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Thursday, August 30, 2012


I was out on Saturday at a club called Tribeca, since I came back home I have heard a lot about this club. There’s the seasonal nature of clubs in Nairobi that means there’s a hot new thing every few months or so, Sikiliza, Bandito’s… the list goes on and on with the only one standing the test of time being Carnivore and that may  be because of the restaurant attached to it. Anyway, Tribeca. I like the name because of where it comes from the original Tribeca in New York simply means the TRIangle BElow the Canal and I am a forever fan of acronyms.

I had sat downstairs where the music wasn’t too loud, where you were actually allowed to talk and a friend of mine admitted to me that he hates dancing. You see I agree with him, I don’t get dancing, not all night dancing anyway. Am of a certain age and temperament where my musical tastes don’t coincide much with those of the general going out populace. Most of the songs they know off heart will be new to me and this is ok when am drunk(I’ll dance to anything then) but when sober it’s almost impossible to get my body to respond to any of the combinations of beats and words and melody that make up music. However another great thing about Tribeca is that they will play old music, soul stirring, muscle moving, and bone bouncing music. Every once in a while a song will play that will make you want to stand up and just move. And respect has to be given to the musicians who make this kind of song. The party song, the club banger, they take a different kind of skill than the introspective, change-the-world or attempt-to-change-myself-music. All those songs about money, cash and hoe’s about party, flash and bro’s all the songs that adults will always bitch are spoiling the younger generation take a certain talent. They touch people in a place where people love to be touched, they are the ultimate escapism and when they come on a bubble encapsulates the whole of you. A song played and we were moved to go upstairs and boogie to it. When a whole crowd of people is dancing to the same song and they love it, they sing along to the lyrics and they are all transported to a place beyond where they are standing, when the music is  good enough or the dance so hypnotic or the high just right it’s almost like the wise man said “when two or more are gathered… there you will find God.”

Then the cd scratched.

This has not happened to me in living memory. I can’t remember that this happens in a club or that they use cds anymore. The music just stopped playing. Then there was silence. The dj tried another song and that didn’t work either. There was a point where I thought this was part of his shtick but after a few seconds I joined the crowd of people shouting at the dj. The masses were missing their opium and a revolution was about to happen. Ok not. The noises quieted down pretty soon. Conversation was stripped away from the club since upstairs is not really a place where they encourage talking, it gets in the way of drinking and other Saturday night like affairs. After a few more half-hearted attempts at shouting silence crept in.

Sometimes silence is all you need to really see what is happening around you. Self-consciousness soon returned to the people in the club, it existed before but when you are dancing you really have no idea who’s looking at you. Also, then you are only worried about the person you want to dance with and the fact that they are dancing does a little to allay your fears. You don’t think about the fact that almost nowhere else in our social experiences do we cramp ourselves into such a small space with strangers . We don’t share a religion or pursued academic goal, a friend or an office. The only thing you have in common with all those people around you is that you went out that night. That you almost all of you consumed alcohol that evening, that your senses of inhibition are a little lower than usual and that you are almost all much closer to giving in to greed and other lesser wants. And now the distraction that kept them all busy disappeared. The fact that bad things don’t happen every time you go out is one sign that trust in humanity can get rewarded. Or maybe the lack of music just gets so depressing it’s impossible to move anywhere.

When the dj finally got his system to amp he played this party don’t stop by camp mullah. I had to respect his judgement. A Kenyan song, a hugely recognisable Kenyan song, one that was about the opposite of what had just happened was apparently enough to make everyone forgive his transgressions.

Monday, August 27, 2012

the block

There is a simple solution to writer’s block, just write about it.

 Sit in front of your computer screen and write about how you can’t come up with words to fill in the screen. Write about the fears that come from a blinking cursor, the terror that the well of words can dry up. That like ink, talent and creativity can run dry and there is a chance that all you will have is memory. There are a lot of quotes on this am not sure and google isn't either who said “If you’ll take away my genius lord please takes away my memory of it too.” 

