Hammer-on, Power Chord, Slide, Power Chord

This isn’t really a resolution (how cliche), more a statement on my current mindset. The key word for the year is “value,” after five years of throwing money (away) at pretty much anything I liked the look of, it’s time to knuckle down and appreciate – and get the very best – out of what you’ve already got. The issue is, you’ve got so much stuff, you don’t even realise what you’ve got.

Last year I spent around 5 grand on guitars, amps, pedals only to find my preferred rig of choice is a 1988 Fender Strat, Seymour overdrive pedal and Fender Mustang amp. Mind you, I probably spent the same on my girlfriend only to, well, suffice to say, I’m a lot more in love with my guitars. So yeah, value. I’m a lot more focussed on getting my career back on track, sorting out my finances, getting good at guitar, making the best of what I’ve got and making 2017 a really good year.

I kind of figure it’s easy to become jaded and cynical. I watched ‘The Great Escape’ earlier and what I really love about that film is how resourceful the characters are. How they make the best out of what they’ve got to work with. As a liberalised society, we’ve seemingly gone in the opposite direction, we have absolutely everything and I imagine there’s many people in my age group who would still struggle to change a lightbulb without a YouTube tutorial. Sometimes less is more. Instead of throwing money at cheap fixes and chasing magic bullets it’s probably in many respects better to have less, appreciate what you’ve got and get the best out of it. I’m interested in being more resourceful and creative with what I have – honestly, the last few years, I’ve been privileged and I can’t even remember half of what I own. I get photo-shocked when I look on Instagram and see something I’ve bought that’s cool and completely forgot about. That’s privileged – this year I’m working at getting the best out of what I’ve got. 

Probably the happiest I’ve been, or the most joy I’ve got from that aforementioned five grand wasn’t achieving some mystical tone, it was simply learning and pretty much nailing the riff from Clapton’s Layla. That was the most satisfying. Immersion in music will triumph over sound effects any day. I have a list of stuff I want to learn and do this year. Current cost: £0. I have everything I require right here.

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Parts 5-9

Possibly the most misinterpreted story of Russell T Davies’ tenure is The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End and depending on your feelings about the completely nuts idea of Davros stealing planets in order to destroy ALL OF REALITY you either love it or hate it. My initial feelings towards this was that it was an over ambitious mess and even by Doctor Who standards was completely over-the-top and unbelievable, which really is saying something and I actually hated it. Incidentally, I felt exactly the same way about Last of the Timelords and The End of Time. However, with the benefit of Netflix, it’s far more rewarding to view Stolen Earth/Journeys End as not as a two parter, but a three parter along with Turn Left, which it actually is. Turn Left is very much the first act of three. Actually, if you want a hugely insightful reading of the Tennant era – and to fully appreciate how good a writer RTD actually is – then it’s possible look at a block of five stories starting with The Christmas Invasion and Turn Left as the end of the first act to fully appreciate the astonishingly huge narrative arc he created.

Turn Left is fascinating, because we get ‘The It’s a Wonderful Life’ version of England through the eyes of Donna and what would have happened if she’d never met him and he’d died in ‘The Runaway Bride.’ Broadly speaking though, what’s perhaps more revealing is that this vision is little different to what Tennant era Doctor Who would look like if told through the eyes of any ordinary person who managed to survive the countless invasions and weren’t amongst the handful he saved throughout these episodes on more of a whim, than anything else. The most that can be said Tennant hadn’t stopped the Titanic wiping out London, modern England would basically be ‘Utopia.’ Just a few billion years early.

When viewed as a three parter, rather than two, it’s glaringly obvious Donna is going to be this season’s Martha. Just as Rose was the season before that and the season before that. Saving the world but at a price. I think it was Raymond Chandler who said, “If a weapon shows up in the first act, you know it’s getting used in the third.” To make it more obvious, Davies in the next two episodes precedes to through every combination of companion at the Daleks, whilst keeping Donna safely tucked away from the narrative, with only the minor feint that “she’s going to die.” Which frankly RTD knew everyone would ignore anyway, because that’s not how Doctor Who works. He could then get on with the business of closing out the Rose storyline which had been hanging over the show for long enough and needed putting to bed. Overall, he came up with probably the most satisfying solution available. The problem of having a Doctor in love or in a relationship is that love and relationships aren’t really compatible with the concept of adventure. It would entail instead not putting yourself or the one you love in grave danger. So it had to be done and closed out. Simple as that.

Where Donna however, fits with Tennant’s Doctor is interesting, because he’s the only Doctor who has been created purely to be loved. In the Christmas Invasion, we wait almost three quarters of the special for him to show up, at which point RTD gives him a long piece of dialogue which – being a consummate theatre actor – he completely nails. Tennant defeats the Sycorax leader and this is where it gets interesting, we’re given the reason his Doctor will ultimately regenerate in his very first outing. He conceitedly changes history. He brings about the end of “Britain’s Golden Age” (apparently Jackie has been twenty quid a week better off) because he believes he knows better. Which will in turn lead to The Master swooping into become PM, which in turn leads to his comeback in The End of Time. The Master is a byproduct of the conceit of Tennant’s Doctor. The Time Lord victorious. Still, in the Christmas Invasion, he is our Christmas present. It’s all there from the start, but we’re a long way from Doomsday, Journey’s End and the End of Time just yet.

“Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long,” the Doctor says at one point, and we’re meant to disagree. And yet why? When the Doctor puts the principle of not being willing to shoot someone over the fate of all of humanity, what are we meant to do with him? For the second time in the Davies era, the Doctor’s vain insistence on not being the one to pull the trigger is set to become the doom of humanity. We are all to be the Master, our worst impulses, the rot that sets in as the universe finally goes black, and the Doctor refuses to save us because of a moral point centering entirely on the question of propelling pieces of metal at high speeds via a controlled explosion at the base of a rifled barrel.

Even at the end, the question is arbitrary. Somehow shooting a diamond and consigning Rassilon to death in the hell of the Time War is acceptable, but shooting Rassilon himself is not. Letting the Master walk into the Time War is acceptable, putting a bullet in him is not. Apparently “how the Master started” has everything to do with projectiles and nothing to do with an actual system of ethics. Wilf’s military service renders him noble, but the use of a gun is wrong. There is no substance to this, just a mess of would-be principles masquerading as morality. That’s why Tennant’s Doctor is so, well, irksome.

