A Journal of the Plague Year Day 96

Tuesday 23rd June 2020

Was trapped watching Sense8 on Netflix by J; the show a product of the Wachowski Sisters, the gothy minds behind The Matrix trilogy. This time round it appears the siblings have been given carte blanche and the equivalent of a bottomless credit card in terms of creative license, that worked so well back in the day, to the tune of $1.6 billion in takings for their franchise. So the premise this time is a bunch of strangers across the globe who are able to telepathically connect -they feel, talk to and see each other in real time -while stalked by a hellbent organisation trying to kill em off.

The Wachowskis are a pretty left wing, inclusive bunch, having themselves transitioned in gender and being staunch advocates of LGBTQIA rights and free lovin’, which inhabits this storyline with gay and transgender characters throughout. They also bring together disparate personalities representing multiple forgotten countries outside the North American bubble -Kenya, India, South Korea, Iceland, Germany, Mexico. Well so far, so diverse.

s

However, look closer and it starts to jar, notably the storylines. The Indian woman is of course caught in an arranged marriage, and battling local corruption, with a sideline in her family curry restaurant. The Kenyan man lives in a vast slum of local corruption, gang crime and HIV infection -killers at every corner. The South Korean woman is a martial arts master with a Masters in Economics, sacrificing all for family honour (wrongly imprisoned, battling -you guessed it -local corruption plus honour-bound chauvinism, to the extent her family lets her take the fall and her brother’s trying to kill her). The Mexican guy -a telenovella star (perhaps the closest the Wachowskis got to a Mexican experience) is in the closet, battling machismo stereotype, the church, wifebeating, blackmail and the vapidness of fame.

s

It can be tough sell for those non-White or non-Western, try as you might. At first I made myself believe this was a wonderful cherry-picking take on every major social problem in each territory; that the Wachowski’s had done their research and were consciously raising awareness. But by the second episode it was pretty obvious they’d done quick Google searches or just put down a veneer of what’d rubbed off some passing media trope. To make it more obvious if a Black American character was up for the stand, and his raison d’etre was ghetto gangs, police brutality, drugs and trying to win back his disowned son, while aiming to be the new rap/ hoop star of the ages, it’d be cringe level 10, especially coming from the usual rich, White penmanship.

In contrast the White characters are multi-layered, do not perform to stereotype, and do not have long, lingering sidelines in their tale to prove they’re more than just a number. Laugh for hours as you discover the Korean woman likes beans on toast, or the Kenyan guy drives a homemade bus in ode of Jean-Claude Van Damme! By comparison the Icelandic woman is a DJ and living in London (not a Viking helmet or geyser in sight), the German guy’s a safecracker for organised crime (not what you’d equate with Germania), while the Americans are safely disparate as bloggers and policemen and hackers and ecologists.

s

The script is derisory to say the least, although the valiant acting helps to blunt the edges, despite dooming their careers. The long, lingering shots of nookie at every turn is another seller, albeit it becomes quite an obsession. At several points throughout any given episode the characters will down tools (maybe take up new ones) to have a transcontinental fumble, often swapping bedpartners or becoming embroiled in one big orgiastic flexihump, that makes one reckon it’s wish fulfilment on the directors’ behalf (remember the weird, fluid-spraying rave in Matrix?). I see these characters -at every opportunity away from the henchmen -prowling the alleys, peeking through windows, looking for jizz.

s

One character, the fellow actress/beard/fag hag/PR/PA/agent/secretary/housemaid/manager/fan vetter/letter opener/rooftiler of the Mexican couple is so laughably, vicariously infatuated with her housemates, and devoid of any life of her own she openly friggs herself off from the corner of the bed as they get manmansex-time. This seems to mirror the veritable well of navel gazing stupor the Wachowskis may be immersed in, in how blinkered they are to anyone’s experience other than their own. When Nomi (Know Me) makes the Maid of Honour speech at her sisters already compromised wedding, she hijacks the entire loveletter to make a diatribe on her transrights. One feels like yelling at her, Nomi it’s not all about you, all of the time.

s

But then again, am I not wallowing in the selfsame mire? Were I long-suffering of trans abuse would this not be a revelation of a series, and a breath of fresh air for an ignorant world? While overlooking the corny national stereotypes, suddenly unimportant or forgivable. Would I be publicly standing up and voicing this diatribe to override their struggle?

