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Cari Mora: a tense heist thriller from the author behind Hannibal Lecter

Thomas Harriss latest novel is a welcome departure from his narrow and numbing obsession with Lecter..

Thomas Harriss latest novel is a welcome departure from his narrow and numbing obsession with Lecter.

With Red Dragon (1981) and The Silence of the Lambs (1988), Thomas Harris set the bar for modern suspense writing, drawing on developments in criminal-personality profiling to explore the type that had only recently been designated the “serial” killer. But his numerous followers have had little trouble exceeding his rate of production. During the 1990s, while the field grew crowded with writers meeting annual delivery dates, sufficiently flush with ideas to fuel multiple ongoing series, Harris cut a lonely, exotically Flaubertian figure, shunning the media, his working day spent “writhing on the floor in agonies of frustration” in the phrase of his admirer Stephen King, who published 14 novels in the time it took Harris to produce Hannibal (1999).

After the success of the resulting 2001 film version – produced by Dino De Laurentiis, who had lent Orion Pictures his long-held, though at the time little-cherished rights to the Lecter character for the 1991 adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs – Harris was induced to keep writing not only by the promise of further movie royalties but by De Laurentiiss threat to continue the Lecter story without his involvement. Its hard not to view the atrocious prequel, Hannibal Rising (2006), as both a tie-in and an exercise in marking territory. With the Hannibal quartet complete – and giving the writers of a widely revered NBC series plenty to feast on – there was a strong possibility that Harris would make a retreat into total silence.

Its possibly ungrateful to note that the barely 300 pages of Harriss new novel contain a fair bit of blank space, and that agonised perfectionism isnt greatly in evidence. At one point, Harris alludes to the common misuse of the verb “decimate”, despite his own prose being characterised by odd lapses in grammar and sense (the opening line of dialogue runs, “I can get the house where you say it is”). But Cari Mora, for its brevity and blemishes, is a tense heist thriller, plausibly grounded in coastal Florida and urban Colombia, and told through half-a-dozen points of view. It is a welcome departure from his narrow and numbing obsession with Lecter that still manages to provide some of the thrills and types desired from this long-awaited return. And its a novel that deserves a higher accolade – praise less inaudibly faint – than “Harriss best since The Silence of the Lambs”.

The books title character is a 25-year-old female immigrant, a former child soldier from Colombia, who works as the housekeeper of a Miami Bay mansion filled with bric-a-brac. Also on the premises is a booby-trapped cache of gold bricks deposited in 1989 by the drug baron Pablo Escobar. One of Escobars former associates sells his knowledge of the gold, though not exclusively, to the notorious Hans-Peter Schneider, a mercenary and pimp with an organ-selling sideline, who rents the house and begins digging.

The novels set-up (long-concealed booty, rival gangs, sun-kissed Florida) recalls Elmore Leonards 1990s work, or a conflation of the two noir films that John Huston made in 1948 – the action of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre shifted to the backdrop of Key Largo. But Harriss juggling of narrative perspectives – his Gods-eye view of human delusion – and preoccupation with motives darker and murkier than the lining of pockets tips the novel away from the crime genre and closer to the terrain of Joseph Conrad and his portraits of émigré communities in watery locales, especially Nostromo, his story of the scramble for silver in a rejigged Colombia.

The character of Hans-Peter Schneider is crucial to the books nihilist undertone and its appeal to existing fans. Cari Mora is Harriss first novel in almost half a century – since Black Sunday in 1975 – not to feature “Hannibal the Cannibal”, and his publishers have emphasised Schneiders status as the successor. But this “new monster” is really the old monster with a few tweaks, and the same dynamic characterises his new heroine as well.

Hans-Peter Schneider and Cari Mora have more in common with Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, the heroine of The Silence of the Lambs, than the syllabic make-up of their names. Cari Mora, for all its other accents, is also the story of an erudite European monster (German as opposed to Lithuanian) with a taste for human flesh (more a sadistic necrophile than a connoisseur) who meets his match in a 25-year-old orphan fond of animals and good with guns.

On this showing, Schneider seems unlikely to emulate Lecters journey to global fame. Hes in every way a less rarefied proposition. Whereas Lecter plays the Goldberg Variations on an 18th-century Flemish harpsichord, Schneider sings the German folk songs that the Variations incorporate while in the shower. A powerful sense of smell, a marker of Lecters subtlety, is here explained by Schneiders hairlessness, which extends even to his nasal pathways.Lecter courteously assures Clarice that, unlike his foul-mouthed neighbour Multiple Miggs, he cannot smell her “c***” – only her skin cream and perfume – but Schneider is “susceptible to… the pollens of spiny amaranth and rape”, and his interest in Cari is altogether less psychological or cerebral (he imagines her “asleep in her hotness upstairs”). And while Lecter was “impenetrable”, recognised even by Dr Chilton, the churlish administrator of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, as “much too sophisticated for the standard tests”, Schneider is instantly redolent of “brimstone” and flatly characterised as “a very bad man”, “crazy in a bad way” and, simply,Read More – Source

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The unstoppable rise of TikTok moms

Ask somebody to think of a social media influencer, and they’d probably picture young, manicured tee..