But it’s important to consider the block I believe. It carries in it all the things that make a story great. It carries inadequacy, conflicts and self-doubt.. It is a human emotion, a whole palette of human emotions. It is a story of how we felt when we were younger and stood among a group of friends and some of the confidence we portrayed was false. A stopper in your throat and a worry that your joke wouldn’t be as funny as that of your funniest friend meant that words stuck there feeling more solid than words have a right to feel. Unable to move with a smile frozen in place. It’s the feeling we get when there is something we are good at but maybe not good enough at. I can make it to my high school team but am I good enough for college ball? And even if I am will I ever be a professional? And even if I am will I ever be Messi? Greatness isn’t promised to everyone but the capacity and ambition for it lives in almost all human beings. Some people can temper it with honesty but a lot of us reach for it all our lives and then the block comes. When written about it also carries within it the triumph of the human spirit it tells a story of a man who fought his nature and his demons of sloth, who battled his unmuses and came out triumphant imposing his will on his failings

It’s a story that everyone can relate to because we have all felt uninspired at some time. We have all felt that our talent left us and all we do to get it back doesn’t work. It’s that woman who won’t pick up your calls or return your messages. You know that more effort means less results still you can’t help but try. Then there is the fact that writing can be like a drug. There are all the memories of the time when it just came. When you sat down  and nothing mattered except what the voices in your head told you to write down. Those moments of quiet when the voices shut up for a while because you were actually listening to them. Those who play sports know them as moments of muscle memory when all the training you put in plus the skill you naturally possess hold hands and make sweet, sweet love switching your brain off and letting you be. Those moments when you feel like this is what you’re supposed to do.

When I began writing on this blog it was like that all the time. There was so much to say and so many ways of saying it. Then it becomes harder as time goes by. Maybe you do get better as life goes on but those moments of pure clarity, the moments when it all makes sense and it’s as if the world is talking to you become fewer and fewer. The pieces of writing that feel like art those that feel like they are reflective of society, that make you feel as if your hold on human nature was firmer and your grasp better are harder to come by. Then the laziness checks in. you roll out of bed and roll into the world. You forget about all the things that you do have to do to get better. Everyone says you should write a minimum number of words a day, but what the hell is there to write about? It feels as if all the topics you could check in on have checked out of the world. Bolts of inspiration are replaced by plodding through murk and mud.

Some time ago I fell down and hit my head. It resulted in some wounds and they hurt. They hurt all the time. It was a constant headache and it wouldn’t leave me for even a minute. Then I wrote a piece for the blog and for that time it went away. The pain was subsumed by something more. Then I remembered I really do love to write and that it can take me away from everything. It takes me back to places I want to visit and forward to places I haven’t seen yet. Reading, writing and travelling are my best forms of travelling(if you’ll pardon the repetition) and a life without any one of them means I have to take drugs to get rid of headaches something am not sure I want. Am only happy when I write, no that’s not true I only write when am happy someone should have said.

One way of getting rid of writer’s block is to write about it. Write about the worry and the pain. Write about all the things you did to get rid of it and when you do get rid of it write about what actually worked. Am not sure I can actually give advice on one of these things yet but writing about the block worked for me (at least I hope it did, we’ll know in a week.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

last night...

So there we were at the kind of three for one event that never happens in Kenya but most assuredly should. It involved party of some kind where you could buy drinks and talk. Talk, at an outdoors event. Most clubs in Kenya are so loud you can barely hear the music as it blares itself out. There is no thought given to those of a conversational character, people don’t meet each other to talk they meet to dance, drink and maybe fuck. All conversation does is get in the middle of these things and while it may, like a cream filling or an excellent stuffing, make everything better by being in this middle why bother when you can have the bare necessities? Is what the clubs in Kenya think.

In addition to this taking place there was a swimming pool. A huge, huge swimming pool. We have had a recent spate of sunny days in Nairobi and my I missed the sun, when am out in those rays dressed in the least I can wear and still get away with it I feel like God is hugging me, I spread out my arms wanting to grab each and every one of the warmth atoms flying down. The water was perfect too, not cold at all. For a lot of my swimming life I don’t get over how cold the water is. I plop myself in with a self-help phrase or find myself pulled in by a helpful friend. The initial shock overcomes me, every nerve set a-tingling and then it just doesn’t go away. There is no point when am not freezing, am cold until the only moment of swimming I actually like, when I have pulled myself out of the pool and am lying down near the edge. The sun has to be one of those God hugs though cruelly it’s always accompanied by a breeze, a light breeze but enough to set me shivering again. The water evaporates until there are only islands dotting my body, here an island, there an island but not everywhere an island. That moment, that moment is the only true pleasure of swimming to me. When I had almost forgotten what it meant to be warm and now I have almost forgotten what it means to be cold.