However. On top of this, running parallel with The Christmas Invasion, there’s an angry underlying narrative about Barack Obama ending the recession with a great financial scheme – although as Ginger tells us, it won’t reach people like him. It actually doesn’t, because The Master (The former PM) kills him. So we’ve gone from ‘Britain’s Golden Age’ to a homicidal lunatic running the country, to a recession under the Doctor’s watch and them the former PM returning from the dead to go on another mad homicidal spree against Britain’s working class. When this is contrasted with the reason Tennant’s Doctor overthrew Harriet Jones in the first place, his arbitrary system of ethics seems even more dubious. Even by RTD’s standards which are frankly bleak and deeply cynical, there’s little doubt that Harriet Jones doesn’t at any point in the three stories which she appears act in anything other than good faith. She may perhaps be infact the most sympathetic portrayal of a politician ever to appear on television. Although it’s a clear allusion to Thatcher and the Belgrano, unlike Thatcher, she acts out of what could be described as a rational fear for the safety and well-being of humankind. What causes her to panic and call for the destruction of the Sycorax? Well actually, it’s because of The Doctor telling her there’s probably going to be a lot more invasions and next time they mightn’t be so lucky, and yep, it’s all down to sending out probes into space and getting noticed. So she acts. Then The Doctor arrogantly deposes her.

Still, not that she needed redeeming per se, she does sacrifice her life in order to get in touch with The Doctor in The Stolen Earth. She dies a true hero, whereas Tennant’s Doctor will go onto die an arrogant, feckless narcissist who believes he can pick and choose who he can save. Because he allows a kind old man to live, because after wiping Donna’s memory and erasing the amazing woman she’d become, he gives her material wealth, but only after robbing her of the gift of knowing that there’s a huge world outside of neo-liberal Britain. The gift of knowing that there is more to life than materialism. Because he hooks up two broken hearted men in a bar, because he saves the life of two people he’d fucked over. Mickey whose girlfriend he stole and Martha, who after being the most competent companion in the history of Doctor Who, a person who travels the entire world, valiantly spreading a message in order to defeat The Master and save humanity, is not unlike Harriet Jones (no relation) in being consigned to the Doctor’s personal dustbin of history,  and all because she takes a job with a military organisation. One which he himself had hypocritically worked for in the seventies (!) Not to mention the conceit in this relationship too. I struggle to see how for a promising young junior Doctor, who was at one point the only person capable of averting total oblivion in marrying a hapless mechanic who has subsequently wound up as a ‘freelance’ read: jobless paramilitary, whilst being shot at by the rubbish Sontarans on an industrial estate is anything short of a regression.

In the Waters of Mars, it’s actually a relief when he is finally called out on his shit and this is ultimately the point where he has no choice but to go. It’s interesting by the way, that the production team consciously chose – and this is undoubtedly a conscious decision, as it was the same production team in the End of Time who in probably the most weird, ostentatious use of CGI in history and a moment of insane micro-attention to detail used The Mill to correctly colour in the Noble’s Turkey in order to reflect the correct time of day on Christmas Day – chose to show the 2050’s to be little different in what we’d expect to see design wise to an episode set in the present day, and I write this six years on from the original airing. From the outset, we see a modern interior, with prints of the Queen Elizabeth definitive postage stamp on the wall, the web pages are what we’d expect to see when we click onto the BBC website, the technology is distinctly, little more advanced than we’d currently be capable. Even the robot is until The Doctor upgrades it, completely underwhelming. This is Davies’ vision of the future throughout his time on the show. Fixed and bleak. Even at the end of the universe itself, there’s little progress beyond a slight change of skin colour. (In recent months post Brexit, there’s particular sequence in ‘Utopia’ which has taken an astonishingly prescient and bleak connotation to the present.) Davies’ idea of material social progress is bleak, bleak, bleak. Take even his vision of spaceships in the future, while the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation has shades of Virgin Atlantic, what Davies offers up for luxury outings in ‘Midnight’ is Ryan Air meets Mega Bus. On some level it’s difficult to see how with this in mind in the End of Time, or even Journey’s End, the Time Lords or Davros wouldn’t just be doing us a favour by putting a full-stop on reality. In Davies’ vision of the future, there’s absolutely no aspiration. Only the conceit of ‘pot luck’ that you may be that ordinary working class person (un)fortunate enough to be saved by the Doctor and cast back onto the gruelling wheel of slow if not nonexistent social and material progress. Whilst unlike the Daleks, the Time Lord’s at least aspired to at least becoming beings of consciousness as reality and time melted away. They are however, still Lords. As is the Doctor, and everything that entails.

It all ends with the destruction of the TARDIS caused by Tennant clinging to life and unleashing a pent up wave of destructive regenerative energy. The world he leaves is no further forward. I’ll probably, eventually at some point do a write up of where Moffat’s ‘Day of the Doctor’ which effectively rewrites the cynicism and conceit of Tennant’s Doctor and where that fits together with this narrative. Thankfully, when we get to Moffat, time can be rewritten, and rewritten again until you get it right.

Like Tony Soprano, his death is written from the start and foreshadowed in big bold letters across the screen. Of course, with Doctor Who, the story can never end.

3 and 4: The Pirate Planet, the Stones of Blood and Digression

The Pirate Planet or ‘Douglas Adams’ ode to drug addiction.’
Interesting, because it’s a rarity and exists as a story where the people don’t actually really want the Doctor there (in the sense that “We’re fine,” not in the say, Daleks on Skaro we’re going to kill you, or you’re atleast going to die a painful death from radiation poisoning way. By the way, what happened with the Daleks’ dependency on radiation, anyway? Speaking on whom, the premise of the Pirate Planet bares some similarity to the Daleks ridiculous plan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth where they plan to hollow out the Earth’s core and presumably drive the planet around the universe like a sports car. Me neither. Conceptually, The Pirate Planet makes a little more rational sense. The planet materialises around other planets at which point they plunder the planets entire mineral wealth before moving on elsewhere. In this case however, the planet turns out to not actually be a planet at all but a section of the Key to Time. Which going back to my original point, really accentuates how fucking insane the premise of The Daleks Invasion of Earth is. Although I’m sure I’ll get around to writing something on that at some point as despite the craziness, some aspects of it I absolutely love. However, I digress. It’s an interesting story, just don’t try and think about it too much, like for instance, people who are unwittingly complicit in the Pirate Captains scheme acting against their own material self interest and ultimately coming around to fuck over themselves and their own material self-interest. Then again, there’s working class people who vote Tory. You say tomato, I say…

