Wednesday 24 May 2017

I woke up this morning...

I woke up this morning and remembered that I am not by nature very empathetic. I have to work at it, as my wife constantly reminds me. I am a little below Donald Trump on the narcissistic sociopath scale, though probably not as far below as I would like. Sixteen years ago I gasped in horror at the planes hitting the World Trade Centre, ten years ago I cried with London as the tube trains exploded, all through this century I have watched in desperation as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria all crumble under never-ending wars.

I woke up this morning to a resigned sadness that this is just how things are now, and maybe I will just shrug off the next atrocity.

I woke up this morning and went to work, where a colleague complained that they had been 'banging on about this Manchester thing' all day on the radio. He then reflected that at least it made a change from the fucking election.

I woke up this morning glad that I live in a place that will almost certainly never be targeted. I know that that is selfish, but the chances of being in a terror attack are significantly reduced when you live in a town that should really be called a village in the middle of nowhere.

I woke up this morning and before I had heard the details I was terrified that there had been an attack in either Bangkok or Barcelona, where my children are currently residing. I later discovered that there had been a bomb in Bangkok, but it had not been reported loudly here. I felt a little sick that what could have been the most devastating news I ever heard had been buried in a story that continued rolling for hours with no real change in its detail. Nobody I know was hurt in Bangkok either, but I still feel just as strongly for the strangers injured there as those in the UK.

I woke up this morning sickened by the ghoulish nature of the media as they harassed grieving relatives in relentless pursuit of a 'human' angle that they would clearly know nothing about. Lunchtime news brought a roundabout of faces that will never smile again, this can all wait. Let families grieve, let them come to you, stop the tear-inducing grief fest, and admit that you are trying to entertain and get better ratings rather than inform. I cannot help but feel that if these events were given less airtime, there would be less incentive to carry them out. Westminster should have been reported more like a traffic accident, today's awfulness could have been reported in a smaller less sensational way. Announce the news, move on, don't spend all day on it, you are giving them what they want.
'I have no words,' has been a theme, maybe you should take something from that.

I woke up this morning and, due to being a writer of tall tales and the over-politicised nature of my current thinking, began constructing my own fictitious Reichstag Fire/False flag story, whereby Theresa May's conservative party plotted the Manchester Arena attack in order to get past the total shit show they are making of what seemed to be an open goal election; putting us on the first steps towards a military dictatorship with the army on the streets and then cancelling said election. I considered making a joke about it on social media, before realising that it would be insensitive, and give the tin-foil hat brigade ideas. Please don't get ideas from this tin-foil hat brigade – it was a hypothetical fictional construct, and remains that way.
(It is later now, I see that somebody else took this idea and actually ran with it, I am glad it is not my fault.)

I woke up this morning to find friends posting divisive, fear-mongering bullshit on social media in search of revenge. The wave of right-wing, anti-islamic sentiment will never end. Despite the slaughter of innocents being an unforgivable sin in the eyes of Allah, not a single attack being carried out by a refugee and IS having as much in common with Islam as the KKK do to Christianity.

I woke up this morning and I realised that I was no more sad at this mass slaughter than I found myself a year ago at the cold-blooded murder of Jo Cox in the name of another ideology that I do not, and cannot understand. This does not diminish my sadness at today's events. I cried for Jo Cox, as I cried for those kids in Manchester when it all began to sink in and I kicked my empathy into gear.

I woke up this morning still convinced that I will continue to like and trust every single person I meet until they give me a reason not to. I would rather run the miniscule risk of dying in a terror attack (still less likely than my dying of traffic fumes, eating too much processed meat, or just all the booze and fags) than live behind barriers of fear, hatred and ignorance.

I woke up this morning and realised how difficult it is not to politicise such an overtly political act as a terror attack.

I woke up this morning determined to remember that we still have more in common than that which divides us.

Friday 12 May 2017

Cliffhangers, Crossovers and Comics

I recently fell deeply in love with the TV show This Is Us, which had the most captivating first episode of anything I have ever watched, featuring the best use of a cigarette in motion picture history. Without spoilers, the whole series was leading up to a moment that should definitely have happened in the last episode and left me weeping like a toddler with a splinter. Instead, they filled it with almosts, and then, while not technically leaving it on a cliffhanger, they left the ending unended and my tissues unneeded (stop it).

