Archive for March, 2012

Title: The Wire (Season 1)

Creator: David Simon

Starring: Domenic West, John Dolman, Idris Elba, Larry Gilliard Jnr and many many more

Released: 2002

There isn’t enough space to write about how good “The Wire” is, but I’ll do my best. This show is unlike anything else I have ever experienced in any medium. People often look down upon television for being too passive; less of a spectacle than a movie and less rewarding than a book. “The Wire” proves all these assumptions wrong by exploring character, plot and themes on an exhaustive scale never seen on TV. On a basic level, it focuses on one single case, but the success of the show is down to how all the characters affect this case, be they street level dealers or major players. This is mirrored on the law enforcement side as we see all the action from raids on the streets up to the quiet conversations in the chambers of the courthouse.

The facts that originally led to a luke warm reception and criticism are the very things that make “The Wire” a truly unique show. There is little action in the first two or three episodes and the number of characters is almost endless. If you expect a conventional heroes and villains plot with cliffhangers at the end of each episode then this won’t be for you. If you appreciate moral ambiguity, unresolved storylines and dialogue that sometimes needs subtitles for a native English speaker, then you might enjoy “The Wire”. As I mentioned, there is a focus on more than a few characters which gives you the feeling of reading a long novel. The realistic approach to sets and dialogue give an almost voyeuristic feel, it’s as if you are standing at the end of an inner city street when the action is going on and you are compelled to watch.

On a purely personal level I have never really been a fan of Cop Shows and I always avoid the Crime section in bookshops. I think the biggest reward for me has been my enhanced understanding of the politics of crime and crime fighting. It’s left me feeling pretty negative about law and order and slightly confused about the people who I previously thought of as being baddies. One last word of advice: try to watch the whole thing in an intensive period, it makes it easier to follow the plot(s) and get involved in the characters.

Title: How to be Idle

Author: Tom Hodgkinson

Genre: Self Help/ Humour (but really common sense)

Lazy cliche: An instruction manual for the modern idler.

Within the one broad theme of ‘Idleness’, Hodgkinson manages to encompass so many neglegted yet important facets of life. Our need to work less and play more is justified in a very well written book using examples and quotes from some great thinkers through history.
The greatest strength of this book is that it gives you a warm feeling that things you enjoy – beer gardens, sleeping etc – are actually really good for you. The guilt associated with not working so many hours per week, or needing to get up early to do DIY, are actually relics from the industrial revolution. This era of mass production with time as a mere commodity can be changed if people take on board the ideas of this book and adjust their lives to suit their soul and not their bank balance.
The book is divided into neat sections, each with a well placed quote, this makes it easy to read when visiting the toilet or having a bath. Although the tone is humourous and flippant I think you can take a serious message from How to be Idle. I think Tom Hodgkinson should be commended for his bravery in taking on outdated and traditional thinking methods. Most people still work as if there is a war on, or of the British Empire is still steaming ahead. In reality we should realise that most modern practices do little to further our health, families, and general wellbeing.

It sits amongst other slow living titles very easily and continues a growing trend of questioning why we still live the Victorians. Who would I recommend this book to? Well…, everyone really.

Title: The Road to Oxiana

Author: Robert Byron

Genre: Classic Travel Literature

Lazy cliche: …Indiana Jones meets Noel Coward in exotic Central Asia

Byron set out to investigate and explore Islāmic architecture but he found himself doing far more. I don’t doubt his interest and knowledge on the initial subject matter, but I feel it was mainly an excuse to express his unique perspective on all manner of things.
The narrative takes in the people and places surrounding his quirky quest from Persia through to the Oxiana river in Turkestan (present day Afghanistan I think). There is a vast cast of characters breezing in and out of the pages which gives it a real Jazz-age feel. This style is of its time and takes a while for the modern reader to be acquainted with the fractured descriptions. Once you get past this whimsical style, the book rewards you with some pretty lyrical descriptions of far-flung places. The undertone of  dry humour and numerous witty asides make it very entertaining and enjoyable to read. Byron is at his best when recounting his rakish behaviour e.g – passing himself off as Muslim to enter a Mosque, he is also a master at recording and mocking numerous eccentric conversations.
This book is not really for a general readership;  if you enjoy those ‘picking-olive-blossoms-in-the-Tuscan-breeze’ type books you may not get into this. If you like well written classics from the Imperial past like Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene etc you will love this book.


Title: ‘3-Iron'(빈집) 2004

Released: 2004

Director: Kim Ki-duk

Writer: Kim Ki-duk

Starring: Jae Hee, Lee Seung-yeon

This is one of the best Korean films I have seen, and one of the best films I’ve seen for quite some time. Reading the impossibly constructed plot would make you think that this is a gimmick of a film or just plain pretentious; it is neither.

The film unfolds at a gentle pace with almost no dialogue, it feels like a nature documentary at times. Tae-suk quietly breaks into houses empty of occupants and proceeds to enjoy blissful yet brief domesticity. His time relaxing in the bath or in front of the television is counterbalanced with dull chores, chores which he accomplishes with the inner peace of a monk. Our sympathy with the character happens because he actually fixes things and steals nothing. This strange routine of breaking and entering is finally broken with the discovery of a battered housewife. Witnessing domestic problems draws our hero in, from his previously quiet solitary life, he enters into something far more complicated and ambiguous. The film follows a wordless love story through the various parts of the city and subsequent brushes with the housewife’s husband and the police.

I hate to use this term, but it could be described as a ‘magical realist’ love story, or worse yet – a modern fairy tale. But it’s a film that sweeps you along without the need for labels, and on closer reflection it makes you think. Despite the anonymous urban landscape the cinematography is beautiful and the music (one track in particular) is threaded through the film reflecting the continuing love story between the two silent protagonists.
I would recommend this film to anybody and everybody, even to those who don’t like subtitles as there is almost no dialogue. My only tiny problem is the title, in Korean it’s ‘Empty House’ which to me seems a more poetic title than 3 Iron.

A compilation of my favourite places and pictures from Italy.