Monday, July 30, 2018

Seen in… June

Don't look now, but here comes Il Sorpasso, an Italian classic. Image via The Movie DB

I know, I know. Talking about what I saw in June at the end of July is a bit ridiculous, but in my defence, it's been very hot. Too hot to sit at a computer all day then do the same thing at night. I've tried to balance my viewing with something of "higher standard" with something more popular. Like alternating kale salad and a bowl of ice cream. It hasn't quite worked out that way but there's plenty of summer left.

Howard Silk is tired of Howard Silk's crap. Image via The Movie DB

Counterpart Season 1

J.K. Simmons plays Howard Silk, an uninspired and uninspiring bureaucrat in a nameless UN agency who one day discovers an unusual secret when he is introduced to his “other”. Howard’s “other” is in fact, Howard. A Howard from a parallel dimension. In this version of Berlin an experiment about 30 years before created a portal to a parallel world. Our Berlin is designated as “Prime” while the other version is called “Alpha”. At some point the two dimensions began to diverge and now something is happening that has forced Alpha Howard to reach out to Prime Howard. Despite having a shared history and personal life, the two Howards couldn’t be more different. Alpha Howard is a cynical, seasoned, no BS spy who is less than amused at the sheepishness of Prime Howard. J.K. Simmons plays the two men so adeptly that you know instantly which one is which, and that in itself is fascinating. The show itself is no less intriguing. Is it a simple metaphor of the cold war and the dangers it wrought? Or is it a more complex study of our lives and the decisions we take that make us who we are (or do we make those decisions because of who we are?) What makes us tick? Have you ever wondered what your life might be like if you had done one thing differently? The possibilities are endless but in Counterpart they are laid bare to discover by walking through an underground passage in Berlin that connects two identical but radically different worlds.
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Thursday, July 05, 2018

It's Hot in the City 

Maybe looking at Wayne Thiebaud's “Untitled (Three Ice Creams)” from 1964 will cool you down.

You know it’s really hot when you step out of your air conditioned office to find yourself relieved that it’s only 28°C with 66% humidity instead of “boil-you-alive° C” with “you’ll-never-feel-dry-again%” humidity. I spent most of the weekend lying prone in front of a fan, trying not to move for fear the exertion of say, batting an eyelash, may lead to more sweating. I’m starting to think the scientist who said, “sweating is the body’s built-in air conditioner” never really knew what an air conditioner was, or what “sweating” was, or what “built-in” meant. I realize that weather isn’t climate and one heat wave during one summer isn’t proof that we’re destroying the planet yet it feels so much like what I imagine the end-of-times would feel like, that blaming something like climate change feels good. Not "comfortably dry at 23°C" good, but the kind of good like when you curse after stubbing your toe. It does nothing but it mends the psyche if not the toe.

One thing did occur to me during the hottest moments of the weekend. Feeling near death in the punishing heat is sort of an ailment of the poor or the slightly less privileged. People who can retreat to air conditioned homes have something that people living in older sweltering apartments do not. People who drive with their vehicles sealed shut while running their A/C on full blast are far more comfortable than those walking the hot sidewalks or riding the older stifling streetcars. Air conditioning used to be considered a luxury but it has become a necessity of life. During a heat wave the city advises those without air conditioning to seek out cooling centres. Air conditioning is as essential to a modern city as elevators. You can’t live in a tall building without an elevator to take you to your floor and you can’t live on that floor of a tall building (essentially a chimney stack with rooms) without air conditioning.
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