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Tag Archives: Journalism

Chernobyl Prayer – Svetlana Alexievich

chernobylprayerThere is no blurb for this one, partly because this copy didn’t come with one – just excerpts from newspaper reviews – and partly because it needs no blurb.  The book speaks for itself and with Alexievich’s Nobel Prize in Literature award, it means it will thankfully never be forgotten.

After a short historical background on the explosion of reactor no. 4 (whose radioactive particles reached as far as China and Africa), the reader is introduced to A lone human voice. This  truly shocking and saddening account sets the scene for this outstanding and powerful chronicle of eyewitness recollections  from those that were involved with the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Often forgotten in the face of overwhelming statistics are the real human lives who have suffered, those forgotten get a voice here.  The cost is not just in lives lost but dreams and hopes shattered, health ruined and families torn apart.  This book focuses on the Belarusians who bore the brunt of the disaster and of those who helped try to contain it and the risks they took.

The beauty of this series of monologues is that Alexievich didn’t ask questions, instead she did the one thing that the people had been wanting for years, she listened. Apart from an essay of her own the author merely adds only the briefest additions to the text such as ‘he looks pensive’, ‘she cries’ and so on.

This allows the people to talk about whatever they need to and follow the direction of their thoughts and there is a surprising amount of philosophical views that come out.  Especially as many still don’t accept the subtle devastation that hit their lands and destroyed them,  who were then shunned by an uneducated public.  What shines through is that they loved their land and animals, most of those living there knew little else and the passion for their lost place is ever present.
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Posted by on 13/02/2017 in History, Modern Classics, Politics

 

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Eye Believe That!

I saw this in the newsagents…and this in no way a filler post until I get around to writing another review.

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Posted by on 27/01/2017 in Journalism

 

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I Remember Sunnyside: The Rise and Fall of a Magical Era – Mike Filey

sunnysideupFirst published in 1982, I Remember Sunnyside is a mine of golden memories, bringing back to life an earlier Toronto, only hints of which remain today.

Like the city itself, Sunnyside was an ever-changing landscape from its heady opening days in the early 1920s to its final sad demolition in the 1950s. The book captures the spirit of the best of times a magical era which can only be recaptured in memory and photographs. It also presents the reality of a newer Toronto where change, although necessary, is sometimes regrettable.

In a bid to further inspire me to words, Resa recommended this book  which had already grabbed my imagination before it even arrived and although it didn’t pull me in quite as much as I had convinced myself it would, it was nonetheless still a quirky, interesting, immersive and speedy read.

Mostly my pre-reading thoughts were inspired by such literary mainstays as Joseph Heller’s thoughts on Coney Island, Stephen King’s Joyland as well as, to a lesser extent the feeling of exploring Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Films such as The Lost Boys and The Warriors played a part with their atmospheres as well.

Establishing a fundamentally, albeit mostly American idea of what to expect, I feel the fond imagery of these amusement parks is established in the romantic landscape these days as something of a golden age. It is hard to imagine people speaking so eloquently today about their experiences at Alton Towers or Disneyland as this:

…as I thought of the days of Sunnyside when all things seemed possible and the late afternoon sun lit up the summits of the rollercoaster and you felt you were somehow at the source of things, a warm and tattered tent of life, convinced that something wonderful was going to happen within the next few minutes…

It’s a fond feeling of nostalgia to those who lived it and a love transmitted down to those readers who never got to experience such times and instead got the sanitised parks of later years.  It’s an evocative adventure to put ourselves back there, a place of charm and excitement, it makes me think of those long ago nostalgic days of rides and shows sadly gone in this modern age of queueing for hours to get 30 seconds of ‘thrill’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 28/09/2016 in History, Memoir, Photography

 

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The Wire: The Thin Line Between Heaven and Here.

Thanks for reading this far, I’ll make this my last post of The Wire, with what I judge to be have been a reasonably in depth look at the show without going too overboard on the whole topic.  Summing up this show with all its depth would take up more blog space than I am prepared to give on account of books piling up but with such a wide range of things to mention I will venture to add a few more, just to make the show more enticing in case I have failed thus far.

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The directors and writers are of a high calibre such as well-known authors like Dennis Lehane and George Pellecanos, David Simon and Ed Burns have the experience of being a journalist and homicide detective respectively.  It is worth noting that Simon wrote Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and with Ed Burns, The Corner:  A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighbourhood which are both excellent reads, adding more to the real life inspirations behind the show.  There is an experienced excellence to all this work which demands more of an audience and from an audience in thought .

The lack of soundtrack means all those everyday noises are more distinctive and this adds to the realism allowing the actors to take centre stage rather than having their performances enhanced with emotive music.  It’s a case of showing how powerfully an actor can influence the viewer’s feelings without the crutch of any outside influence moving us, highlighting once again the exemplary ensemble cast.  There is music but it is part of the natural order, tunes blasting out from a car or on the radio and so on, the regular soundtrack to life.

Season One does not put a foot wrong, its impact not only on the TV landscape but on the audience has changed the way that police procedurals are viewed, not that The Wire sits easily in any genre, it transcends  the need for being pigeonholed by being all things effortlessly at once.  By the end of the first season it is easy to think that although it will continue to be a challenging watch it’ll also have an established pattern.  Simon is one for changing up his themes though and giving us something new to explore constantly.. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17/09/2016 in Crime, Journalism, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: The Dickensian Aspect

thewiresteasonthefourthSeason four is my favourite season purely because with all the other elements of previous seasons still vital to the storyline, education is introduced and central to that is the lives of a group of boys whose lives diverge dramatically throughout the school year.