ANYHOO, enough bitching. The world is stupid and so am I. Back to life.

Went out for a breath of fresh air and a touch back to reality, the real version not the utterly, ludicrously fantastical. Life sometimes is too much lived vicariously or not at all, even if it is to brandish fists at the skies.

The sun was high today, the weather cool and the fields a riot of wildflowers, even for urban, unkempt commons. And leaving it all behind.

To end the day:

btybtybtybty

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 11

Sunday 24th May 2020

Wake scroll eat repeat.

Another grey day, another wasted one. Has everyone reached the stage of lying in bed all day yet? That thing we swore not to do at the start of lockdown is now requisite. Not bothering to change, curling up with a screen for hours.

I’m entering the dragon, where even the phone’s getting neglected. I don’t care for social media anymore, what anyone ever is doing out there, the few messages increasingly unanswered and increasingly infrequent. The TV too, with Netflix just blaring out a side of Amerika that’s not timely right now, too full of bullshit and pizzazz that disgusts you rather than sucks you in. I’m not watching films, I’m not reading. While that one worry, whatever it is becomes like a rock sentinel in some desert, the only thing on the horizon you try and work around or blot out. But no matter how vast the plain is, how distant that monolith, it’s always fucking visible.

I have to chase up a refund, Cockhands Carlton Leisure, a company to always avoid if ever there was one, who’ve been promising it for a month now. UUURG. J is still absent, the silver clock in the living room ticks infernally so I’ve hidden it in the corner, where it can annoy the pillows.

There’s just so little to say.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 62

Tuesday 19th May 2020

Having exhausted all possibilities on Netflix, blocked by algorithms, I resorted to watch one of the latest offerings, Extraction. Starring Thor Chris Hemsworth, getting ever more typecast into the action hero role of the Great White Hunter. Set in Bangladesh, what a welcome surprise! No Hollywood film would ever think that as a film location, with few even knowing the difference between India or where, what and who it is on a map. Ask your average Joe and Josette on that side of the pond what they think of Bangladesh and the likely answer will be ‘what?’ and if lucky, followed up by ‘poor’ (this side we have enough Bangladeshis, notably running most of our ‘Indian’ restaurants, to know what their food tastes like, and that insofar, they exist) .

So what a refreshing take to think hundreds of millions round the world would now be introduced to the country, inevitably exposed to the culture, the backgrounds, the characters.

s

The opening shot however was not encouraging.

There is a certain mustardy filter that has become a meme among US films, actively promoted by Hollywood and almost every Netflix production. That whenever setting a scene in the Global South (read: poor and hot) you cast a yellow glaze on all things -redolent of a dusty, dirty atmosphere. Dhaka, the capital of 21 million, was seething with it, as if a sudden sand storm had just blown in over the jungles and the world’s largest river delta, that sees in 4x the annual rainfall of London. Welcome to a giant broiling city of mass poverty, open drains and endless grit, like a Star Wars or Dune location (incidentally all scenes were actually filmed in India).

This should be called as to what it really is, a poverty filter, and racist projection.

s

s

Mexico is particularly prone to this same cast, the minute one steps over the border from a sunny California, and just as avoidant of the glittering city centres in favour of seamy bordellos, desert ranches and shantytowns.

s

s

s

This has its roots in the US Army office in Hollywood. When hiring out its weapons, fatigues and aircraft carriers it does operate a PR scheme alongside one has to agree to. This is understandable, who’s gonna lend out work if the crew in question is seeking to take down your establishment? Akin to gearing up a production and helping in all advice, while they advertise how shit and baby-killing you are.