The Stones of Blood effectively takes place at a pseudo stonehenge, has a pseudo villain and a literal cliff-hanger. I was recently reading something about cliff-hangers and the correct way to use them which I thought was fascinating. Essentially you know that the person who is “hanging from a cliff” isn’t going to die. It’s a way of making the audience engage with the plot. I used to watch Batman when I was six or seven. The campy 1960’s one and I unashamedly loved it and still do. I think in fairness, having the capacity to enjoy something like that is a prerequisite for enjoying Doctor Who and ultimately why I enjoyed the classic series so much. The first episode of Batman I ever saw ended on a cliffhanger where, I can’t remember if it’s Batman or Robin are caught in a trap by the Catwoman with a choice of opening two doors. The episode ends with the opening of a door that contains a tiger, unleashing it into a small room. Now, I was an evil child and I used to hope that Batman and Robin were killed and just for a change the villain would win. However, the fact that it wasn’t for whatever reason years later until I saw the resolution of that cliffhanger and I actually can’t remember how they got out of it, I just remember that what was far more interesting was engaging with the story and coming up with my own ideas for how that may turn out. Of course, in modern Doctor Who, Steven Moffat understands this fully and has brilliantly mastered how to do the cliffhanger. He probably does it better than anyone I can think of in the history of television or cinema actually. Moffat doesn’t actually bother insulting the audience with the conceit that there’s a possibility a main character is going to die. Of course, the most beautiful execution of this was after ostensibly killing off Sherlock, in the next episode where he brought him back from the grave, he didn’t even bother to explain how the suicide was faked, instead just presenting a series of meta  fandom squabbles. The point being, that it really doesn’t matter. It’s a hook for the viewer to latch onto. That was the brilliance of the cliffhanger to Time of Angels where the question is not of the Doctor dying but of “Why is the Doctor firing a gun?” His resolutions are usually equally inventive. Moffat has learned that the best place to start the sequel is in a completely different place to the cliffhanger. Doctor Who is by far more interesting when the writers just throw cool sounding hooks out there, for example post ’05: Bad Wolf, the jaws of the Nightmare Child, the Hoarde of Travesties, the Meanwhiles and Neverwheres led by the Could’ve been King, the Silver Devastation, the cracks in time. It’s more fun to speculate, than have an outright resolution. Intriguingly then, probably Moffat’s biggest failure in his time as show runner was also as a result of a cliff-hanger. When Matt Smith’s second season started off with the cliff hanger of The Doctor being killed outright – a brilliant premise –  right at the start of the episode – and The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon are good – it had the unfortunate result of the season finale being reduced to merely tidying up loose ends or, just being about what trickery the Doctor used to survive, which was far less satisfying. Moffat is by far at his best when he just throws hooks out there and leaves them hanging like he did with Sherlock than he is at tidying them up. Fortunately, I think he figured that out though, which is why his two-parters and season finales have been more satisfying. Even his Cyberman – the most rubbish of recurring villains, and turning them into Ironman-esque cyborgs instead of humans obsessed with survival doesn’t improve them at all – with Missy as the Master reveal worked reasonably well. The fact that Chris Addison and Michelle Gomez are brilliant helps a lot. The Dalek two parter the following season had flaws but had enough intriguing combinations and loose ends to overall make it reasonably successful. The only combination it didn’t really try was Michelle Gomez and Davros. Of course the point is, that Missy abandoned on Skaro leaves a lot of potential for an active mind. The final three episodes of the season is where Moffat nails his formula again, and they’re brilliant. So as a result of those season 8 and 9 two and three parters, at any point you can have Clara and ‘Me’ cruising around time and space in an American diner, Missy delightfully scheming with Davros, anyone brought back from the dead and pretty much anything you can think of being only a line of dialogue away from becoming a reality in Doctor Who.

By the way, I’ve been considering how to do the next Star Wars. As we’ve established, starting where we left off would be a pretty rubbish way to do it. Start years into the future where Kylo Ren has learned discipline and went back into the shadows and where Rey is a fully fledged Jedi but has suffered some pretty bad injuries, (presumably a knee replacement will be in there somewhere going by the way she runs) – and some big losses including that stupid fucking robot C3PO and Luke Skywalker to give Kylo his promotion to serious villain  – we know Jedi don’t really die anyway so who gives a shit. Put the alliance on the back foot. Have Finn turn villain too because he’s been rejected when Rey chooses celibacy and the Joseph Campbell monomyth only to have him redeemed in the final part.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

The Alliance have suffered great tragedy at the hands of the enemy. The Sith Lord Kylo Ren has long disappeared and the pilot Po Dameron, is sent on a mission to safely return the injured Jedi commander Rey who has been seeking a Macguffin to complete her training… However, the weird Voldemort dude from the last movie has chosen to finally reveal himself. ”

Actually starting off the movie with that Snook dude is probably far enough out of left field to work.

“Your manner appeals only to the homicidal side of my nature”

Part 2 – Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation

This is part one of the famous ‘key to time.’ Doctor Who’s first attempt at a season long story arc. What’s astonishing is that whilst the premise of a ‘key to time’ is rubbish and frankly everyone knows it, the story is nonetheless absolutely brilliant. 
The reason I love Doctor Who is that it’s driven by concepts. It is a show built on ideas. This is a story that starts off with the Doctor meeting God. This isn’t the first time the show has dipped its toes into theology. The writer of this, the brilliant Robert Holmes (more on him later) previously wrote a story where The Master summoned the devil. Which actually as a concept is quite difficult to top. Many years later, in the brilliant Satan Pit, the Doctor will again meet the devil, with the brilliant premise of a creature that existed before ‘time’ itself – don’t think about that too hard – and the script strongly alludes to the fact that the beast was jailed by the Doctor’s own people. This is an intriguing proposition. In the Ribos Operation, the allusion is therefore very much that the Doctor has outgrown his own people and therefore exists somewhere between The White Guardian, who although he persuades the Doctor to take on his mission under by threat of death and looks like a plantation owner, we will assume here is “good” and the Black Guardian who well, if the White Guardian isn’t all that good, the Black Guardian is a whole lot worse. 
However, this is where Holmes’ craftsmanship as a writer comes in. He knows the premise is absurd. Tom Baker plays the Doctor, absurdly and then we introduce a new character, the brilliant Romana played by Mary Tamm, who nails it by refusing to take the narrative seriously. She basically plays both a mirror of the Doctor and in a cute piece of meta-fiction, the relatable companion, by treating it all as a bit of a joke. This is a brilliant way to handle introducing a super attractive, super intelligent alien who ostensibly appears out of thin air. By the way, what makes Romana ‘super attractive’ is not that she’s strikingly beautiful, it’s because her character possesses a mystique and is frankly kind of awesome.

