Monday 3 June, 2024

Airport, interior

Faro, Thursday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.”

  • Marshall McLuhan

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Amanda Ventura | The Way (Harmonica Blues Solo)



Long Read of the Day

Poland’s Zone of Interest

I’d been meaning to see Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar-winning movie, but before booking a ticket started hunting for reviews and came on this striking essay by Daniel Kipnis, which provides a different perspective on the film — and some interesting contemporary context.

In The Zone of Interest, the Hösses employ Polish housekeepers. They are barely seen and mostly silent: scurrying about, nervously balancing drinks on trays, covetously eyeing Hedwig Höss (Sandra Hüller) as she tries on a luxurious fur coat looted from the possessions of a Jewish woman. In one scene, upset with her maid Aniela for putting out two place settings for breakfast after Rudolf has been sent away from Auschwitz, Höss calmly tells her: “I could have my husband spread your ashes across the fields of Babice.” The Poles of Babice, a small village near Auschwitz, were expelled in 1941 to make room for the camps.

The film ends with depictions of Polish women. Only here, we see them as the present-day employees of Auschwitz-Birkenau, no longer a camp but now a state museum. They tend to displays of shoes, bags, hair: the remaining effects of the slaughtered Jews. The Poles, then, are first depicted as victims, then as guardians of memory. But in the middle, they are also depicted as something more. In a particularly striking scene, shown for the first time about one-third of the way through the film and then repeated after an equivalent interval, the Poles become heroes.

On the scene’s first appearance, the viewer is stunned by the camera’s sudden shift to monochrome thermal imaging. It follows one of the Polish maids, gathering apples in the dark of night to smuggle across a ditch for the Jews in Auschwitz. The apparently inconsistent subplot, appearing nowhere in the 2014 Martin Amis novel upon which the film is based, arrives like a rift in its moral valence. What place does this all-too-not-banal display of bravery and righteousness have in the chronicle of amorality through which Glazer seeks to “demystify” the Nazis? His inversion of color is a cinematographic exception, in the same way that this righteous woman, traveling between her camps, subverts the normalized exception she inhabits…

Interesting, ne c’est pas?. Yep.

Video of the Day

Ken Burns’s Commencement Address at Brandeis.

Listen, I know you’re busy — that you don’t have the time to listen to anyone — even a great film-maker — making a speech to the graduating class of 2024 at a significant American university. But if you’re interested in democracy and concerned about what might happen on November 4, can I respectfully suggest that you find time (21 minutes to be precise) for this unforgettable speech?

Sure, Google’s AI overviews could be useful – if you like eating rocks

Yesterday’s Observer column:

Once upon a time, Google was great. For those who were online in 1998, history’s timeline bifurcated into two eras: BG (Before Google), and AG. It was elegant and clean: elegant because it was driven by a semi-objective algorithm called PageRank, which ranked websites according to how many other websites linked to them; and clean because it had no advertising, which of course also meant that it had no business model and accordingly was burning its way through its investors’ money.

It was too good to last, and of course it didn’t. Two of its biggest investors showed up one day, demanding a return on their investments…

Read on

My commonplace booklet

The London Evening Standard is no more — at least as a printed newspaper. Simon Jenkins was once its Editor, and he’s written a striking piece about it — and about the way the withering of local journalism is one of the reasons our democracies are failing, because local power is not being held to account, or even being monitored.

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