This office has guidelines to toe, and Hollywood has fallen into step. Note how Western (read: White) locales have a certain blue tinge that psychologists put as making audiences alert, whilst promoting a sense of cleanliness and calm. However you’ll have to up this tint if dealing with Eastern Europe (notably Russia) to make it uncomfortable -overtly cold, calculating and emotionless, rife with degradation and akin to any horror flick. Meanwhile, we’re getting conditioned to warm colours equated to dirt, as any non-Western, poverty stricken nation is assumed to embody.

s

s

The seminal film that influenced a lot of this was Saving Private Ryan, whose use of desaturated colours became iconic. This in turn led to Black Hawk Down, a film notable in the fact it had to run past an Army and White House committee for approval. Directed by Ridley Scott, its beautiful cinematography and gritty realism at battle proved to be an operatic groundbreaker. Telling the true story of the chopper crew attacked by a mob in Mogadishu, and the ensuing gunfight that killed 19 American soldiers (and led to the withdrawal of the US from Somalia), it showed harrowing shots of firsthand experience.

s

One scene shows a Somali woman yelling angrily at the soldiers amidst the bullets. The soldier gallantly tries to avoid hitting her, hissing repeatedly at her to scram, but in the end he’s forced to shoot and she goes down, mad robes flailing. That snapshot employs the gritty realism the film was noted for, portraying the true-to-life decisions of every soldier, and winning the audience over in droves. -Or did it truly portray things? The reality was not that a few civilians were caught in the crossfire, and that the soldiers ummed and arred about taking one or two belligerent, bloodthirsty innocents down. It does play a bit like Zulu, the civilians shown dancing and gibbering like animals even as they’re fired at.

s

s

Journalist Mark Bowder who wrote the book on the Battle of Mogadishu even complained about the fake ‘realism’ in their translation. In reality over 1,000 Somalis died in the battle, not just militia but hundreds of civilians callously mown down -albeit posthumously portrayed as armed with AK47s and rocket launchers, or were women and children employed as human shields by their own militia. The mob mentality against the US ‘peacekeeping’ presence in the conflict had long been united by the highest rate of collateral deaths since the Vietnam War, with 500-600 killed (inc. militia) and 2,000 wounded in that short time, plus high profile murders, torture and assaults on civilians committed by US soldiers.

s

Anyhoo, I digress. This isn’t so much an anti-US diatribe (all warring countries commit the same acts of violence and crime abroad – in Somalia Canadian soldiers were also caught torturing civilians), but a stab at the complicit narrative that democracy installs. As philosopher Jacques Ellul points out, democracies have just as extant a use of propaganda as autocracies, exacerbated by the fact just five right-wing families control most of the world’s ‘free’ media.

s

Anyhooooooo, back to the film. Yes. Great for the acrobatics of camera, with some almost seamless shots following the violence from room to room to window to falling to bouncing to the landing crash below, or out one windscreen into another as the explosion hits. One pounding shot lasts 12 minutes. Directed by Sam Hargrave, the stuntman double for Captain America, these are fight scenes as memorable as the Matrix trilogy, though not as groundbreaking. However, it does fall into a pit of the dated action movie, the formula being the Great White Straight Man/ White savour meme rescuing darkies and mostly shooting them down too. It is a different time these days, and Rambo is no longer as poignant or searingly poetic.

s

It is the kind of cliché where the American Aussie hero is repeatedly bulletproof even from machine guns a few feet away, is lone in his rescue of the locals, with superior strength and skillsets to be in foreign awe of, and is heartbreakingly haunted by the past. The foreign roles are extras, the one woman (immaculate, ball-breakingly ruthless) hinting at a love history and nothing more, the villains (cackling, hand-rubbing, sadistic) as single-faceted as a stage demon allows.

As farce it’s delicious for the ride, though it does repeatedly, weakly try to pretend it’s Jane Austen, with guns. You’d easily enjoy it if you forgot the attachments. But fuck you, too late. Nazi baby killers.