That’s not the only thing that’s brilliant. No-one in the history of Doctor Who writes a villain quite like Robert Holmes, it’s telling that he is the writer who introduced The Master (and is the only person to ever write him properly), introduced The Sontarans in the Time Warrior – to be clear he didn’t create The Sontarans, and it’s intriguing that his villain in this piece was a Master replacement. Holmes is of the school where he is impossible to imitate. If you wanted to imitate him, then you’d do well to remember that he doesn’t reuse old stock characters, he invents new ones. He also wrote the brilliant Caves of Androzani where Peter Davison is violently put through the mill by a bunch of deranged psychos in a serial that both combines Dune and basically foreshadows The Revenant. Here, he brilliantly gives us some somewhat pathetic conmen in the fashion of ‘Count’ Victor Ludwig trying to flog a planet to a nutso tyrant. For a low budget seventies TV show where absolutely no-one is taking it seriously, it manages to ascend astonishingly close to being the most brilliant antithesis of Star Wars in the fundamental rejection of that style of narrative. However, I would go further and say that with Ribos’ lack of pretence it almost overtakes it. I didn’t really want to do this as a review, but seriously, this is brilliant and probably one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who ever.

Part 0.5/1 – Apocalypto

This is the start of what I hope is a really epic writing project. Yeah dude. Not really, it’s really because have to sort out this tiredness. This lazy mental block which inhibits constructive thinking: forming connections, creativity, creating solutions, linking… neurons. This grey cloud which inhibits my creative mind. 
The last time I was imbued with any kind of creativity was at the end of 2014, where to be honest it was probably down to a couple of factors such as modafinil mixed with lots of coffee, removing myself from social media and one of those rare bursts of emotional energy which was involved with meeting an amazing woman. Sparking a brief, amazing adventure. A perfect storm.

Now I’m just in a sort of malaise, drifting into a convoluted form of escapism, which in itself is not all bad, although at the same time escapism is somewhat ‘hedonistic.’ 

Even with this in mind I’m more worried about my striking inability to form connections with what I’m seeing. To make intelligent propositions out of the narrative in front of me, to form a cognitive and spectacular world view (interesting: I hadn’t considered that my inner life is considered by myself to essentially be more ‘real’ and is more important to me than the outer world (which isn’t mine) however, out of this world it is important to me to be able to construct for example the most beautiful and remarkable aspects of it into my own inner world, or an inner world.) ‘The Dreamscape’ a conscious dreamscape.

However, in my mind that must also always be linked with a conscious ability to draft that out onto paper, into words or into pictures and paintings and drawings, to make it more tangible and physical and real. This is my frustration: that my conscious dreamscape isn’t in some sense a physical reality.

To be fair, this would also explain the precipitous amount of literature, escapist and other media purchased. It is – a false – physical manifestation of the dreamscape, to try and own it and control it and make it somewhat real. Fascinating. Like the ‘great red dragon’ it is in a sense not just about escapism but about becoming. This also explains the physically tortuous narratives prevalent in my stories. It is about ‘feeling.’ Pain and dirt, is associated with the physical realm. It’s about feeling inspired.

The writing project as I’m going to loosely call it, is the somewhat ambitious analysis of 365 films/TV serials and 52 books in as many days and weeks. I’m not entirely sure how I’m to facilitate this, as an analysis also requires background reading and well, most crucially, time. It’s more a loosely knitted exploration of media.

The first film is an interesting one. Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptico. The wilderness and the sense of fear seem to actually be a good place to start for where I feel I’m at with my life right now. 

However, that’s largely where my gonzo piece ends, the movie focuses on a tribe of Mayan hunter gatherers and in particular one young man amidst an inordinate amount of historical inaccuracies. The movies early promise in that it would deal with something interesting like manhood, tribalism, impotence quickly give way and little more than twenty minutes in, we face our first narrative collapse when the majority of tribe are slaughtered brutally during a raid and the pregnant wife of ‘our hero’ is ostensibly left to die in a well. Brutality overtakes storytelling. The violence is typically in line with much of the castle scene in Braveheart, however rather than where in Braveheart where he is atleast motivated by his wife’s murder, here our main character is tied up and barberously tortured with little hope of escape and whilst the visuals are at times stunning and even captivating in themselves, a narrative collapse illicits consequences. There must be a price to be paid. 

Probably the most promising sequence which ultimately amounts to well, almost nothing, is the creepy little psychic girl with the facial disfiguration. This is followed by a sequence in a quarry – where all of the Maya slaves are covered head to toe in white chalk dusted symbolising for all intents and purposes the coming of the white man. In conjunction with the ‘sacrifices’ being covered in blue paint to represent the sea, it’s a nice bit of foreshadowing.

The sequence leading up to the temple is both dark and aesthetically beautiful. A stunning piece of cinematography and almost certainly the highlight of the film.  

Then there’s a little more foreshadowing as the Mayan priest talks of “The sickness.” Right at the start of the movie, fear was associated with sickness, the collective subconscious foreshadows the end of their civilisation. 

This is followed by a tediously long chase sequence, considering the movie has just spent the past forty or so minutes alluding to the fact that the Mayan civilisation is about to come to an end anyway, it’s low stakes. It’s difficult to invest in the prospect of Jaguar Paw dying at the hands of a bunch of nutters when, well, you know that inevitably he’s going to die at the hands of a bunch of nutters, albeit Spanish ones. 

This is torture porn. You really have to beat the movie hard to get to a generous analysis like this.

Trolling 101: Why Cartman is PC and More Evil Than Ever Before

Cartman’s transformation to PC is a stroke of genius. Why is he doing this? It’s a trope that’s hidden in plain sight.

