" Madam Miaow Says: February 2009

Friday, 27 February 2009

Burnt By The Sun, National Theatre review: bum-aching torture but don't blame Stalin


Someone should remind playwright Peter Flannery that drama is like real life but with the boring bits taken out. Last night’s preview of his adaptation of the movie Burnt By The Sun (press night tonight), broke an enjoyable run of great shows at the National Theatre which includes Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County, and Vanessa Redgrave winning me over after years of indifference in The Year of Magical Thinking.

The NT website promises us: “Amidst a tangle of sexual jealousy, retribution and remorseless political backstabbing, Kotov feels the full, horrifying reach of Stalin’s rule.” Terrific! Just what I wanted to see. Unfortunately, the end product looks like the outline before it was fleshed out and turned into a proper script, a disappointment considering this was written by the author of one of the best British TV dramas ever, Our Friends In The North.

Originally a hit Russian film made in 1994, Burnt By The Sun won a raft of awards including Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (I would have seen it by now, only Certain Someone taped two episodes of Angel over the videotape lent to us by a lefty friend, not that I’m using this opportunity to remind him of his crimes or anything, oh no, not me.)

Set in 1936 as Stalin’s Great Purge is getting under way, General Kotov (Ciarån Hinds), a hero of the revolution, is a big powerful Uncle Joe-loving family man on his summer holidays in his seaside dacha. Surrounded by his beautiful wife, Maroussia (Michelle Dockery) and her eccentric family, the remains of the old society, plus female servant Mochova and little daughter, Nadia, his idyllic world is disrupted by the return of Dimitri/Mitia (Rory Kinnear), Maroussia’s childhood sweetheart.

After much dense wordage and hotchka-potchka Russophiling (I’m wondering if Russian theatre represents Brits so stereotypically), it suddenly transpires, post-interval, that Mitia has an unpleasant mission he must carry out.

The story, such as it is, didn’t start until the second half, the (very long) first half consisting of a lengthy introduction of the characters with almost zero foreshadowing of what was to come. (I’d’ve said ‘the second act’, except there wasn’t a second act: just a first act split in two by an intermission.) Everything emerges as flat exposition, very little of it through drama. No suspense or build-up to the end, just a lot of thesping around an old piano and then The Thing happens.

The old people in Maroussia’s family sit around like cyphers, reminiscing and bemoaning a world gone to the dogs. The first signs of Stalin’s Great Purge are spotted in newspaper reports of the showtrials where “confessions” are declared to be the basis of justice, not evidence. But this thread, which I was looking forward to seeing developed in the course of the play, is lost in the love-lives of one-dimensional characters for whom I cared very little.

Appealing to middle-classes everywhere, BBTS shares a nostalgia for the good old days ven ve danced and played music and sang and the house was alive with culture and Chekovian loveliness before the philistines came and took it all away, pass the vodka. You’d think this would be a chance to have a look at the contrary needs of two contending classes, especially as we may be entering our own pre-revolutionary period if Britain suffers a depression, but no. The workers and their case are nowhere to be seen. You don’t have to agree with the Russian revolution, but at least give us an idea that you understand the dynamics of it.

I don’t believe, for example, that Mochova would explain the drill of defending themselves against “imperialist” attack by poison gas in such sneery knowing terms, a neon light invitation for the audience to laugh smugly at commie paranoia. Teenage Pioneers in gasmasks are supposed to mark an absurd lack of sophistication, so unlike our own dear Boy Scouts and Home Guard. Yet this was 1936, with memories of 22 foreign armies trying to snuff out the fledgling revolution, and not long before the horrors of World War II.

Perhaps the best moment, the only one that made me laugh, was when the clash of two worlds was played out in duelling feet (a strange motif that turns up elsewhere in the show, I’ve just realised): Mitia’s tap-dance, hampered only by the actor’s huge Sideshow Bob feet, versus an olde Russian army boot-slapping routine from Kotov. Kotov won.

