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By TheophileEscargot (Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:12:28 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "1977". Watching: "The Road". Me. Web.

What I'm Reading
1977 by David Peace. Part of the "Red Riding Quartet" that was made into a TV series recently, themed around a fictionalised version of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper serial killer.

Didn't actually realise that it was part of a series till I'd got quite far through. Found it a little hard to follow: this is the second one, might have been easier if I'd started with "1974". Also there isn't much of an ending, not a lot actually gets resolved.

It's written in a stream-of-consciousness style. Peace also wrote the excellent "The Damned United". I think coming from that where it's played for black comedy made it a bit harder to take this book seriously.

Even so, it's an intense (hopefully exaggerated) portrait of Leeds in the Seventies, complete with brutal police corruption.

Overall, fairly good, but I don't think I've got the stamina to read the other three books. Might just rent the TV series instead.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Road. at the cinema. A man and his son wander around a dying Earth years after an unspecified apocalypse.

Wish I could have liked it more. It's a rare-ish attempt at intelligent science fiction at the cinema: maybe I've been a bit spoiled by District 9 and Moon last year. The movie has an impressively bleak atmosphere: it's partly shot in polluted areas of the US which look suitably grim without CGI clichés. There's some great acting, especially from Kodi Smit-McPhee as The Boy, who seems genuinely baffled by relics of the past. And there are two really good scenes: The house of cannibals and the discovery of the survivalist shelter.

But in spite of its virtues, I just found the movie uninvolving and very boring. Had to resist the urge to walk out, or at least switch the phone on and play some Freecell.

One problem is that up till the ending, nothing of significance happens to the characters. There are some close shaves, but basically they just trudge around looking miserable and talking about how miserable they are.

Couldn't help comparing it to the similarly bleak "Mother Courage and Her Children" which I saw recently, and also features a parent and children wandering a wasteland. But there, you get to see her lose all her children one after another, some as a result of her decisions. The dramatic peak is when she has to pretend not to know the body of her son so the soldiers won't realise her involvement. Even though she never cries or shows self-pity, it's effective tragedy because tragic things happen to the characters.

With The Road, even though Viggo Mortenson blubbers, wails, or smashes up the set (seems obligatory for Hollywood capital-A Acting these days) every ten minutes or so; it doesn't feel tragic; since all the tragic stuff like the death of his wife happened off-screen or years before. So you don't really feel sorry for him. Oh, so that's it, you lost your family? That makes you something special, does it?

Even forgetting Brecht, the recent movie Blindness. seemed to do post-apocalyptic breakdown a lot better. Not only were the characters involved, but you got to see the situation get progressively worse: it's suspenseful as you wonder just how bad things can get. "The Road" has flashbacks, but otherwise it's just a snapshot of a broken-down world.

So without emotional involvement or much action, the movie is pretty dull to watch; which leaves you wondering about things. There were lights in the sky when it happened, earthquakes are ongoing; all the trees and plants are dead, as are the animals. So what the hell was this apocalypse supposed to be? If it's solar radiation or a gamma-ray burst, why the earthquakes? Why are humans still fertile if all the plants are sterilized? Maybe everything outdoors was sterilized, but if so why can't they plant seeds from warehouses?

Inevitably you have to compare it to 2012 which also had solar radiation somehow causing not just earthquakes, but anything else the narrative finds convenient. For some reason the critics seem to have decided that 2012's bullshit explanation counts against it; but equal nonsense is perfectly OK if you don't bother to explain it at all.

I'm also not sure now if the beetle is supposed to be an optimistic sign that the Earth is regenerating. Some cicadas have a 17-year lifecycle, so it could just have been leftover from the old days.

Overall then, not recommended: dull with sentimental turns.

Guardian, Times, Times, Independent, Standard reviews. RT. WP

Some of the reviews are quite positive, but somehow I like the movie even less after reading them. So the real tragedy isn't supposed to be deaths, cannibalism, breakdown of human trust and extinction of the biosphere; but the way the characters can't Express Their Feelings to each other? Good grief.

Went for yet another walk up past Wormwood Scrubs to the Grand Union Canal and got some pics while it was still a bit snowy. Amused to see the graffitists had tagged the canal.

Wormwood Scrubs goalposts 4321

Icy canal 4392

Graffito on icy canal 4448

Bird on icy canal 4421

Bird on icy canal takes off 4485

Trains snow 4367

Video. Axe Detailer ad.

