Archive for March, 2020|Monthly archive page

Coincidence No. 156

I receive a Twitter invitation from journalist Martin Bright to share a GIF of my favourite movie. I find the scene in Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ where he is being used to test a machine which feeds you in the morning, which goes wrong, covering his trapped face with food.

Later in the day I am reading a book about the liberation of Paris after the war by Antony Beevor & Artemis Cooper. It mentions that the title of the magazine ‘Les Temps modernes’, whose editorial committee included Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Leiris & Queneau, was inspired by Chaplin’s 1935 film.

(A couple of days before I went to the cinema for the last time before the Corona lockdown. It was the Phoenix, East Finchley. In the foyer upstairs I stopped to look at the plaque I had bought a few years ago when the Phoenix was fundraising for a revamp. The plaques, which used to be illuminated and attached to a computer, but now just hang dark, are people’s favourite films organised by year over a century. I paid for 1935, dedicated to my sons, and chose ‘Modern Times’. These days I oscillate between that film and ‘City Lights’.)

The healing Earth

Like everyone else, I’ve had a bit of time on my hands this week in lockdown so I made these. This is the full set to date…

holloway road

 

Kilburn High Road corona corvid19 meme

north circular corona corvid19 meme

 

london eye corona corvid19 meme

My fantasy expressed

‘All I want is an oval library with doors leading into a rose garden, by the sea’

Chips Channon, 15 July 1940

(thanks to TheLuckHabbit for this gem)

oval library with doors

World of Zoom 2

It’s exactly a week since my first reflections on online conferencing. This weird week finished with my first video conference where one of the colleagues started us off with a specially composed song… (thanks Chris)

skype Screenshot 2020-03-27

Also I came across this video during the week which, in a fairly amusing way, nails many of the pitfalls of this way of working

 

Memes of the Plague

I made this one this morning…

I think I’ll make one everyday for the next while.

Here is the one I springboarded from…

I wanted to bring it closer to home, Slough being a British comedy generic for shit place.

Some interesting numbers from Europe

  • Since 1998 the population of the Baltic states has dropped by almost a third
  • Bulgaria lost 20% of its population over that period – it is projected to lose a further 20% over the next 30 years
  • Between 2000 and 2018 Romania‘s population dropped from 22.4M to 19.5M
  • c.5% of the population of Croatia moved to other EU states between 2013 when it joined and 2017
  • The financial crisis of 2008 caused the movement of a significant number of Greek and Spanish people to other EU states, especially young adults
  • A recent study in The Guardian identified “youth deserts” in eastern Germany, rural Spain, Greece and Romania.

What does this point to? Because it tends to be the young and well educated who leave, in the areas left behind the concentration of older people and less advantaged people is an ideal growing medium for right-wing politics of the more extreme sort, for lack of hope and for a gradual but constant withering on the vine.

a-withering-bunch-of-grapes-on-the-vine

The Plague 2

So I am still ploughing my way through Albert Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague / La Peste. I am not rushing, savouring it – got plenty of time on my hands! The parallels continue to resonate. So here’s picking up from my first post on the subject…

la peste the plague albert camus 1947 1971 novel le livre de poche

I recently acquired this 1971 copy of a 1966 edition

[Sunday posting] “Only as the sermon proceeded did it become apparent to the congregation that, by a skilful oratorical device, Father Paneloux had launched at them, like a fisticuff, the gist of his whole discourse. After launching it he went on at once to quote a text from Exodus relating to the plague of Egypt, and said: “The first time this scourge appears in history it was wielded to strike down the enemies of God. Pharaoh set himself up against the divine will, and the plague beat him to his knees. Thus from the dawn of recorded history the scourge of God has humbled the proud of heart and laid low those who hardened themselves against Him. Ponder this well, my friends, and fall on your knees.”

“ ‘Ah, if only it had been an earthquake! A good bad shock, and there you are! You count the dead and living, and that’s an end of it. But this here blasted disease – even them as haven’t got it can’t think of anything else.’ ”

[on the day of the UK Government’s first daily Coronavirus news conference] “a new paper has been launched, The Plague Chronicle, which sets out “to inform our townspeople, with scrupulous veracity, of the daily progress or recession of the disease; to supply them with the most authoritative opinions available as to its future course; to offer the hospitality of its columns to all, in whatever walk of life, who wish to join in combating the epidemic; to keep up the morale of the populace, to publish the latest orders issued by the authorities, and to centralise the efforts of all who desire to give active and whole-hearted help in the present emergency.”

