TV


Further to a previous Rock Notes post, it occurred to me that the correct frame of reference for the slightly aggrieved London hardcase calling for Thompson was, of course, Spiny Norman:

DINSDALE!

DINSDALE!

It then occurred further that the Netflix pilot would only succeed with the casting of Emma Thompson:

emma-thompson

So yeah, Emma Thompson plays Emma Thomsen, a successful Scandinavian crime novelist, who spends the series battling the attentions of a giant animated hedgehog, Spiny Normal (n.b. hilarious British comedy reference/anxiety of inference gag). Spiny Normal is trying to get her to front a crime procedural he has written about hedgehogs. He thinks she needs a comeback vehicle, which of course she does not, being the successful Scandinavian crime novelist rather than the British actress.

Thomsen has to resolve this mysterious collision of worlds, aided/hindered by her patronus, Thomson the cat. Thomson knows how to contact everyone in the multiverse but is perpetually popping off for a pee.

thomson-local

Thomson would probably have to be voiced by John Thomson (Jazz Club).

…I have actually got up to about Episode 4, if anyone’s interested in bunging me a few quid.

Of course I enjoyed Stranger Things this summer. Can’t wait for Season 2.

Now, what could be more meta-80s than a listen to synth pioneers Tangerine Dream having an electro stab at the theme song?  

Tangerine Dream and 80s TV go hand in hand for me.

The man… The machine… Street Hawk!

Anyway, the Stranger Synths are on SoundCloud, and I found out about it through the Gorilla vs Bear website.

Over-extended myself a bit today, just too much activity, too much walking about. So this evening I have been good only for sitting round and doing some proper convalescence.

image

Used to love Battlestar Galactica! Not the reboot, though that had its moments. Mainly I was glad to discover all the pieces for this were still in the box… #alsoametaphor…

“…corporate-dominated dystopias are the new zombies.”

Science fiction visions of the near future reflecting contemporary preoccupations, as usual. And io9 all like whatever and shit.

Meanwhile, still languishing in development: Lazarus.
Lazarus-panel

Might start another run through Fringe…

"Bring me Damon, Affleck, duct tape, the transmogrifier... and a pain au chocolat. "

“Bring me Damon, Affleck, duct tape, the transmogrifier… and a pain au chocolat. ”

Really enjoyed this article about the Sherlock Christmas Special, from Maureen Kincaid Speller at Paper Knife.

I agree with a lot of it. Yet, yet, for some reason, however improbable, I still like Moffat and Gatiss’s version of Sherlock… even despite the ‘little Christmas trinket’ (my New Year notes) that was The Abominable Bride.

It may be that I explore this in more depth at some point.

For now, however, you must excuse me. I’ve been drawn into reading multiple Sherlock considerations across multiple blogs. Quite a three pipe problem, and I pray I am left undisturbed for the next 24 hours.

Source: ‘he had a remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women’ – the Sherlock Christmas special

‘Nīðing’ used to be about the worst thing you could call a Viking. Languages change, but there always seem to be insults.

While reading about Jeremy Clarkson not thinking before he opens his mouth this week, I have had lots of thoughts about language, words, and the wording worders that use them.

Clarkson is a British broadcast and print journalist. He hosts BBC show Top Gear, a magazine prog about cars, and also writes a middle-aged blokish column of comment and rants in The Sun newspaper. He is someone whose recycled ideas, lumpen delivery and signposted humour have never appealed to me, but I can see why he might to certain tastes.

Anyway, he seems to be making a habit of putting a big racist foot in it recently. Apparently using, but not meaning to, because it is not in his ‘lexicon’, ‘the N-word’. Also in trouble for actually saying, as an aside, while an Asian was in shot, ‘slope’: Clarkson and his producer somewhat disingenuously claiming no awareness of this as a derogative term for Asians, the lying C-words.