The life of children in inner city schools can be brutal, that they have grown up with so much violence surrounding them, it is understandable that they see mortality as a very real thing, some not expecting to live past their mid 20’s.  Added to this is the cynical way that the education system is run and how it further entwines with the themes of previous seasons, showing how the problems are systemic and can’t be fixed by anything but radical moves by those whom we elect as our officials.

As with real life, we don’t get introductions and establishing shots of these characters, finding out who they are and there motivations are about straight away. The characters names and personalities become clear after an initial confusing overload but it’s that feeling of not being spoken down to that becomes one of the most appealing factors. It’s intelligent and assumes its viewers will be too.

The show demands that you pay attention and don’t leap to snap judgements because people are complex with often hidden motivations and a sense of morality based on their own internal rules. It’s this depth of character that really impresses and often, it is a small thing that elicits a change of response from the audience to how they respond to a character.

As I mentioned previously, I’m embarking on the story – for it is all one story with a different aspect shown in each series – for the sixth time and rewatching the series makes the stories more powerful and hard-hitting in my opinion.   Watching what seems now inevitable unfold has a greater impact as you watch the  ascent and descent of so many character arcs.  It’s a mosaic of richness that rewards over and over as newer aspects not previously considered come to light, showing the planning of scripts to be a work of majestic artistry.  You can focus on the nuances that inevitably get lost on the first watch in a programme with such ambitious intricacy.

It would be remiss as a book lover not to mention the episode in which a journalist is told his work is not Dickensian enough because that is how the news needs to be, there has to be a human aspect we can sympathise with, otherwise why the readers people care?  The streets of Baltimore and the characters who, through brilliant storytelling face both brutal lives but also have their comedic moments does feel very Dickens-ish, however his need to tie things up, for resolution was often furnished with a handy plot twist to sort things out.  This perhaps diminishes the overall power of the message of social inequality but Dickens for all his flaws was a genius writer and The Wire will stand up to comparison of that man’s name for the 21st century.

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Posted by on 14/09/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: All in the Game

The Wire centres on ‘The Game’, which is the colloquial term for the drugs trade but in reality has a much wider scope as an overall set of rules used by drug dealer and politicians alike.  Played by subtly different rules within each group, it’s all about social advancement and the pursuit of power, money and of being remembered.  There are codes that everybody sticks to, unique in their line of business; the internal logic, no matter how disagreeable adheres to rules which reward blind loyalty but also demands a strong sense of self-preservation.

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The disconnection of the people at the top end of politics who make the decisions, from the rest of the populace is palpable, the failing system does more harm than good yet voter indifference seems to perplex these people.  On the side of the drug dealers, it is generally accepted that anybody in the game faces the consequences of their employment, mortality being high and emotion seen as a weakness to be exploited.

The futility of the drugs war – at least as it is fought now – allows institutions on all sides to treat it as nothing more than a contest.  For example the interactions between street level dealers and police are viewed by both sides as ineffective but a routine in which the rules are adhered to blindly, (the inevitability of prison, parole, back to the street). it is expected despite no real conclusion forthcoming but as a form of going through the motions with little respect and no hope of a finish which makes it all the more tragic.

What The Wire does best is offer detachment,  its lack of compromise or sentimentality allows the viewer to debate the morals of the players which are often conflicted but all too painfully real.  The apathy of both sides on the front line is harrowing; especially in terms of the offhanded nature with which murder and overdose are greeted, which is now just accepted as an inescapable consequence of street life. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 29/08/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play

AllWiredUpOn the drug-infested streets of West Baltimore, there are good guys and there are bad guys.  Sometimes you need more than a badge to tell them apart.

From David Simon From David Simon, creator and co-writer of HBO’s triple Emmy-winning mini-series The Corner, this unvarnished, highly realistic HBO series follows a single sprawling drug and murder investigation in Baltimore – one that culminates in a complex series of wiretaps and surveillance.  Told from the points of view of both the police and their targets, the series captures a universe where easy distinctions between good and evil , and crime and punishment are challenged at every turn.

The Wire is hands down the best TV show I have ever seen, partly because it’s the closest to a novel that you can get on a televisual scale but saying that doesn’t really cover just how much depth the viewer is treated to throughout its five seasons.

Now on my sixth watch through, it’s about time I tried to put down – to some degree –  why this TV show is rightly regarded as one of the best shows ever and for me the greatest.  It’s hard to know where to begin, especially as I will be avoiding spoilers throughout so I shall begin with the opening scene which is posted at end this part of the overview.

In under three minutes the viewer is sucked into a story about a street murder as well as being introduced to some of the key themes, revolving around the street and ‘the game’.  Within 14 seconds it’s already established that young children show little horror or surprise about a death so close, the offhand way it’s dealt with is frightening in its own way and the overall feeling is that business must go on.  It’s as powerful an opening as one could want and but a taster of the masterpiece yet to come.

First time viewers need to know that this is a slow burning show that you will need to stick with for a few episodes in order to fully appreciate what it does so stylishly, not to mention working out who everyone is.  It demands the viewer’s attention by not giving an easy ride or compromising its artistic integrity,  which happens so often in the mostly down format of Television.  The plot in itself takes its time and as such culminates into a realisation of just how clever it is when season one ends; the impact is perfectly pitched

The Wire’s way of telling a story was not really suited to TV as it is a medium that demands instant gratification  and the complexity of this show doesn’t allow for such simplistic outlooks. Now it is out on DVD and streaming on the internet, watching a handful of episodes at a time is by far the best way to watch it.  One can only imagine how challenging it would be to watch an episode a week and try to remember who everybody was and what was going on without the benefit of the all the episodes to hand, hence the initial poor ratings. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 25/08/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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