“During the last 24 hours there had been two cases of a new form of the epidemic; the plague was becoming pneumonic. On this very day, in the course of the meeting, the much-harassed doctors had pressed the Prefect – the unfortunate man seemed quite at his wits’ end – to issue new regulations to prevent contagion being carried from mouth to mouth, as happens in pneumonic plague. The Prefect had done as they wished, but as usual they were groping, more or less, in the dark.”

[self-reflexive about these posts] “They began to take a genuine interest in the laborious literary task to which he was applying himself while plague raged around him. Indeed, they, too, found in it a relaxation of the strain.“

“ ‘If things go on as they are going,’ Rieux remarked, ‘the whole town will be a madhouse.’ He felt exhausted, his throat was parched. ‘Let’s have a drink.’ ”

[on the day UK government calls up retired doctors and final year medical students] “ ‘Haven’t doctors and trained assistants been sent from other towns?‘
‘ Yes,‘ Rieux said. ‘10 doctors and 100 helpers. That sounds a lot, no doubt. But it’s barely enough to cope with the present state of affairs. And it will be quite inadequate if things get worse.’ “

“At 11 o’clock that night, however, Rieux and Tarrou entered the small, narrow bar of the hotel. Some 30 people were crowded into it, all talking at the top of their voices. Coming from the silence of the plague-bound town the two newcomers were startled by the sudden burst of noise, and halted in the doorway. They understood the reason for it when they saw that spirits were still to be had here.”

“ …there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency.’
‘ What do you mean by “common decency”?’ Rambert’s tone was grave.
‘ I don’t know what it means for other people. But in my case I know that it consists in doing my job.’ ”

“ Tarrou said he knew the latest figures, and that the position was extremely serious. But what did that prove? Only that still more stringent measures should be applied.
‘How? You can’t make more stringent ones than those we have now.‘
‘ No. But every person in the town must apply them to himself.‘
Cottard stared at him in a puzzled manner, and Tarrou went on to say that there were far too many slackers, that this plague was everybody’s business, and everyone should do his duty.”

[full UK lock-down was announced last night with a rousing Churchillian speech by PM Boris Johnson] “Now, at least, the position was clear; this calamity was everybody’s business.”

The Casting Game No. 288

humphrey Bogart actor cigarette hat mackintosh

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart actor cigarette

AS

albert camus french novelist philosopher

Albert Camus

Coincidence No. 544 – Outsider

I am doing a day-long Zoom session for Documentary Campus Masterclass (was supposed to be in Copenhagen but had to be shifted online). I take a short break of 15 minutes and decide to use the time to start re-reading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger in French (the first book, other than comic books, that I have read in French for ages). The usual translation of the title is The Outsider (rather than The Stranger – it means both in French). I read the first couple of pages.

I rejoin the Zoom session and start a one-to-one meeting with a German filmmaker currently based in Thailand. From Chang Mai his very first statement is: “I did a lot of films about outsiders.”

Existentialist philosophy as propounded by the likes of Camus and Sartre has the universe as without meaning and pattern, and man as always striving to see pattern and sense in things.

the outsider albert camus novel l'etranger penguin

World of Zoom

Well, that was a weird week. I spent three whole days in online conference calls. I’d used Zoom once before. I’d never used Microsoft Teams.

However the week finished on a high note – our monthly Finnegans Wake research seminar at Senate House, University of London was shifted online this evening. Led by Prof. Finn Fordham of Royal Holloway, University of London, our motley crew wrestled with the clunkiness of MS Team to enjoy two hours together drilling down through the layers of the Wake and its various manuscripts and versions. Spending 20 minutes arguing the toss over the word “be” was a comforting contrast to the macro chaos beyond our virtual room.

Microsoft Team james joyce digital archive finnegans wake

“the massproduct of teamwork” suddenly took on a new dimension given that Teams was the software making this human contact and continuity possible.

The three days leading up to this evening was spent on Zoom (wish I had shares in them – and how did they nick ahead of Skype so effectively?). Zoom is a well designed software but the difference between what the workshop would have been like IRL and how it is in an online video conference is stark. Very intense and relentless in a way that is not the case face to face. I was working as a mentor on Documentary Campus Masterclass  – we were supposed to be in Copenhagen, parallel to CPH:Dox Film Festival (cancelled). I did the same workshop in the same city last year so I have a direct comparison.

The most creative use of the software was by two Czech filmmakers I’m working with – Vit & Tomas. They transported themselves and us, using the software facilities, high into the mountains…

zoom software documentary campus masterclass

[photo: Esther van Messel]

The gap between the experience of these sorts of softwares and the experience of being in a room with fellow humans is an interesting one which tells us much about how we actually communicate and how we create – which is not a flat experience but a rounded and fluid one. Something to keep observing over the next days and weeks…

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