One of the worst moments (there were several vying for top spot) was where, in a fit of what passes for passionate jealousy in this limp production, Kotov tries to shag Maroussia al fresco and the entire audience steeled itself for the ancient British theatre tradition of “groundbreaking sex”. Ooh, how transgressive. Thankfully, he only gets as far as stripping her top half and she’s wearing a flesh coloured bra underneath. Phew! They could have put me off sex for the longest time.

Then there’s the idiot plot crammed into the dying minutes of the production, when Mochova’s admirer stumbles upon Kotov’s arrest and, in a moment to rival Tippi Hedren under avian attack thinking, “I wonder what’s in the attic?” and charging in like she didn’t know the title of the movie was The Birds, he gets what every movie moron deserves.

Ciaran Hinds as General Kotov heads a strong cast

Burnt By The Sun is almost as bad as the (award-winning) Tom Stoppard trilogy at the NT, The Coast of Utopia, for which I saved up and spent all day almost in tears with boredom but refused to let it beat me and watched every tortuous minute until the end just in case something interesting happened. It didn't. The only thing I remember about it, apart from its stupendous failure to enlighten anyone as to the attraction of Marxism, was the presence of posh anarchist Bakunin in Marx’s home, and someone dressed up as a marmalade cat, a hallucinatory image which makes the play sound way better than it was.

Why is it that our National Theatre can produce no deep insightful examination of class politics, of the Marxism that affected, not only the world, but the generation now running things? The only working-class character, Mochova, is presented as a stupid middle-aged sex-starved buffoon against the luminous beauty of the distressed gentry. The NT’s excellent production of Galileo a while back contained some mind-boggling howlers — a working-class assistant with regional accent, whose child version is played by a posh kid with a Rank starlet accent, plus other revelations of antiquated class, race and gender assumptions peculiar to the theatre producers rather than Galileo and his contemporaries. Hey, you guys running the culture, this is your era. If you can’t work out what was/is happening, who can?

As usual, the designers walk away with the honours. The BBTS set is stunning — Kotov’s dacha centre-stage on a rotating platform, surrounded by bleakly beautiful forest, hauntingly lit.

If the original film even halfway deserves its reputation, then it also deserves an infinitely better adaptation than Flannery provides here. If it doesn’t, then I may have to apologise to Certain Someone tonight while we rewatch the episode in which Angel is turned into a muppet.

Spreaking of muppets ... HOI! Otchka-trotchka-motchka HOI! Otchka-trotchka ...

UPDATE: Neil Clark runs with the baton.

I'm in a minority of one.
Michael Coveney, What's On Stage and in the Independent:
Michael Billington, Guardian:
Charles Spencer, Telegraph:
Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard
Mark Espiner just about resists full lampoonery in the Guardian

Burnt By The Sun, National Theatre review: bum-aching torture but don't blame Stalin


Someone should remind playwright Peter Flannery that drama is like real life but with the boring bits taken out. Last night’s preview of his adaptation of the movie Burnt By The Sun (press night tonight), broke an enjoyable run of great shows at the National Theatre which includes Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County, and Vanessa Redgrave winning me over after years of indifference in The Year of Magical Thinking.

The NT website promises us: “Amidst a tangle of sexual jealousy, retribution and remorseless political backstabbing, Kotov feels the full, horrifying reach of Stalin’s rule.” Terrific! Just what I wanted to see. Unfortunately, the end product looks like the outline before it was fleshed out and turned into a proper script, a disappointment considering this was written by the author of one of the best British TV dramas ever, Our Friends In The North.

Originally a hit Russian film made in 1994, Burnt By The Sun won a raft of awards including Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (I would have seen it by now, only Certain Someone taped two episodes of Angel over the videotape lent to us by a lefty friend, not that I’m using this opportunity to remind him of his crimes or anything, oh no, not me.)

Set in 1936 as Stalin’s Great Purge is getting under way, General Kotov (Ciarån Hinds), a hero of the revolution, is a big powerful Uncle Joe-loving family man on his summer holidays in his seaside dacha. Surrounded by his beautiful wife, Maroussia (Michelle Dockery) and her eccentric family, the remains of the old society, plus female servant Mochova and little daughter, Nadia, his idyllic world is disrupted by the return of Dimitri/Mitia (Rory Kinnear), Maroussia’s childhood sweetheart.

