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.


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.


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.