When two of the key themes this season are trolls and the American election, Trump who in the South Park narrative is portrayed by Mr Garrison, whilst Cartman has carried on the PC arc from last season into this one.

I unwittingly recognised the issue following the last live Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump makes absolutely captivating viewing and the truth is, he’s a media wet dream. He has at this point been accused of almost every conceivably negative accusation you can throw at a person and by and large they are brushed off due to the nature of the beast, which is that Trump ostensibly doesn’t care. For our purposes, Trump is Cartman in real life. I’m sure many, many people watched the American Presidential debate with genuine interest (or due concern,) I’m also sure many many didn’t. Including myself, I watched it purely out of an almost morbid curiosity. Trump had consumed column inches and TV time during his campaign precisely because of the grotesquely over-exaggerated nature of his character. We watch Cartman and South Park for the same reasons. As I’m sure the South Park writers are consciously aware, while Trump’s poll ratings will dip as controversy after controversy unfolds – and this is a crucial distinction, whilst Presidential elections and politics in general can appear to be metafiction, they aren’t and come election time we can generally expect broader self-interest will prevail at the ballot box and it will become broadly speaking, in theory, a question of competency and who will be most likely benefit the voters life. Although this is far, far from always being the case. Crucially though, these controversies have not damaged Trump the man, nor for that matter, his media value. In many respects, going back to the point about polling, you may expect Trump’s ratings to be diminished for say, not paying tax and the continual lurid accusations of racism and sexism. However, it has reached a point where this is brushed off and it becomes almost expected behaviour and viewers of say the Presidential debates revel in that narrative. If Hillary throws a grenade Trump’s way, we expect him to go nuclear. It largely echoes on why South Park is not more widely condemned for being generally offensive, as Trey Parker put it, people expect it, “it’s South Park.

However, in terms of how South Park covers the contemporary issues this season, it creates a huge problem in terms of narrative for the writers. Trump whose media image during this Presidential campaign atleast (I can’t comment on him personally) is a real life parody of Eric Cartman, whilst Trump in the metafiction of South Park is being portrayed by Mr. Garrison. This creates a really unusual and frankly absurd situation for the writer. In many respects, the person we would usually expect to play the Trump role in the metafiction is Cartman and as a character formed by convention at this point he is actually less interesting than the unpredictable, real-life Trump. This puts the writers two fold into a situation where probably the most popular character in the show is narratively defunct. To use him in his usual capacity of politically incorrect bigotry would almost certainly be in the context of the subject matter would not work. You cannot parody something that in many respects seems to be actually a more effective parody of yourself while already parodying that same thing by other means. In many ways, the conventional expectation of Cartman would at this point in time actually risk a narrative collapse of the character.

This is why the solution is brilliant. Cartman we can all safely assume has not turned politically correct. The root of his character is sociopathic, Machiavellian and his superiority complex is long, firmly established. Although the reasons and degree of this in the context of the show may differ. It would certainly be trite in the extreme to say something along the lines of: Cartman is simply an angry, unpopular, fat child, because he does not willingly recognise he is angry, fat or that his friends don’t like him. Quite the opposite. The reasons behind this and his motivations would require an entire book in itself. Cartman possesses every negative characteristic that it’s possible for a person to have and he still does. He’s just found a new more effective way to carry out his generally devious, offensive, self-serving behaviour. Cartman is no longer Hitler, in the current politically correct hierarchy of the South Park power system, he’s Chairman Mao. Cartman is continuing the same grossly bigoted agenda under the guise of a pseudo leftist. It’s absolutely cynical. The point here is that Cartman had to be distinguished from Trump in the narrative. Cartman does this by reaffirming he is smarter than Trump. Unlike Trump who has taken an almost unprecedented beating from ‘PC’ across television, newspapers, news channels and social media, when Cartman is savagely beaten by PC Principal he realises quickly that he can’t win by being Trump. Cartman as the consummate sociopath is far more cynical. He is impressed by PC Principal, because Cartman admires and adheres to any ideological conviction that can best serve Cartman. He sees PC Principal punch right through the head of Leslie at the end of the last season. Cartman realises this is a better way to get his own way. This is an interesting take on the Presidential race. Hillary Clinton is not in anyway shape or form a good woman, or even just a good human being for that matter, again this would take a full article to expand on why Hillary is perhaps the only person to run for president in history who is more loathed than Donald Trump. However, she has benefited largely in the presidential race from the fact that she has managed not to fall foul of ‘PC.’ To the point that whilst the media have been distracted with Trump’s ludicrous rhetoric about such things as keeping out Muslims, she’s been left a largely open goal. She can now virtually waltz into the White House and carry on murdering them in industrial quantities instead, providing continuity to America’s deadly foreign policy in the Middle-East, which she has long been at the forefront of. This is the absurdity. Whilst Trump’s comments are rightly condemned, Hillary hides an insidious history, where she has best served the interests of Hillary Clinton along with a couple of friends at Goldman Sachs, but mostly Hillary Clinton behind a guise of pseudo-progressive rhetoric about women’s rights which as Trump actually rightly points out, after decades of her being in a position to change things for the better these concerns seem to have conveniently manifested overnight. The fact Hillary has managed to otherwise not be grossly offensive in her choice of language has however firmly set her on the path to do whatever she pleases. Benghazi, the emails, the conflicts of interests. The key distinction between Trump and Hillary’s sociopathy is that Hillary is better at playing the game and has managed to avoid the pitfall of having a strategy where to win over your core vote you alienate large swathes of voters. Where Trump has rejected the PC narrative, Hillary embraces it. Where in a conventional political race, voters who would be ideologically horrified at the prospect of voting for her become her supporters. However, no matter how clearly there’s a dissonance between her words and actions, because Trump has rejected the narrative he can’t win. He can only take his fight so far before the narrative breakdown. Trump might make compulsive viewing, but explosive rhetoric alone cannot win against the might of PC. We see the same dissonance with Cartman, he has not embraced the narrative in the same way others such as Randy did in the previous season. Casual sexism and bigotry seeps through in language which is veiled by PC. He is of course the only one still in another particular kind of game. He is the only one with a girlfriend. The girls at South Park Elementary have all aside from Heidi broke up with their boyfriends. Intriguingly, Cartman’s traditional role is now being taken up by Butters who is now – in what is a wonderful piece of dissonance – leading the ‘hashtag weiners out’ campaign. All of those involved in Cartman’s ‘killing’ and removal from social media have joined in this PC campaign which essentially rejects the narrative of PC.

