junkies like me – so it was time well spent. The basic premise of the film is eventual justice for an entitled number of people in a single family known in South Carolina for its connection to the legal system.

The skeleton of the case finds its start in a boating accident caused by excessive consumption of alcohol that resulted in the death of a very young woman. The family tried to cover it up because Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat. The story gets weirded however later on when Paul and his mother are shot dead on a Murdaugh property and Paul’s father Alex is arrested. As of writing this review Alex is still in prison.

Documentary of this nature is interesting because of what it says about us. We live in communities where the means for subsistence are allocated unequally, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this problems arise when people take their privilege for granted, as Alex Murdaugh evidently did. The Murdaugh legal dynasty was founded at the beginning of last century and lawyers with the name Murdaugh have been practicing law in Hampton County ever since. While this state of affairs is set to continue the result of the events recorded in the docuseries is that the name Murdaugh will forever be associated with abuse of privilege.

This is sad.

It’s sad because life is short. What Netflix has done is to give us reason to be thankful for what we have in our own lives, wherever we live them. And while the show’s subtitle suggests that what happened in Hampton County is a particularly southern phenomenon inherent in the scenario is abuse of privilege stretching way beyond one family and out of contemporary boundaries to the deep past. Even if you’re never visited the South you can still identify parts of your own life in ‘Murdaugh Murders’. Even if you have no desire to visit the South you can still benefit by spending a few hours watching this show.


Friday, 1 September 2023

TV review: The Staircase, Netflix (2018)

‘The Blacklist’ pointed me to this series.

In that show the James Spader character is talking with friends about watching TV and he says that ‘The Staircase’ is riveting. It’s not often you find a show mentioned in another TV show so, also on account of the fact that I liked ‘The Blacklist’, when I heard Raymond Reddington say this I took note. Next time I was searching for something to watch I did a search.

‘The Staircase’ was a long time in the making.

It initially started out as a French TV show and then when Netflix came on-board it migrated to their service. The French crew followed a novelist by the name of Michael Peterson at the time when his wife died mysteriously on a staircase in their house. 

What started out as a fairly straight-forward proposition got strange and stranger at every turn as it was revealed that a family friend of the Petersons in Germany (where Michael had been living in the 80s) was killed in similar circumstances.

Nevertheless the prosecution played tricks with evidence, left out exculpatory evidence, and maliciously dragged Peterson’s bisexual predilections into the case.

‘The Staircase’ is a recount of a story of the failure of the American justice system.

Slow and meditative with a luscious soundtrack, a high point for me was when Peterson is driving back home from the final court appearance with the radio on, it sounds like Tchaikovsky playing, something light and percussive, but I really felt as though I could understand Peterson’s sense of sadness at that moment.

As Peterson’s attorney David Rudolf said in summation, the state forced the wastage of millions of dollars of treasure in order to find Peterson guilty. At the end the judge (who tried the original case as well as the second set of hearings) got on-camera and gave a sort of apology but it rang hollow. What kind of recompense could be made to Peterson who lost not only his wife but his savings and years and years of happiness. ‘The Staircase’ is another in a string of shows constituting a solemn indictment of the criminal justice system. It’s shows like this that bring the police into disrepute.

Monday, 28 August 2023

Getting near end of process of making photo albums

I made a mistake it's only since June that I've been making photo albums. I got more prints back from Pixel Perfect the print shop. Then I told them to go ahead and print out some more. When I've finished there will be thousands of photos to house. Luckily I bought the albums back in 2019 – it's been that long since I have been planning this project – and still have some left over. Two months is a long time. In that time my grandson has been born. In those two months I had my first art show and started planning my second. In those two months we had days and days of sunshine (a big contrast to the wet conditions of last year). 

I say “I made a mistake” but you probably need to know what I’m referring to. It’s not obvious on the face of it but at some point in the past week or 10 days I wrote something on social media about having been making photo albums since May.