Then there was a movie after all this. An I-max movie no less. We went to the theatre late and were shunted next door. In this movie room we were in there were two screens none bigger than a normal movie theatre and each showing the movie simultaneously, “its Imax tax free someone yelled.”

But back to the pool. On this occasion my swimming was top notch, it’s like I had been smoking weed all my life.

 There were shark in the pool too. They weren’t really sharks more like eels with shark teeth; they were as big as sharks and lived in these cavities in the pool. They would strike out of the cavities to eat or to mate, such things. As I was watching these sharks one of them began the business of eating and another wanted to mate with it. Some of my dreams have déjà vu or maybe that’s just what dream logic really is. It makes sense because it makes sense that you saw it somewhere else. Where you saw it is forever out of your reach. Probably nowhere but you don’t know that because when the one shark bit the other’s neck it made sense that this is how these animals begin  to mate. It wasn’t a sharp bite it was the kind of necking that humans do, not as slow or sensual as red candles usually inspire but quick, slobbery, filled with unfulfilled passion and lust that may not last past an afternoon.

I also knew that in this state the sharks would not attack me. So I swam closer and realised just how wrong dream logic can be. The shark disengaged and came at me. I swam away far, far away. And this was the moment I realised they weren’t sharks in the traditional sense but eels. It came at me for metres and metres. I have no memory of the chase or sensation of being tired or even moving. All of a sudden I was maybe thirty metres away. The sharks had extended its mouth but its body was thirty metres long, I veered to the right just as it clamped down. Then I took a deep breath, I was still alive.

Monday, August 13, 2012

sterling notes

I just finished watching the fifth season of mad men, great show. I can’t say why since all we see is these ad men going about their lives. But somehow it draws me completely in, it’s so addictive and leaves me wishing for that other life, and let’s be honest the life of a rich white man in 60’s America is something worth aspiring to. While it may be short while it lusts it lasts. Drinking in the office is always fun and they have their whiskies  ready by 2 in the afternoon; every meeting is capped off by pouring some alcohol in a glass, reaching for the bottle  as instinctive as offering a seat and everyone does it so it’s not alcoholism. Plus the different situations when people smoke never fails to shock; in the elevator, holding a baby, in the doctor’s office. That time period is so glamourized and really what man wouldn’t want to be Don Draper or Roger Sterling? They pour charm out as quickly as they take in liquor never stopping to worry about consequences and like all the men who have everything they are not sure why they are still unhappy. Adding trophy after trophy, reaching for a satisfaction that is always out of reach. At one point Don says “and what is happiness? Just a moment before you need more happiness.” So apart from that measly morsel of malaise who wouldn't want to be a mad man?

When I was done with the season I went on an internet binge, it’s really quite frustrating to have watched something and not be able to talk about it. Humans are social animals and the worth of an experience is always enhanced by those you can share it with. It’s why when you read a good book you recommend it, why you push a good movie, you want someone else to feel how you felt so that you can reminisce. Remember when? is one of our favourite games. The thing about the internet is that there is such a vast variety of opinions on all the things we love and hate. There are people who experienced it differently, saw things you didn’t and can put together pieces of the puzzle that you never even took out of the box. In my search for information I came across one of those quizzes “what mad man are you?" I took the quiz and answered the questions as honestly as I could and it turned out I am most similar in temperament and personality to Roger Sterling.

He’s my favourite. He drinks a lot, he smokes a lot, he scores a lot, he’s an aspiring writer and he’s so much funnier than Don. At the other end of the spectrum he’s not happy with any of the women he’s with. He doesn’t like his current wife and lets her know it and there is a woman who’s perfect for him every time I see Roger and Joan together the little girl in me prays for them to hook up can’t they see how perfect for each other they are? Also he drinks too much, he smokes too much and spends a lot more time reacting to situations than predicting them and acting. Life happens to him and all he does is stay on the boat. But if I could be anyone it would be this guy.

While I answered the questions on the quiz my mind kept telling me that no one does these things completely honestly. As soon as I started I knew I wanted to be Roger, I knew I liked him and he’s the one I would most like to drink with. My answers were less honest and more aspirational. It wasn’t the me I actually am but the one I wanted to be or the one I wanted people to see me as. . Isn’t this the main problem with personality tests and quizzes sometimes we choose the answer most in line with the idealised picture of ourselves in the mirror. We overcompensate without knowing it; no man ever admits that it actually does happen to all of us without making it sound like a joke, only NASA is allowed to take failed shuttle launches  seriously.
wildly aspirational answer.

