Saturday, November 15, 2008

Red Stars, Magic Rocks and Machine Guns

I’ve been to three markedly varied films recently, and felt compelled to review them.

Stone of Destiny – Charlie Cox plays Iain Hamilton QC in a light-hearted portrayal of Iain’s legendary escapade from the 1950s. It’s been unfairly derided by critics variously accusing it of being substandard or akin to Hamish McBeth.

All these reviews do is to fully represent how much self-loathing Scottish Journalism has. This is a point I’ll return to when I comment on Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex.

Historically, it’s reasonably accurate (i.e. pretty much in keeping with Hamilton’s book) so it avoids ticking the Braveheart box (where’s the river mel?) The acting is superb. Charlie Cox’s accent was so reasonable that I had to check t’internet that he wasn’t Scottish. Clearly the director focussed more on acting talent than being Scottish, which frankly was the right call. More importantly the direction didn’t get in the way of the plot.

So, a good film. Or it would have been had the pigs of McFleet Street got off their knees kissing London arse since… well the dawn of the union. I buy English quality newspapers. Why? Because I’d rather read propaganda straight from my oppressors than from the Edinburgh and Weegie based halfwits who kiss their arse all year.

Take the recent by-election in Glenrothes. Who is Alex Salmond? He’s a stand-up, good political leader not afraid to send himself up in a good cause: Mind you, that doesn’t disguise the glee that accompanied the Glenrothes by-election win for Labour. Just as an aside on the Glenrothes By-election. What was it, in my opinion? The unilateral capitulation of a Scottish Working Class doped up on Big Brother, Corrie and X Factor desperate not to think for themselves. You were lied to, and you voted for the liars.

An issue which came up on several reviews was the fact that the team behind Stone of Destiny was partly Canadian. The motto here is that when you’ve run out of ways to make up a shit review, indulge typical British tacit racism. It’s as British as Sausages, Curry and politicians being handcuffed to chairs by prostitutes.

One gripe, though. In the first third of the movie a brief quick-capsule review is done of Scottish Nationalism in the 1950s. It’s a bit simplistic for me, and does detract somewhat. It seems to lack gravitas as a historical context. It’s a bit like the first read of the film the director had said: “Okay… blah blah blah Scottish Covenant, fails… blah blah… and cue Iain’s first scene!”

Still, from artistic point of view, Stone of Destiny is the kind of film we’ve been lacking. No, not pro-nationalist (it wasn’t, in my opinion), but a step away from imperial dogma and vainglorious costume dramas. It’s Scottish people, in a genuinely positive way. Iain Hamilton is portrayed as being a positive person; and not the usual Self-hating alcoholics or heroin addicts we normally get. Charlie Cox portrayed a genuine human being. Braveheart presented a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Braveheart, I’m just not proud of liking it.

In this case, if I’m the only reviewer you’ve read (other than Joe Middleton on his blog) who has been positive about this film, then frankly I’m glad I think differently. I raised more than a few glasses to Iain Hamilton, Kay Matheson et al after watching this.

Quantum of Solace: Yep. The current Jimmy Bond rebranding. The premise in Casino Royale (the previous, and far superior film) was that the previous Bond films had never happened and they were going to start again. It worked. Casino Royale was a superb rebranding, taking its cue from the current crop of Spy thrillers: Bourne, 24, etc.

If you’re looking for a summary of Quantum of Solace: piece of shit.

Here’s why. Firstly, the previous director clearly had imagination the current one doesn’t. The acting was beneath dreadful, Daniel Craig and Mathieu Amalric aside. It’s fortunate for the director that this was the case, because they are the only two things in the damn film that are watchable.

Let’s start with the incomprehensible fight scenes. Clearly we’re all supposed to leave the cinema thinking that Bond has become as edgy as Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne or Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer (notice the initials…) They don’t pull it off. It is less “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and more “That Weird TV advert that no-one could understand but had Velvet Underground music in it… you know the one… dunno what it was advertising…”

The film trailer and TV spots would lead you to believe that this was a rampage of revenge for a pissed-off James Bond. No it’s not, lots of weird, badly choreographed fight scenes happen, for no reason, until Bond releases the baddie in the desert and fucks off home again.

And then there’s the McGuffin this film uses. What is the baddie after? Water. Woo hoo. Come to Scotland, hold out a bucket and wait. Don’t build an international conspiracy to force a dictator onto Bolivia and then expect an audience to believe that an underwater lake somehow justifies the previous two fucking hours to an audience.

This piece of shit made Braveheart look like an Ingmar Bergman quality movie. That disappointed me so much, because I really – re-he-ally – liked Casino Royale. And for the record, Daniel Craig (in the unlikely event you read this) you are SO much better than this. I saw you in Munich, and you were excellent. Most of your films are, Casino Royale included. You made the Bond on CR believable. This was artistic Seppuku. No, scratch that, it was little more than bukkake made on someone’s mobile telephone.