It's ok, he can come back from this, I've seen him before

Despite it having been my favourite TV series of the last few years (I spent the whole series trying to work out where I'd seen one of the actors before and then realised he just looks exactly like my friend Mitch), I would immediately veto a second series for that shameless display of desperation were it up to me - although it has already been commissioned through to the end of series three now. I could see how the original script almost certainly played out, and how it had been mercilessly hacked about by some studio bastard who wanted to make sure they got viewers for that second series. I blame the 2002 petitions for Firefly and Farscape that led to them getting concluded (though not well). Fanbases wanting to know what happened are grounds for U-turns, and everybody wants to be Family Guy.

The best franchises were all spawned from beautiful perfect little things that left you wanting more without leaving unanswered questions. The biggest, most famous franchise of all – Star Wars – has wrapped itself up neatly on no less then four occasions now. It is also responsible for the most gut-wrenching cliffhanger ever, but the third movie was already guaranteed before they made it.

Of course once Star Wars became Episode IV: A New Hope, it managed to generate demand for a prequel, before that was even a thing (nobody ever called The Silmarillion a prequel right?). This had happened before I ever saw it, and I waited my entire young life to see Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which explains my lengthy state of denial about its shitness. I cannot hold Lucasfilm up as a bastion of non-bastardness for this alone.

It's ok Jar-Jar, not everybody hated you immediately

The Lord Of The Rings would not have existed were it not for fans of The Hobbit clamouring for more Middle Earth based stories from J.R.R. Tolkien. If he had submitted his 450,000 word sequel that bore no more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor now, explaining it wouldn't be ready for another eighteen years, I don't think anyone would bite. Although George R.R. Martin should really have considered finishing off his whole story (or at least plotting it out fully) before publishing the first part of the Song of Ice and Fire (alright, Game of Thrones) epic twenty years ago. I was so disappointed by the last two books that I probably won't read the rest of it if he ever gets round to finishing it before he does a Robert Jordan.

It isn't just Mr Martin who embarks on an epic journey and gets completely lost in the middle though. The Wheel of Time saga takes enough material for a really great trilogy and spins it out into fourteen books that Robert Jordan died before finishing. I regret fighting my way through the whole thing, (though Brandon Sanderson pulled it back masterfully by not adding endless new subplots) but mourn the single prequel novel that showed so much promise and will never be developed into a much better series.

Ironically, the reverse of this is also dreadful. The really great thing about a comic book series is that it is a neverending story (ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah). Peter Parker, Clark Kent and I have been friends for my whole life. The story keeps going, it comes to natural pauses now and then, and sometimes has to repeat its origins in flashback, but you can jump in wherever you like and enjoy it. Whereas, for some reason, if you want to make movies of it you have to reboot the whole thing every few years. I have lost count of the number of onscreen Spidermen I have fallen out of love with now, and nobody seems to know how to put Superman (the only superhero that matters) onto film anymore. I do, you remember that he is a big boy scout and stop trying to make him all dark and conflicted – he isn't Batman, that's the point, and neither is Ben fucking Affleck. The Simpsons, Family Guy, and James Bond all manage to keep running for decades without constant reboots (alright, so Bond kind of reboots, but he doesn't keep continually being bitten by a spider, discovering his powers and crying over his dead uncle in some kind of Morbius loop (high five if you got the joke)). Why can't Spidey, Batty and Big Blue?

Visual reference for excellent pun above – you're welcome

I stopped buying comic books again a few years ago for the same reason I stopped buying them in the nineties: because of all the crossover storylines forcing you to buy every single title out there to keep up. I've very nearly stopped watching comic book movies now, for the same reason. The last Spiderman movie I saw had Tobey Maguire in, and was proper shit. I have no intention of sitting through something as dreadful as Batman vs Superman ever again so the Justice League trailer I just saw left me bereft of hope for my once favourite title.

Maybe it's my hatred of the enforced open ending that has led to my trouble sticking to one genre of music, one kind of writing or even just one overarching theme on this blog. Maybe I'm like Charlton Heston insisting on the Planet of the Apes being blown to hell at the end of the first sequel in order to avoid having to be in the 5th – spoiler, it didn't work. Sequels work though, and TV series can be spread out for years, decades even, long fantasy epics can work (though only Stephen King has succesfully pulled this off) but not everything has to be a fucking franchise. One-off (or sometimes two) beautiful things are rare and wonderful, and I thank Peter Kay that a few people still recognise this.

Phoenix Car Share Nights the Musical – coming to a screen near you the second Peter Kay dies