Sometime last week a conductor gave me a really crappy 50 shilling note, it was torn and old. It looked ragged and dirty as if someone had mopped up tears with it and then thrown it away in shame for making such a scene. On a matatu I tried to pay with it, this guy refused, he turned me down and all the passengers were on his side.  I opened up my palms and told him all I had was this and 15 shillings, the fare was 20 and he agreed this was when i got an inkling that it was a special note.

A part of me remembered that you can go into a bank and ask them for a replacement note, so walked into Stanchart. I waited patiently on the line; it was one of my dressy days. I had run a comb through my tangle of hair meaning I left a thick mat of it in the bathroom. I was in a tie and a half coat, I looked sharp, I felt smooth and when it was my turn I walked up to the bank teller’s window and proudly took out the note and told the lady my woes.

Apparently and this is important information for all of you out there, you can only get these exchanges done at a central bank. I put on my pained expression and asked her if she was sure, she said she was. I ran a hand through my hair (this has forever been my come hither look am not sure if it works but I feel like it gives me a certain boyishness) this time I did it  to show off some recently acquired scars on my face. I was appealing to her sympathy for the boy who had been robbed or had fallen or whatever it was flashed through her mind at the moment.

“Ok, I’ll give you a note but I don’t want that one of yours.”

I’ll admit it felt strange seeing her reach into the pile of notes she kept nearby and take out a crisp new 50 bob. I’ll admit it was a strange sensation when he turned down my 50 and passed the crisp, new one to me. This was not the result I had expected and getting it was surprising to say the least. I thought about refusing but then my love of a good story was much stronger than my pride. I tucked the note in my pocket and walked out of stanchart having effected my first bank robbery.

Tell me, isn’t that a coup worthy of Roger Sterling?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

the dark knight rises

I’ll just go right ahead and stick a massive SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of this post. Spoiler alerts exist for people like me people who want to see the thing in its organic, unshaped, untouched element. People who believe that the power of a story in its first form is the power it has to surprise, to catch you off-guard to give you moments of shock and awe. People who want to get scared the first time they see the Joker kill a guy in a Batman costume and slam his body into a window interrupting the meeting Gordon has with the mayor. If you haven't watched the Dark Knight Rises yet don't read.

Right into it. In the last cold open we saw the madness of the joker, it introduced us to a character that was at once larger than life and ill deserving of it. This time we are thrown into a plane ride and an escape plan. We are introduced to Bane through one of his hilarious one liners “perhaps he is wondering why you would shoot a man and then throw him out of the airplane.” And then he moves, in this character we see strength, passion and belief in the same way we saw chaos in the joker. He walks on the screen and you can’t move, your eyes are glued on his because every move he makes promises to be someone’s last. And as they leave the airplane he tells one of his friends that they need a body in the crash, “has it began?” is all the man asks before he willingly embraces death. A madman who has people who would kill for him is scary a madman who has people that would die for him is worse.

Bruce Wayne is no more. The playboy billionaire hung up that mask as well as the batman one and he looks broken. He has imposed an exile on himself believing there is nothing more in the world for him; grief has haunted him since the beginning of his days. He has taught himself to smile as robin explains while telling him how he knew who batman was(Robin also curves a bullet later in the movie, curves a bullet, remember when this happened in wanted). He has lost his family and his love, he lost his reputation as he lost Harvey and none of us is so good, is so noble that they would be reviled and chased down the street for giving up so much of ourselves and be okay with it. He is back where batman begins a lost man with the capabilities of being more but none of the drive needed to channel the anger into action. Then he loses Rachel all over again as the truth about her letter comes out, he throws Alfred out and is truly alone, him and his demons are all he gets to come home to because soon he won’t even have his money. We see that taken away from him in spectacular fashion. With no electricity a fire is put to burn in his manor the comfort of this is all that’s promised him as all we have now is a man with a mission. For him and an invention of his to be the unwitting destroyer of Gotham  is a justice too exact to be right. It can’t be right can it that there is a billionaire living among people so poor all they needed was a little push. It can’t be right that he has enough money that he can throw it away on toys when there are better ways to fix failed states than dramatic examples to shake people out of apathy. A million dollars for schools here, a billion as an economic stimulus there and things begin to move. People aren’t usually criminals because they like to hurt, despair and desperation paint  people into  corners that they have no way out of. His dramatic example cost not just him but the city too and now he’s no longer even funding that orphanage.