Der Baader-Meinhoff Komplex: This was a movie I stumbled upon while checking out Cineworld’s website to see when Yes Man (featuring Jim Carrey) is going to be released (December). Some internet checking later, and I’d already book my ticket.

This is Germany’s entry for the Oscars, and it’s a cracker.

It is, at its most basic, the foundation story of the Red Army Faction, a German Ultra-left wing Urban Guerilla group which exploded in the 1970s and rivals the Provisional IRA as the coolest terrorist group in Europe. Note tongue firmly in cheek.

I noticed a few historical parallels between what was presented as 1970s Germany and our current climate, as well as a few disparities. One was the fact that American Imperialism was busy bashing whichever country it liked and helping Israel batter Palestine. We’re busy battering Afghanistan and Iraq. The disparity I noticed was that America wasn’t any different, they were still a bunch of imperialist bastards, we just seem not to be willing / able (delete as appropriate) to counter them. In the 70s there were demonstrations a-plenty at American aggression. Now we’re all afraid to get arrested because we won’t keep up our mortgage repayments or because maybe the prison food is a bit high in carbs for our liking (delete, again, as appropriate).

There were a few parallels in the backstory. There’s a sequence which depicts a bomb attack on a Newspaper building, and prior to that a riot outside the same newspaper company because this firm, the protagonists argued, were responsible for the shooting of a comrade. The implication I am making here, is that the journalists in question, in the film, are Vichy-journalists. They present only the acceptable face of the state and are as much a tool of oppression as ID Cards, retaining trident and biometric databases are. Clearly, our press, are no different. MediaWatch as well as a Comrade of mine are given to giving the Hootsmon and the Herald far more plaudits than I ever will. Media barons are part of a ruling elite dedicated to keep the Scottish Working Class fully oppressed. You might as well buy the London Times or the Manchester Guardian and get your oppression first hand. THAT was why the media denigrated a good movie like Stone of Destiny got slated, not because its story wasn’t true, but precisely because it was.

Stone of Destiny, from what I can tell, had more promotion behind it in Scotland than Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex did. I’m a creature of habit, cinema-wise. I don’t buy pirate copies because I viscerally need the quality a cinema provides. So if I’m waiting to see a film, I go on the nearest Saturday to the release and the earliest performance. I did this for Stone of Destiny and Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex. Cineworld Renfrew Street, where I saw both films, had approximately FOUR times the amount of viewers for Baader-Meinhof than Stone of Destiny did. Even given the fact that Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex was a better film than Stone of Destiny, it shows up the public for being a bunch of ninety-minute nationalists. The turnout Stone of Destiny had was reprehensible for such a good film. Do people only visit films if people die? Did I miss a meeting somewhere?

Quantum of Solace and Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex are both still in cinemas. Stone of Destiny, you’ll probably have to await the DVD of that. If I know you, and find a pirate DVD in your collection of any of these, don’t expect to speak to me again. Not because of capitalism, but because of QUALITY. Anyway… my geekness aside…

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Day that never comes

So let’s discuss politics and entertainment. Now… I’m not talking about those home movies that Nicola Sturgeon presumably has of her trying out the first twenty pages of the pop-up Kama Sutra. Oh no. What I mean is how entertainment, specifically television and movies can make or break cultural stereotypes.

The West Wing was a seminal (which means it was well written, popular and probably not watched by people who watch Corrie and River Shitty) drama in which the final season included an upcoming election between a charismatic Republican (Arnold Vinick) versus an ethnic minority (Matthew Santos) Democratic candidate. The minority candidate, like Barack Obama, dislikes exploiting his ethnic heritage for electoral purposes. Like Obama, the character faces off against a more experienced candidate to win the fictional Democratic nomination. Whether it is life imitating art or a particularly savvy writing team which spotted this coming, the increasingly impending US Elections apparently have been played out across the television before even the parties over there thought about them. A series of fictional portrayals of non-white Presidents have made the idea of a non-WASP president not merely acceptable, but likely. Aside from Jimmy Smits fictional Latino candidate, the series 24 has given us not one, but two African American presidents in the guises of David Palmer and his brother Wayne Palmer. Cut to 2008 and the possibility of one is embraced by (at least presumably) the Democratic Party.

That was an example of a real-life situation being made subconsciously acceptable by an artistic product. Now don’t start getting worried that I’m channelling voices in my head, merely read what the Guardian had to say about it:

Three hundred years ago there wasn’t a Britain in the modern sense. There wasn’t. No… I know some of you will be brushing up your pedantry skills but trust me, there was Scotland, there was England. There was that whole issue of kingship for a good hundred years, and I think we’re all agreed that the Stewarts were a thoroughly bad idea. And once I get my time machine working I’m digging out my sniper rifle and going all Terminkenny on one or all of them. (n.b. I’m going to flag that as a “joke” before I get terse emails…) But Britain, as the modern “Yer British cos yer passport says so” is a fairly new phenomena. Before that we were Scottish.

