Another Exit for England and Wales?

brexitThe world woke up this morning to the news that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. Shockwaves were immediately felt throughout global financial markets, and news shows were filled with discussions about the immediate and longterm consequences of this international divorce.

Much was made of the frustration among the growing populist movement in Britain, which sees increased integration with Europe as a threat to its identity and way of life. This, together with the reality that ongoing relations with its close neighbors are likely to be awkward at best after the split, has led to a not-surprising decision on the part of Boris Johnson, the acknowledge unofficial head of the “leave” faction.

“Recognizing that the interests and welfare of the British people are no longer aligned with those of the European community, we are in the planning stage of relocating the British Isles to a more advantageous locale,” Johnson announced on Friday during a press conference.

Johnson went on to say that, “While some would view this as an extreme reaction, we feel it is a natural extension of the wisdom that led to yesterday’s momentous decision. Will the move be difficult? Yes, of course, but that has never stopped Britain before and will not stop us now.” He cited the historic successes of Britain’s colonization efforts throughout the world as evidence of the nation’s pluck, foresight, and resolve.

Johnson’s announcement set off storms of speculation regarding Great Britain’s new home. One proposed location is just off the coast near Massachusetts, since it is already home to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. This, however, raised concerns among locals. “I don’t know,” said professional handyman Larry, who was accompanied by his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl. “We already have one New England. Would we call them ‘New New England?'”

Complicating matters is the fact that only the nations of England and Wales voted for the split; Scotland and Northern Ireland indicated their strong preference for remaining in the EU. When asked about this apparent conflict, Johnson—who was joined at the news conference by his golfing pal Donald Trump—was undeterred. “My friend here has assured me that it is not that different from developing a subdivision or making condos out of historic buildings.” Trump added, “You’ve already got this, this, what do you call it, this Hadrian’s Wall—God, I love walls—so you just make a sharp crease and snap it off. I’ve done it millions of times. And we’ll make Scotland pay for it.”

When it was pointed out that moving England into open waters via the English Channel might be a tight fit between France and Ireland, Johnson was confident they would be happy to shift a bit to accommodate the passage. “After all,” he said, “England has done so much for Ireland and France through the centuries. They owe us.”

Poetry on Pennsylvania Avenue?

In his editorial column from today’s New York Times, “I Yield to the Gentleman from Stratford-upon-Avon,” Bill Keller recommends that Congress add regular poetry readings to its extra-curricular activities.  He argues for the humanizing effects of reading poetry, as well as the skills it develops in “open-ended thinking.”  To all of this, I had a hearty “Yea,” although I have as much confidence in something like this as I do in the newly commissioned Gang of 12.

A poem that has come to mind repeatedly this summer as I have observed the embarrassment in Washington is Ben Jonson’s wonderful epigram from the early seventeenth century:

On Something, That Walks Somewhere.

At Court I met it, in clothes brave enough,
To be a courtier; and looks grave enough,
To seem a statesman: as I near it came,
It made me a great face; I asked the name.
A Lord, it cried, buried in flesh and blood,
And such from whom let no man hope least good,
For I will do none; and as little ill,
For I will dare none: Good Lord, walk dead still.

’nuff said.

My Guilty Pleasure: the novels of Carl Hiaasen

I have been waiting for two years for another “fix” from one of my favorite novelists, Carl Hiaasen.  I just visited his website and was delighted to see that his latest novel, Star Carl HiaasenIsland, is due out on July 27.  Here is the blurb on it: “An actress secretly stands in for a derailed pop star and finds herself stalked on South Beach by a crazed paparazzo – and befriended by an unhinged hermit who was once governor of Florida.”

You may have seen the movie Hoot and not known he was the author of the book from which the movie was made.  I love his books because they combine satire, mystery, farce, and social commentary, all at a 60 mph pace.  Plus, they make me a little nostalgic for the five years I lived in South Florida (emphasis on a little).  If you think you might like him, check out his site; it contains descriptions of all his books.  He also links a 60 Minutes interview he did a few years ago.

Star IslandIf you’re heading to Florida for vacation this summer, he makes a good beach read.

The Invention of Lying

The overlooked Ricky Gervais film The Invention of Lying comes out on DVD January 19, and it’s my current pick for thought-provoking comedy.  Actually, the trailer makes the film seem much funnier than it is.  It’s a sad film that manages a somewhat improbably happy ending despite its central premise.

Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a screenwriter living in a world where lying doesn’t exist.  Apparently, lying includes any form of self-editing, since the characters feel compelled to tell each other whatever they are currently thinking or feeling: the idea of an unexpressed thought seems to come only to a select few.

Gervais suddenly finds himself able to lie, and the film’s plot plays out the various ramifications of his “genetic mutation.”  This is where we get a predictable amount of sophomoric humor, but the film quickly turns on a more serious note when the question of an afterlife is asked and answered.

Like its obvious borrowing from Jonathan Swift’s satiric vision in the fourth voyage of Gulliver’s Travels, in which Gulliver discovers a race of creatures unfamiliar with the concept of untruth, Gervais’ film raises the uncomfortable question of just how much lying each of us engages in on an everyday basis, mostly just to get along with others in a reasonably civilized manner.  But, by introducing God as the “big lie,” Gervais also suggests that we prefer comfort over honesty and that truth and love are usually, if not necessarily, mutually exclusive.

How funny or how sad one thinks the film is will be in direct proportion to the extent one shares Gervais’ worldview, but, regardless, watching it exposes a lot of our basic assumptions about how life works, both in this life and the next.

All About Eve (1950)

One of the great films about the drama of drama–especially the clash between theater and film, and the harsh realities facing actresses of a “certain age.”  Watch Bette Davis’ stage business with a piece of chocolate–she’s a consummate scene-stealer.