Bane break: When attacking the stockbrokerage and the guy there tells him there's no money here Bane asks "so why are you all here?"

Children from the orphanage go missing, go into the sewers in such of work we are told. “What kind of work can you find in the sewers?” “More than you can find up here.” And that is the failed state of Gotham. As Harvey Dent day is celebrated and Gordon wrestles with whether or not the city is ready to hear the truth about Harvey,  the man who threatened to kill his son and the one who saved his life and the truth about them we see a man in conflict. The lie gave him a burning sword and institutions to put away organised criminals and now it is a city without organised crime but things built on a lie always fall away before the storm of the truth. The Dent act is  in force but there is still despair and desperation. The same that existed in a tale of two cities the same kind that has orphaned boys going down into the sewers to look for work, the same kind that tears Gotham in two the kind that makes craziness just a little push away. We see it in the characters introduced, in the sexy, sexy cat woman (Anne Hathaway blew that away, my God none of us is safe around that burglar) as she whispers to Bruce “did you think you could have so much and leave so little for the rest of us?” she gets it, she knows what’s going to happen a storm is coming. A revolution is awaiting its leader and when people are oppressed for long enough the only kind of justice they can dispense is like to live a man a head shorter. So the duality of life in Gotham continues. Organised crime went away making the city safer than it has been in decades but the despair, the underlying causes of the symptoms were unexamined and the body is sicker than it has ever been  breathing on fumes ready to die at any moment.
a map of Gotham's soul.

We have a city that refuses to listen to its war hero assuming his mind is addled as he talks about Bane and the underground army. We see Bruce led into a trap by the duplicitousness of Selina and we see him beaten. He is not the man he once was and wise man Bane tells him he fights like a young man, throwing everything into it. And he truly does, he is beaten, outmatched and thrown out. Alfred as usual has the best quote about any of these characters . “There is a prison in a more ancient part of the world, a pit where men are thrown to suffer and die. But sometimes a man rises from the darkness. Sometimes the pit sends something back” says Alfred. That was beautiful that truly was adaptation at its best. I have been a batman fan for a while and I always loved the Ras al Ghul episodes in the cartoon. He was so suave and self-assured and in those he was immortal not in the way an idea can be immortal but well and truly immortal unable to die, a man who lived forever. When he was ailing his body would be thrown into the Lazarus pits and by magic he would rise again. We can’t have magic in these Nolan movies but we still got the pits. Hell on earth “I was born in the shadow you merely adopted it” Bane says as he grabs batman out of darkness and proceeds to break his back(the ultimate Bane break). The story of the pit goes back and forth; we don’t truly see the full story until all those who have been spat out by it are gathered in the same room. The moment of betrayal in this movie is truly shocking. I can’t tell why I forgot that Ras al Ghul had a daughter but I did and when she stabbed batman and told her story of the pit, it was haunting. Nature does a lot for people but nurture can indelibly leave a much stronger mark than anything else. Lying in filth and dirt for years and being there as your mother is raped to death, fearing that it too is the fate promised to you is enough to make a young girl strong enough to pull herself out of the pit but it’s also enough to make her so angry and unable to forgive that she believes twelve million lives are worth the approval of the dead father who left his wife there to rot. She climbs out because she fears death and in the pit that’s the lesson Bruce is taught. It gives you a stake in the game something worth going hard for . The will power it takes to climb out of that pit, to survive it as a child and to somehow find her father is the reason I can buy her being the big baddie and Bane being relegated to the role of henchman. Strength and wit are important but will cuts through both like a hot knife through cheese. She like her father, like Bruce is something other, something more, something that’s not in our reach no matter how we try to lie to ourselves and Bane is just a tool. A fire hose that needs to be controlled otherwise he would go off as crazy as the Joker. She had found her Luca Brasi and taken the Don’s advice making herself “ the only person in the world who he hoped would not kill him” 

Bane break: When the stupidest guy in the world begins shouting at him and Bane lightly touches his shoulder immediately underscoring the physical inadequacy of this man "do you really feel like you are in charge?"