Of course, this is the joke right here. We expect Cartman to break the narrative of PC too. We are almost willing him on. We want him to be Trump and reek chaos upon the narrative and get his revenge. We don’t want PC. Except this is a red herring, what we expect and the reality are two different things. Cartman is not racist or bigoted in a conventional sense, which is to say he’s not racist or bigoted for the sake of it, or out of ignorance, which is to say it is, simply put, part of his teleology, it serves a purpose for him. For Cartman, bigotry is not an end in itself, whereas viewers have come to believe that it is. When it is not in Cartman’s interests to be bigoted or racist, “black laughs matter.” You could actually level the same of Trump much of the time. Much of his rhetoric aside from that which stems from a genuine superiority complex serves a purpose. Whilst some of it may well be the chaotic ramblings of a mad man, chaotic ramblings don’t generally put you within reasonable distance of becoming the most powerful person in the free world. Therefore the joke is on the hypocrisy of the viewer and those who castigate and despise Trump for his bigotry but now come to expect it and revel in the sensationalism. In a season that has trolling as a main arc, it is hidden in plain site, it is the viewer who is being trolled. Cartman is not Trump, he is Hillary Clinton. 

Revelation 

Yesterday I rewatched the South Park two-parter Rehash/Happy Holograms. It’s an interesting concept. Kyle wants to play Call of Duty with his brother Ike, however Ike is more interested in watching someone else playing Call of Duty on YouTube and commentating on it. This subsequently leads Cartman to engage in the fad by commentating on people commentating on all manner of things. This ends when the person who is doing the watching and commentating on the watching and commentating becomes the watched and commentated upon.
It reminded me of a scene from my favourite Doctor Who episode. In all likelihood, I’m the only person who can say this, as the episode in question is usually granted the damning praise of being “probably Colin Baker’s best episode.” At best. However, I’ve always found it a fascinating outlier in terms of the series. Revelation of the Daleks. I decided to rewatch it.

The episode is largely based on the premise of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘The Loved One.’ It’s the only Doctor Who episode to my knowledge to combine themes of mortuaries, cannibalism and bodysnatching. Although that makes it different, it isn’t however, why I like it.

The story is broken down into a number of subplots (usually) between two people and their interaction. There is the story of the Doctor and Peri arriving on Necros and the first episode largely concerns itself with their ‘misadventures’ of getting to ‘Tranquil Repose’ including encountering a mutant who Peri kills in about thirty seconds – bewilderingly, the then show-runner John Nathan Turner originally believed he could get Laurence Olivier to play. Some thinly veiled innuendo as the Doctor climbs over a wall and then finally, the Doctor being crushed by a statue of himself. Which I’m sure is also thinly veiled metaphor for that era of the show. There are two ‘bodysnatchers,’ one of whom is trying to retrieve her father – who is also the man the Doctor is seeking. There is Jobel the arrogant chief mortician and the woman (whose name I’ve forgotten) who is attracted to him and subsequently is lured and manipulated into murdering on Davros’ behalf. Along with Davros – now going by the ironic and portentous non de guerre: The Great Healer – whose head is now suspended in a jar, there is Kara who is the owner of a food distribution company (yes) and a pawn of Davros’. Kara hires two assassins to murder Davros, in the form of Orcini and Bostock. Further to this, there is a DJ played by Alexei Sayle who watches events unfold and provides a running commentary. Then we have Davros watching the DJ watching events unfold. This provides an interesting collage of events which is infinitely more interesting for the fact that the Doctor (or the irritating paper tigers, the Daleks for that matter) is not at the centre of them until well into part two. I actually really like how the episode pans in and out of the individual stories of each of the characters.

Of course, being a Dalek story, inevitably, all of these characters end up being murdered, but it was fun while it lasted. However, despite this, the story is still better for the fact that the Daleks or the Doctor are never truly able to take centre stage. Even the slightly lacklustre resolution through the introduction of the Dalek civil war doesn’t overshadow, the revelation of gratuitous cannibalism or Orcini – who I find to be one of the shows better mercenaries, in aiming to kill for ‘honour’ blowing the mortuary to bits.

The best Dalek stories are the ones where the Daleks do not take centre stage. Which is why there are so few good stories with them in. The acclaimed Genesis of the Daleks which is essentially a WW2 movie with a moral ending, or the excellent RTD era ‘Dalek’ which centres on the owner of an underground museum being cases in point on how to do these episodes well. As an aside, to be fair, RTD generally carried off his Dalek stories with a degree of aplomb, due to filling his stories with enormous amounts of emotional chaos. Even the woeful and virtually unforgivable Stolen Earth saga, much like his previous over-the-top season finales which had an abhorrent over reliance on deus ex machina endings, could find some redemption in that the over-the-top (even for any sci-fi) action was a secondary backdrop to almost tear-jerking human drama. That Davies’ stories were so grounded in the real lives of ordinary, relatable characters was probably both his greatest strength and weakness in terms of the bold stories he created. Imagine watching a good, really engaging version of Eastenders where you begin to strongly identify with the characters and their daily foibles. Invariably it would go something like this: one of the characters has just discovered he has cancer with only months only to live, his motherless teenage daughter who for months has been getting bullied about her weight, meanwhile has just discovered she’s pregnant and has nowhere to turn as the guy who impregnated and the only decent person she knows apart from her father has been ran over by a car, only for the Queen Vic to suddenly have the real Queen Victoria turn up and then be stolen and taken to Mars by giant alien elephants and then Daleks come and indiscriminately destroy the whole planet, except Albert Square, because someone activated the eye of harmony and the time vortex, preserved all life there but destroyed all the Daleks. That teenage girl and her father however are still up shit-creek without a paddle and the tenth doctor is “so so sorry.” However, they are all the better for the chance to live better lives – no matter how short, inconvenient and miserable – for the experience of meeting The Doctor, even if it now transpires it’s in a parallel universe. It’s a better place and atleast if her father is going to die, she now has her long dead (in the other dimension) mother to help her through this. Oh wait, it turns out that there’s another fully healthy version of her father in this world too, so atleast when he dies, there’s a like for like replacement. Just heartbreaking she had to leave behind her XBox which meant so much to her. Still, I suppose that’s better than Moffat equivalent where he’d have the girl, her father and her boyfriend all die out of sequence at the beginning of the episode, the whole planet be destroyed except for the Queen Vic, because one of the regulars is actually responsible for rewriting the entire continuity of Eastenders and the cosmos, and the Doctor is all puzzled and like “I can’t rewrite time” and then his companion who is also the barmaid realises you can go back in time and just change the barrel of beer which caused all of this disaster in the first place and opened the chasm in space time which by rights shouldn’t have even been there because that beer barrel was actually out of date sludge from the 17th century infected with the bubonic plague which was put there in a plot by the Cybermen with help from the master (who has now regenerated into a female version of Wel’ard) earlier in the season arc, so after timey wimey stuff, no-one actually dies at all. Apart from Wel’ard and the Daleks who were also there for no reason whatsoever. Well, until the first episode of the next season. But I digress. 

