The Post is Here

Corona Chronicles IX

Yesterday and today have been pretty okay days. However, Work – Exercise – Relax and not much else so still no creativity. On that point, I downloaded Google Sheets onto my iPad last night. My hope was that I would be able to copy and paste my Excel Camino Story plan onto a G. S. file. If I could do this, I would be able to examine and amend the plan, and think a little more clearly about the story, while relaxing away from my desk.

I was keen to do this because even though I work part time, I am at my desk for a large portion of the day so it would mean a lot to be able to work a little away from it. Happily, the copy and pasting was successful. I need to change the column lengths but once that is done, I’ll be able to get going again with the story.

Over the last two days, I watched The Post while exercising. I rate this film 8/10. In 1971, The New York Times published a secret government report which showed that successive American presidents had lied about their country’s involvement in the Vietnam war. President Nixon successfully applied in court to stop the paper publishing any more documents. The Washington Post, then a failing newspaper, took the case up and published more of the report. The American government took it to court but was defeated. The film is well written and acted – especially by Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the owner of the Post and Tom Hanks as its editor, Ben Bradlee – and directed by Steven Spielberg. I have to say, though, for a while, I wasn’t sure what genre the film was supposed to be. It should have been a thriller but didn’t feel quite suspenseful enough. In a strange way, it felt more like a biopic of the paper at a critical moment in America’s history. The last scene of the film, when a security guard discovers the break-in at the Watergate hotel was a great way to end the film. Tomorrow, I am going to start watching Divergence.

I read another chapter of C. S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms today. In this chapter, he looks at the Old Testament attitude towards death. According to Lewis, the Jewish view was not unlike that of, say, the ancient Greeks: there was nothing after death. As he points out, if you know your New Testament, you will know that by the time of Jesus, Jewish views had diverged. Some did believe there was life after death while others still maintained the opposite.

My father did the house shopping today. Tomorrow afternoon I will pop out for mine. I hope it goes as well as last week with everyone observing the two metre rule. I hope I remember to buy everything that I need.

What will happen after the coronavirus fades away? Is globalisation finished? I don’t think it will – we are all just too connected now – be but we surely have lessons to learn about how we respond to medical emergencies like this. Will we do so? I imagine there will be enquiries but I fear lessons will not be learned. I say this because I don’t think we changed anything after the banking crisis just over a decade ago. Democracy just doesn’t encourage long term thinking. Not that I am advocating authoritarian rule: this pandemic spread in part due to the Chinese government covering up what was happening. All in all it is not very encouraging. We just have to hope.

Jacks

Corona Chronicles VII

Home – Thursday
Yesterday, I had to take a medicine that I had been putting off using for two weeks. Why? Because I read the instructions and saw that one of the possible side effects is anaphylactic shock. That pretty much scared the life out of me so I put the medicine away and said I will Only Take It If I Have To. Yesterday, I did. Afterwards, my day came to a halt: I was waiting to see if I would suffer an anaphylactoid reaction.

It’s stupid, really. Did I really think my doctor is in the business of prescribing me medicines that he thinks will be harmful? Yes, an adverse reaction was possible but surely unlikely as the medicine would hardly be on sale if it was common.

This, though, is logic, and when you are anxious, you do not think logically.

So, there I was, stewing in my fear, when I received an unexpected call from a very dear friend. Actually, she’s more than a friend – she is the person who instructed me when I joined the Catholic Church so is also a kind of spiritual mentor. I think she’s a saint, as well. Talking to her took away the anxiety and afterwards I was, in a manner of speaking, a new man. Deo Gratias.

As for the medicine, it did its job and although I could have continued taking it, I have decided not to unless the problem reoccurs.