C4 on Wednesday had a curious programme on about half-nine in the morning where the Archeologist in question postulated the curious argument that the Anglo-Saxons weren’t an invasion from Europe, merely a fashion change. “This season, all the cool English people will be wearing black and talking German…” is the phrase I imagine was used at some coronation in AD 500. As facile as my joke sounds, it pretty much reflects the depth of the Archeologists argument. All throughout it, those people weren’t Mercian or Anglian or English. They were British. It’s a strange oversight of hypocrisy from a profession which doesn’t much like the idea of Civilisations anymore and prefers to focus on the particular small area where they’re digging (i.e. such and such wasn’t greek, they were the city of Alexandria in wherever…) Naturally this could be merely a geographical reference, since technically the whole Island was Britain (Greater Britain being the larger of the two Islands and Lesser Britain being the unfortunate (and almost never used to their faces) description of Ireland the Island. But given the history between the then and the now, it seems curiously small minded to be so unspecific. I mean, one lot were speaking German and the other were painting their faces with blue woad and worshipping Eagles and Rocks. I’d expect something a bit more specific from a scientist. But then, fuck it, maybe David Icke was right about most scientists not being thinkers but repeaters of other peoples ideas.

But this suggests it’s just C4. But it’s ALL television. I’m not going all tribal and caveman, I LIKE the idea of diversity in the country. I’m far more comfortable with a salad bowl of ethnicity where I’m part Irish / part Scottish and someone else is Part Scottish / Part English or whatever mix happens to come up. Luvvies clearly love melting diversity into a rather curious hybrid cheesy mix that is debatable if it actually exists in the real world. You see, it’s not that it’s a bad idea. Yes, I did just say that. Britishness isn’t THAT bad an idea. The problem is that it exists in the same realm as Unicorns and pure Communism: it’s an unattainable idea in the real world.

Every time Johnathan Ross links a Scottish person with a deep-fried Mars Bar or every time Anne Robinson wants to ethnically cleanse the Welsh. Or anytime when comedy hero Frankie Boyle suggests that the Jeremy Kyle show gets it’s guests by trawling a net past Cash Converters in Glasgow. Anytime TV descends into that playground mentality: Britishness is destroyed. But it’s just a joke, isn’t it? Sure. If you believe that, then try using the “N” word in Harlem or Compton with a joke attached. Tell me how that works out for you.

I don’t even watch much British Television anymore. I caught Doctor Who, am watching X Factor, and watch Mock the Week but for the most part stick to American Staples: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Lost, 24, Battlestar Galactica, all the Star Trek franchises… you get the picture. I don’t need the messages UK television is sending. I don’t need to know how many Arabs we’re battering in Spooks, or how many Londoners are being scammed in Hustle, or whatever Received-pronunciation Caveman a brown-haired girl is being dressed up in Victoriana for. The fact they’re chucked us River Shitty and Taggart (which is a Whodunnit so complex that if you understand an episode you also will likely have a rudimentary understanding of the nature of Alienation in Marxist theory and how that then relates to the Means of Production whilst at the same time figuring out how we can reconcile Sub-Atomic particles with Gravity.)

Now… the fact that we get such a raw deal in entertainment I understand. It’s all about the complex nature of culture, diversity and how that’s reflected and influenced by our masters in Westminster. I get that. What I don’t get is why it doesn’t piss you off more! I mean Jesus X Christ, you get forcefed Mancunians for forty fucking years in Corrie, and the best they give you were those inbreds on Take the High Road and those Neds on River Shitty: AND YOU DON’T ASK FOR YOUR LICENSE FEE BACK!

Our television in beneath garbage. The Americans hire teams of writers to churn out 20 episodes per year of drama after drama and then sell it around the world. The BBC on the other hand gives us the complex drama of Little Britain, which if I understand it correctly is six half hour episodes of David Walliams giving Matt Lucas a blow job. Woo. Hoo.

But then a thought occurred to me… Maybe you get the television you deserve. I mean, three hundred years of servility where Scotland gets to abdicate any and all responsibility for ANY of her decisions is hardly likely to be the kind of place to ask for a fair deal in recompense, is it?

But there’s always a little chink of hope in any given situation, isn’t there… On the Scotsman and Herald newspapers they have comments functionality. And on a host of forums those news-stories are dissected and occasionally acted upon. Someone reports how Colin Fox wants a rainbow flag and the SSP offices are deluged with emails, letters, etcetera. Those people now have a name. And it’s a name associated with pissing people off. And that name is Cybernats. I love Cybernats. A Cybernats job, it appears to me, is to piss off people either the result of, or cause of, sloppy pro-British journalism. Cybernats have apparently caused the scalp of Iain McWhirter from being used on the BBC. Cybernats are thoroughly pissing off Political Editors up and down the country. And it’s a beautiful beautiful thing. Like the Corrs. (which is irrelevant, actually…)

And there isn’t just one little chink of light to suggest that you lot aren’t a servile as I’d otherwise think. Was out getting cash from a (surprise sur-fecking-prise) cash machine and noticed a curious sticker which said: Scottish Not British. That cheered my afternoon up no end. I mentioned it to a guy at work who pointed out that football forums were all talking about it and wondering where it came from. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t know either (and I’m being unfortunately genuine in that… I’d kind of like some ).

