The genius of Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly is a Scottish institution and has been since those early days in the 70s when he was making a name for himself playing the clubs of Scotland, and in particular, Glasgow. His recent BBC documentary was a thing of glory and painful too as he’s clearly ill, hence why he’s preparing himself for the end which has to come for us all.

But this is a man who made us all laugh. He broke the mould for comedians in the UK in the 70s by not telling racist gags or tired old mother in law jokes but instead making his humour centred round Glasgow in tightly observed routines and sprawling gags that would lead off into many glorious diversions. For me growing up the one Billy Connolly routine which would make me hurt because I would laugh so much was the Crucifixion. If you’re unfamiliar with Glasgow, or the ins and outs of a city then don’t worry, you’ll pick up the main jist of it, and Connolly’s telling of the story is glorious.

At some point I fear I’ll be writing an obituary for this man,but for me this one routine shaped how I’d always think of Connolly, and it never, ever fails to make me laugh.

So enjoy…

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What I thought of Doctor Who: Resolution

I’ve not minded the first series of Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker. She has massive potential, and the soft reboot is a still a great idea as is changing things up with the music and a larger budget spent on episodes. The problems still lie in scripts and in the New Year’s Day special the problems started right away.

The story starts with a bunch of Vikings beating an impossible alien menace in the 9th century, and in victory cutting the creature into three parts to hide across the world with one of those parts ending up in Sheffield in 2019 as its uncovered as part of an archaeological dig. Brilliant start, great setup and we’re in for an hour of action and adventure as the new Doctor comes face to face with the Daleks for the first time.

And we get that. The pace and speed of the opening ten minutes or so are breathtaking then we get the introduction of Ryan’s dad and suddenly a B plot is introduced which manages to suck the life out of the episode stone dead. Literally all the momentum is drawn out as the story stops for a long scene where Ryan and his dad have a long conversation. Sure, the storyline picks up again but it’s fell to pieces by this point as we have no idea what the tone of the episode is meant to be? Is it family drama? Is it an action/adventure ride for a bank holiday? Is is a satire? The writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall decides on all of the above while trying to ram it into an hour of screentime which means things go missing including the plot-thread about the other two parts of the Dalek and what’s happening with them, and more importantly, the Doctor.

Now I like Jodie Whittaker a lot. She’s got huge potential and she can act. Just look at her at the start of the clip below. Its terrifying subtle stuff.

Resolution has the problem in it doesn’t know what to be. It doesn’t settle on a tone, and instead slaps around like a drunk on a speeding bus on Christmas Eve battering its way from scene to scene because Chibnall hasn’t decided what he actually wants the episode to be. Because of this the Doctor gets lost which means we get her coming into a scene, saying a few lines and then being drowned out by the large supporting cast and because Chibnall seems scared to actually explore the potential of a female Doctor mixed with often piss poor direction, Whittaker is massively wasted.

Doctor Who can be anything it wants each episode. The show has infinite potential and a minimal respect for continuity, and unless you’ve got the skill of a writer like Douglas Adams or Robert Holmes trying to mix and match as you’re going on ends up in a mess like Resolution. Yet it doesn’t need to be like this. Take Legends of Tomorrow, another time-travel based show which struggled with tone in its first season. It didn’t know what it was. Was it fun and games based superheroics that threw everything at the wall or was it grimdark stuff for the Edgelords? In the second year they decided to throw out the grimdark stuff and have fun. Sure, it sometimes gets serious but most of the time it adopts a tone where you can have scenes like this.

If something flits tone too sharpish, or worse, takes you out the story then it becomes harder to reinvest the time back into something, and if it keeps doing this then why bother?

But it can be fixed. Less companions. Better scripts. Pick a direction and stick with it but most importantly, let Jodie Whittaker develop because a series into her era I have no idea what her character is. I did with Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, Eccleston, McCoy, etc and hell, I even got the jist of Paul McGann’s Doctor who had an hour or so of screentime. Whittaker isn’t being allowed to explore the role except in tiny glimpses where something glorious is hinted at.

So the next season hasn’t started filming yet. I hope the production team listen to criticisms (not the ”ITS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD” type as I’m glad the show is becoming political again after Moffat’s era)  and come back in the autumn with am improved show that allows Whittaker to show what she’s capable of.

 

Good riddance 2018

The final hours of 2018 tick out slowly as we end a year where frankly, it feels like another notch on Armageddon’s bedpost.

Brexit has loomed over the UK like a mad knifeman, stabbing at us so we couldn’t deal with anything else like the by now, obviously insane, racist we have as a Prime Minister or the party of the undead she leads. Thanks though to a weak official opposition she’s been allowed to last as long as she has, but still, some people are seeing Brexit purely as an opportunity rather than the end of times for whatever was left which was decent about the UK or being British.

As for myself it’s been a year of one step forward, two steps back as I try to work out what to do post-cancer and while still trying to work out the world now I’m disabled thanks to the stroke.

So on that cheery note goodbye to 2018 You won’t be missed you bastard.