When experiencing a series of books, movies or a tv show we want to know there was a plan all along, that the same mind that brought itself to the beginning knew how that end would be and made it all one big story going back and forth, overlapping and intercrossing. It’s not always like that sometimes you jingle the ending as you go  I loved that this movie had trilogical aspects. The dark knight for all its greatness could be a stand alone movie the only connection between it and batman  begins being the characters. You could still experience the full power of that movie only slightly diminished if you hadn’t watched batman begins. The same cannot be said for this movie. It harks back to the league of shadows and Bruce’s search for himself. How much sadder is Ras al Ghul’s story when we see it in flashback as he talks about the woman he loved and lost and we know that she is the mother of his heir, someone he lost as he loses all his heirs. The vision of her father is what Talia holds out to achieve. A vision thwarted by the Wayne family twice before once in death when a senseless burglary inspired the elite to more and again when batman came to stop him.(the league of shadows used the same trick of having an impostor stand as leader that they did in the first movie yet another flashback) Even as Bruce climbs out of the Lazarus pit we see the well he fell into, we see his father in another flashback that has more emotional impact than when seen the first time in that movie “why do we fall? So we can climb up again.” It picks up the threads of the story of Bruce. It strips him of everything this time, his health, his money, even his anonymity as the number of people learning his identity pile on. It asks what this character needs for redemption and answers it as he hauls the bomb away from Gotham. Batman must die so that Gotham can rise.

It also follows forth from the dark knight. Picking up the threads of Gotham. A city tittering on the brink of insanity requiring “a little push” as that movies antagonist said. The tortured soul of the city is allowed to come out in this one as the push is given. Order is replaced by anarchy even as “structures became shackles.” Desperation gives rise to the worst of human nature. The citizens do take their city back using as an excuse nothing more than the justification of a hungry stomach. They throw the rich out of their houses and take up residence in them and in scenes reminiscent of a tale of two cities they hold the mock trials where the defendants are told its only for sentencing. Death or exile they ask. Playing the same game Harvey Dent played with his victims. They finally hear the truth about two face and a symbol is put in their faces. Justice to the quick. Why try when you can achieve? Sentence them immediately just like Dent did and then give them a chance that’s not really much of one. Have them walk across ice so thin you need to track a path as small as a coin to keep on it. What the Joker couldn’t achieve Bane and Talia did in all their glory. The dark side of the city comes out to face the light. Anarchy spreads like a tumour and this place may not be worth saving after all, but even in the novel it was the desperation and mistreatment that drove them to this. Dickens was able to tease out sympathy for the lovers of sweet sister guillotine just as he did for those who felt her embrace.

Bane break: He captures some guy and the guys promises to die before he talks, "i will oblige your schedule" as he rips the guy's tongue out.

Before Alfred leaves he tells Bruce that he wishes he had seen him in Florence because there is no happiness promised to him in Gotham. While in prison Bruce sees Ras al Ghul. He has a hallucination that his enemy is alive and well and when  Alfred believes he has seen Bruce and Selina after all the drama, after the ship blew up we may as well ask ourselves if this is another hallucination. This was a bleak movie. It was livened by humour but all through there was darkness and sadness and pain, struggle spiced every interaction seducing them all into nothing. I needed a happy ending. I needed Bruce to be alive. There are apparently plenty of logical reasons why he is but am more interested in the emotional one. In the end batman is about hope. Sacrifice yes. More sacrifice than one man should take upon himself but hope too is the promise of batman. “People deserve to have their faith rewarded” Bruce once told Lucius and for this alone Bruce Wayne deserved a happy ending just so that rising was worth it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

before the dark knight rises

I’ll just go right ahead and stick a massive SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of this post. For Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. Though not for the new movie. Spoiler alerts exist for people like me, people who want to see the thing in its organic, unshaped, untouched element. People who believe that the power of a story in its first form is the power it has to surprise, to catch you off-guard, to give you moments of shock and awe. People who want to get scared the first time they see the joker kill a guy in a batman costume and slam his body into a window interrupting the meeting Gordon has with the mayor.. If you are that kind of person and you have not watched the dark knight rises this is not for you.