I was at a wedding last week. And it was fun. REALLY fun. Not the kind of “I had fun at your wedding honest” kind of fun, but real genuine “I danced like a monkey for a room full of people” kind of fun. (and yes… I did being the only guy in a kilt). I was wearing my kilt on the grounds that my pal, one of the Brides, was wearing a trouser suit and at least one of us should wear a skirt to a wedding. At various times various people indulged in something curious. It was one of the ironic Mel Gibson “FRREEEEDDDOOOM!” quotes with the curious addition of “but no’ that Alex Salmond stuff that you’re intae…” Er… yeah. This caused me to question the whole nature of the “Don’t Knows” in Scottish Politics. See below.

People like me having been banging on about having a referendum on Independence. I say people “like” me, because I’m only 60% to 40% in favour of a referendum. And even then it’s basically to get it out the way so we can discuss other tactics. I don’t actually expect a yes vote. Not honestly. Typically, referendums have a sizable minority for independence around a third of the electorate. The pro-unionists are either just under that, or even going as low as being a quarter of the electorate depending on the news stories at the time. The rogue element is the “Don’t know”’s. And these are the ones I’m worried about. On the basis of being a Lanarkshire / Glasgow type I’d estimate the “don’t knows” are more Unionist than Pro-Indy.

If the day that never comes happens and we get a vote on Independence, it doesn’t mean the end of Independence if the vote comes in no. It just means a change of tactics. Trust me, I’m already planning for this day. If my plan doesn’t happen, then it just means we get Independence earlier than I expect. The odds are stacked against a no vote anyway. Getting an SNP administration in one thing, but translating that into a Yes to Independence vote is quite another. No newspaper will back a yes vote. No BBC programme will (we can take its impartiality and shove it up our collective arses). And just because a few celebs have implicitly cosied up to Alex Salmond does not mean they won’t stab every one us in the back at any given opportunity. You see, THIS is the reason why all of your cultural icons have been banging on about “Britishness” so much in film and on television. It’s an important and crucial issue. That’s why Spooks agents save BRITAIN from impending Islamic Doom; why Doctor Who (Scottish Actor / Estuary Accent “Sew-shallist Wurr-ker!”) saves the UK from hoards of Aliens (who for some reason represent our fear of technology). When Independence WASN’T on the agenda, it was okay for Doctor Who to have a Scottish Accent. This form of cultural stereotyping undermines your view of yourself. You aren’t Scottish. You are British. And in the eyes of the world your lack of resistance appears servile and accepting.

If you want to see the collision between entertainment and the tacit manipulation of culture then you need look no further than my (genuinely) favourite Englishman. He’s the kind of man I wished I’d gotten someone knocked up just so that I could get a DNA test LIVE on his TV Show. Read this and weep:

As a culture, one thing has always perplexed me. And it links to how culture is portrayed through our entertainment which I’ve been talking about. As a culture, to me, this self-loathing we have for ourselves and how desperate we all were for Braveheart to be true when we knew deep down it was just Hollywood being Hollywood (“Where’s the River Mel?” – Ted Christopher). Why are we so guilt-ridden about our Culture? And it’s not ancient culture. Half a bottle of Whiskey later any mediaeval tribal band turns us all into Clanspeople again, just one more time. William Wallace has us screaming: “YE FUCKIN MISSED WAN WILLIAM!” We seem, as a culture, guilt-ridden about our Modern Scottishness. Part of it will be the fact that the traditional Scottish Acting Voice doesn’t translate well to the silver screen. The Scottish Stage voice is cringe-worthy at best. Normal Scots is fine, but actors don’t train in that I guess… But something deepseated is wrong with Scottish Culture. If you go back far enough we’re fine with our culture. I mean, fuck sake, everyone has been really cool with BBC Alba. Anyone that’s watched it, has apparently went: “Didnae unnerstaun a fuckin word but it looked braw soitdid!” Now… the fact I suggested it perplexed me should have suggested I don’t have the answer, so you’ll just have to work that one out for yourself.