This is how my mind works, and it could very well be the same for other people. I make a seemingly casual statement either in writing or verbally and it becomes cemented in my mind as a concrete fact. At the time I made the statement I sincerely thought that I’d been making photo albums since May but when I looked at my blog back-end today I find a post from 11 June about photo albums. 

Then again, on rethinking it that doesn’t mean that I started the albums on 11 June, in fact if I read the post it says that I was doing this activity for “a few weeks” which would take the start date back to May, so in actual fact my first statement was wrong and I had indeed been making albums since May.

Sigh.

It really is THIS difficult. It’s absolutely exhausting. Part of the process was making mum’s album, this is a “book” I made using materials my mother furnished. The story about this exercise is that in 2008 or 09 I asked mum to make notes about some photos I selected and photocopied and sent to her. It took her many years to complete the project, and then the yellow and blue sheets of lined paper were just stuck in with my photographic records being ignored. Then when I attacked the drawers in May and got out the boxes from downstairs containing other records left over from mum and dad’s apartment I assembled the materials, transcribing mum’s handwritten notes (sometimes hard to decipher), and making a little A4 “book” to share with people.

As I say it’s exhausting, but what propels me is knowing that if I don’t do this when I die all or much of that information will be lost forever. When I die (as my mother died) there will be no one to point to a photo and say “That’s grandma with Reba in 1940” about a photo of two women in woollen coats, a black-and-white photo that would otherwise be meaningless. Even if you’re a family member and you have some connection thereby to the photo not knowing is a source of pain.

Exhausting but profound.

I want to spare the people who rely on me this pain. I want them to be able to see clearly who is who, and add contextual information such as year and location, just as mum in her yellow and blue notes added context to otherwise random houses. I want to be a ferryman for the dreams of my progeny and their children down through the ages, forever and forever.

Amen!

Friday, 25 August 2023

TV review: The Lorenskog Disappearance, Netflix (2022)

When a woman the wife of a wealthy industrialist goes missing police initially don’t know who to blame. Clues are scarce and the method of communication, often via Bitcoin, is shadowy. A family member, Anne-Elisabeth’s husband, might be the killer but could he have the means to do the crime? The trails go cold one by one.

Filmed when there was snow on the ground in Norway this show ticks all the boxes for Nordic noir, including a compelling police inspector (Yngvild Støen Grotmol) who struggles with the clues and with a hesitant management class. In addition the series is structured in sections each dedicated to a particular set of characters, such as journalists or informers, so though the plot proceeds in chronological order you are always facing in a slightly different direction when each episode starts.

Journalist Erlend Moe Riise (Christian Rubeck) is good as is another journalist, Riise’s colleague Aleks Zaretski (Victoria Ose) who flips the police narrative on its head and goes looking at alternative candidates for the killer/s.

Another key component in the overall production in my view is Aleks’ boyfriend (Jonas Strand Gravli) who uses his own style of logic to unpick problems with the police case by focusing on the reception of the case in the media, and on the ways that we “frame” or understand crimes that are discussed publicly by large numbers of people. In a sense Torv and Aleks create a foil to the stupidity of the police/media machine counting on clicks and outrage to apportion blame. 

It’s an intelligent approach to a subject (murder) that is often dealt with in TV shows.

I was entertained by this wonderful show, even the criminals come out looking believable, for example the strongman Mattis (Pål Tøien) with his neck tatts and macho is a nice counterpoint to Christian’s earnest bungling. 

Saturday, 12 August 2023

TV review: Mindhunter, Netflix (2017)

Running to two seasons and chronicling the instigation and early days of a special FBI unit dedicated to catching and understanding “sequence” (serial) killers, ‘Mindhunter’ is nicely scripted and directed. I’m a big fan of cop shows so this was a treat and I felt the quality throughout the extent of the days required to watch this show. Individual characters are developed properly so that you identify with their lives and personalities, Holt McCallany a s Bill Tench was particularly fine especially considering his family circumstances that are complicated by his having a withdrawn son.

