A word about the People’s Vote March

As I write this the People’s Vote march is snaking its very crowded way round London’s streets.

On the whole I support the march and with massive bloody caveats, support the aim of a second vote but here in Scotland I feel we’re being ignored, or at least patronised by a big chunk of the People’s Vote. This is something I’ve said before, and nothing has changed my mind that for a chunk on the ‘progressive’ left in England, Scotland is only useful for votes because deep down they know that realistically England will vote to leave the EU again in a second vote.

The problems are many. Kev McKenna goes through some of them in this article at The Herald, this paragraph being especially damning.

Yet, like their manufactured concerns for the future of Ireland I’ve rarely heard any of the metropolitan elites previously profess to be overly-vexed by the challenges faced by working-class communities in England’s north-west or north-east. Where were they when the fishing fleets on Humberside disappeared, sacrificed to enable the US to spy on Soviet submarines from the Icelandic coast? And beyond some hand-wringing and anti-Thatcher sloganising what did they actually do when the mines all shut and the car factories fell silent? Each time I see Gordon Brown wade into Brexit on his white charger I can still hear him say: “British jobs for British workers”. You also contributed to this, big man.

I rarely heard any concern for Northern Ireland prior to June 2016, and as McKenna says, while traditional working class jobs and communities were being ripped apart many of these folk sat on their hands, and yeah, Gordon Brown massively contributed to where we are today.

But the problem is that there were aspects of the English left that did raise their hands in protest, but today they’re as likely to be supportive of Brexit for vague, outdated ideology which is why there’s no Jeremy Corbyn or any of the Labour leadership near the march today. From here it looks as if the left and right have a common cause (and both rely on some level on nostalgia tinged with xenophobia about ‘foreigners’) to win the Brexit fight so they can install their rose-tinted vision of Albion.

Meanwhile in Scotland although you’ll find plenty like me who support today’s march and would appreciate some reciprocal support  for a second independence referendum, with the caveat that any second EU vote would need all countries of the UK to support it, or if the result mirrors last time  then that triggers a second Scottish referendum and a border poll in Ireland.

It is hard however not to see the march as anything but positive when it shows the weight of support against the what should be now, clearly obvious far-right coup of the UK. When you’ve got various Brexiters, right and left, talking up a ‘civil war’ and wanking on boringly about taking the fight to the streets, they should remember the tens of thousands who are out on the streets now so even though I don’t think it’ll change anything politically it does help in reminding the elites fighting tooth and nail for Brexit there’s a large number of people who will oppose it.

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How a Douglas Adams quote explains modern society

Confused, puzzled and angered by things like Brexit, the ongoing nightmare of Donald Trump, the various strains of nostalgia politics and the rise of gammon-faced people from the right and left, and just generally everything?

Well, the late, great Douglas Adams has a quote from the Salmon of Doubt that explains everything!

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

So there you go, the modern world explained!

 

 

‘The Art of Coorie’ is insulting bullshit

There’s a book called The Art of Coorie by Gabriella Bennett in which the writer tells you how to ‘live life the Scottish way’, and that ‘coorie’ is some long, lost way of life we Scots keep jealously guarded to ourselves. Thanks now to this book and articles like this from the Daily Mail discussing ‘the Scottish wellness trend’ as if it’s an actual real grown-up thing as opposed to taking elements of Scottish life and trying to monertise them to wealthy middle class Southerners who don’t know better but have heavy bank accounts.

In reality there’s no meaning of coorie that has anything to do with ‘wellness’ and the shortbread tin version of Scotland that Bennett, the Mail and all those online who are falling for are actual indulging in a very modern version of colonialism.

Look at this map of Scotland.

The first thing that’s obvious is that there’s not a lot above the central belt, and to the north and east of the country. This never used to be the case til the clearances where vast swathes of Scotland were cleared of people, re-engineered socially and environmentally for the purpose of turning large chunks of these lands into playgrounds for the wealthy elites of the British state then and now in the 21st century.

Today it’s a political issue and one that deeply affects inequality in Scotland as the Green MSP Andy Wrightman makes clear on his blog and it’s Wrightman who has pushed for reform after decades of Labour playing along with the system followed by the SNP’s glacial moves in this regard. Scotland’s most remote areas have hard enough times as it is without the population essentially being priced out by the hordes of middle class sweeping up from London in droves to live a mythical lifestyle.