Ask somebody to think of a social media influencer, and they’d probably picture young, manicured teens and twenty-somethings making content for audiences for the same demographic. We’d expect them to have perfectly styled pictures, high-production videos, popular hashtags, and thousands of followers who are ready to smash a like on any content posted. And we think this because, on average, that’s what influencers look like.

But on TikTok, things are changing. While TikTok’s audiences are still largely the digital native tweens and teens common on most social platforms, the creators aren’t just other fellow Gen-Zers. A new type of TikTok influencer is emerging: the TikTok mom.

TikTok, for the uninitiated, is the latest mainstream social media app that has become known for its Gen-Z heavy audience (you can read an explainer of it here). Similar to the millennial-favourite (and now-defunct) Vine, users on TikTok can share videos up to 60-seconds long, and is commonly used to post pranks, short, Vine-style comedy sketches, and the platform’s bread and butter: lip-syncing videos.

While, “mommy bloggers” who post about being a parent are common on YouTube, Instagram, and blogging platforms, the TikTok mom is something different. TikTok is a platform predominantly used for, and even built for, memes. So rather than making videos for TikTok to discuss parenting, TikTok moms lean into the trend – creating the same meme videos that are being made by their Gen-Z offspring.

One of the biggest mom stars of TikTok is Varli Singh, known to her followers simply as “Varli” – a mother of two living in New York after spending several years in Texas. Despite being a normally dressed, mid-40s mom, Varli has nearly half a million followers (441K) on her TikTok account @Varlicious and posts near daily videos that regularly get tens of thousands of likes.

While her content started as a series of “prank” clips and music videos – typically featuring her kids and sometimes other children – she has found a hungry audience off the back of her video meme series “Don’t Fear, Varli Is Here”. In these videos, which are seemingly responsible for skyrocketing her from mid-tier influencer to one of the app’s most popular accounts, she casts herself as a saviour swooping in at the last minute to “save” children from intimidating situations. Most of her recent videos have over 50K likes, with some getting over 100K.

Despite her meme-filled presence, Varli was, until last year, a food writer. Her personal website doesn’t once mention her TikTok stardom and instead merely hails her achievements in covering the Indian food scene in the United States; and how her “Asia and Middle East” upbringing has given her a deep understanding of “eclectic cuisine”. Her YouTube channel (which she started nearly a decade ago in October 2010) is entirely dedicated to food interviews bar a few videos from the last six months showing “behind the scenes” coverage of how some of her music videos were made, and a call out post calling YouTuber Danny Gonzalez a “hater” for mocking her TikTok content.

If Varli’s videos seem heavily staged and badly acted, that’s because they are. But despite her easily mockable content, the numbers reflect a hungry audience. Even on top of her half a million followers and tens of thousands of likes per video, her recent meme has inspired others to create similar content. At the time of writing, the hashtag she uses for her videos #dontfearvarlishere has over 11 million views (its misspelling, #dontfearvarliishere, has 400K).

While Varli is perhaps TikTok’s biggest mom-fluencer, she is far from the only one. Just Joyce (@author_lady_j) has accrued over 20K followers with fewer than 250 videos. While it’s hard to assess how many times a video has been viewed on TikTok, as the platform only shows the number of “hearts” (ie “likes”) a video receives, Joyce has still managed to get nearly 400K hearts off her relatively limited content. The fittingly named Mommy (@mommy1961), too, has a bafflingly large follower count given her video content – with 112K followers – despite the formula of her videos, which are largely just her cooking and smiling at the camera, along with a couple standard TikTok lip-sync vids.

Like Varli, most popular TikTok moms have had other day jobs until joining TikTok in the last year. But they are increasingly garnering the audiences far larger than the average full-time influencer. (more…)

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The unstoppable rise of TikTok moms

Ask somebody to think of a social media influencer, and they’d probably picture young, manicured tee..

Ask somebody to think of a social media influencer, and they’d probably picture young, manicured teens and twenty-somethings making content for audiences for the same demographic. We’d expect them to have perfectly styled pictures, high-production videos, popular hashtags, and thousands of followers who are ready to smash a like on any content posted. And we think this because, on average, that’s what influencers look like.

But on TikTok, things are changing. While TikTok’s audiences are still largely the digital native tweens and teens common on most social platforms, the creators aren’t just other fellow Gen-Zers. A new type of TikTok influencer is emerging: the TikTok mom.

TikTok, for the uninitiated, is the latest mainstream social media app that has become known for its Gen-Z heavy audience (you can read an explainer of it here). Similar to the millennial-favourite (and now-defunct) Vine, users on TikTok can share videos up to 60-seconds long, and is commonly used to post pranks, short, Vine-style comedy sketches, and the platform’s bread and butter: lip-syncing videos.

While, “mommy bloggers” who post about being a parent are common on YouTube, Instagram, and blogging platforms, the TikTok mom is something different. TikTok is a platform predominantly used for, and even built for, memes. So rather than making videos for TikTok to discuss parenting, TikTok moms lean into the trend – creating the same meme videos that are being made by their Gen-Z offspring.