Home – Today
Yesterday and today I did my exercise straight after my physiotherapy exercises. I think I might carry on like this as it feels quite good and doesn’t make me particularly tired. During today’s exercise, I finished Bad Boys. Oh my. It’s loud, brash, and silly; but also witty and funny. I rate it 6.5/10. I might have rated it .5 higher but the stupidness of the film is just a tad too strong. With that said, Bad Boys II is on Netflix, sooooo. Actually, I better wait for the brain cells that I destroyed watching this one to repair, though. The new film is Hook (1991): Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who is actually Peter Pan. In this film, Peter has grown up and forgotten who he is (or was). In order to rescue his children from Captain Hook, he has to try and remember.

I’m watching this film for the same reason that I hope to read J. M. Barrie’s book in the days or weeks to come: as I get older and see my parents age, a part of me wishes that I could be young again. I don’t like them getting old. I don’t like the thought of them not being there. Of course, I better get used to it because ageing is inevitable: in me. In them. Watching Hook is a stupid attempt to pretend that it doesn’t have to happen.

Abroad
This afternoon, I went to Sainsbury’s. They were only letting a limited number of people in at a time so we had to queue for a little while outside. Everyone was very good at observing the two or so metre gap. The shop was pretty well stocked, though again, some shelves were empty. Tomorrow, I have to go back to the chemist for my parents.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I passed some firemen who were trying to break into a pub. They weren’t thirsty – its fire alarm was ringing. I thought to myself that if they have to break in, the landlord will find it hard to replace the glass or door lock afterwards. Fortunately, though, by the time I walked by on my way home, the firemen were gone and the door appeared to be in one piece.

A.O.B.
I subscribe to the New Ways Ministry blog. I don’t like everything that they do because I don’t like the idea of being a dissenter, but I am glad they are there. This week, they quoted the traditionalist Cardinal Burke as implying that LGBT people are to blame for the coronavirus. You can read the article here. This kind of scapegoating makes me intensely angry, and I would very much like to tell him to get fucked but if I said it and meant it I would in my own way make myself no better than him. How should one respond to such an attack? Well, with love, of course. And forgiveness. 7×70. God bless, Cardinal Burke; I disagree with him and will pray for him; I get things wrong, too, so I hope he would pray for me if he read this.

What about the coronavirus? This is my view: it happened because for whatever reason the disease jumped from an animal to a human. God allowed it to do so; not because He is angry with anyone or any group but because He is not in the business of controlling our lives like that. It is part of the free will deal. If God intervened to stop the coronavirus’ ‘jump’ we might ask Him why he did not intervene to stop the movement of any other disease or ailment, and as a matter of fact, why doesn’t He intervene to stop [your issue of choice here]. Very soon, we would hand to God our free will. We may want to do that but He does not. He knows we would find it the most painful thing of all.

That’s my view. I can’t say I have thought deeply about it so if you disagree you will have to forgive me.

Yesterday’s New Ways Ministry blog (here) was about a queer Catholic singer named Gina Chavez. I’ve been waiting to read about someone like her for a long time. I’m glad to say her music is pretty good, too (This is her You Tube channel).

I started reading from my C. S. Lewis shelf yesterday. I read the first chapter of his Reflections on the Psalms, and then an essay based on a talk about him by a lady named Joan Murphy, who was – or is – his grandnephew. I looked her up after reading the talk and found that she was still alive in 2015. If she is alive today she’ll be 94. It was a lovely essay. Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis’ father, Albert, does not come off well in it but Lewis very much does. Murphy writes,

When I began to think about this talk and wrote down things that I wanted to say, I noticed that there were two words that became dominant in my memory, and they kept coming up and coming up again: the first was encouragement and the second was laughter. Those are two things that I remember about Jacks.

(Jacks: Lewis’ given Christian name was Clive but he hated it. While still a boy he announced to his family one day that from now on he would only answer to the name Jacks. In time, that became Jack, and the name stuck).

Encouragement and laughter. What lovely ways to be remembered.

Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock were both diagnosed as having the coronavirus yesterday. We must pray for them, and indeed, for anyone in a position of authority who falls ill. I have thus far managed to resist the temptation to read comments about Johnson’s and Hancock’s diagnoses on Social Media (beyond the people that I follow) as I know they would be malevolent.