Socioeconomics. The Disposable Worker. Somali piracy boosts fish stocks. Analysis of Eurozone bond spreads. Effect of class sizes at university.

Random. Vote for Barbie's new career. "First Sex Robot" unveiled (NSFW).

Pics. How to post photos on the internet.

< To The Emperor! | It came today! >
Roadmarks | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)
The Road by wiredog (4.00 / 2) #1 Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:20:50 PM EST
Good book. But. So much of it is internal dialogue. I suspect that that doesn't translate well to the screen.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Watching Red Riding. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:29:34 PM EST
Available on YouTube

Aha! Looks handy. [nt] by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:55:02 PM EST

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Have fun by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #12 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 07:15:08 PM EST
It's really cheery...

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 2) #3 Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:44:39 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

The Road by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #4 Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:45:06 PM EST
I don't know about the movie...I haven't seen it and probably won't.  Plotwise, the book is much the same, but the intent is more metaphorical I think than realistic and so the way all of the details are left unstated didn't bother me.

The primary theme of the book is fatherhood and what it means to be a father, more so than relationships, etc.  In essence, it's a horror story for fathers, with a man put in a position of raising a child in an utterly impossible situation.

The other main theme is one of morals...I have no idea if this was translated to the movie.  In the book, the father is essentially the source of moral education and yet the son is the one who often forces the father to be moral.  It is very much about the conflict of pure moral behavior vs. harsh reality.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

The Road by hulver (4.00 / 2) #6 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 05:21:27 AM EST
I don't think I'll see the film.

I read the book, but I rushed through it to get it over with. I didn't think I'd ever read a more depressing book than "On the beach" but "The Road" beat it hands down.

In rushing I more than likely missed some subtleties about hope, but I found the book had none.

Even thinking about it depresses me.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock

It's horrible by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 01:16:18 PM EST
Really disturbed me a lot. I found it totally compelling though as well. And brilliant.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Disposable worker stuff by Herring (4.00 / 1) #7 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 06:40:18 AM EST
Interesting, depressing and supporting what I already suspected.

The US perspective is interesting though. For a while, I've thought that the lack of universal healthcare really damages the US economy (massive overheads for companies having to provide it for employees and pensioners) but I hadn't thought about it impeding (voluntary) employment of temporary workers. Makes sense though.

Maybe someone will discover that there's a competitive benefit in having loyal, motivated employees who understand the company they're in. Hell, it took me about 3 months to get LCC terminology - many people who have been here much longer don't understand how stuff works. I'm not holding my breath though.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

Dunno if you saw by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #8 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 07:51:35 AM EST
This suggestion that German labour laws give them an advantage, since they can't follow the just-fire-everybody management strategy.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I didn't - but it's very interesting by Herring (4.00 / 2) #9 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 08:32:57 AM EST
It also goes back to something I think I mentioned a long while back: growth - meaning increase in GDP, or even GDP per capita - is meaningless to a lot of people. As the Business Week article suggests, yes, GDP did grow but it all went to corporate profits and not to the general population of workers.

Sounds a bit communist that.

Probably better phrased as: why should I give a fuck about how much GDP grew when my pay rise didn't cover the increase in cost of living (yeah, I know it did this year, mortgage rates, etc.)

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
1977 is the best of the quartet by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #10 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 01:13:52 PM EST
And the books certainly doesn't get any easier to follow. Only persevere if you were suitably impressed.

On the other hand, you really should Cormac MCarthy's original novel of The Road. The apocalypse is unexplained so he can just throw the sheer horror of the situation at you and concentrate on the relationship between the man and child. It's sparsely written, the hinted-at horrors much more effective for remaining frustratingly unexplored - you imagination fills the gaps, usually after you've gone to bed and turned the lights off. It's an incredible book, my favourite of the last decade, and there is no way a film could do it justice.

Not sure I want to see the film but probably will. The simple fact of it having music goes against the book's aesthetics so much it's obviously a massive cop-out.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Another one of Pearce's books by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 07:22:14 PM EST
You might like is GB84. Very evocative portrayal of the 1984 miner's strike. I didn't realise how nasty both sides were, it was a real power struggle...

We're disposable? by duxup (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 05:03:07 PM EST
Wow, thank goodness these guys are really on the ball ....  I mean I had no idea....


Do the people who write these things have jobs?  or did they just notice when they tried to get one?

Roadmarks | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)