It’s been four years since the last movie and the last movie was bleak we see batman running from the police his honour stained, his reputation shot and everything he worked for thrown away because sometimes only on  lies can you build anything and for whatever else we say about them foundations of falsehood remain foundations. Four years is a while, it’s as long as high school and to get ready for this movie(it’s so rare that a movie comes along that motivates me to get ready for it that it’s a chance I grab with both hands) I watched both batman begins and the dark knight. The first is a story of a man. We explore this human being who would be more. We are introduced to him as a boy and as a lost adult, two stages of life that existence practically assures for us all. We see him struggle with himself and his philosophy, see him draw  lines and put himself in a straitjacket because in life we all need straitjackets of our own making lines we are unwilling to cross lines that if we do cross we feel as if a bone was broken. The making of those straitjackets is the making of a human being and in the first movie we see this man fit himself into what he needs to be. Then we see him put on the mask of a billionaire playboy, a façade that we can all be jealous of but one of those punishments we would wish on our worst enemy, a life of shallowness, despair and emptiness. He shows himself as spoiled, vain and beyond help. When one of his father’s friends says to him “the apple has fallen very far from the tree.” I can see his pain and his sacrifice, not the wounds on his body but the fact that he has to be thought of like this in order for the ruse to work.

The second movie is about Gotham more than anything else. The Joker walks on fully formed, batman has nowhere to go but towards more sacrifice. It is only in two characters that we see dramatic arcs and changes. The first is the sympathetic fall of Harvey Dent, Gotham’s white knight. We see a man of honour with a chance at legitimacy pulled down from his tower. “Madness as you know is like gravity all it takes is a little push” says the Joker and push he does. He involves the whole city in manhunts making the citizens demand first for batman’s blood and then for the blood of he who would deliver it. He puts the fate of the citizens in their own hands playing a game of chaos theory the conclusion of which has a hardened murderer throw away the key to his salvation, a point at which everyone sappy for hope feels like applauding. We see Gotham who we met in the first movie suffering too. This is the third attempt at its destruction in a span of about 20 years. We see the city groaning under the weight of  despair sinking and sinking under explosions madness and half crazed half faced heroes. In front of us is a city that does need a masked man to do what the police won’t and even more tellingly needs him to say he did what their actual hero did. The true face of Gotham is Harvey Dent, torn in half between hope and despair and ready to kill itself and its citizens at the toss of a coin, the second movie leaves a city on its knees, with the means to win a war but using weapons tainted and smeared with falsehood and lies, weapons too brittle to keep up the fight, too fragile to really win it because like the Joker said it was a battle for the soul of Gotham and that soul is tainted.

Then I read a Tale of Two Cities  because an interview said that Jonathan Nolan had given it to his brother as a primer for the script. This book by Dickens was  a major inspiration for the movie and I had never read Dickens. Well Dickens is funny and dramatic "it was the best of times it was the worst of times" begins the book. He can also draw atmosphere resurrecting the feeling of fear and the threat of bloodshed that existed in the French capital during their revolution. He talks of the rise of sweet sister guillotine and her sweet kiss. After years of a suffering that is difficult to imagine for me, a suffering that probably still happens in the world today where the poor and downtrodden many times have no hope but to continue to be poor and downtrodden the masses rise. They rise against their oppressors, the people who could have so much and leave so little for the rest. They take over everything the justice system, the courts and the borders. They throw people in the bastille and barely record their presence in the prison. When their time comes they are dragged in front of a kangaroo court a place of judgement filled with scorn and hate and fuelled by the blood of the mob that come there every day at the appointed hour to await their victims. The women are more ferocious than the men as Dickens is able to turn the simple act of knitting into the very picture of a black widow waiting, watching, slowly, implacably and patiently.

Paris then is like Gotham at the end of the Dark Knight, a place of emotion raw and powerful where people are not swayed by logic because they did what was logical and watched the rich get richer. Now they are swayed by emotion. The mob is just as likely to tear you to pieces as it is to carry you off on their shoulders. The same faces twisted into merriment at a sentence of life are twisted into more by a sentence of death. And death does come as the prison cells are emptied of their occupants and the occupants are emptied of their heads a death sure and quick the kiss of the guillotine finds many necks and leads to an ending which while predictable (maybe because of all the people who have used it since then) doesn’t take away from its emotional urgency. It is for all intents and purposes a happy ending but it is also the saddest happy ending I have had the pleasure to read.

SPOILER ALERT (for a Tale of Two Cities and the Prestige.)They both use body doubles to give us the big reveal at the end, the reveal for the prestige is a major plot point the reveal for a Tale isn’t a plot point since you do see it coming from far away however it is a tear point. Just found it weird that another of Christopher Nolan’s creations had a similarity with this book. And with the dark knight, it’s the reason batman always uses that voice even if he’s alone. The magicians in the prestige cut off his finger so that they could remain twins. These seem to be the kind of characters he believes in people of superhuman integrity and I guess it’s why his batman can take so much and suffer so bad.