BVM, CSL, and more

Corona Chronicles VI

Home
So, yesterday I wondered if I might be able to sleep through the night as I didn’t nap during the day. Nope. And in fact, I woke up twice. And had another disagreeable dream. On the plus side, though, I did get back to sleep again pretty quickly.

This morning, I changed my routine a little and did my exercise straight after my morning physio session. I just wanted to see what effect, if any, it had on me. The answer to that is not much. I had a couple of short naps this afternoon but I might have done that, anyway. I might try it again tomorrow as I felt pretty good afterwards.

While exercising, I watched Tomb Raider to its end. I rate this film 5/10. It was a very average action film. As with so many films, the script let it down. It wasted a more than half an hour with Lara Croft’s backstory before getting her to the action. As a result, there was not enough time to do anything more than bounce her from danger to danger to showdown to end. If I had written the script, I would have obeyed the rule of In Medias Res by starting the story ‘in the middle of things’ and explained Lara’s background during the course of the main narrative (her search for the ancient queen Himiko). After all, who really cares about Lara’s background? I mean, it’s important, of course, but the really important thing about Lara Croft – the reason we care about her – is her puzzle solving and combat, not first and foremost her family history. This film, though, but it front and centre.

One thing about the film made me laugh, if grimly: Himiko was said to have been imprisoned on the deserted island of Yamatai by her generals to stop her killing people. It turned out, though, that she wasn’t evil, just carrying a fatal disease in the manner of Typhoid Mary. It all reminded me of the coronavirus a bit too much. After finishing, Tomb Raider I started watching Big Boys – an action film starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It’s directed by Michael Bay so my brain is already mush, and I have still two days of the film to go.

This afternoon, I did a bit of book re-arranging. The desire to read C. S. Lewis has been growing on me again, recently, so I have put the books that were on my chest of drawers on the book shelf and the C. S. Lewis books that were on the shelf, on the drawers. I’m hoping that by having the books physically closer to me, I will be more likely to read them.

From whence comes this desire to read C.S.L.? Goodness knows – God, I hope, but it started when I watched a clip of Shadowlands the other day.

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, as I am sure you are aware, he was for many years good friends with J. R. R. Tolkien. Speaking of whom, 25th March is the day on which the One Ring was destroyed when Gollum fell into the lava of Mount Doom. Today is also Lady Day for Christians. Tolkien was a committed Catholic so the destruction of the Ring on the day that Gabriel announced the good news to Mary is not a coincidence. Here is one of my favourite paintings of the great event.

I love baroque art and architecture but sometimes it is good to have simplicity, and here Dante Gabriel Rossetti gives a very simple interpretation of the Annunciation. I am not much of an art critic, but things to look out for in the painting are,

The flames at Gabriel’s feet indicating his angelic status
Gabriel and Mary’s halos indicating their saintly rank
The lily that Gabriel is handing Mary; this is one of her symbols (I think it is a symbol of purity). There appears to be a lily on the red stand but I’m not sure if its placement there gives it a different meaning
The colour blue, which you can see behind Mary, is also a Marian symbol. I think it is a ‘royal’ colour, hence its association with her (Mary as Queen of Heaven)
Mary appears to have red hair. I’m not sure how to interpret that as I’m sure red is a colour more to be associated with Mary Magdalen (being the colour of licentiousness)

This evening, I am writing this post and just muddling along. I read earlier that one of the early signs of having contracted the coronavirus is a loss of smell and taste, so naturally I am now sniffing things wondering if its lack of smell is my fault. Every time I get a twinge of a headache I wonder if this is the start of a persistent one. It’s pathetic, really.

