Sunday, January 16, 2022

no pig: reviews

Book review: In Sickness and in Power: Illness in Heads of Government during the Last 100 Years by David Owen (Praeger, 2008)
Who better to explore this topic than a veteran politician (EU Bosnian peace envoy, UK Foreign Secretary, etc.) who's also an M.D.? Answer, an arrogant M.D. with no qualms about blithely diagnosing patients he's never examined, though some he's at least observed on a personal level and doesn't hesitate to report what he saw. Discusses a dozen each of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers, 5 French Presidents, 4 world-class dictators, and a few others (the Shah, Yeltsin, Ariel Sharon), half a dozen of them in detail. Explains Suez and the Bay of Pigs by saying that Eden and JFK were so hopped up on medications at the time that they didn't know what they were doing; JFK was in better health by the time of the Cuban missile crisis, thus better decision-making.
Owen is more reserved psychiatrically than many such writers, refraining from diagnosing everyone as bipolar etc. But he does give one mental condition equal weight with the physical ones: hubris. Cheerfully admitting that he's suffered from this himself, he focuses on it in a massive chapter on W. and Blair in Iraq. What makes this weird is 1) Owen was actually in favor of the invasion, he just thinks it was pursued badly and (the prime symptom of hubris) not thought through; 2) it was written just after Blair's resignation and while W. was still president. Rather amazing book, breezy but well-sourced and not ignorable.

Movie review: Pig, written & directed by Michael Sarnoski (2021)
I like a good quiet, low-key movie about a loner who lives in the woods. Leave No Trace is such a movie. Pig isn't, despite the rave reviews: it is all these things except "good."
Nicolas Cage is a scruffy truffle forager who lives in the Oregon woods with a truffle-sniffing pig as his only companion. Your first hint that something is wrong here is that Cage lets the pig live in his cabin with him. If you've seen A Private Function you'll know why one wouldn't do that. One night robbers break in and steal the pig. Cage enlists help from the blithe yuppie restaurant supplier (Alex Wolff) who picks the truffles up from him once a week and brings his necessities in exchange. Two more things wrong: 1) Wolff listens on his car radio to a classical announcer so high-minded as to make Donald Vroon seem sane, and who talks over the music while doing so; 2) they quickly locate the robbers, but don't seem angry with them: they just want to know who the robbers sold the pig to.
At this point our heroes head to Portland to locate the pig, and the movie goes totally off the rails. Interrupted by a bizarre cameo at Fight Club for the purpose of getting Cage beaten up, it becomes a series of revelations about Cage's past life as a renowned high-end chef. I gave up at the point where he and Wolff visit a trendy restaurant whose service is as much a parody of that as the radio announcer was. Cage tells the chef, who used to be his hapless junior, that he's looking for his pig, and the chef gives a non-sequitur reply about how he has to please his investors and that truffles are a big part of his cuisine plan. If this means anything, it's that he feels justified in torpedoing Cage's livelihood to further his own career. However, it turns out he doesn't have the pig, so the whole thing is meaningless.

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