Because the Behavioural Sciences Unit relied on tapes made to record interviews with convicted killers it’s fairly certain that the acting and the scripting is reliable as a real artefact. You sense that the performances given by the men (always men) Tench and Ford (Jonathan Groff) go to visit in prison are succinct and adequate to communicating the intricacies of serial murders. 

The term “hunter” used in the show’s title referring to how these men selected and stalked their prey.

A problem with the character of Ford is that, although it was him who really started the SBU in its existence, because his girlfriend Debbie (Hannah Gross) isn’t always present his character suffers. It seems that a backstory is necessary to give a cop in a show such as this the requisite depth and complexity in order to carry him/her along satisfactorily.

Anyone who likes cop shows should get a kick out of this. The Manson character played by Damon Herriman is particularly fine with his sluicing monologues and fey grandeur, a short man who compensates by sitting on the back of the chair in the room opposite the two FBI agents.

Two seasons is not long for product of this quality, and I’d be glad to get back to Ford and Tench if the makers out there in Hollywood wanted to put together a follow-up season. I felt that this had legs.

Friday, 4 August 2023

TV review: The Blacklist, Netflix (2013-2023)

Many people will want to stop reading when I say this is a police procedural, but my excuse for liking this type of show is that it explores what it means to be human in the contemporary world. This is a post-Assange production, one which reflects the moral relativism of global politics, where Capital is deeply embedded in the notion of freedom and the borders between criminal and licit activity blur, warp, and shift.

James Spader is wonderful as the mercurial Raymond Reddington, a name that along with other snippets of scripting ties this book back to Norman Mailer’s ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ and hence to Nabokov’s ‘Ada’. ‘The Blacklist’ is sort of a de-facto canonical product a cross between ‘NCIS’ and ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ with as many close-ups as car chases, gun battles, and forced intrusions.

Running to 10 seasons, it’s also a saga in the vein of series of 19th century novels. What it does best is establish rules for understanding that like a good soap opera are tied to tropes of personality that run through popular discourse. Just as in ‘B&B’ Thomas stands for chaos and the lure of the illicit, and Hope stands for constancy and virtue, in ‘The Blacklist’ Aram (Amir Arison) stands for goodness and honesty while Ressler (Diego Klattenhof) stands for apple-pie America. When Hope kisses Thomas in Rome you are sucked into someone else’s reality because of all the episodes of ‘B&B’ where Thomas has been justly spurned by so many people. When Ressler snuggles up in bed in an opioid daze in a cheap motel you are drawn into a global story of self-hatred and exploitation.

‘The Blacklist’ offers a range of different characters, a kaleidoscope of “issues” like any good police procedural, it has “good” characters no less flimsy than in any other cultural product but the longevity of the series and the skill of Spader ensure that you are allowed to explore them in a more complete way than is usual for other OTT dramas, certainly more than in most movies on the big or small screen.

You are the cop.

There are many antidotes to the sophistication of the plots exploited in ‘The Blacklist’ and Netflix offers a range of true-crime dramas, some of which highlight how corrupt the police can be. I urge anyone who reads this to understand that my comprehension of ‘The Blacklist’ is not innocent. The storylines are often complex and exhausting, the reasoning of the criminals bizarre, the flips and switches confusing. It’s really not necessary to make things this bewildering in order to entertain. Or perhaps I’m wrong and it IS necessary in order to explore the nature of civil society. Where to draw the line between legal and illegal, when is violence justified, how to know what to believe in?

In the post-Assange era the lines have shifted so that we cannot know beforehand if something “should” be legal. What words do we use to describe a solution to a problem so difficult to untangle that it calls into question the very system that we subscribe to, and that benefits us? ‘The Blacklist’ has this conundrum at heart, and it is a wild ride.

Sunday, 9 July 2023

PayPal use problems: getting money back

In case you’re interested this post is a reminder for readers that PayPal has its own ways of operating that are different from how other organisations that handle money do things. 