After much dense wordage and hotchka-potchka Russophiling (I’m wondering if Russian theatre represents Brits so stereotypically), it suddenly transpires, post-interval, that Mitia has an unpleasant mission he must carry out.

The story, such as it is, didn’t start until the second half, the (very long) first half consisting of a lengthy introduction of the characters with almost zero foreshadowing of what was to come. (I’d’ve said ‘the second act’, except there wasn’t a second act: just a first act split in two by an intermission.) Everything emerges as flat exposition, very little of it through drama. No suspense or build-up to the end, just a lot of thesping around an old piano and then The Thing happens.

The old people in Maroussia’s family sit around like cyphers, reminiscing and bemoaning a world gone to the dogs. The first signs of Stalin’s Great Purge are spotted in newspaper reports of the showtrials where “confessions” are declared to be the basis of justice, not evidence. But this thread, which I was looking forward to seeing developed in the course of the play, is lost in the love-lives of one-dimensional characters for whom I cared very little.

Appealing to middle-classes everywhere, BBTS shares a nostalgia for the good old days ven ve danced and played music and sang and the house was alive with culture and Chekovian loveliness before the philistines came and took it all away, pass the vodka. You’d think this would be a chance to have a look at the contrary needs of two contending classes, especially as we may be entering our own pre-revolutionary period if Britain suffers a depression, but no. The workers and their case are nowhere to be seen. You don’t have to agree with the Russian revolution, but at least give us an idea that you understand the dynamics of it.

I don’t believe, for example, that Mochova would explain the drill of defending themselves against “imperialist” attack by poison gas in such sneery knowing terms, a neon light invitation for the audience to laugh smugly at commie paranoia. Teenage Pioneers in gasmasks are supposed to mark an absurd lack of sophistication, so unlike our own dear Boy Scouts and Home Guard. Yet this was 1936, with memories of 22 foreign armies trying to snuff out the fledgling revolution, and not long before the horrors of World War II.

Perhaps the best moment, the only one that made me laugh, was when the clash of two worlds was played out in duelling feet (a strange motif that turns up elsewhere in the show, I’ve just realised): Mitia’s tap-dance, hampered only by the actor’s huge Sideshow Bob feet, versus an olde Russian army boot-slapping routine from Kotov. Kotov won.

One of the worst moments (there were several vying for top spot) was where, in a fit of what passes for passionate jealousy in this limp production, Kotov tries to shag Maroussia al fresco and the entire audience steeled itself for the ancient British theatre tradition of “groundbreaking sex”. Ooh, how transgressive. Thankfully, he only gets as far as stripping her top half and she’s wearing a flesh coloured bra underneath. Phew! They could have put me off sex for the longest time.

Then there’s the idiot plot crammed into the dying minutes of the production, when Mochova’s admirer stumbles upon Kotov’s arrest and, in a moment to rival Tippi Hedren under avian attack thinking, “I wonder what’s in the attic?” and charging in like she didn’t know the title of the movie was The Birds, he gets what every movie moron deserves.

Ciaran Hinds as General Kotov heads a strong cast

Burnt By The Sun is almost as bad as the (award-winning) Tom Stoppard trilogy at the NT, The Coast of Utopia, for which I saved up and spent all day almost in tears with boredom but refused to let it beat me and watched every tortuous minute until the end just in case something interesting happened. It didn't. The only thing I remember about it, apart from its stupendous failure to enlighten anyone as to the attraction of Marxism, was the presence of posh anarchist Bakunin in Marx’s home, and someone dressed up as a marmalade cat, a hallucinatory image which makes the play sound way better than it was.

Why is it that our National Theatre can produce no deep insightful examination of class politics, of the Marxism that affected, not only the world, but the generation now running things? The only working-class character, Mochova, is presented as a stupid middle-aged sex-starved buffoon against the luminous beauty of the distressed gentry. The NT’s excellent production of Galileo a while back contained some mind-boggling howlers — a working-class assistant with regional accent, whose child version is played by a posh kid with a Rank starlet accent, plus other revelations of antiquated class, race and gender assumptions peculiar to the theatre producers rather than Galileo and his contemporaries. Hey, you guys running the culture, this is your era. If you can’t work out what was/is happening, who can?