As mentioned, Bangladeshis watching this film will be offended for sure. Why Bangladesh? Well, no other country would have their police force mown down as the forgettable baddies, populating each bloodied action shot as unit after unit is gunned, stabbed, run over and er raked multiple times in every available body part as they bumble onto screen. The action starts off in India, but decamps to Bangladesh to portray the entire police as corrupt and in league with the venomous, casually torturing drug lords.

s

Imagine this, let’s take the NYPD. The head honcho of the force gets in league with the cities local mafia don, and orders the arrest of the hero and his rescued kidnap victim. Does Hollywood then wordlessly allow every policeman turning up to become bullet bait, making up the majority of a body count of 183? There would be outrage. No reviewer’s picked up on that, despite castigating the film for its plot and ridiculous scenarios, yet missing the disconnect with respect in a portrayal of a people.

s

s

This is why the film had to be set in a forgotten, forgettable small country and shot outside it -not India (too large, too important), not Mexico (too close), not the Middle East (too sensitive), not Eastern Europe (too White, the audience might notice/ identify). Despite having a population of 165 million, none of them matter, none of their voices deserve to be heard.

To finish off, some images of the city. We’re not going to pretend it isn’t poor, it isn’t sweatshoppy, it isn’t hot and steamy. But there’s more to it than a vast, festering crime-slum. Welcome to Dhaka.

s

s

s

s

s

s

s

s

s

ss

s

s

s

s

s

Garment workers protest for higher wages in Dhaka

s

s

s

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 30

Thursday 16th April 2020

Broke the record for staying in bed doing sweet FA, watching TV and the internet mindlessly. It’s sickly. Hopefully the lowpoint of my daily lockdown experience, and the only way being up from now on.

I realise increasingly I’m gonna have to ditch the internatz sessions if I’m gonna use this time to write a book, as well as the blog. Less bullshit, more conviction. Less keyboard warrior, more slow time scribe. I’ll need to remember people pay money to isolate themselves and write, they go on retreats, become fire-watchers or hermits and wall themselves in at great expense.

s

I think the realisation has come from watching Kong Skull Island play luridly in the background while I put together a whole bunch of useless map comparisons (who knew Ecuador was bigger than the UK?) for a random architecture forum. Ah, yes, life, the one I forgot to get even in lockdown. And through it all, comparing Iceland to England, Bangladesh to Russia the surreal series of background explosions, choppers, and a big ape stomping on people.

This is my life at the mo:

s

Seriously, what a shit film. Cartoonish, absurd, and quite jarringly gory. And don’t even get me started on John C. Reilly’s character, the only local with an actual role or speaking part -endemic to every exotic King Kong/ Tarzan/ Jungle Cruise/ Anaconda film where leaving the West to get sticky equates to Here Be Dragons. He achieves characterisation by dint of being the only American (his Japanese comrade conveniently dying beforehand, the tribe conveniently mute and er, unsmiling) -and thus obnoxiously endearing at every interaction with the camera, drop a kitten and he’d probably be there to catch it with his face. Gurning between your legs.

s

I think though what irked me, and kept me up at night was the pulping of humans by giant feet, fist and teeth, which was a tad too inhumane despite the dodgy CGI. Much more palatable when you see them scream a bit and get chased before being bitten, rather than casually obliterated. Human flies.

Tom Giggleston does however redeem himself as having the world’s most velvety man-voice throughout. He should be doing Sheba catfood ads, or Milk Tray, that perfect tine of Englishness without being too posh, even when he is pretending to be a gun-for-hire. The kind that isn’t creepy, no, having just stepped out of Claridges, possibly a Bentley, with a squirming binbag on the backseat.

s

The rest of the day’s viewing was Netflix’s The Windsors series, that also droned in the background, and looks like the setup for The Crown, who just cobbled their storylines off this research, including never-before-seen footage and letters from the Royal Collection archives. Quite a segway, King Kong > Queenie.

The weekly shop had to happen, the fridge looking like a wasteland of leftover veg, a cleaved carrot, a half swede, some mushrooms, none of which I have any interest in getting to know. In Lidl I treated myself to a German bartkartoffeln (read: fried potatoes with lardons) as my first semblance of civilisation. There was no queue for the supermarket, despite being quite crowded inside, and hardly anyone wore a mask, which we’d happened to have forgotten also. I know some of my East Asian friends only go out with shades, hat and mask to avoid recognition, like they’re Donatella stealing through Primark, or Gary Glitter in a playground. But you’d do that too if you were EA and opened up any random comments on say Asian pet food supplies to the local weather, and see the hate. Got stared at a few times on the street and in the shops, one with a real look of fuck you, so had to give it back. It’s hard to work out sometimes if they wanna fuck you or fuck you.