In other news, I’m still writing 100 Crappy Reasons why the Union is fucked (working title… up to about 25 so far…) I’m listening to Metallica’s Death Magnetic as I write this and have been doing so EVERY time I’ve been online. And I actually bought it just so that Lars from Metallica made some money out of me. I mean… Albannach and Amy Macdonald were the only Albums I *actually* bought recently, so you can tell I’m a giving person…

Friday, September 26, 2008

Noir Glasgow Shots

If you've been waiting for a post, then apologies. I've been busy Learning Russian. No... really. I'll merely post a few shots I've entitled "Noir Glasgow" just to be that extra bit pretentious ;-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Don't Read This

Was at Tesco’s today. Woah there Mr Rockstar (aye, I know what you were thinking)… I was getting some new work clothes (I know… sometimes it’s hard living a life that’s THIS interesting) and I passed by the T-shirt section. Now, any pro-indy types out there will know this is a regular occurrence. But basically, my eyes fell upon shoppie. Shoppie had that self-satisfied look upon her face as if she’d just given Michael Bolton the blow-job of his dreams. Shoppie was happily putting out a nambla of t-shirts (not sure on the collective noun on that one…) loosely along the lines of “Made in England – feed beer and sausages.” I didn’t stop to catch the specifics you understand. I was busy asking:



“Do you stock that in Scottish?”

Shoppie laughs and continues hanging up the Made in England T-shirts, which I now notice have a copiously large St Georges Cross emblazoned across the entire torso.

“No… really?”

“Erm… no. Actually no. There isn’t even plans for it. Ach. It’s an English Company. So whit ye gonnae do? Its no’ like they’ll sell!”

She returned to putting the t-shirts up with the excited air of a Michael Bolton fan that’s just gotten tickets to night two on his tour. I took my purchases downstairs.

I was going to write a letter. But a) I’ve done that before and… well… frankly I’ve done that so much I want to start charging now, so. B) my ‘lack of specifics’ wouldn’t go down well with whomsoever I bothered to write to. “Hello you. I’d like to complain in vaguest possible terms about you selling a pro-England t-shirt in Cumbernauld without having a Scottish alternative. Yours, Miffed of Cumbernauld.” So I didn’t.

Re-reading that, it might seem anti-English. It’s not. I want a decent pro-Scottish t-shirt a Tesco. Still, you know your empire is fucked when you try to flog a t-shirt in Scotland that no-one wants (unless they’re both English-resident and suicidal enough to wear the damn thing). I actually wanted to buy one when I got home. ‘specially for the Donald Dewar statue. It seems to tick both ‘devilish’ and ‘reasonable’ boxes.

There is that moment in every great empire when (and usually this is only in history books) when you realise that your great empire isn’t quite as bullet-proof as you might’ve previously thought. Imagine yourself in Rome, with all the history of Julius and Augustus Ceasar, of the battles with Hannibal of Carthage and just how sexy Russell Crowe was in a leather mini-skirt. And then imagine you’re a Roman soldier outside Caligula’s bedroom when he’s not quite conventionally riding a horse. That he just married. And tried to declare Consul. Your empire isn’t going to seem quite so bullet proof then, is it?

Britain and America are currently (in my own opinion) metaphorically trying to declare their horses Consul with attitudes to Religion and Government. In America, (I’m referencing a recent series by Richard Dawkins about Charles Darwin for those of you who want to 4OD it) Richard Dawkins was making the point that including Creationism in the Education system was beyond belief as Evolution has scientific backing, whereas Creationism is something that’s more akin to what Gandalf does in Lord of the Rings. And therefore to base an education system upon that detracts from the value of the education because there is no evidence involve.

Before I continue, I should outline my views on Jesus. I appreciate the philosophy (I do). Treat your neighbour as you’d treat yourself. (for me that would be a big mistake. I’ll just be nice to them instead. I think I could arrested for suggesting a Friday-nite drink-fuelled and Chow Mein-fed internet search for lesbian pornography). But… back to Jesus. Be nice to your neighbour, I can entirely get on board with that. ‘The Meek shall inherit the earth’. If that’s in a kind of co-operative Marxist way then I’m on board with that as well. So… philosophically… I like Jesus. He’s got some nice things to say. I’m not sure when he said: “I want a fucking army to SACK ACRE Mr. Pope. GETINTAE THOSE RAGHEADBASTARDS!” The whole (then and now) Crusades bit (philosophically) seems a bit out of character to be supported by a pacifist. But he HAD been dead for a good thousand years before the Pope initially crusaded. So maybe they didn’t ask. In George Dubya’s case, I think Craig Ferguson said it best on his talk show when he said: “When you talk to God it’s called praying. When God talks to you, it’s called Schizophrenia.”

My problem with religion is the typical one. I don’t believe in magic. So when Jesus is being philosophical and nice. I can dig that. When he says his mother was a virgin, I’ll just tell him that I’ve been telt that by lassies before and as a rule I don’t believe it. Especially when you see tattoos of an Arrow with the words ‘this way to heaven’. Girls from Glasgow are like that. When Jesus claims to be the son of god with crazy mystical powers, that’s when I switch the video off and go to the shops.

