world

Thawing

Greenland Is Falling Apart.

It was the sort of morning headline that had me spitting hot coffee into my “bursting with sunshine” cornflakes.

I could never help focusing on Greenland on the map, that large chunk of inverted triangular whiteness in the top left, between Canada and the North Pole. Why Green-Land? I had heard that they had named it thus to divert plunderers, making them do a sharp right before reaching Ice-Land. I mean, imagine you’re a Viking tourist who only has a couple of names, which one would you have chosen?

Of course, it’s neither too green nor that large. It’s relative scale is distorted by the Mercator effect of unwrapping a spherical world and laying it flat – it plainly can’t work and so Greenland appears as big as the USA when, in reality, it is only one-eighth.

Still, it’s big enough that when you read it’s falling apart you sit up and take notice. There’s a lot of ice melting and flowing into the sea. That ice helps maintain global temperatures within our comfort zone by reflecting solar radiation. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

There has been crazy talk about wrapping Greenland in a great white sheet, or painting the whole place white in reflective paint. It may come to that. But people actually live there, indigenous people. For me, it’s difficult to understand how anyone ended up there in the first place, coming out of Africa and all, and even more puzzling why they stayed, but they’re there, their choice, their home. And now it’s falling apart. And it’s probably all our fault.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #84 – “Ice breakers/Cracking Ice/Thawing”

image: the church at Nanortalik, Greenland

The World, AI and Memory (and a bit of telly)

An interesting piece on AI from Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow.

Should we worry about the doomsday scenario of AI and robots taking over the world? Maybe it’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll be welcome to it, once the devastating effects of climate change are realised.

My binging of the Walter Presents… archives of World telly drama from the All 4 app, continues. I’ll list a short appraisal below but the most recent drama was the brilliant Tabula Rasa from Belgium, though spoken in Dutch. It’s a nine one hour episode series, complete with no sequel – the kind I like. It has a clever plot with several twists along the way, and one big one midway which I doubt many viewers would predict. The opening titles are very stylish too, you sense you’re about to see something worthwhile.

Tabula Rasa is latin and translates as Blank Slate. In this drama, this is a metaphor for memory. Our protagonist suffers from amnesia following a traumatic experience. This means she fails to remember anything after the trauma very quickly and relies on keeping a notebook in lieu of a normal working memory. (This is similar to the guy in the film, Memento, who wrote notes on his body.) Whenever she needed to verify something, a person’s identity, for instance, she would rush through the pages of her book trying to find the relevant note or drawing.

This is, more or less, how AI data retrieval works, isn’t it? I mean, it’s more refined and therefore extremely efficient, but nevertheless the same. I don’t think anyone yet knows precisely how the human memory works – or doesn’t work, sometimes – how all that data is squirrelled away within the grey stuff. And it’s very energy efficient.

Imagine having to rely entirely on note taking for memory. Or, say, keeping a blog. In time, it would become enormous, and probably unusable. Long before then, you’d probably be chucked off WP for using up your storage allocation; you’d have to start paying and, in no time, bankrupt yourself.

What a marvellous instrument the old brain is. I ought to look after it.


A quick summary update of my Walter Presents.. viewing, most recently watched first,

Tabula Rasa (Belgium, 2017)

A woman suffering short term amnesia is a suspect in a missing person’s case, and probable murder. She is committed to a clinic where, with the aid of a notebook, she struggles to make sense of the situation and events from her recent past. A stylish and clever psychological thriller utilising several horror story tropes.

Blue Eyes (Sweden, 2014)

A political drama about the rise of right wing factions, both legitimate and terrorist. It’s general election time and the plot centres on two women, one a newly appointed civil servant finding herself in the middle of ongoing political corruption and the strange disappearance of her predecessor, the other a single mum who, wanting to avenge the murder of her activist mother, joins a new extreme right wing group. A good thriller.

The Mind of a Murderer (Germany, 2017)

Following the death of his family, a police detective returns to work as a new head of a city crime unit. His methods are unconventional and puts him at odds with his subordinates who themselves have personal issues which affect their work. The quirkiness of the chief character just about raises this drama above average.

Kabul Kitchen (France, 2014)

A not too outlandish comedy about an ex-international journalist, Jacques “Jackie” Roberts, who quits journalism to make money running a western style restaurant and bar in Kabul, during relative peacetime. His estranged daughter turns up unexpectedly as an NGO, and the local criminal boss decides to be his friend and equal business partner, but his problems don’t end there. A very entertaining double series carried admirably by the lead actor.

Norskov (Denmark, 2015)

A policeman returns to his economically impoverished hometown, recruited to clean up its high drug related crime. There, he reunites with two old friends, one serving as the town’s mayor and the other runs his own building contractor company. A brooding Scandi drama, slow at times, maybe, but deep enough.

Spin (France, 2012)

Les hommes de l’ombre, (the shadow men), the original French title is better. Three series of this political drama centred on the work of a spin doctor, his adversary and one time partner in business, and the assorted politicians he mixes with. Not much politics seems to happen oddly, it’s mostly about politicians climbing, and sliding down, their greasy poles. Nevertheless, good plots and well acted performances.

Tainted (Brazil, 2014)

A disgraced police officer finds work as a bounty hunter, working for an ex-colleague’s sideline business. Meanwhile, he attempts to find the evidence to clear his name and get back to living a legitimate life. So-so, macho cop kind of thing.