Doctor Who is always more interesting when it’s about other people. The Doctor – aside from a brief spell in the late eighties, and a short period in the mid nighties where it may or may not be the case he’s a genocidal maniac with the blood of billions of civilisations on his hands, particularly the time lords who are the most annoying, tedious bunch of bureaucrats in television history (RTD’s greatest contribution to Doctor Who until it was undone) – hasn’t actually been a particularly interesting character since the sixties when he was a cantankerous, manipulative old fossil with a penchant for kidnapping. Similar to the comeback of the series with Rose in 2005, was framed through the eyes of not the Doctor, but his granddaughter Susan and her two schoolteachers. After that initial, iconic first episode, the serial goes wayward with some Shakespearean caveman before picking up again in the next episode and first episode starring the Daleks, titled, well, The Daleks. An interesting if not drawn out lament on pacifism, the Daleks, although severely limited – they are reliant on radiation to live and can only move on surfaces that give off static electricity – are a bit more interesting than in later outings due to their cunning, manipulative tendencies which interacts well with the character of the still rather unlikeable Doctor. Villains are always more interesting when they mirror the hero of the piece. They would subsequently undergo a lot of retconning, to the point where they can broaden their horizons, go out into the universe and take control of other civilisations. Including Earth. This terrifies the bureaucratic time lords so much they force the fourth Doctor to go and attempt to change history in the aforementioned Genesis of the Daleks. By this point they had long ago ran their course, but in the context of placing them in a story about their creation – as a race that are so badly mutated from millennia of biological, chemical and nuclear war they placed into mini tanks to survive – with not remotely subtle Nazi and World War 2 undertones, it works. Davros and the Daleks’ next outing – ironically written by their own creator Terry Nation – would see all of this completely undone by actually forgetting they are living beings in tanks and useless they can beat some rubbish 70’s disco robots because they’re too logical (!) despite the fact that in previous outings they have ruled over countless planets including Earth and were considered so dangerous by the most powerful civilisation in the Doctor Who universe, that they were willing to completely rip up the rules of time – their apparently fundamental reason for being. Although it’s never really fully explained what the time lords do, other than act as some accidental metaphor for public sector bureaucracy – stop them from ever existing. So by my reckoning ‘Revelation’ to even have a remotely watchable Davros/Dalek story is an achievement in itself. You can accept that Davros who is someone who is completely useless in every conceivable use of the term, might be a little bit edgy and dangerous. This is why gruesome concept of the cannibalism and harvesting people into Daleks works in the context of the story. It gets back to the roots of what makes most of the better villains in the series effective and interesting, a desire for survival, rather than just some lacklustre plan to take over a world. Again, it works because as I’ve said, it’s not a story about Davros, the Daleks or the Doctor. It’s a story about an arrogant conceited man and a woman’s unrequited love for him which subsequently leads to a brutal murder, it’s a story about a girl with her alcoholic friend searching for her father, a story about a woman who wants to essentially kill her boss, who has been manipulated betraying and being betrayed, a story about two assassins and their motives, about a de facto security state where the watchers get watched. It works because it’s different and an outlier in the series. An episode that manages to use the characters at its disposal and portray an alien world through creating an interesting collage. That’s why I like it. It should also have been the last time Davros ever appeared on TV. His unnecessary appearances in later stories from Rememberance of the Daleks, where the creepy little girl was far more interesting, RTD and Moffatt era Doctor Who – I still can’t figure out the point of bringing him back and then retconning him again to actually make the Daleks even more pitiful through them now having a concept of clemency -along with Skaro and the Master/Missy –  mean he and his paper tigers have more than long outstayed their welcome. Perhaps it was just a big fuck you from Moffatt in restoring Skaro at the start of the series and Gallifrey at the end to completely undo the greatest service RTD did for Doctor Who. Largely killing off the two most boring races in the universe to a level that was palatable for Saturday night audiences.

Principles? Don’t Waste my Time

I know a lot about ideology and principle and how the two become almost inseparable. I grew up in an astonishingly republican family where members were even seriously opposed to my name (Michael) because I shared it with Michael Collins, who they maintained had betrayed the cause of Ireland by signing the Anglo-Irish treaty – or his own ‘death warrant,’ as he put it – subsequently leading to the partition of the nation and made the troubles in the north east of Ireland, some forty plus years later somewhat of an inevitability for anyone who cared to pay an interest. Of course, an ideologue can understand that this did some degree betray those who had fought and died for a unified Irish Republic, however,  it may in the process overlook that political settlement to some degree prevented further bloodshed in the north-east and that his revolutionary army who had fought so gallantly against the biggest empire the world has ever known and actually brought them to the negotiating table were rapidly running out of resources and were perhaps even only a few days from achieving nothing at all. 