I mean, though, really, rather than get offended or defensive, when Clarkson starts speaking I just think ‘Oh, F-wit speaking’ and tune out. Yet I believe him and co-presenter James May in their disavowal of racism. Having read the Clarkson canon, and having seen his shows, his loose lips, currently sinking the ship of his career, seem to be passing what might be most kindly termed ignorant anachronistic jokes: schoolboy puns and wordplay based on “equal opportunities bigotry – I don’t care who I offend!”. Offhand comments, often at the expense of ethnic minorities, LGBTQWERTY people (and that was a Clarkson-esque joke), etc. Not done with overt malice, but as a kind of teen/toddlerish boundary testing, quick to weigh in with apologies and qualifiers as soon as anyone says ‘Hang on, what did you say?’

It is ignorant, in the sense of JC probably not having experienced bigotry himself much, simply not knowing, standing up for ‘common sense’ and against ‘political correctness’, perhaps with a dash of ‘libertarian’ thought that ‘free speech’ is simply saying whatever you like whenever you like with no consideration of context or consequence.

Anachronistic, because I see in Clarkson’s persona the influence of 20th century writers and artists, who regularly threw in ‘offensive’ words to question the value, meanings and definitions of words, to shock but to ‘reclaim’ them. To be clear, though, while this influence may be there, Jeremy Clarkson’s sweaty posho Tory petrolhead demeanour is not that of Lenny Bruce, or Richard Pryor, or Robert Anton Wilson, for three male examples, and it’s not the 1970s. While we may still today need our minds unshackling, Clarkson is at best fumbling for the keys while attempting the same things as these people. What he says and does comes across as ill-considered and foolish.

This is me being kind, by the way. I don’t really think he’s attempting to emancipate us from mental slavery in his daring choices of language. I think he’s a bit of a spoon. But let’s lay off Jezza. I’m sure he has some very good gay, black friends. And it’s not just him.

Indiscriminately lobbing word bombs around is ill-considered anyway. If common sense suggests that some people are or could be upset when you say something, then you should seriously think about what will happen if you do say it, even as a joke. Really think about it. Bear in mind the impact what you say might have on someone, someone that hears you, or someone that hears about you saying it. If you believe using a word is harmless, or that because you have worked out your post-everything linguistic certainties it’s all OK, consider what your hearer will think you think.

Is that what you want them to think? Then speak on, sweet lips.

“It’s their problem if they get upset.”

It is their problem that they are upset, as it is yours that you have upset them. Conversation is not a one-way street.

Perhaps you are of the school that they’re only words, arbitrarily-defined strings of characters, and that we need to get over them. Just to be clear, I agree with this as a theoretical position. You may hold that one can say what one likes, and then sow your discourse with semantic landmines… You are probably only good company for a limited time before your aggressive testing of everyone else’s social norms begins to grate.

As I suggested, I don’t think Clarkson fits into any of these boxes. I do think he’s a bit of a fannyballs. I mean, what the F-word is he doing? ‘The N-word’, as it is still being termed, and it is probably safe to say in the face of coy media reporting and cultural assumptions that the word is not “nīðing”, ‘the N-word’ has a complicated heritage. As Russell Simmons wrote, it is:

…probably one of the most controversial words in the history of the English language.

It has multiple connotations, and it is almost certainly best avoided, in whatever company you are keeping, unless you are all happy with it. You certainly do not start doing playground verse with it, on camera, thinking perchance that nought ill may come of such a scenario (sorry, turning into Russell Brand there, forsooth).

‘It was a discussion on semantic intolerance!’
‘I was being ironic!’
‘Yeah, but black people use it all the time!’
‘Oh, but I was spelling it with the variant “a” at the end!’

[Sound of palm and face intersecting]

You can’t use violent mentalities anymore.
– “I can’t wait”, Ol’ Dirty B-word

Lenny Bruce on the issue (difficult, given both content and delivery):

I would tend to side with Bruce as well, given that he seems to be talking about an enforced semantic shift based on overuse not suppression. Maybe we like having these taboo terms, though, that we love to hate. We can dance around them, feel naughty about using them. This is what gives the words power, as Lenny Bruce suggests.