I only did a transaction using PayPal because other options weren’t available and there started a chain of events that tied up my money for almost a week. It wasn’t a large amount of money but the balls-up meant that I had to think about PayPal for all of that time, and believe me when I say that I thought of it in a negative light. As a result PayPal is permanently on my blacklist.

The adventure of the missing money started when my daughter asked me to buy some clothes for her son from a specific website. I’d been groomed for this on a previous Messenger call when she’d mentioned a predilection for ethically sourced goods as well as for low air miles. 

It would have been impossible to ignore such a request.

On the day in question I went to the relevant website and made the purchase, asking for help from Ada at strategic points where items she’d already pointed out weren’t immediately available. Once I’d finished I went to PayPal to pay for it because I thought, the linked card not being a credit card, I’d have a debt in PayPal if I didn’t top up the account. I didn’t want to be charged for using someone else’s money.

This was on the Saturday. 

On the Monday I noticed the PayPal deductions on my cheque account and because there were two of them I called PayPal to ask why. They said that it was a problem with my bank so I got in the car and drove up to the shopping centre. They said that they needed the BSB and account number of the source retailer, so I went back home and called PayPal again. They told me that the original deduction was for the purchase but that I’d made a separate deduction (which was true) and I said that they had to TELL ME that I didn’t need to top up my PayPal account with funds from my cheque account.

I waited and waited until the following Thursday for my funds to arrive at the PayPal database, then I did the transaction to return the money but PayPal said that the transfer would be paused while they checked it. 

The thing is that PayPal never tells you at any stage that regardless of the type of card you have linked – a debit card (as in my case) or a credit card (which they stupidly offered to link for me) – the deduction will happen and so you only need to have funds available when it does. My learning from all this malarkey is that I should use PayPal only when STRICTLY NECESSARY because having their own way of operating divorced from the mainstream they’ll keep your money for the maximum amount of time so they can earn interest from it before returning it to you. PayPal is a sort of legitimate scam that provides a great service to vendors (you can accept money using only your email address) but that treats everyone else like dupes. I did my initial transaction on 1 July and got the money back on Thursday.


Sunday, 25 June 2023

Not getting new photo albums

In 2019 at the end of a busy year – presented at a hospital in Jan I had a heart procedure, went to the Middle East in May, and started having panic attacks in Aug – I was tidying up the library in Pyrmont (a full three years after my mother had sadly died) and thought about what to do with hundreds of photos found in her records. There were also ones that I had left over from my rambles in Australia, Japan and China 40 years earlier at a time when, having no studio to practice art, I carried my camera around with me in streets I wandered. 

And now, in 2023 – a full seven years after surviving my mother’s death – I finally managed to summon the resolve to do something about all the confusion and mess. I decided to tidy up the drawers full of family photos and, in so doing, lay some of my demons to rest.

I turned to the Cumberland photo albums from the Photo Album Shop that the accompanying invoice says I bought on 14 Dec 2019. I began to get busy in the dining room filling two albums, sticking down the clear plastic corners and aligning the images carefully then throwing away the old contact-plastic albums that regrettably had started to disintegrate with the plastic film coming away from the adhesive backing. Then I took another step and amalgamated the two albums into one.


I wanted to buy more as I envisaged getting some of my many stored computer files printed on paper. I emailed the album shop on 15 June asking if they would swap some of my refills (top left in photo) for new albums with a different item number because what I had were now unfortunately out of stock. No reply by 19 June but in the meantime I’d done a good deal of work sorting things out, which also included a process of summoning up files on my computer and putting them on a USB stick I could take to Pixel Perfect, my print outlet in Chippendale. 