During the 1960’s, prior to the start of the troubles, Sinn Fein and their military wing – or perhaps that should actually be the other way round, to be a true reflection of that time – who adhered only to the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916, the revolutionary Dáil Éireann of 1919-1922 and had vowed to carry on the fight of those who had fought against the treaty, all whilst refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the two parliaments formed in the north and south of Ireland following partition were a spent force. The leadership were beginning to shift away from these ideals into left-wing politics, and attempting to realise their goal through a questionable interpretation of Marxism – although to some degree correct in the assertion – that Ireland could only be united through overcoming sectarian differences between communities and the working classes of those communities unifying to best represent their interests. However, the conservative instincts of the working classes (north and south) were (and still are) a long way from coming to terms with such sentiments and before long, as the catholic nationalist communities – inspired by events in America – began to march and demand Civil Rights – including housing rights and voting rights long denied to them due to the disproportionately gerrymandered electoral system – which had long been witheld from them. Ulster would soon be rocked by sectarian warfare,which would scar the six counties for decades to come. The would be Marxists found themselves ill equipped to defend their communities, a split in Sinn Fein occurred, the baton would shift giving rise to the more conservatively inclined Provisionals, who would again reject politics, pledge allegiance to the first Dáil and would only accept the unification of Ireland through the use of armed struggle. Tragically it would be a long time before it became tenable for them to move towards politics.

In the early 1980’s, it would be the hunger striker Bobby Sands who would be ironically, the catalyst for the shift in mindset which would lead to an acceptance of politics and ultimately a rejection of the long held principle of armed struggle. Whilst on hunger strike against the treatment of Republican prisoners and their inhumane treatment, one of those unusual quirks of history occurred. A by-election was called following the death of an independent Republican MP in Fermanagh. Bobby Sands stood on an anti H-Block ticket and was duly elected as a member of parliament.  Sinn Fein now under the leadership began to identify the potential of electoral politics as a means of bringing the troubles to an end (as documented through secret negotiations between sources close to the British government and those close to the republican movement intermittently from the early 1970’s onwards. Please see Peter Taylor’s book: Provos, for more on this). Gradually, the process began to undo decades of ideology. Including over writing their most abiding principles, the ones that they maintained gave their war legitimacy: abstentionism and their refusal to recognise the Dublin and Stormont parliaments and thus the two partitioned states as legitimate. (Note: Sinn Fein, still refuse to take seats in Westminster, however they do actually make use of offices within parliament – one foot in the door).  

Ultimately, following years of clever stewardship by Adams – who remarkably achieved what Collins could not, although there are some crucial differences, delivering an almost fully intact Republican movement into the peace process –  they would come to accept the principle that unity can only be achieved through basically what the misguided Marxists said: when the people of both communities can come together and realise that a shared future is mutually beneficial – and that they have more in common with each other and begin to wonder why their hard-earned taxes are going to an apathetic Westminster government, rather than having complete control of their own affairs. Likewise, when businesses in the north reach a similar conclusion to their southern counterparts post 1916, that their interests are best served ‘going it alone.’ It will be then that those two mean-spirited nations formed from the Anglo-Irish agreement of the twenties can align for a progressive shared future. The dark days of the past put firmly to bed for good. I continue to hope that within my lifetime, I will see a Federal Irish Republic governed by the people of Ireland for all the people of Ireland achieved through peaceful means.

Perhaps it is easier to look back in hindsight, however, in no instance that I know of has an uncompromising, dogmatic, principled approach ever achieved anything substantial. In the Civil War of the 1920’s, families were torn apart, during the later troubles in the north, every death caused further division and probably pushed the ultimate goal of unification further away. 

Whilst I am no doubt being dramatic by highlighting the short history in the preceding paragraphs, it occurs to me, that steadfast deeply principled approach will only take you so far. Inevitably, you must deal with people who disagree with you, and you with them. To create a progressive path forward, you must sit down and listen and form a consensus. This isn’t ‘compromising,’ it’s called maturity. Steadfastly rejecting the views of those you oppose on partisan or ideologica grounds isn’t a credible position to take. There comes a time when two sides must look to meet somewhere in the middle to find a solution and consensus and move on. I am more sure than ever that dogmatism, ideology, principles and mean spiritedness in the greater scheme of things are the path to nowhere other than preaching to the choir within an echo chamber.

(Almost) Finished With Labour

What’s the bloody point of being a member and having a vote if our voice is just going to be vetoed by a completely unrepresentative parliamentary party?
I’m not just talking about people necessarily identifying with Corbyn hereor his supporters here.

I’m talking about a huge chasm in values between the parliamentarians and the membership and then with the casual voter, which at the moment just seems irreconcilable. It’s not like I even think Corbyn is particularly representative of most Labour voters.Certainly not ones from places like where I live who can be quite small c conservative and frown upon a lot of the middle class fringe issues which have overshadowed him at times. Take things like Trident for example. The people here have no interest in that, precisely because communities like Sunderland have always been the ones to build things like Trident! Not because there’s some innate desire to destroy the planet, just the fact that it’s an industry and industries like shipbuilding are what have kept roofs over people’s heads for generations. The people are too focused on just surviving and don’t have the time to worry about issues like nuclear weapons. Having the time to think about such things would be a luxury almost. Still, at the time of the vote, he was the closest to representative available.

I would actually have no issue whatsoever with someone standing against Corbyn if there was a good candidate with something to offer. There isn’t. That’s why he got the job in the first place! What a shambles.

Labour: The PLP and Jeremy Corbyn

Let’s get this straight:

Labour prior to Corbyn was on a fast track to political insignificance (i) being wiped out in Scotland post Indy-ref (ii) mainly because the ideologically vapid, toxic Blairites/Tory lites are so bereft of any kind of progressive policies they’ve lost the last two general elections and not only that, they’ve lost the Labour heartlands of Scotland. This isn’t an accident and it has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn. Seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to put 2+2 together.

The rise of Corbyn was a response from the membership, he is symptomatic of the crisis in Labour and of the members wanting something more representative that isn’t the toxic proven failure of post-Blairism. If any of the people who are now (still) trying to oust him had had anything about them, he wouldn’t have been elected as Labour leader in the first place. This wasn’t some blind ideological crusade by Labour members, it was the fact that he was the best of a particularly vapid and useless bunch.

Ironically, it’s the ones who shout loudest that Corbyn is unelectable, wh0 are the ones who are most unelectable themselves. Not only the membership, but the country hates them, that’s why they’ve lost two general elections to the most nauseating party for years and continue to trail in the polls.

Jeremy Corbyn will not be Labour leader at the next GE, but Labour will lose. It will have nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn, or Corbyn’s year in charge. It’ll have everything to do with that if the people of this country are given a choice between the shallow, vapid Conservative Party and a party trying to be like a shallow, vapid Tory Party because they think that’s what wins votes, the country will again opt for the real thing.