Contrast this, though, with the memory hole prescriptive approach advocated by Harriet Harman (who, note to non-UK readers, is often referred to in the (political right-leaning) press as “Harriet Harperson”, mocking her supposed relentless and apparently humourless political correctitude).

What, whatever context, ever? Whatever ever? Whatever ever?

Bit absolutist, perhaps. Yet racial stereotyping and thoughtlessness and what we say to each other ARE problems. It’s not any particular words, though, I think, that are the issue. There will always be some new word that takes over, when people try to shock, or get a laugh, or jab a finger in somewhere painful.

The older I get, the more I consider it, the less true the old proverb ‘sticks and stones’ is in practice. Broken bones heal, but word harm can fester in the brain. Words have physical power. Spells are called spells for a reason, as the carvers of runes understood it. To not see that that power is sustained in modern language… well, you’d have to be a really silly Clarkson.

Anniversary Waltzing part 2…

Bill Hicks died ON THIS DAY (26th February) in 1994. A moment, people, I beseech you.

bill-hicks

That’s kind of it, really. If you know Bill Hicks’ work, if you grew up (in whatever sense you want to take that) in the 1990s and 2000s knowing his work, then you too will have a little moment for Bill today.

[beat]

If you don’t really know Hicks’s work… I mean, you have watched a few YouTube clips and thought “He’s not all that,” or read a couple of deflationary articles and decided to give him a swerve… then you will probably be wondering what all the fuss is about. He was just a stand-up comic, wasn’t he?

Well… yeah… but… There has been and will continue to be articles like this one, critiquing, praising, or with links to new material that always ends up being an iteration of already existing material. As a not-uncritical long-term fan of Hicks, this is my two penn’orth. I won’t link to Vice magazine, or The (Manchester) Guardian, or any of the other overly didactic/provocative views that hold he was “not all that”. While he wasn’t the messiah – and I don’t think he thought of himself as that, either, just to be clear – as a cultural commentator, he was, in fact, all that. No one was doing the same kinds of material as well as he did, I think. In his pomp, to use a couple of hackneyed phrases, he spoke the truth to power in a way that has remained as marginalised as much as it is now seemingly accepted.

Regarding the anti-Bill Bill celebrations, the 20th anniversary of Billdeathmas is proceeding much as the 10th did. Scottish publication Product Magazine marked the 10th aniversary of Hicks’ untimely death (from pancreatic cancer at age 32) with an article challenging the sacred comedic (and cash) cow that Hicks had begun to become. It was in Product 9, April-July 2004.

In one of the few occurrences of my actually carrying out a threat to write a stiff letter, my dander up, I had to reply. My original response was a 1,500 words gust of snooty just-got-a-degree efflatus, which the editor wisely – and generously – allowed me to waft away at until I got to the 500 word point. I’m still quite pleased with it, obviously, but don’t intend to rehearse the entireties of the original article or my response. Here is an ‘executive summary’ of common Bill arguments. Re-reading my frankly awesome writing, it struck me how much I could be saying the same things now. So, er, I did:

Critiques of Bill Hicks and any artist are important, particularly when the artist’s work is based in challenging consensus opinion.
However… such critiques, particularly Billular critiques, are too often ad hominem, based on attacking the person. This avoids focussing attention on what should arguably be the true object of the critique, namely, his subjects, including the political and moral complacencies or hypocrisies of contemporary culture.

There are dick jokes on the way, please relax.

“There are dick jokes on the way, please relax.”

One of the main flaws of pieces criticising Hicks is that they tend to assume Hicks would be essentially exactly the same person now.
Criticising a dead person for intransigence in their opinions is a peculiarly obtuse exercise.