One of the biggest mom stars of TikTok is Varli Singh, known to her followers simply as “Varli” – a mother of two living in New York after spending several years in Texas. Despite being a normally dressed, mid-40s mom, Varli has nearly half a million followers (441K) on her TikTok account @Varlicious and posts near daily videos that regularly get tens of thousands of likes.

While her content started as a series of “prank” clips and music videos – typically featuring her kids and sometimes other children – she has found a hungry audience off the back of her video meme series “Don’t Fear, Varli Is Here”. In these videos, which are seemingly responsible for skyrocketing her from mid-tier influencer to one of the app’s most popular accounts, she casts herself as a saviour swooping in at the last minute to “save” children from intimidating situations. Most of her recent videos have over 50K likes, with some getting over 100K.

Despite her meme-filled presence, Varli was, until last year, a food writer. Her personal website doesn’t once mention her TikTok stardom and instead merely hails her achievements in covering the Indian food scene in the United States; and how her “Asia and Middle East” upbringing has given her a deep understanding of “eclectic cuisine”. Her YouTube channel (which she started nearly a decade ago in October 2010) is entirely dedicated to food interviews bar a few videos from the last six months showing “behind the scenes” coverage of how some of her music videos were made, and a call out post calling YouTuber Danny Gonzalez a “hater” for mocking her TikTok content.

If Varli’s videos seem heavily staged and badly acted, that’s because they are. But despite her easily mockable content, the numbers reflect a hungry audience. Even on top of her half a million followers and tens of thousands of likes per video, her recent meme has inspired others to create similar content. At the time of writing, the hashtag she uses for her videos #dontfearvarlishere has over 11 million views (its misspelling, #dontfearvarliishere, has 400K).

While Varli is perhaps TikTok’s biggest mom-fluencer, she is far from the only one. Just Joyce (@author_lady_j) has accrued over 20K followers with fewer than 250 videos. While it’s hard to assess how many times a video has been viewed on TikTok, as the platform only shows the number of “hearts” (ie “likes”) a video receives, Joyce has still managed to get nearly 400K hearts off her relatively limited content. The fittingly named Mommy (@mommy1961), too, has a bafflingly large follower count given her video content – with 112K followers – despite the formula of her videos, which are largely just her cooking and smiling at the camera, along with a couple standard TikTok lip-sync vids.

Like Varli, most popular TikTok moms have had other day jobs until joining TikTok in the last year. But they are increasingly garnering the audiences far larger than the average full-time influencer. (more…)

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Theresa May tries to buy MPs with counterfeit money

Theresa May has made a big, generous offer on Brexit to Parliament’s various warring tribes: provide..

Theresa May has made a big, generous offer on Brexit to Parliament’s various warring tribes: provided, that is, that you don’t look at the detail too hard, or indeed, at all.

The central thrust of the speech is that she is putting forward a new deal for MPs to vote on when the withdrawal agreement returns to Parliament. There’s a small clue that this isn’t true: there hasn’t been a European summit since the last time Parliament had to vote on the deal. This is the same deal, but the Prime Minister has changed the font on one or two parts and opted to emphasise others.

She will seek changes to the political declaration, but the political declaration is not legally binding. It has no more force than when a divorcing couple shake hands and promise to keep things civil – what matters is the legal accord that formalises the end of the marriage and arranges joint custody and the division of assets.

May also chucked in a if-you-don’t-look-at-it-closely-then-it-looks-like-a-promise that MPs will be given an opportunity to vote for another referendum if they pass the withdrawal agreement bill at second reading. There is nothing to stop any MP attaching an amendment to the withdrawal agreement bill to introduce a stipulation that the deal be subject to a second referendum anyway: this is akin to your boss telling you that if you take a pay cut you will have the opportunity to take the bus to work: it’s conceding a power you already had in order to get you to do something you don’t want to do.

But the promise, such as it is, is at the wrong time – MPs who want to stop Brexit will know that they will have another opportunity to get a second referendum and MPs who want to push ahead with Brexit have a ready-made excuse not to vote for it.

The problem though, is that even if May had given a better speech, ultimately, there is no viable path to pass the withdrawal agreement while she remains as leader. Even if she were offering concrete guarantees, that her political career is in its terminal phase means that any concessions she makes are valueless. She is in the worst of all possible worlds: the MPs she is seeking to buy don't believe she can follow through, and the MPs who oppose her concessions fear that she might.

But even when May steps down, the problem will remain unchanged. There is a rump of Conservative MPs who for reasons of ideology and expediency believe that the withdrawal agreement – the hardest available negotiated Brexit – is not a proper Brexit, and won’t vote for it. It will never be in the Labour party’s interests to vote for a Brexit as hard as the one on offer and the minority of Labour MPs who believe it is in their interests in their own seats have consistently quailed when given the option to rebel and back the deal.

Unless any of that changes, this remains a parliament that will veto a negotiated Brexit, will veto stopping Brexit and will veto a non-negotiated exit. And while May’s maladroit political style is part of why that state of affairs came about, merely replacing her at the top of the Tory party won’t change that fact overniRead More – Source

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