s

For all the hate -and yes, let’s pretend China can be vilified for that local cover-up at the start, and not knowing what they were dealing with – it’s still a month’s lag that many Western nations had, but squandered. CNN published a story today on it, on why Europe/ NA delayed their response despite knowing it was human-to-human and highly contagious by then (not to mention having seen all the Asian nations enforce lockdowns), with the US and UK particularly late to the table:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/16/asia/asia-europe-us-coronavirus-delay-intl-hnk/index.html

For perspective, Wuhan took 2 days to go lockdown from human-to-human confirmation (or 8 days from the first suspicions raised on Jan 14th), while NYC took 22 days from its first (and even with the benefit of watching a similar-sized city in China go through the rigmarole a month beforehand). Animal>human infections never result in lockdowns or even quarantines, as seen in the periodic outbreaks of Bird Flu round the world, or the 3-4 new zoonotic viruses we annually find. China’s mistake was believing it the same, with the local police covering up news for a week before the State warned those doing so ‘would be nailed to the pillar of shame for all of history’.

s

The US squandered a month it could have prepared/ prevented, and was still repatriating 40,000 Americans from China after the travel ban.

Meanwhile, the UK waited a full 2 months after the first case to enforce social distancing, business closures and stay-at-home. It may be gauche but I’ll say it now: surely there’s blame in that too? If one’s to point the finger at China, all sweaty and fat-handed, weaving from side to side, for dropping the bowl, it kinda figures us doing the same makes us as culpable, especially granted the foresight.

s

Anyhoo I digress, gotta stop bitching. On the forum that I’m addicted to occasionally browsing, there’s a 587-and-counting page update on C-19, frothing for blood at every turn -and that’s a skyscraper architecture forum. For the Good News To Restore Your Faith In Humanity post asking for admissions, there are just the two pages, and it’s been like that all year. Good news just doesn’t sell (you only need to ask those Jehovah’s Witnesses bored AF by their bookstalls). Albeit the one about the kindly centenarian who’s doing a garden marathon in his zimmer, while raising £14 million for the NHS has just been added. I raise a glass, with dry hands.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 27

Monday 13th April 2020

I’m sick of Americana. It’s been 3 weeks and all I’ve seen is drove after drone of US telly culture via Netflix and The Internatz. It’s all starting to get too much, the cop shows, gun heists, coffee breaks, nasal drawls, whooping, blondes, chinos, cardigans, plaid. Immaculate lawns, garrulous housing, sass, likable gangsters, car culture, rest stops, trip hop, laptops, likes, stories, handles, vines. Making such a BIG deal about social mixing or not correlating with the racist, classist and sexist realities, obscuring the banality of the everyday, the gutted city centres, the crime, the boredom. How every scene conjured is pure, complicit fuckery. Lies, lies I tell you!

It’s just so fucking gushing about it all.

s

Not all cafes and bars are buzzing. Not all classrooms are vapid. Not all of California is sunny. Not all of Xmas is snowing and candle-lit. Not all of Mexico is dusty and orange filtered. Not all of NYC is just SO magical! Where are the drone shots of Queens? The shopping in Wal-Mart? The social and racial segregation indexes now on par with Apartheid-era South Africa? Where are the people who don’t live in 4-5 bed houses (no matter how rich or poor they are)? Where are the sweeping stories of people working in your average smalltown office or restaurant or shop or supermarket or factory? Where, oh where are the legions of working and (lower) middle classes? The fat? Where are the people who don’t wear make-up to bed? They have their stories to tell also -and even if the same ones, whether funny, exciting, romantic or resonant, why is it the upper-middle class resoundingly get the roles?

Talk shows are an embodiment -and the fact news agencies are morphing into them a sign. Every chat show host, presenter, news anchor and primetime guest too cartoonish, every audience too canned, too willing to whoop joyously on each statement that’s ended with a raise in octave, pause, then a look out to the crowd. Ratings, ratings ratings, catering to what we want interminably, back in 2009.

s

OK I get there are the many offerings that do represent, a big menu of them. American Beauty, The Wire, Sundance that kinda thing. But they are so very drowned out by everything else.