Abroad
This morning, I visited the local chemist to pick up prescriptions for my parents. They were only letting two people in at a time. The rest of us had to queue up outside – six feet apart. I used to the time to do some more Duolingo lessons. Afterwards, I came straight back. My dodgy right leg was a bit stiff, and got stiffer later. This is a repeating thing now – it feels wonderful(ish) and loose after I have done my physio but then stiffens later. I still have a way to go in sorting those muscles out.

Heroes and Villains

Corona Chronicles V

I had an unpleasant dream last night. It wasn’t a nightmare, just disagreeable. I won’t record what happened in it because I don’t want to remember it. What I will say is that it was one of those dreams that is based on a normal part of one’s life – a normal part that, unfortunately, my subconscious corrupted. Thanks, mate. I stand in solidarity with Cobb.

(Full marks to you if you get the film reference there)

Today went better – work in the morning, Tomb Raider during exercise this afternoon, work in the afternoon, then finish. I rarely sleep straight through the night these days – for reasons I don’t know, I am very prone to waking up around three in the morning – but I wonder if I might manage it tonight as I didn’t nap this afternoon.

At the weekend and today, I joined the Discord servers of two live streamers whose streams I enjoy watching. Doing so wasn’t easy – you don’t just give them your email address and a password but have to verify your e-mail. Discord seemed very fussy about that. Maybe I was just being a bit simple. Anyway, the two live streamers were MB Hammer and Nova of the Sea who has just finished playing The Last of Us and its DLC Left Behind. Why am I watching so much entertainment where people die due to infections at the moment?? That aside, The Last of Us was the first game I ever saw livestreamed on Twitch so quite aside from its excellence as a game, TLoU is very dear to me.

A.O.B.
Last night, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced a much stricter ‘lock down’ in Britain. It was a lovely sunny day, today, but very few people outside (we have a good view from our kitchen windows!)
There were two corona villains on social media today. The first was a recalcitrant 75 year old woman who couldn’t understand why the young presenter on Radio Solent was so worried about the coronavirus as he would obviously survive it. Neither did she care about the risk to herself on account of her age. The lady was completely blind to the fact that the reason we have a lock down is not for ourselves who might be healthy enough to beat the virus but to protect those who aren’t (for example, her husband, who, she said, had suffered a stroke). Her blindness was so complete that I wondered if she was mentally ill or ill in some other way that made her not care about anything, anymore. The only alternative seemed to be malice but she didn’t sound a malevolent person. It was a very sad interview to listen to. The second villain was Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct sports store who wanted to keep his shops open on the grounds that (as I read on Twitter) they were providing an essential service. As important as exercise is while we are cooped up, no one on Twitter was having that.
Earlier today, there was one corona hero: a hospitalised priest in Italy who gave up his ventilator for another person, and subsequently died. Unfortunately, this story appears to be false. Happily, though, the same reports said that the priest was a holy man. Requiescat in Pace.
Going back to the corona villains, I wonder how people who behave irresponsibly during the pandemic will write the narrative of their lives in a few years time. I don’t mean the lady on Radio Solent or Mike Ashley but those who flout the social distancing requirement. I strongly suspect that in five or ten years time, you will find very few people who will admit to having visited the park or pub when they were being asked to stay at home.
This is a note to myself to mention C. S. Lewis in tomorrow’s post.

By The Book

Corona Chronicles IV

Home
The parents and I remain well. In the early hours of Saturday morning, around two or three AM, I woke up and although I felt alright, I could feel worry about the coronavirus at the back of my head. Fortunately, I was still able to get back to sleep again.

On Sunday morning, my parish church live-streamed two Masses, the 8am (which I usually serve at) and one at 10am. Being able to watch it was very comforting.

Today, I got on with my work, and this afternoon, did my exercise and finished The Terminal. I rate this film 8/10. Tom Hanks plays Victor Navorski who is forbidden to enter the USA after a coup in his home country renders his passport invalid. Unable to return home, he is forced to live in the airport’s international transit lounge. The airport authorities do their best to get rid of him but without success. In the meantime, Viktor makes some friends, plays Cupid, and enjoys the friendship of the lovelorn Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The film is sweet and kind hearted. It’s the type of picture where even the baddie, in this case, airport director Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), is actually alright. I was going to give this film 7.8 out of 10 but rounded it up because it is so sweet. Once The Terminal finished, I started Tomb Raider – not the Angelina Jolie version but Alicia Vikander’s from 2018. Review to come on Wednesday.