The Cleaning Lady (Argentina, 2017)

Conscientiously efficient professional cleaner, Rosa, is contracted to clean up an assassination scene by the local mafia. She does such a good job eliminating all the evidence, she inadvertently becomes the mob’s go to cleaner of choice, thwarting the efforts of the two detectives investigating their crimes. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but no, it’s completely straight. I quite enjoyed it too.


My other Walter Presents reviews can be read here.

World Wide Watchables

For what it’s worth, here is a rundown of series I’ve seen from All4’s On-demand “Walter Presents”, a channel dedicated to International Telly Dramas.

There must be around 70 or more programmes to choose from and I simply picked these at random by thinking of a number beforehand.

I’m of the opinion that any review can be a spoiler but I hope I’ve kept it to a minimum. Cast, director and further gen contained in the IMDb links below each.


Clona (The Lens) (Czech Republic 2014)

Roman is a film and media student who wants to go to college to study filmmaking. Unfortunately, he gets rejected a number of times. He hates making do with photographing or filming weddings and his father, a traffic cop, thinks he’s wasting his life. Eventually, Roman accepts the offer to work alongside his father, photographing scenes of road traffic accidents.

One of these assignments ends tragically and Roman’s future takes an unintended path. He is offered a position as forensic photographer as part of a small, special crime squad. He has the support of his boss but the team are not so convinced; they quickly nickname him “Fellini” and regard him as a liability. As a cop, he knows he isn’t a match for the others, but as a detective, he seems to hold his own.

This is a series of separate case episodes though continuous character storylines run along side: relationships between colleagues, family issues and Roman’s development, and acceptance, as a cop. While the premise seems implausible, it’s an entertaining series. I liked it.

Clona IMDb


Hellfjord (Norway 2012)

Having watched the Norwegian movie, Jackpot, a few months back, I’m inclined to think Norwegian comedy has no boundaries. Oh, I found both Jackpot and Hellfjord funny but not without feeling slightly guilty about it.

The premise here is that Salmander, a rather inept mounted police officer, is sacked after publicly and brutally killing his horse in an act of mercy – that isn’t a contradiction, you’ll need to watch the first episode otherwise it’ll be too great a spoiler. As his superior is obliged to give him three months notice, he posts him to an island in the far north, Hellfjord, where he will act as community sheriff. There he is reluctantly assisted by the vulgar and hobbit-like local man, Kobba, and his beautiful and multi-talented “mail-order bride”, Riina.

It should have been a quiet gig if it wasn’t for a slightly scatty, local investigative journalist, Johanne, who’s convinced the island hosts a nefarious secret centred around the fish export factory run by Swedish businessman, Bosse Nova. If it’s true, Salmander is convinced he’ll get a reprieve if he cracks the case.

It’s a bizarre and often absurd comedy, near the knuckle in places. I liked it.

Hellfjord IMDb


Dupla Identidade (Merciless) (Brazil 2014)

I don’t know anything about Brazilian telly but my first impression from this series is that their audiences are shown a greater amount of brutal, graphic abuse than I think would be granted to British audiences. But hey, here we are in the UK watching it.

This is a police manhunt drama. The guy they’re looking for is a psychopathic sexual predator and killer. Apart from the violence shown to the victims, it’s standard police manhunt trope – for UK audiences, think Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren – though the perpetrator here is revealed from the start. There is sound reason for this and it does create extra tension in the drama.

Running parallel to the investigation is a political corruption story, involving a career politician hell bent on elevating his position at any cost. This creates problems for the senior officer handling the case as his own promotion is decided politically. If that isn’t enough, the independently minded and strong willed psychologist appointed as criminal profiler turns out to be his former lover. All the parts are then intertwined.

Violence aside, it’s a tense, captivating plot. They must have cast the actor (Bruno Gagliasso) playing the killer on his ability to alter a look of angelic innocence into cruel-hearted sinister on the turn of a sixpence. Gripping. I liked it.

Dupla Identidade IMDb

World Wide Watchables

I don’t know how many of you can get the All 4 on-demand telly app but I’ve decided to post a little review on the brilliant Walter Presents collection hosted there. Foreign language TV has only relatively recently found a niche in British audiences. I’m not sure when this began exactly but the 20 episode Danish crime drama, Forbrydelsen (The Killing) had a strong following when it was aired on BBC TV, and other foreign language series seemed to follow on its heels.

But Channel 4 here in Britain seem to have taken the idea all the more seriously with Walter Presents, presented by Italian TV producer and film aficionado, Walter Iuzzolino. At the start of most series on offer, Walter gives an introduction to the show and reasons why he thinks it’s watchable; these introductions are, I think, watchable themselves; he’s certainly into style, cinematography and technique.

I’ve already posted about Deutschland ’83 (Germany) and Počivali U Miru (Croatia), espionage and investigative journalism dramas, respectively (links below). I have since watched two others, Clona (Czech Republic) – a police drama – and Hellfjord (Norway) – a police comedy – and I’m part way through a rather dark crime thriller from Brazil. Posts of these will follow in time.

For what it’s worth, as there are around 70-odd series available, I’ve been picking them at random simply by thinking of a number beforehand. So far this unbiased approach seems to work for me.


Deutschland ’83 Review

Počivali U Miru Review