Breaking Bad

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(created by Vince Gilligan) (2008-2013)

A high octane, cold-sweated, overheated, pretzel-plotted, prodigious, ragged and pitiless low tragedy, the best thing on television for years.


“So…there’s THAT.”

LESLEY ADDS.  No-one is redeemed.  No-one is spared.  It’s all a murky brown and very, very nasty.  Crime pays.  No it doesn’t.  Maybe it does.  No, probably not.  Oh I don’t know.  Second only to the greatest TV drama series of all time – Edge of Darkness. (Note: see also the prequel, Better Call Saul)

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Touted as Australia’s premier blues and roots festival, Bluesfest is really an eclectic gathering of the available great and good. The Varnished Culture only made Monday’s gig and a list of acts enjoyed will give you an inkling of the variety: Joss Stone, Michael Franti & Spearhead, War, KC & the Sunshine Band, Booker T Jones, the Beards, Chain and climactically, Elvis Costello & the Imposters. When Booker T recalled how young he was in 1962 when he wrote ‘Green Onions’, it occurred to the V.C. that he was not only older than most of the crowd but most of the crowd’s parents as well.

Pleasant surprises were Michael Franti, the Beards (although they really must expand the subject matter of their songs beyond the hirsute) and Cambodian Space Project (which combines a tight bunch of pub rockers with an Asian Lolita who warbles 60s bubblegum pop style songs).

Weather lovely this year but as it tends to be variable, the Varnished Culture recommends shelling extra $ on the V.I.P. tent, so one can use a lavatory fit for humans. Moreover, we choose to stay, when in or near Byron Bay, at Azabu. It is a bit out of town but that is a relief in that the town itself is a lot like Victor Harbor invaded by hippies, only worse.

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Blood Meridian

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West (by Cormac McCarthy)

The Addams Family out in the Old West have adventures of the type conceived by the bastard child of Hunter S Thompson and Zane Grey.  This windy road will have gratuitous blood, is not for old men and weirdos ride the pretty horses…

Apparently multiple attempts to wring a film from this book have failed, which is not surprising, as it is heavy-handed, ludicrously-praised nonsense.


“Don’t worry, son, the judge will be along soon.”

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The Black Spider

(by Jeremias Gotthelf)

This highly effective creepy morality tale would (and may) have made Poe crap his britches.




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The Big Air Package

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, TRAVEL |

(by Christo) (2013)

We all went to the gasometer near Duisberg to check out Christo’s installation, ‘Big Air Package’. We were sceptical about this Bulgarian wrapper but it was wonderful, a 90m high white balloon that cast an eerie, snow-like glow inside. Afterwards, we had German super-hospitality at dinner and beyond, salted with pessimism about Ms Merkel and the future of the Euro.





We agree that the Reichstag would best have been hermetically sealed, c. 1933-1945, but whilst Christo is ahead of his time, in this case, he was late:

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The Best and the Brightest

(by David Halberstam)

Definitive parable of hubris leading to apocalypse. Whiz kids from the ivy-league encounter a Big Texas Democrat as their new boss; tragedy ensues in a companion piece to his earlier The Making of a Quagmire but which is wider in scope. Larded with mean detail, such as when LBJ enthuses to Sam Rayburn how brilliant all the new kids are, to which the paterfamilias of Congress replies that Lyndon might be right “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.”


‘Son, in politics, never be caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman.’


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The Apes of God

(by Wyndham Lewis)

The best (and bitchiest) book of the art demi monde ever written.

'He believes that every pretty boy of nineteen or twenty he meets is a "genius" as he puts it!'

‘He believes that every pretty boy of nineteen or twenty he meets is a “genius” as he puts it!’ (Photo of Lewis by George Charles Beresford)

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Animal Farm

(by George Orwell)

The best political allegory since Swift.  Venerable pig, Old Major (‘Willingdon Beauty’ as his show name), a Karl Marx figure, outlines an animal world of milk and honey and soft straw.

The animals rise up, kick out the nasty farmer, see off the counter revolution, and settle down to run the enterprise themselves, in a workers’ paradise of co-operation, truth and mutual respect.

But some animals are more equal than others…


Snowball or Napoleon?

Who would have thought Napoleon the Pig, circa 1940, would look so much like Vladimir Putin?  Sorry, I mean Josef Stalin. Don’t I? Our mild suggestion against the doctrinal revanchism expected to be abroad during this centenary year of the revolution is to re-visit this telling fable, and reflect upon the diverse ways in which human foolishness can lead to evil.


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Anna Karenina

(by Leo Tolstoy)

That part of this huge novel taken up with Anna, Karenin and Vronsky is a work of art, startling in its modernity. The bucolic pages concerning Constantine Levin, on the other hand, are the highest schlock. O for an editor with the spine to suggest to a nobleman the wielding of shears and a blue pencil!

Anna is a great flesh-and-blood character, in a situation not dissimilar to Madame Bovary or Hedda Gabler.  But being Tolstoy, the rich inner drama is cast on an epic scale.


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An American Melodrama

(by Chester, Hodgson & Page)

Definitive account of the 1968 Presidential campaign, written by three accomplished British journalists, manages to avoid the faux pomp of much American political writing; brilliantly covers the most critical election since 1932 with telling vignettes of key players, Democratic, Republican and independent. Pithy chapters on RFK‘s death in Los Angeles and Nixon working southern delegates at the Miami Hilton are classic.

(Photo of Nixon on the stump by Ollie Atkins)

(Photo of Nixon on the stump by Ollie Atkins)

At page 355, this passage appears, describing the aftermath of RFK’s wounding in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles:

It was very claustrophobic , like an alleyway deep in a ship, with the same coarse paint, naked metal, cooking smells, and yellow light…It was quite easy to see where Kennedy had been when he was shot. It was exactly on the diagonal between the ice cabinet and a long steel-topped row of heating cupboards. It was opposite the entrance to a second passage, entering at right angles, through which they had carried him away. There was a good deal of blood on the floor, which seemed very dark in the poor light, and there was a KENNEDY-FOR-PRESIDENT hat lying in it. On the wall by the ice cabinet, perhaps five feet from where Kennedy had fallen, five words were scrawled in crayon, which have not yet been satisfactorily explained but which in their absurd appropriateness heightened the irrational sense of ritual symbolism: THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING.”

(Photo of RFK in an urban setting by Dick De Marsico)

(Photo of RFK in an urban setting by Dick De Marsico)

(Photo of Governor Wallace by Marion S. Trikosko)

(Photo of Governor Wallace by Marion S. Trikosko)

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