Endless Tiktok (Chinese I know), Drag Race, IG, Bojack, Cardi B, Lana Del Ray, Mark Wahlberg, Trump, Punk’d, React Channel, Prime, Disney, Pixar, Marvel. I mean I need something more exotic now, something historical. Also, another gripe: US documentaries. On one hand the tabloid idiocy of decorating information by screaming it out and dumbing it down: overdramatic audio, menacing voiceover, too-frequent summarisation (for the ad breaks every 15 mins I’ve heard), Flash graphics (trying to look sciencey), and hammy, sepia-toned dramatisations. Swear to Beelzebub, your left hand could feature in 72 Creatures To Watch The Fuck Out For, as they rotate the same shots of it turning claw shaped and raking at some gravel, or grabbing a cat to the sound of pick squeals.

s

On the other hand it’s the yonder extreme: slow, dragged out, formulaic and dry. The foodie documentaries a good example, varying with arthouse and voiceovers, endless conversation and life stories when we just wanna look at the grub, the culture, the recipes, the history. It’s food for fuck’s sake, not Nelson Mandela. We are not interested in the timeless glorification of a food hero that takes up an hour-long biopic, or extended reels of a rich man going shopping. I swear, sometimes I think Americana is so very glorifying and hero-worshipping as it helps with the hierarchy. Just too much formula.

s

What is missing is gravitas. Humility. Truth. Reticence. Detail. Please don’t clap. Please don’t call me Sir. Netflix, Apple TV, Quibi, Youtube, do for the love of cake just tone it down a notch or three.

My other option is Arte, our European attempt at global domination via France and Germany (and like Dunkerke, stopping right there). Ah, the fresh air. But then you only have about 20 programmes to choose from, thus forcing you into whatever arthouse/ history/ social science/ particle physics funnel they recently dreamt up from their tiny planning studio. And rapt as you may be with Malian wedding rituals, a biopic on Joan Miro, or Mannerist architecture in 16th Century Portugal it quickly becomes as entertaining as the wallpaper. I watched two entire episodes on a bunch of German God Squadders walking the medieval pilgrimage route over the Pyrenees, towards the Santiago de Compostela shrine. Mesmerised as they crossed whole bridges (someone losing a shoe in the river -heartstopping), calling in on statues, looking at buildings and getting some of the country air. They had a whole fucking season dedicated to them – those same people, that one journey. This is why Europe, denizen of holiday snaps and colonialism is no longer setting the world on fire, even with Eurovision.

Took a good, hard look at my life after that.

s

And don’t get me started on the Beeb. Dumbed down as to be squatting over the ranks of what the Mirror or Daily Mail would offer (though we’re not at C5, Sun scoop spectacular quite just yet) if they were given a £20 budget to source writers on the nation’s pulse, via their readership. It is so riven with ham and hack it could be Christmas. Dr Who (sorry), Celebrity Scissorhands, War of the Worlds. And their exposées are just so damn one-sided, so very choreographed by a presenter investigative reporter who’s already charted out the story beforehand, including conclusion. Watch as Tracy investigates slaughterhouses on rumours animals get hurt in there, or Benjamin go to North Korea to check out their journalism schools. Maybe a harsh dressing down on race relations when hanging out at a KKK rally, involving multiple hidden cams and jittery chases.

TV has become a raison d’etre in these times. It is like power, food and air, a social birthright. And goddamit if what we’re getting is Coffee and fucking Kareem it’s time to man the barricades.

s

Morning a write off thanks to far too heavy a weeding session in the gardens, had to run to find a bucket, rummaging under the sink and finally settling for (thankyou J, precious metals trader), an antique silver planter in the Japonisme style to vom in. Highlight of my day. Oh and Antiques Roadshow.