There were hundreds of them going up to 2009, where I stopped out of respect for the process, I didn’t want to be too completist and potentially outrage the universe so I put a limit on the timeframe to make things more manageable and modest. Nevertheless I had about 700 files to print and resolved to get them done in batches in order to spread the cost out over time but in the end the unit cost persuaded me to go back to the store – I was already a kilometre away on the way home (I’d reached Waterloo) when it dawned on me that the prints would only cost 60 cents and not six dollars each – and deposit the rest with the man behind the counter. In fact they even give a discount for volumes over 500 so it was good that I decided in the end to get them all done at once and the driving at that time of day was ok.

I took another step in the right direction on 23 June when I emailed my cousin Maria Celeste Bernardo who lives in Portugal asking in English (which she speaks) if she’d help put names to faces. I explained about the album in my email and within a day she’d sent a complete list of captions for 30 images I’d sent in a PDF I made with my scanning software supplied by HP. Even if I couldn’t get more of the large-format albums I could get information that would help me finish the project, a project made more difficult because it was psychically close to the death of my mother. As I mentioned at the start of this post she died in 2016 and it wasn’t until 2023 – a full seven years later – that I was able to summon up the gumption to get involved fully in the task of sorting and classifying. As I noted to Maria Celeste I am a man for whom nothing is not detailed and complex and I need to find a space in my life big enough for everything that I do. With the photo albums it took seven years to find that space, more in fact because my mother’s death came at the end of a period of six years lived in Queensland when I was looking after her on a daily basis, cooking for her, managing her finances, tidying up the charity mess she made because people kept on ringing her and asking for her credit card details. I actually spent more than a decade finding the courage to face my past in the form of a thousand family photographs.

Sunday, 11 June 2023

Selecting family photos to put in an album

For the past few weeks I’ve been going through a chest of drawers containing old family photos. Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that this has been in turn traumatising and revelatory. I’m writing about the process in my end-of-year post of course but today’s post will be a brief overview.

There are five drawers in the item of furniture and thousands of photos in the form of prints, negatives and positives. In some cases I’m taking negatives to the print shop to get proof sheets made so I can select images to have printed. In addition to regular family snapshots I’ve found some photos I took as part of my art practice in the 80s, which has been an added and pleasant bonus bec I thought all of these images had – apart from some which I’d scanned 15 years ago – lost inextricably.

Because such losses are a recurring source of sadness I resolved to put together a captioned album for my family in Japan. Despite having spent several weeks doing the sorting and selection necessary for the project, further time will be required to finish it. I have from several years ago (I think this was done in 2019) bought albums, spare leaves, and sticky corners, so all that is necessary to get the job done. As with anything worthwhile time is needed to get it right, and I promise to set up my dysfunctional laptop on my studio table so I can go through the photos one by one and write the captions in an accessible spot.

The difficulty inherent in this task is married to the motivation, on the one hand reliving the feelings the photos inspires is a source of irritation, but for the same reason I feel pain I am also compelled to complete the job.

Apart from the photo album I plan to make I will also get my framer to create a special album for the press cuttings that have been collected over the past 100 years, my grandmother Bea Dean (nee Kewish) made a little envelope to be full of clippings from newspapers and I plan to do a proper job. It’s going to be about 16 pages and will also include snapshots in black and white that mum handed down. I think that with experience I’ve garnered over the years – I worked in publishing in one form of another from 1985 to 2009 – I am uniquely placed to finish this project.

The clipping album will be something I can send around to family members to spend time with, we’re all over the place now in Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, NSW. They can then send the album back to me, it’ll actually be more like a book with pages that you can turn. The feature of this item will be that the text is in the form of newspaper cuttings that Bea collected as well as some others that came from different family members. My great-grandfather Robert James Kewish is notable in this regard as he was a journalist and so there are some longer articles written about him. Where for most people a death will be marked by a notice in the paper paid for by a wife or son, in his case there is a whole article chronicling his life.

I feel privileged to be able to make this thing, it seems like a unique and special object that can be cherished for hundreds of years by generations. 

I only hope it survives. I got some work done on several heirlooms including an 1831 Bible that belonged to someone in the family I’m not sure who, that job cost $5000 but now I have something that I can happily pass onto my children if they want it, or else give to a cousin if they want it. You can never tell what people will want to do with possessions, some might treasure them others might just want the space and so put something up for sale.