Abroad
On Friday I did my shopping. As I thought might be the case, the Sainsbury’s store I went to was better stocked than the one my father visited on Thursday. Of course, there were still empty shelves, but overall it was in better shape. This week, I will be helping my father with the shopping again, though probably not until Wednesday.

Over the weekend, I saw photos and video of people out and about in parks and at markets in London. On the one hand, it of course made me very frustrated; on the other, who knows how the camera was being used. By that I mean, even if cameras don’t lie, they can still be used to present a manipulated image. This is the case even when they present the truth – in publishing it, the intention of the photographer or cameraman could be to use it to arouse our emotions positively or, unfortunately, negatively. I felt mine rising in the latter way so moved on.

A.O.B.
I continued Duolingo this weekend. As of today I am on a 289 day streak! If I get there and remember, I will record Day 300.
Today, I read a book for the first time in probably about two weeks (excluding Lent spiritual reading). I started with Anthony Beevor’s The Second World War and Clare Lydon’s lesbian romance Nothing to Lose. Now, can I read some more tomorrow, and the day after that, and…
I bought two little bottles of wine at the weekend and am now enjoying them. I shall end this post here so that I might continue to do so!

Subs and Shopping

Corona Chronicles III

Home
I started work early yesterday so that I could do most of it before going shopping with my father. My job entails doing the social media for a newly set up film production company. The job is fun but challenging in that I always have to be careful about how I speak and what I speak about. This is all the more the case now in light of the corona virus. I want to speak optimistically but not in a way that annoys or grates. How do I do this? It’s a judgement call and, yes, a process of trial and error.

I completed the last of my exercises yesterday. Today, I’m taking a rest from physio before resuming tomorrow. The physiotherapist called me; unfortunately, I was at Sainsbury’s at the time so couldn’t take the call. When I called the NHS line later, I was told to ring back in a couple of weeks. The person to whom I spoke sounded brusque. I imagine they were tired from a busy day of dealing with calls like mine.

I finished watching Kursk: The Last Mission. It is a good, suspenseful drama. If you know the story of the Kursk, you know what will happen but because the characters in the film are so strongly written that didn’t matter. I rate it 8/10.

If Kursk: The Last Mission has any accuracy, the Russian government was criminally negligent in how it (under)funded the Navy, which directly led to the failure of the rescue attempts when the Kursk went down, and in how it refused foreign help when it became clear that the Navy was unable to rescue its sailors. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia article on what happened (here), it is clear that the Russian government and Navy were both negligent. I should add, though, that the film is not a completely accurate portrayal of what happened. For example, it suggests that the sailors who survived the initial explosion that sunk the Kursk lived for much longer than they did in real life. After finishing Kursk: The Last Mission, I moved on to a drama-comedy: The Terminal.

Abroad
Further to yesterday’s post – I accompanied my father on his weekly shopping trip. Sainsbury’s was very calm. There were quite a few people wearing face masks but very few had gloves on, which seemed to rather defeat the purpose of the face mask. Of course, if the corona virus can live on clothing for any amount of time then even wearing gloves is a waste of time. Just wash your hands and try not to touch your face!

As for Sainsbury’s, demand continues to outstrip supply. We saw many empty shelves and came away without many of the items on our list. The Sainsbury’s that we went to is a very large store and, I suspect, the go-to place for a lot of people roundabout. I say this because the Sainsbury’s that I go to on Fridays is a bit smaller and this time last week was much better stocked. Maybe, though, it’s unfair to compare last week with this week. I will find out later today what shape it is in now.