So, American creationism, in its whole Jesus-worshipping bit, is all about the magic. So when I was watching some servile Jesus-freak from the nice bit of America saying how it’s open-minded to suggest the world is 10,000 years old and sorcerer-apprenticed into being; that’s when I realised that America is truly fucked. When you start basing your education system on magic, you can just smell the impending implosion.

But then… It’s not exactly just THEM. Is it? Every weekend, from now untiltheendoffuckingtime I think… Tens of thousands of people converge on Glasgow. None of them Scottish (apparently). Some are British. Some are Irish. Most sound like they’re from Glasgow to me… All in the name of some wee guy who just wanted people to be nice to each other. Oh, and his maw was a virgin and he was the son of god.

It’s this bloated act of mass self-wankery that convinces me that Scotland will never have an empire. Creationism is why America is destined to die (unless the Yellowstone Supervolcano gets it first). Both are prime examples of the increasingly dubious metaphor of ‘Caligula Declaring his horse Consul’.

Now, the reason why the Union is inevitably going to kark it is simple. There are omens of cultural and social stupidity, Shoppie’s ‘Made in England’ t-shirt aside. Amongst my top 100 reasons why the Union is fucked, my number 17 is: “Sun Page 3 Girls Talk about the News.” So. Let’s say Al Queda have bombed somewhere. Smeato, apparently, was unavailable to save the day and so it’s up to Lisa (19) from Suffock to comment in a nice handy box above her nekkidness. If it was a page 3 of, say, Stella Rimington I might understand (as well as being slightly perplexed as to why she’s doing Page 3 gigs now). Call me bigoted, but I’m not sure just how much a 19 year old Razzle wannabe is going to contribute to the debate. Maybe it’s just me.

If you’ve bothered reading the post this far, if I get seven comments or more I’ll actually post up my Top 100 reasons why the Union is fucked in a blog post. Otherwise I won’t bother.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dark Knight Review

Christopher Nolan’s vision of the iconic Comicbook Hero is almost as mesmerising as Heath Ledgers performance as the grungy Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. I realise that it’s fashionable to make references to the “Emperor’s New Batcape” but that’s… that’s… just wrong in so many ways.

This production gives Batman / Bruce Wayne added layers to deal with, utilising Wayne’s desire to use a character as an avatar to save Gotham from itself, whilst dumbing his own true self down so as not to give the game away.

Truthfully, Batman Begins wasted the opportunity of bringing to the big screen the Scarecrow, one of my personal favourite characters from the Comics; but Dark Knight doesn’t waste the Joker, turning Jack Nicolson’s signature portrayal of Jack Nicolson The Joker in Batman (1989) into a creepy, sardonic, homicidal social pioneer in Ledger’s performance. Small piece of trivia, according to Popbitch, Heath Ledger had a notebook of things he thought that the Joker would find funny. Top of the list? Aids.

Typically, Hollywood (all of it) gets fuzzy when it comes to stuff like the “laws of physics” and DK is no different. The grappling hook which shoots up to the top of buildings and / or into concrete? Impossible under current technology. But that’s just me being a geek about Hollywood physics.

The reason why so many people have flocked to see Dark Knight is because the ideas behind it have more venom. Batman isn’t a hero, he’s “whatever Gotham needs me to be”. Which is incredibly admirable by Hollywood standards. Normally the main protagonist just shoots the bad guy (eventually) and shags whichever blonde / brunette / redhead he happens upon that episodes. DK is more complicated than that.

What’s interesting, is that so many of our big heroes aren’t heroes, but Anti-heroes and almost Byronic Heroes in some ways. Take yourself back to Braveheart, or read Nigel Tranter’s The Wallace to witness some genuine antiheroic moments. No, I’m not comparing Batman to the Wallace, I’m suggesting that we don’t believe in heroes any more, not in the classic sense. Let’s quote some anonymous bod on Wikipedia: “The brooding vigilante or ‘noble criminal’ archetype seen in characters like Batman is slowly becoming part of the popular conception of heroic valor rather than being characteristics that are deemed un-heroic.”

And this is one of the flaws in the movie. By the end, I was not so much “rooting” for Commissionaire Gordon (played flawlessly by Gary Oldman) but wanting the Joker as Heath Ledger’s zombie corpse to reanimate for Batman 3 so he could swedge Jim Gordon a few more times… But let’s not let my lack of moral compass sway you. (I called Batman a cunt under my breath when I thought he was about to let the Joker fall from a building).

And it was at that very moment, (well, in the bus home afterwards if I’m being honest) that I started thinking about Tommy Sheridan and Alan McCoombes. Not that I want to see either of THEM in a Bat-cape (what Tommy gets up to Casa Sheridano…) No, I started thinking about public perception of Sheridan after his famous scandal. The working classes, in my experience, didn’t give a rat’s ass about what Tommy did. He could’ve had fourteen activists dressed as cheerleaders, snorted cocaine and gotten home back in time to do another anti-war rally and people wouldn’t have bothered. Alan McCoombes famously (apparently) told TS: “People will forgive what you’ve done, but they won’t forgive you lying to them.” (approx).