Indeed, things are bad enough as it is, as it is in parts of the South West in England who have suffered this 21st century version of financial and social cleansing. Bullshit like ‘Coorie’ isn’t going to help, and frankly I don’t want to see my country’s history and country infantilsed for the benefit of the few who can afford to live in once thriving communities now stripped bare.So, land reform is needed and fast before the Highlands are full of Mail and Guardian readers braying loudly at each other about ‘wellness’…

Why don’t superheroes have daft sidekicks anymore?

Back in the day superheroes had daft sidekicks like this.

Or like this:

Or like this:

Those are the Martian Manhunter’s Zook, Captain Marvel’s Mr. Tawky Tawney, and Supergirl’s pet cat, Streaky. They were fun, stupid and silly. They reflected the fact readers were mainly young kids but they also realised that the concept of superheroes are essentially, daft, as if you can have a Superman why not then a Supercat?

It was fun, innocent times as the readership grew up and rather let this sillyness remain it was purged, so superheroes became dark, cats were no longer super-strong and sidekicks or groups like the Teen Titans became crammed full of murderers and psychopaths because of ‘darkness’.

The fact is when the main audience for superhero comics were late teens to 60 plus in age, the urge to read daft, simple things which are fun is lesser. Partly because of the urge to make a childish genre ‘dark and mature’ but mainly because these people don’t want to be seen as being kids and since the industry listens to these people more than they should we end up with grimness upon grimness. With one big exception, Squirrel Girl’s Tippy-Toe.

I miss the days where most superhero comics were silly, and I find the endless piss-coloured stream of grimdark superheroes tedious but I can dream of the days of flying cats and talking tigers thinking it to be better than grim, moody murderers.

The BBC and Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson, or to give him his actual real name, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is what the media call a ‘controversial figure’ as is there’s an actual controversy as to whether or not he’s a far-right bigot being used by other far right-bigots to attract more people to their cause which is an aggressive ethnic nationalism of the type we see in Russia and sweeping across parts of Eastern Europe.In saner times he’d be someone long forgotten about, but we’re not in normal times; we’re in the age where actual real fascists are given the sort of voice they could only dream of.

Now I’m not talking about censoring people;I’m talking of ensuring we don’t give platforms to people with  criminal background who has a violent past and would happily see blood on the streets. We don’t do that to Islamists so why does Yaxley-Lennon get a pass, especially at the BBC?

The other night Lennon was on the BBC’s Newsnight, giving him the sort of exposure he could only dream of. People complained and the BBC said this:

Seems reasonable? Except it isn’t. The BBC have had issues with their producers pushing a right wing agenda, and on Question Time they’ve excluded pro-EU SNP/Plaid/Green/Labour MEP’s completely over the last five years. Centre-left to left wing views have been excluded deliberately, while fascists and demagogues are given free range to spread lies and hatred often unchallenged.

Fact is the BBC has become an unreliable source of information, even part of the problem in that it’s helped nurture an especially British/English form of ethnic nationalism wrapped in the Union Jack and with an unhealthy fetishisation of the armed forces, not to mention a longing of mythic days that never happened. And the BBC are giving these people a platform in the name of fairness while ignoring the larger picture, or just what these people actually do.

So remember this next time you see a Stephen Yaxley-Lennon of one of his ilk being presented on the BBC as something more than the fascist thug he actually is.

Watch the ‘lost’ Star Wars documentary

The history of lost film goes back way to the very beginning of motion pictures, but by the 1980’s you’d expect companies and individuals would be archiving everything, especially if it’s anything to do with something as huge as Star Wars?

Michael Parbot was an acclaimed French cameraman/reporter who in 1980 made a film dealing with the making of The Empire Strikes Back, the eagerly awaited Star Wars sequel. For years it’s been one of those talked about lost bits of media that have teased fans for decades, and now it’s been found and placed online for everyone to see.

It shows never to completely give up on lost media, and as well the importance of archiving media for future generations, and with that crucial life lesson here’s the film to enjoy…

What I thought of Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth

An awful lot was riding on this episode. First female Doctor. New showrunner in the shape of Chris Chibnall who has a patchy at best record on Who, and with things like the scene below on his C.V, we were right to be worried.