A.O.B.
– In yesterday’s press conference, Boris Johnson said that he thinks the tide can be turned in three months. Let’s hope so.
– The F.A. has suspended all professional football until 30th April and has suggested that the league season can go on ‘indefinitely’. I’ll be reading more about this because I can’t see how it can. Not unless they want to potentially shorten or abandon the 2020/21 season. Otherwise, at some point in the summer they’ll have to say enough’s enough and either call the 2019/20 season null and void or declare the current league positions as the final ones. As a Manchester United fan I have no interest in seeing Liverpool win the league but if the season can’t be finished it would be a huge injustice to the Merseysiders if they were not awarded the title. Especially since they have played quite magnificently this season.
– Formula 1 is hoping to get going again in June. Well, let’s see.

The Rise of Skywalker

After writing this post, I wasn’t going to go and see The Rise of Skywalker but in the end I decided ‘Why not? It’s the last episode of the Star Wars saga (The Skywalker part of it, anyway) so let’s give it a go’.

I took my seat in the cinema and ~ well, I have to say that while I was in the cinema, I did enjoy myself. The action moved at a breathless pace and it was good seeing Rey and the gang (that sounds like an 80s band, doesn’t it!) one last time. The special effects were top notch, light sabre duels will never disappoint, and there were some funny and tender moments to dwell in.

Unfortunately, the film is a sugar rush movie; there is very little in it that is truly nutritious.

What do I mean by this?

Well, as I said, the action moves at a breathless pace. And it keeps moving. It never stops: one daring exploit after another; one explosion after another; one planet, one ship, one fight after another. The film never pauses to catch its breath, or to let its characters develop. The best films combine action and character. The Rise of Skywalker didn’t. I wouldn’t say that the characters existed simply to service the action – the film wasn’t that bad – but they were definitely subservient to it.

For me, character development provides the nutrition of a film because it’s through them that we grow. Like sweets, explosions are great fun – very addictive in their way – but you don’t learn about the human condition through them. Hence, The Rise of Skywalker‘s sugary nature.

The Rise of Skywalker would have been a superb film if its director J. J. Abrams had learnt from The Bourne Ultimatum. There, Paul Greengrass provides a masterclass on how to combine action and character. He does this simply by paying attention to his script to make sure the two are in alignment. Abrams, by contrast, seems to have said, ‘we start at A and end at Z; how do we get there in the loudest way possible?’.

Having said all that, The Rise of Skywalker is the first of the three sequel trilogy films that I would be prepared to buy and put in my DVD library. For all its flaws, something in the film worked and I would like to watch it again to try and uncover what that something is. Plus, however much I like the film or not, Star Wars IX is, by virtue of being the last part of the Skywalker saga, a culturally significant film that anyone who likes film and science fiction ought to own.

What next? Well, as for me, I simply move on. As per my last post (link above), The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t for me, and that’s fine: Deo Gratias, I stopped hating the sequel trilogy last year. I won’t move on very far, though: I still enjoy reading about the Star Wars universe, and especially seeing the memes created around them. There are a lot of super talented people out there.

  • For another take on The Rise of Skywalker, visit my friend John’s blog and read his first class review here

A good thing happened this morning: I made my peace with Star Wars.

Ever since I saw The Force Awakens I have disliked what Disney has done to the Star Wars films. The Force Awakens leaned so heavily on the previous pictures that it became a work of plagiarism; the chief villain, Kylo Ren, was the weakest of his kind I have ever seen. The best thing about The Last Jedi is that it wasn’t (as bad as) The Force Awakens. The story was weak, Kylo Ren still poor – blah.

I disliked Force Awakens intensely; I felt numb towards The Last Jedi. This morning, I watched the last trailer for The Rise of Skywalker and felt – well, at peace; instead of being angry or critical, I thought to myself, You know what, this is not for me but I hope those who do go and see it enjoy it. I thought that to myself, and I meant it. I’ve come a long way, and I am relieved.