If you segue from that to the falling levels of voting at election, and the growing public disaffection with modern politics it’s curious when you think about the concurrent rise in obsession with celebrity culture. I’m a morally bankrupt 30 something now, but back when I was 14, I was a clean living, Jesus-worshipping, god-fearing attendee at church. Back then, my 14 year old self would’ve looked at Hello, the Sun, the News of the World and saw a litany of depravity. Now we all gleefully flick past Amy Winehouse’s addictions, Britney’s revolving-door panties and demand vigilante justice be inflicted upon… well just about whoever is collectively pissing us all off that week.

I forced myself to watch Ricky Lake today. I did so, after seeing that the show was about congratulating this girl (whose name I can’t spell) who worked all the hours she could to both get into college and to get money for her family. Ricky was going to congratulate her with a visit from her favourite band, Salt ‘n’ Pepa. I clicked past, probably muttered: “Oh… crap.” I switched over to E Entertainment and was about to watch Denise Richards in something (she looks like a pretty version of my ex-fiancee – three / four years ago, long story). Considering the Ricky Lake girls inspiring story, I felt suitably guilt-ridden enough to force myself to watch the one and only episode of Ricky Lake I’ve ever seen. Motto of this digression: occasionally one has to recognise and act upon one’s own moral depravity.

Politicians are probably slightly less interesting than they were ‘back in the day’, especially in the mainstream parties, but how do you square Celebrity Infatuation with falling interest in politics? Has society become so entrenched in its post-modernist angst that Politics is just too big to consider thinking about? Or is it just that the modern world has forced our moral and social compass to change so drastically that modern politicians haven’t caught up with the rest of society yet? Celebrity culture is often criticised, yet (and the independence movement is no exception) but people seeking it and eager to witness it through the media are still the majority. Modernity has made us a nation of hypocrites. We’re eager to tell the world just WHY Pete Doherty should remain in jail and be kneecapped for his crimes, but give people a chance to vote for it… then there’s a problem. Suddenly interest falls to an all time low. When Jamie Hoggan was arrested, it didn’t exactly cause outrage at the Independence movement, but curiosity about it, and gave rise to the odd “Free Jamie Hoggan” on whatever marches I was on that year…

We are a culture now, where I can take a news story about Maggie Thatcher being given a state funeral, and guarantee attendance at my long planned “Rave on the Grave” Soiree in Glasgow City Centre whenever the hell it happens. Yes… I can officially mock the nearly-dead with impunity. People don’t believe in God anymore, like Nietzsche proclaimed: “God is Dead” and we are the damned children of Rolling Stone magazine, addicted to the addictions of celebrities and with no interest in politics. Some of our brothers and sisters, at least.

I think we need to accept that the world we live in is different, and strategise accordingly. We needn’t restrain ourselves to merely getting out there and trying to get votes for independence. We can think darker thoughts and whilst a liberal minority will no doubt be uber-critical, it’ll do its job and get our political beliefs recognition from a people hyped-up on controversy. Fathers 4 Justice did it reasonably effectively. The ex-millies have been doing it well for years, and did it SO well they united the left in Scotland, for a brief and beautiful instant (only for it to be washed away like the first flurry of snow by the November rain).

If the “Dark Knight” movie has resonated with so many people, as it patently has done, it’s because it has exposed just how much change society’s moral compass has changed since the 1950s, when we all started rebelling against the hangover from the hypocrisy that Victoriana, in my opinion. In addition, I think society is taking a collective breather from politics after being subjected to the 1970s and 1980s. When you lose count of the amount of acronyms you use for terrorist groups agitating for political change, and you have a myriad of groups across Europe eulogising and evangelising either change or continuation of the norm, then people are going to tire. But either way, whilst we need to see the past to see ourselves, we must occasionally look at the present to see just how different things have become. I don’t believe we are in the same politics as we were back in the 1992 general election. I think we’re now smack in the middle of Scottish Politics 2.0 and need to think about things differently if we are to prosper as activists in the current climate.

Siol nan Gaidheal Forum

For those of you interested, there is a new URL for the Siol nan Gaidheal Forum, as well as the website itself.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Bonnybridge, UFOs and Phobias

Okay… So I had intended on posting more frequently than I have done in the past week or so. This is mostly the fault of Bonnybridge UFOs. I had intended on doing a bit of research about the subject for a post on here. I even created a special folder where I would save links to all the articles. And I expected to have too many to work with.

Well I guess that was my first mistake. There was a lot “casebook UFOlogy” with articles of about two hundred words with the odd “locals report” and other assorted vagueness. Not that that’s not without its entertainment value. I mean… there’s a lot of hicks around the world going: “Yeah man, there’s aliens over there…” without actually bothering to supply proof.