As usual, the designers walk away with the honours. The BBTS set is stunning — Kotov’s dacha centre-stage on a rotating platform, surrounded by bleakly beautiful forest, hauntingly lit.

If the original film even halfway deserves its reputation, then it also deserves an infinitely better adaptation than Flannery provides here. If it doesn’t, then I may have to apologise to Certain Someone tonight while we rewatch the episode in which Angel is turned into a muppet.

Spreaking of muppets ... HOI! Otchka-trotchka-motchka HOI! Otchka-trotchka ...

UPDATE: Neil Clark runs with the baton.

I'm in a minority of one.
Michael Coveney, What's On Stage and in the Independent:
Michael Billington, Guardian:
Charles Spencer, Telegraph:
Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard
Mark Espiner just about resists full lampoonery in the Guardian

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Battlestar Galactica Ep 6, 4.5 review: Deadlock

Cylons Sharon/Boomer Eight and Caprica Six

SPOILER ALERT Look away now.

Written by Buffy veteran Jane Espenson, Deadlock, Episode 6 of 10, brings Ellen Tigh back to Galactica’s crippled fleet, now carrying 39,556 surviving humans with no prospect of sanctuary.

Dead alcoholic Ellen was revealed in the first episode of the series to be the Mother of the 13th Cylon Tribe. Revived and tidied up in last week's episode, she had displayed the powerful side of her character when confronting Brother “Jon” Cavil (Cylon model Two) over his determination to wipe out the humans. She’s now delivered by one of the Boomers (Cylon model Eight) to the Galactica. With food running out and tempers high, the old ships aren’t the only things falling apart from wear and stress. As Gaius Baltar later observes, starving humans don’t make for a mutiny, they make a revolution.

But far from representing hope, this particular “revolution” is a venting mechanism for all the humans’ fears and frustrations and of course, the Cylon outsiders are the obvious scapegoats even though they are providing the stricken ships with superior technology to get them out of their current mess. Admiral Adama and President Roslin are at a loss what to do. It’s interesting that in this post-911 allegory, with its critique of the War on Terror, our sympathy is orientated towards the military and political leadership — representing stability, order among chaos — caught between the threat of imminent detection and obliteration by Brother Cavil’s Cylon army (al Qaeda, as some have suggested), and the humans on auto-destruct (civil unrest at home).

Despite a major personality and grooming make-over, the dipso maneater of old is still at Ellen’s core. She informs Admiral Bill Adama and his officers that Brother Cavil intends to rebuild the Resurrection Ship which recreates Cylons when they die and which our heroes had managed to destroy. But before her husband, Colonel Tigh (revealed previously as a reluctant Cylon), can tell her, “I made Caprica Six pregnant”, she’s shagging him on the table, his eyepatch and cares tossed to the stellar winds.

They've been doing this for thousands of years throughout their numerous reincarnations. So when Ellen does find out that there’s a Cylon baby on the way, instead of greeting this as an evolutionary marvel that will ensure the continuation of their species without the Resurrection ship, she gets jealous. Hmm, not so enlightened and omniscient, after all. As she reminds him and us, she and Tigh created Six all those thousands of years before. She eventually makes her peace with them.

Caprica Six yearns to be “pure and safe". Sensing danger, she and Boomer propose to the Cylons that they escape by taking the base ship. Tigh and Sam, still ill from a bullet wound to the head, oppose the move.

The tension takes its toll and Caprica Six loses the baby. With procreation no longer a viable alternative, the survival of the species will depend on the return of the Resurrection ship.

Ellen and Colonel Saul Tigh

The writers are still having fun with Gaius Baltar who is as slimy and self-preserving as ever. Providing a darkly comic commentary on the absurdities of ruddereless humanity under threat, his every selfish action is (mis)interpreted by his cult followers as being of supreme spiritual significance, reflecting life as it is and not as it should be, as well as chucking in an homage to Life of Brian.

