Month: June 2016

Throw Substance from the Plane – Why Captain Koblic Deserves a Remake

    It has often been a thorny issue in cinema – tackling the murky side of human nature and of course its darker episodes. At best, directors, writers and producers run the risk of being so compellingly accurate and explicit in their accounts of horrid histories that critics cry foul with accusations of turning tragedy into entertainment, or of abdicating responsibility to the audience or even using deeply emotive historical events to deliberately manipulate viewer emotions. Such was the stance taken by Michael Hanneke in his repudiation of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993). On the other hand, filmmakers equally run the risk of understating the gravity of historical events or putting profound and disturbing episodes in history to subsidiary or ancillary use in stories that otherwise might not be so compelling. Of course, if the director’ focus is pure entertainment, then Zack Snyder will be readily forgiven for the ludicrously inaccurate but visually engaging take on the battle of Thermopylae in 300 (2006). If, however, the intention is to convey a sense of accuracy, then one might be less forthcoming with absolution for the likes of Ridley Scott’s take on the history of Jerusalem or that of Christopher Columbus. Then there issue of jettisoning living human being from airplanes in a time within very recent living memory, which, arguably, has a greater resonance than these other distant historical happenings....

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The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

  The Doomed City is a classic Russian dystopian novel which was started in the 1960’s but not released until the 1980’s. Writing the novel and then hiding it was a seditious act. Owning the once solitary manuscript copy was to court disaster in the form of the harsh retribution of the state. What was all the fuss about? I don’t want you to be put off by the idea that because the novel was written in the politically harsh and defunct Soviet Union that means that, as an outsider, you can never pick up on its nuances. The queues that were ubiquitous in the old Soviet Union appear in The Doomed City as well. I think also that the siege of Leningrad serves as a paradigm of human suffering that has a lease on the imaginations that wrote this story. Maybe you had to be there? But no, as science fiction it’s a genre buster, non-formulaic. Comparable to the texts of Orwell and Kafka, The Doomed City is a twentieth century mind fucker. Andrei is the guiding character. We first meet him as a garbage man. He loves his work! But before he came to the city he was a stellar astronomer. Later on in the story he will be a detective, the editor of a literary newspaper, and finally a high functionary of the state. In the city, you rotate your...

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    The rural hospital where her father languished was brand new, a sparkling edifice improbably situated like some medical temple in a cow pasture. It was such a young building to house the old. Dr. Christine Hartford hurried to locate her dad’s room. She’d been given directions in the social worker’s melodious Outer Banks drawl. Finding Joe would be easier for Christine than accepting his condition. Christine the daughter wanted to preserve his life, but Christine the microbiologist knew the limits of over a thousand organisms. Elderly and struggling with sudden illness, her father wasn’t likely to survive....

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A Little Night Story

    Carly met Ted in her first year of business school. I probably shouldn’t be here, he said at the opening-year mixer in the graduate student center. I mean, I want to be a global connector, not just sell crap or be part of an org chart. He was wearing an unbuttoned flannel shirt in brown tones; there was an exposed triangle of freckled flesh and reddish-blond hair a couple of inches below his throat. He looked like a man who still used his body, and in fact he said he’d spent the summer before backpacking in Nepal...

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Where She Goes

  I knew it would happen. I thought about it all the time the way any wife with a sick husband does about what it would actually be like when he went. All those nighttime runs to the emergency room, all the phone calls and the drugs and the tubes. What would be the moment? And when he did finally–and finally it was everything that got him, kidneys, heart, lungs all of it–what a relief. Not that I was prepared, I wasn’t, how could you be really but it wasn’t a surprise, not at all, no. On the way...

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