About the Guardian’s horribly sneery HMV article

The other day The Guardian printed an opinion piece by Penny Anderson about the death of HMV; an event which is going to cost over 2000 people their job. Anderson, a writer and artist (nope, not heard of her either til now) makes the case that the death of HMV means that smaller record shops can serve ‘true’ music fans as if the death of HMV means all those ‘real’ music fans can stop being held back.

This sneering pish can be summed up as well, sneering pish. Yes, HMV made huge mistakes and yes, they’ve failed to deal with the changing times, but to claim HMV was never about ‘true’ music fans speaks more about Anderson’s desperate urge to paint themselves as a hip, edgy outsider than a requiem for a business which in fact has been helping new music develop over the years.

I used to spent lots of time in HMV over the years and ever dabbled with the idea of applying to work there at one point in the 80’s.

HMV helped nurture me. Without it I’d have had the sketchier Virgin or the masses of indie shops which were great but utterly unforgiving in terms of customer service. I shopped there for decades til around four or five years ago I got a high speed internet connection and found I could stick all those DVD’s on external hard drives the size of a boxset DVD. Sure, I buy BluRay’s but physical media is something I buy less and less but I’ll miss the deals or the collectors items HMV used to produce and of course, I’m sorry for the thousands being laid off in uncertain times. I’m not going to be essentially a cunt celebrating it as a good thing for ‘real’ music fans.

But this is the Guardian of the 21st century where clickbait bullshit from wankers is their business model…

Brexit enters the world of Papers Please

There’s a game called Papers Please. It’s a great game set in a totalitarian country which forces you as the player to challenge your own morality as you start trying to fight the system, but soon end up sending people to labour mines because they’re immigrants.

During the Christmas holidays the UK government decided to release plans to charge, screen and classify EU immigrants living in the UK after Brexit next March 

Of course the idea to charge people £65 who’ve lived here in some cases since they were a baby is going down with EU27 nationals as well as one would expect, with many online just going ‘fuck it’ and deciding to move out the UK. Many aren’t able to so they face having to pay for themselves, and their children because the UK is now a country that classifies and screens children for ‘criminality’

We’ve crossed a line. Even The Sun realises that. Of course The Sun is one of many reasons we’ve got such a poisonous debate on immigration but they grasp where things go from here.

The problem is that for all those speaking out there’s more sitting on their hands doing nothing or who support this because Brexit unleashed all this ethnic English/British nationalism which is leading to what is a purge of immigrants. Of course anyone that’s followed Theresa May’s career will not be surprised as for eight years she’s made it clear she despises immigrants and immigration, though obviously not of the wealthy oligarchs we see still coming into the UK.

What happens next lies in our hands. There’s talk of civil disobedience as people refuse to be put through this screening but the issue is a government and official opposition so locked into the idea of Brexit that properly challenging one aspect like this is challenging the entire fucked up process. The Tories are leading us into a dark, terrible place and every single MP who voted to invoke Article 50 helped enable them even attempt to create this neo-fascist state they’re trying to build.

What I thought of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

A day ago Netflix announced a new Black Mirror film called Bandersnatch with zero previous publicity. A Bandersnatch comes from the works of Lewis Carroll and that knowledge should provide a clue as to what this new bit of Black Mirror is all about, and if you’ve played a ‘choose your own adventure’ type game back in the day either with a book or work like The Hobbit for the ZX Spectrum.

See this is a story set in the mid 80’s and as a period piece is almost perfect. I especially liked the old shit-brown livery of the W.H Smith branch Stefan (the main character) goes into at one point, as well as a perfect reconstruction of the stock it had in it. Stefan is a programmer working on adapting a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, Bandersnatch, into a computer game.So far this is prime Charlie Brooker, and the scenes in the game company office seem ripped from his days as a games journalist.

The thing is the version of Bandersnatch I watched will be different to the version you watch as it too is a ‘choose your own adventure’ story but the difference here is that Stefan as well as Colin, his idol in the games world, are aware they live in a story but have no control over their own destinies. but in thinking you as a viewer have power, you suddenly realise you’re being manipulated by the programme makers in making certain choices. Essentially this is a giant work of meta-fiction influenced by the likes of Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock and especially Grant Morrison’s work on Animal Man. Issue five’s The Coyote Gospel especially with it sort of being referenced into the film itself.

Does it work? On the whole yes but at times it does fall into itself as it shows off how clever it’s being, with one ending (there’s five main endings and loads of other lead-ins) that references Netflix itself and the technical prowess needed to make such a film, which to be honest, is just distracting wankery.  The story is what’s important and although well acted and directed (the vastly underrated David Slade directs) it suffers from being stilted at times, plus if you opt out of the end the first time, you lose the sense of being trapped in a never-ending hell.

As an experiment and episode of Black Mirror, it works fine. The performances are good, the script is fine and the direction is excellent and while all the meta-textual stuff is good, there’s always this feeling with Brooker that he’s sharing an in-joke but that this time the viewer is the object of that joke which is of course, the entire point. We’re the victims of modern technology and we’re not in control of it.