Thursday, 25 May 2023

Taking a break from painting

In January I had friends staying over and was busy doing things so took a break from painting. I still stored up words I wanted to use in new collages and I had two more Japanese sayings to employ but stopped trying to put them to use.

At that point it was about nine weeks since I started making watercolours and adding collage to them but I felt as though progress had been made, the works I made at the end of that interval were much more complex and considered than what I made at the beginning. 

Nine weeks doesn’t seem like a long time but in our age of abundance a day is forever, we’re given such a wide range of activities to embrace or reject.

In May, five months after that first break I was going back to sonnets not having worked on any for a long time. Having a range of creative activities to rely on in order to feel engaged with the world, and through which to celebrate agency is something that I aspired to many times in my life.

The clock is still ticking however.

I read a poem this morning.

In addition to sonnets I’ve been writing free-form poems.

I don’t know what you think of this post it seems quite random when I read back over its length, even though it’s not very long. I guess I’ll never know a lot of things, but that’s ok. In the end you’re only worth the memories you make in other people’s minds. In the end we all die, the secret is knowing what’s worth living for, perhaps I know. Perhaps you know. 

This day will never end.

The echoes of air traffic fill the morning, I can hear the jets and their whine, their roar, a sort of whoar crumbling the edges off 6.23am.

Friday, 19 May 2023

Media literacy revisited

I was surprised to learn yesterday that media literacy will be taught in NSW secondary schools, something that I asked for ten years ago. The proliferation of social media and websites makes this essential if we’re to preserve the integrity of our political system, under siege in many countries. 

Our media landscape in this country is a bit better than in many others because of the trusted position of the ABC but of course there’s nothing that forces people to use it, although it serves to some degree as an information clearing house, setting the tone for the day’s reporting. Because the ABC news program comes last in the evening it tends to have the last word on many issues although there are late bulletins on other major channels throughout the evening.

Today’s blogpost is however a reminder that stray thoughts can have long-lasting repercussions, little did I imagine in 2013 that the state government would take my casual words so much to heart, but inspired by fear perhaps they were impressed more by the rise of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin than by me.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

Colour as a plot device

It feels like eternity has passed but since I did the ‘Death by cop’ series only two months has gone by. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the show in July so haven’t been painting much, but a few days ago I went back to what I did last year.

And reinvented it.


Last year I was making colour watercolours with collage but I hadn’t turned the paintings into series yet. A month ago I did so and therefore had something to think about when it came to doing ‘Colour as a plot device’ (which will also be the title of the show). I specifically wanted to use nine panels and made nine watercolours but then at the last minute broke up another series and used one panel from that in this new work.

I think about how artists are portrayed in popular culture, they’re usually denigrated on account of their enthusiasms, rendered in a way that makes them unpalatable. They don’t fit in. They’re deliberately different and use that as a weapon to attack the status quo. But ‘Colour as a plot device’ uses tropes from that same place to turn the mirror around, you see familiar elements of cultural iconography but the gorgeous background makes them look like they’re seen in front of a splendid sunset. We all seek to escape and when we’re caught up in a net we struggle all the harder.

I think about popular culture and what it means. That policeman, that joker, that criminal, that reigning monarch, all fit into destiny’s tableau like parts of a puzzle. You belong to an organisation you fit into its matrix, you belong to a community you conform. You settle in for the ride. You mix and mingle. 

And smile.

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Unwanted domains refund

I did get a result though it wasn’t precisely what I wanted, the company (Melbourne IT) refunded half of the cost of the domains which meant about $180 going back into my credit card account yesterday evening late. 

I had an email from the company two days ago in which they outlined their reasoning for the decision to keep half of the money. This being because they’d already paid to have the domains registered. 