On top of this there’s a vocal group online ready to lead boycotts for a series which worldwide is one of the BBC’s top three money-earners, but here in the UK the audience has declined during the Stephen Moffat years. And there’s a point; the first Moffat series is excellent but he quickly falls into a convoluted mess of plotlines and character arcs which means that if you’ve not seen Doctor Who at any point over the last half century, or have been away for a while you’d often turn on a Moffat episode and be lost from the first scene. Then there was the fact many of the scripts being commissioned were just dreadful which made it feel that actors of the calibre of Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were often wasted.

In short the programme was in a similar state to where it was in the Colin Baker to early Sylvester McCoy years where it was falling in on itself from the weight of continuity and the urge to follow it ahead of story and character. Basically Moffatt changed the programme from a mass audience one to one for fans, which works to a limit but certainly the programme had basically fell up it’s own arse.

So The Woman Who Fell to Earth is the programme rebooting itself for the age of mass audience programming with works like Broadchurch and The Bodyguard, proving that loads of people will tune in at the same time if there’s something they want to see. The revamped Doctor Who is now 13 years old and frankly, wasn’t going to keep an audience where it was going, so in come Chibnall fresh from the success of Broadchurch,  to essentially take the programme back to 2005. All you need to know going into this is there’s a character called the Doctor, who has just regenerated because they’re an alien, and they fight evil on and off Earth throughout time with their companion/s. Chibnall has also promised no old recurring baddies for this series which is good, and I hope finally lets the new series build up its own mythology.

Which brings us back to everything riding on this episode. The BBC have spent what must be millions in sending Whittaker around the world to publicise the relaunch (which the BBC never admitted it was) and it has to be said, she did her job brilliantly showing an enthusiasm and love for the show that belies the fact she wasn’t a hardcore fan when first cast. The first episode itself has a pretty old-school Who B-plot with an alien landing in Sheffield (the programme uses its Sheffield locations, and the fact we’re not used to seeing programming set outwith of London very well) killing people seemingly randomly. It frankly is only there to push along the A-plot which is who is this woman who crashed from the skies and how come she knows how to fight an alien menace? There’s also the start of three character arcs in the shape of the companions ( Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and a surprisingly good Bradley Walsh) so there’s a lot going on in a busy opener.

On the whole it works. A major death is telegraphed from the minute the character is introduced which detracts from the tension, also the alien menace looks great and not a monster out to destroy the universe but is dispatched with a finality which suggests it won’t return which is a shame.  The companions, sorry, ‘friends’ are all fine and good though I’m still worried there may be too many of them, but it’s Jodie Whitaker that the new relaunch hinges on and she carries the entire thing off so well that you forgive the odd cliche, or clunker of a line.Added to the fact there’s a real effort in upping direction (though Moffat should be praised for letting people like Ben Wheatley loose on Who) and cinematography (Sheffield has never looked so good)that things do feel exciting and fresh.

In fact by halfway through the episode you forget all the fuss about a woman Doctor and just accept that this is The Doctor, it’s a regeneration episode and I can’t wait to see where Whitaker goes from here to develop the character though you can spot influences, especially when she’s bumbling around trying to build a new sonic screwdriver there’s a touch of Troughton, Tennant and Smith there, then a touch of Tom Baker and Eccleston during the climatic scenes. There’s even a few scenes where she carries herself as Capaldi would to show shes not fully regenerated yet. Is it perfect? No though as introductory episodes it is up there is the show’s 55 year history (Spearhead From Space remains my favourite) but it had a number of jobs to perform which it did well.

We now have a new Doctor. There are complaints about how the ‘agenda’ is spoiling it from mainly sad wankers, then there’s Americans complaining about the Sheffield accents which is so sad it’s funny but the response so far has been good, though the tough work really starts now. Will Whitaker keep people coming back or, like Smith and Capaldi, will she be let down by scripts? There’s still the Tardis to re-indtroduce too

We’ll see but for now there’s an almost blank slate to play with and Doctor Who feels fresh and exciting. For that a well done to all involved is deserved. Bring on next week!