There was so little content that I was thinking (seriously) about putting on my V: The Mini Series Reptile Mask and uploading a youtube feature as follows:

“Greetings Puny Humans! I am Stragputh from the Garleg Federation and I come to bring you hate from the Garlegites. YOU SHALL ALL PERISH unless you cede us the town of Bonnybridge as a breeding ground for our hatchlings! Commit or you shall all pay! Mwahahahahahahah.” Etc.

Now, since I’ve obviously decided to post on this anyway, without a great deal of research (not my fault, that’s the internet and it’s obsession with having a porn rate of 69%) and not enough serious articles.

There are three possibilities regarding Aliens flying over Scotland.

  1. It isn’t aliens. It’s people being stupid. And not just your banal ordinary stupid, but dog-chasing-a-car-from-the-front stupid. They’re tries-to-use-icecream-as-a-lubricant dumb.
  2. It IS aliens, and they’re here to invade
  3. It IS aliens, and they’re here in the name of science

Point three scares me more than the rest, because the others I can get my head around. But if aliens are using Bonnybridge as a scientific study then I want to be on the next space-shuttle to complain to the Galactic Council. Mind you, it could be worse. They could choose Airdrie and concur that: “Sire, all humans are around five foot tall, communicate through their noses and based on a recent translation of their clothes are apparently called the ‘La Coste’ people and celebrated seeing our craft with outbreaks of xenophobia and in-breeding.”

I was also thinking, after seeing Bebo cluttered with people being scared of being abducted by aliens, that perhaps they’re not the crazy ones. Go with me on this. Compare their phobia with mine: Arachnophobia versus Alien Abduction fear (Duchuvnophobia?)

All you need for life is a Sun, and the universe has plenty of them; Water, which is just Hydrogen and Oxygen, and there’s plenty of that; and a rock close enough for it to be ‘just right’, and there’s more than enough debris scattered. So yeah, chances are there’s a planet with life. Maybe it could build Stargate-like spaceships, and maybe they get their kicks from abducting blonde girls. I know I do… Oh shit…

Now… my phobia, which is to prefer to chuck books across the room at spiders rather than actually touch them, makes less sense.

Let’s say that there’s a spider in my bathroom. My brain turns on its fear response. What my brain has assumed is that there is an undiscovered type of spider in the Amazonian Rainforest which is so deadly it can kill painfully and within the time it would take me to run to the phone (shrieking with pain as I did so, obviously). My brain has then assumed that this super-poisonous spider (which, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to a money spider) has made the colossal leap from Rainforest tree to a piece of driftwood on the Amazonian driftwood where it survived on a diet of grubs until it reached the ocean. Whilst this deadly spider wielding piece of driftwood, I also have to assume the spider has access to enough grubs until it washes up onto a beach on the Bahamas, washed along by the general tides and such. It decides not to munch on the middle-class Edinburgh people getting married on the beach (because that would just be mean) and instead heads for the nearest Banana Plantation. There, whilst munching on the bottom part of a banana, it is wrenched from the tree, put into a box and then flown and driven thousands of miles until it reaches Tesco Cumbernauld. From here, it escapes, loose, into the wild until it finds my flat. Now, I live on the top floor, so I’m not sure whether it used the stairs or the lift. I’m guessing that it used the stairs for two reasons: one, I don’t think “Hola Senor, floor seeex pleeease” coming from a tiny spider is ENTIRELY plausible; and secondly, there isn’t actually a lift service where I live. Just stairs. Miguel the Spider then crawls through the letter box and takes up residence in my bathroom, eventually to be confronted by myself.

I can usually console my abject cowardice with Spiders with the conclusion: “Oh well, at least I’m not scared of being abducted by Aliens.” Bugger. At least my phobia has an actual phobia name: Anoraknophobia. Or something. I’ve checked t’internet and can’t find one for Alien Abduction.

Back to Bonnybridge, though. I’ve heard from a few people that I know *in* the area. Well, one, actually. That there’s now rumours of big cat sightings in ra ‘Bridge. A large, Black, Cat-like creature has apparently been stalking the night and (presumably) scaring the population. I absolutely, positively, am not supposed to mention this because they’re still a bit cringe-worthy after being given the title of “UFO Capital of Scotland, damn it the whole UK, och dammit of ALL THE EU!” I’m not making this up; someone DID tell me about big cat sightings. Apparently they haven’t been reported because locals still have a collective-cringe about GMTV turning up to probe the rumours. And honestly, who’d force Fiona Phillips on their worst enemy? I bet that when the black Panther (or whatever it is) has cornered its first human victim, I’ll bet ALL the money I have that THAT person wishes at that very moment, that they’ll be abducted by aliens… Now go and tell Alanis Morrisette THAT’s what Irony is.