Then a bikeride in the sun, on the same trail to Chelsea Bridge and back. Got fatshamed by A laughing at my baby tire when I took my top off (26C), cuddling round my rippling 12 pack. I’ve been nurturing it with soft drinks, biscuits and the odd cake since lockdown, it’s my friend. A buddy messaged to ask if I wanted to take a walk in Crystal Palace Park, forgetting that I’d moved from the area a while back. We decided against after realising it would involve a train trip, which is pretty much illegal and likely swarming with plain clothes police. It would’ve been one awkward meet up anyhoo, 2 metres apart at all times and talking like we’re on stage. Pretty much it, my life in a paragraph.

Quibi is the hip new thing A is currently smitten by, though he (nor anyone) can ever remember its name. The platform specialises in 10 minute bites of programming, from comedies to episodes (that suspiciously add up to the same dozens of hours) to documentary snippets to full on gameshows – all specially condensed for our half second attention spans. They’ve also been edited to be watchable portrait or landscape on your phones.

s

It’s perfect for cutting out the pfaff, but it doesn’t bode well that they’re catering to our wants (where recently tv all round the world has been trying out 15-20 minute offerings if you’ve noticed). How will we learn in the future if this becomes a norm? How will we get an appreciation of the smaller, slower things? In a similar vein another platform, Blinkist edits down entire books into 15 minute reads. I’m worried. But also enthralled.

All they need to do now is do something worth watching.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 8

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Day 2 of the lockdown and the fridge is already looking depleted. It’s sunny outside and the world seems beckoning. Unbeknownst to most there is another worldly drama playing across the seas, that many just aren’t interested enough to click on, and the fact one third of the global population is now in lockdown. India has just entered a nationwide homestay as of last night  -the world’s largest social undertaking in history, over nearly 1.4 billion citizens.

s

source

The lack of warning meant panic buying across the country, even in small villages -giving adequate warning means hundreds of millions will head to their hometowns, thus largely negating the effect of what a lockdown is meant to instill (as seen in the droves of students who fanned out from Lombardy and spread the virus across Italy when word got leaked). Narendra Modi’s govt has sanctioned some of the most timely and forward thinking measures long before other countries cottoned on, including the preemptive closures of its railways, highways, 80 of its most major cities and early banning of gatherings, events and religious services. Indians today are waking up to a few shops open, a few vendors, and spraypainted rings on the ground, where people will have to queue 2 metres apart when buying.

People stand apart in a line to receive free food being distributed on a street during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi

Also already complaints about overly overt policing, insofar as essential workers are being hassled trying to reach their workplace and food startups are dumping their inventories as delivery trucks are forced to turn round. Many more fear sheer starvation, and a distinct lack of healthcare options in certain states, although the government is bailing out free grain, dairy, unemployment benefit and hard cash for those without bank accounts. Those in slums are also mentioning social distancing is all but impossible, where nearly one fifth of urbanites live, many of whom opted to stay despite free housing on the outskirts (some slums generate over a $1 billion annually from sheer entrepeneurship). In contrast to some southern cities where quality of life is on European levels, others in the north are still entrenched in the Third World.

s

Bangalore India’s most livable metro

s

Mumbai’s biggest slum, Dharavi

Take all this into account and imagine the scale of the undertaking, of the shared experience. Uttar Pradesh State alone accounts for 200 million people, where some rural areas report one ICU for 3 million. Take the counties of our own green and pleasant land, one of the world’s densest despite, where 50 million people fit into an area the size of Maine, or Sri Lanka.  Think of Cambridgeshire, Devon, Yorkshire. Well if you divided India into similar sized catchments, there’d still be 2,452 of them. If you gave them first names, like say, Bill and Ted, you’d have a problem dubbing them all without heading into Chardonnay-Lou-Lou, or Gugu-Mbatha territory. If every second was half a million people -in short an instant city you’d have to police, feed, shelter, wage and nurse for 3 weeks for, you’d be sitting there for over 40 minutes. If you counted every Indian person sitting under lockdown right now, swiping right for each of their smiley profile pics -let’s say a second for each -you’d be there for 44 years, and your arm would have eroded away back in 2050.

s

Premise of a horror movie satire if ever I saw one, a Tindr/Grindr fanatic chained to feverish possibilities with a bloodied stump.

