Twitter’s out. We all hate Facebook now. Instagram’s become about screenshotting feelings. Screw all that — let’s get blogging again!
I’m going to ease back into it with a simple list of the things I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching over the past few months.
The Hardest Job in The World
John Dickerson’s recent piece in the Atlantic makes the cogent case that successive US Presidents have rolled so much responsibility into the office that it’s simply not a job that it’s possible for any one person to do. The President has become responsible, says Dickerson, for decisions that should never come to his desk in the first place.
Dickerson (above) is one of the most interesting and compelling journalists doing work today, and this 15,000 word piece is proof that the guy who bamboozled Bush with a simple question is still there behind the telegenic talking head you now see on TV.
The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci has been responsible for some of the funniest and most incredibly dense dialogue-driven satire of the past couple of decades. I mean even if the guy never did anything else, we’ll all forever be in his debt for creating Malcolm Tucker and unleashing Peter Capaldi into the role.
Death of Stalin is his latest release into the world, and it’s a highly fictionalised account of the chaos left in the vacuum of Stalin’s death in 1953. It takes huge liberties with events and timelines while still conveying the intrigue that led to the somewhat unlikely rise of Kruschev (played by Steve Buscemi) over Jeffrey Tambor’s (yes, I know) heir presumptive Georgy Malenkov.
Jason Isaacs takes on the scenery-chewing role of Marshall Zhukov, and the relish with which he ensures the end of the venal Beria is intoxicating. He’s like a cross between Malcolm Tucker and Rik Mayall’s spots as Lord Flasheart in Blackadder all those years ago.
Go see it while it’s still in cinemas.
A few months back now, I fired up Netflix on the AppleTV and lo and behold there was a brand new film by Errol Morris (Thin Blue Line, Fog of War, The Unknown Known) ready to stream. Wormwood is an unconventional docudrama about the mysterious death of of biochemist Frank Olson, and his son’s life long obsession to prove the apparent suicide was actually a murder.
The film (split into a few episodes on Netflix) switches between engrossing-acted drama — Olson is played with morose resignation by Peter Sarsgaard — and the disarmingly probing interview techniques we’ve seen from Morris in his more formal documentaries. While there’s no Interrotron here, the interviews with Olson’s now elderly son are marked by a closeness and intimacy that belies the sheer number of cameras that seem to be pointed at him during the process.
Oh yeah, Olson died in 1953 as well.
Bobby Kennedy for President
Somewhat valorising portrait of Bobby Kennedy from his time helping McCarthy (ugh) to his eventual death at the hands (or was it?) of Sirhan Sirhan. It’s on Netflix if you want to get your Kennedy on.
For whatever reason, I can’t find the focus to sit down and read books, but I’ve been working through quite a lot in the way of audiobooks. The first two I really got into were Ta-nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power and Between the World and Me. Coates is an incredible force and the audiobook of Eight Years has additional contextual content about how Coates’ trajectory travelled along with that of the Obama campaign and subsequent administration.
Finally, I started reading, and then switched over the listening (thanks for the option, Kindle) Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. It’s been pretty controversial because of the stream of thought in it that derides the use of drugs such as SSRI and SNRI agents in favour of increased social connection. But to my mind, he has a point worth at least considering.
That’s it for now. Be nice to one another.