When I spoke with the frontline staffer on Saturday she was understanding and actually got up from her desk and went to the accounts department to state my case, so I guess I should be grateful. I think that the damage to my relationship with the company has been tarnished but it’s not critical, I think that if the company had refused to pass on a refund it might’ve sparked me to move to find a different ISP.

This whole saga outlined in the previous blogpost just goes to the big issue in that technology is HARD because even if we have specialised companies whose only job is to look after intellectual assets there will be mistakes and misjudgement. There’s no reason why this problem had to occur other than the cause which was a difficult-to-use interface provided by the company. If you need a university degree to get such an easy thing right then there’s a lack of consideration that leads to unnecessary financial loss. Money is spent on things that are worthless if the communication mechanism is not adequate for the skillsets represented. The technology is at fault.

I guess that I need to be more careful in future. I’ve got more unwanted URLs in my list and will have to make sure, when they come up for renewal, to phone the company and get their representative to walk me through the process or for their help desk to make the necessary change themselves. I’m not going to rely on my own capabilities again it costs too much, I spent the weekend and most of this week worrying about this situation and it’s left an indelible mark on my memory.

Saturday, 6 May 2023

Unwanted domains renewed

Trying here to be philosophical about this but it’s a struggle. Today Melbourne IT my ISP reregistered two domains I never wanted in the first place. Years ago they thought I might like to have them and registered them so they’d been in my domain list. A couple of weeks ago they told me they’d be reregistered so I went into the user interface and unticked the relevant boxes but it seems like it didn’t make any difference because this morning I got a charge on my credit card on account of the stupid domains.

I called the company and spoke with a guy who listened but he said the call would have to be escalated to someone else to investigate so I’m going to have to think about this painful situation for a day or two while they make up their minds.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal and I have enough money in most months to absorb this kind of cost but my daughter is about to have her first child so I’m watching every dollar right now. Because of who I am my mind is going to be looping back to Melbourne IT and whether I should ditch them in favour of another provider because of their idiotic policy of suggesting related domains to new customers.

I guess this is the mental tax you pay in the internet age.

A tax in my case anyway because I am naturally a worrier, and when it comes to domains we have something important to worry about. I do not know how many services I have linked to my main email address but I do know that if I lost it I’d be in all kinds of strife. In fact if I lost it today’s discomfort would seem like a dream. At least you can wake up from a dream.

Probably in a year I will still remember my present irritation because it relates to internet domains, which are things that have nowadays such a critical place in our lives. There are not many books I’ve read that feature the internet, let alone the specific complex feelings that personal domains possess in our pantheon of things. I wonder if anyone’s written a police procedural with a domain as a major plot device. I think that probably someone out there has done this but it’s not something I’ve personally come across.

Monday, 10 April 2023

'Magnificent obsessions' series

I was out with friends on Saturday but stayed home all day Sun giving me time and space to dream. 

Because I’d flattened out a whole lot of watercolours I had given them a second life and resurrected possibilities. The confluence of events led me to making a bunch of standalone paintings into a series I titled ‘Magnificent obsessions’ in honour of Sydneysiders’ penchant for food and real estate. The title is similar to my old boss’ film title, what she made after she left the company we worked at. 

Like my collage I’m not really stealing the film title, it’s more like payment because I made some graphics for the credits, and anyway her film title is not precisely the same. I repurpose magazines to make collage so why not repurpose a pair of words?

There is something unwieldy about our obsession with real estate, more recently paired with an interest in food – see all the cooking shows about farm-to-fork etc – and it’s a bit of a stretch to call it “magnificent” though we have nationally a much higher mobility rate than other countries apart from those in Scandinavia, so evidently the use of dwellings to improve one’s material wellbeing isn’t all bad. 

We’re yet to see if the state and federal governments can do something about homelessness, which is still too high. We know what to do about homelessness it’s just a matter of authorities biting the bullet and taking the necessary actions to make sure people are housed. The measures required imply an all-of-government response. I wonder if siloing – which is inevitable where you have organisations responding – isn’t going to throw a spanner in the works.