On that slightly jarring note, all that is also out the window. J, an occasional user of hook up apps, has mentioned how traffic is down, yet people are still up for social undistancing, and swapping body fluids, albeit some are more cooperatively marking meet-ups as future red letter days on their fireman calendar. A Facebook friend has taken screenshots of his great one-liners du jour, ‘hey, lets get coughey together’, ‘Babe, I’ll take your breath away’. We kinda need that humour in our everyday I feel, despite acknowledging what is going on abroad, in town, right next door. Let’s not forget to help out in our blinkered isolation, and barricades of personal prioritising.

s

250,000 have so far volunteered to help at least a single day when the NHS called out. China, South Korea, Cuba and Russia are now sending testing kits, masks, medical teams and ICU’s across the world, including to the US. New Yorkers are setting up their own mask factories at home. When Texas refused to instate a lockdown, each of its 254 counties ordered their own. Iran has freed 130,000 non-violent prisoners, including political ones, amid an army of hundreds of thousands of volunteers disinfecting the streets and helping in hospitals. In Italy 8,000 doctors have volunteered – 5x more than the state had sought, and despite nearly 10% of C-19 cases -over 5,000 -being healthcare workers.

s

In other news Prince Charles just checked in as positive. Along the lines of global, candle-burning vigils for Tom Hanks and his wife, oh and Linda Lusardi, to grace the world-igniting excerpts from Madonna on how great an equaliser the disease is. Poor Charles, even A is worried about the Queen who he’s not a fan of and neither a subject to, but I’ve assuaged him that her London pad has 660 rooms to distance herself in, and her current hidey-hole in the country over a thousand.

s

It’s not like I hate them. I just don’t have enough tealights to care that much if they got ill, and definitely not more than anyone else. Like a neighbour’s pet on its way to the vets, claiming that oh, they had a good run. And one littered with racehorses, yachts, gala balls, servers and corporate sponsorship.

Yesterday’s film was Knives Out. A timely, nail biting study on an odorous family fighting over a huge inheritance, with a murder thrown in. High camp and intrigue, and ticking off our boxes on getting our back on the class divide, our hero the servant girl /nurse, while James Bond does a ham act in so deep a Southern drawl you’ll need subtitles. The comeuppance for any Hollywood villain is always one to be savoured, but so delicious is this turning of tables I do question as to what so spices it. The idea of fairness, of equalising the curve, and setting right from wrong. Coupled with a superiority of emotional intelligence (EQ), and I think a dash of mob mentality where we the manky droves take down the statues over us, who’ve long been rubbing our noses in their feeds and plinths of enablers. The rich are portrayed as the emotionally asinine, the greedy and cold, but are we not following the same time-worn paths when their time comes, if ever it does, at our hand? If our current climes are so great a leveller why are we still clicking on those stories? And still denigrating them?

And on that pressing social subject, what is inheritance tax these days?

s

Am watching The Platform on Netflix, a Basque horror and thinly veiled lesson on society, in which people lured from a nightmare job interview enter varying stages of survival – the rich at top enjoying a table of luxury, while 250 levels beneath they fight over the slowly decreasing spread as it makes it’s journey downwards. At the bottom they murder and cannibalise, at the top a fascist restaurant punishes the staff if a hair is found out of place, notably in the canapés. In between people fight, kill, hallucinate and gorge on intrigue to climb upwards, alongside the question as to whether they alone are responsible for their crimes or it’s the greed of those above, or the system entire, or their administrators. Some inmates attempt to civilise their wants, picking only a few titbits off, only to watch others stuffing their faces on the floor below, stripping the displays, breaking china and stepping on gateaux, as seen in contemporary scenes over supermarket bogroll.

s

That is until someone pleas to instill a portion rationing and spread the word, to which all ignore. Only when another threatens to shit in the plates does it work, and all get equally fed, bottom downwards anyway. Thus from anarchy / capitalism is borne fascism/ communism, positive feedom and negative freedom, each one diametrically opposed yet sharing similar values.

Solidarity or shit. This has got to be one of the most apt films of our time, and hopefully not a snapshot of 2020. The bit where the nice lady suddenly shat on the face of the social climber, well I’m not looking forward to that.

I’d mention something about eating flatmates too, but right now that would just be bad taste.

Yesterday

Tomorrow