People get Hicks wrong.
I mean, just not getting it. For example, in Product 9, 2004, the writer asserted that Hicks’ response to ‘post 9/11 society’ would probably be to engage in ‘gleeful, knee jerk anti-Americanism. And, er, that’s it.’ JUST talking about this comment, it is not only a circular argument, presupposing what Hicks may have said in order to criticise him for it, it is also deeply misrepresentative of what we can make of Hicks’ views on “America” from his transcripts. His “Persian Gulf Distraction” routines were soundly reasoned polemics against (both) Gulf Wars, and the dangers of fundamentalist thought of whatever stripe. He was profoundly sceptical of knee-jerk patriotism and the modern idea of “war”. At the time of his performing the routines – and 10 years on even more so, and 10 years on from that maybe a bit less so, but still – this was an uncommon position.

If, incidentally, you’ve never watched him, you have to see his act. He was a great physical, as well as verbal, comedian. Some material aspects of his act that people tend to foreground, such as smoking, “conspiracy theories”, his take on what constitutes “real soul” in music, the tendency to have a go at the audience if they weren’t listening… these are worthy of discussion, but not to the exclusion of his way with the microphone, his voices, his asides, his references, and his own critical engagement.

The ‘Hicks consensus’, his perceived widespread popularity and influence, is often uncritical.
“Oh, the Bill Hicks dollar? Huge dollar right now. Huge.” However, critics dismissing Hicks’ takes on pornography, drugs and the government as unevolved are, again, criticising the dead for not evolving. He was at least dealing with his own prejudices and opinions in an open way. “The Goat Boy also rises.” Hicks seemed ready enough to admit the paradoxes in his work. He may have felt the same about some (frankly shonky sometimes) sexual politics today… he may have changed his opinion.

He was a mystic and full of drugs and woo.
It is fashionable to deride anyone attempting to have a conversation about drugs or spirituality as being full of drugs and/or woo. Chemical change, myth and metaphor are deeply important to human understanding, and we don’t REALLY understand “why” (as if we need a reason). If life, an enjoyed life, were only about the appliance of science, we might be striding the dimensions like the gods we are. One could suggest we would benefit from further study of the Hicks Boson.

People not wanting to enjoy Hicks as an important performer often take a wilfully antagonistic stance, sacred cow bashing, contrarianism. Well, fair enough if you’ve watched all his stuff and had a think. Such a stance berates Hicks, deceased, for not changing the way one might think critically about him now, instead of commenting on, perhaps, the absence of his kind of critical thinking in a society that idly canonises controversial yet safely dead entertainers. In 2004 – and I will quote this – I wrote:

A society where the hip, smart, graduate cop-in with ADHD writing in the review pages of the Metro free paper is a cultural arbiter.

Then the Nathans took over the world and Michael McIntyre strode stages in stadia and Phil Kay released unironic documentaries about how his Oirish gyppo routines have amused millions, and no one seemed to blink when hundreds of satirical comedy panel shows said precisely nothing about anything. Ooh, you’ve gotta larf, aintcha?

You are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do as we tell you!

You are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do as we tell you!

While I think mainly a lazy way to discredit alternate ideas and views as emanating from some lunatic fringe, lumping Bill Hicks in with today’s challengers of the consensus like infowarrior Alex Jones (a fellow Texan) is probably not far off the mark. Bill’s vocal modulation and sense of irony, his distance from his own obsessions, was arguably superior. And as to his possible work over the last 20 years, given Hicks’ stance on marketing, for example, it’d be nice to think he would have avoided the bottled beer and Sandra Bullock movies trajectory his copyist contemporary Denis Leary followed… but then that’s me indulging in wish fulfilment, assuming the projected Bill Hicks of the Now would have been unchanged in a good way. Maybe he’d have nuzzled gladly on Satan’s scaly pecker to sustain his career. WHO CAN SAY?

Personally? I was fortunate enough to discover Hicks’ comedy and politics while he was still alive. Late night Channel 4, Just for Laughs footage from Montreal, and Revelations, his classic filmed appearance in Britain. You can probably get these on the Channel 4 player, and he’s all over the video channels. Then he died, so you just have to take what there is for what it is.

I liked him, anyway. So, love, laughter, truth, all that. Just thinkin’ of Bill (mimes pancreas giving out).

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