This week Gaius has to find a way to scupper the female leader who emerged during his absence when he ran away to save himself, and whose qualities of smarts, courage and tactical thinking he recognises as a threat to his position as top dog among the airheads and losers who make up his troup of female acolytes.

Gaius rails against the Cylons, even though his phantom internal Six is back as his guiding light. He acquires superior weaponry, enabling his women to fight off a male cult that's been stealing their food, and regains his position as leader.

Elsewhere, in another reference to 911, our Cylons are sticking photos of dead loved ones and comrades onto a Ground Zero wall of rememberance on the Galactica; which is touching but separate from the ones the humans are using. Mourning is no healing process. It's one more marker in the gulf between two species who actually have so much in common.

Gaius Baltar

BSG Season 4.5 Episode 1 review: Sometimes A Great Notion
BSG Season 4.5 Episode 3 review: The Oath

List of Battlestar Galactica (reimagined series) episodes here
Screen Junkies' excellent and thorough BSG recap and flowchart!

Battlestar Galactica Ep 6, 4.5 review: Deadlock

Cylons Sharon/Boomer Eight and Caprica Six

SPOILER ALERT Look away now.

Written by Buffy veteran Jane Espenson, Deadlock, Episode 6 of 10, brings Ellen Tigh back to Galactica’s crippled fleet, now carrying 39,556 surviving humans with no prospect of sanctuary.

Dead alcoholic Ellen was revealed in the first episode of the series to be the Mother of the 13th Cylon Tribe. Revived and tidied up in last week's episode, she had displayed the powerful side of her character when confronting Brother “Jon” Cavil (Cylon model Two) over his determination to wipe out the humans. She’s now delivered by one of the Boomers (Cylon model Eight) to the Galactica. With food running out and tempers high, the old ships aren’t the only things falling apart from wear and stress. As Gaius Baltar later observes, starving humans don’t make for a mutiny, they make a revolution.

But far from representing hope, this particular “revolution” is a venting mechanism for all the humans’ fears and frustrations and of course, the Cylon outsiders are the obvious scapegoats even though they are providing the stricken ships with superior technology to get them out of their current mess. Admiral Adama and President Roslin are at a loss what to do. It’s interesting that in this post-911 allegory, with its critique of the War on Terror, our sympathy is orientated towards the military and political leadership — representing stability, order among chaos — caught between the threat of imminent detection and obliteration by Brother Cavil’s Cylon army (al Qaeda, as some have suggested), and the humans on auto-destruct (civil unrest at home).

Despite a major personality and grooming make-over, the dipso maneater of old is still at Ellen’s core. She informs Admiral Bill Adama and his officers that Brother Cavil intends to rebuild the Resurrection Ship which recreates Cylons when they die and which our heroes had managed to destroy. But before her husband, Colonel Tigh (revealed previously as a reluctant Cylon), can tell her, “I made Caprica Six pregnant”, she’s shagging him on the table, his eyepatch and cares tossed to the stellar winds.

They've been doing this for thousands of years throughout their numerous reincarnations. So when Ellen does find out that there’s a Cylon baby on the way, instead of greeting this as an evolutionary marvel that will ensure the continuation of their species without the Resurrection ship, she gets jealous. Hmm, not so enlightened and omniscient, after all. As she reminds him and us, she and Tigh created Six all those thousands of years before. She eventually makes her peace with them.

Caprica Six yearns to be “pure and safe". Sensing danger, she and Boomer propose to the Cylons that they escape by taking the base ship. Tigh and Sam, still ill from a bullet wound to the head, oppose the move.

The tension takes its toll and Caprica Six loses the baby. With procreation no longer a viable alternative, the survival of the species will depend on the return of the Resurrection ship.

Ellen and Colonel Saul Tigh

The writers are still having fun with Gaius Baltar who is as slimy and self-preserving as ever. Providing a darkly comic commentary on the absurdities of ruddereless humanity under threat, his every selfish action is (mis)interpreted by his cult followers as being of supreme spiritual significance, reflecting life as it is and not as it should be, as well as chucking in an homage to Life of Brian.

This week Gaius has to find a way to scupper the female leader who emerged during his absence when he ran away to save himself, and whose qualities of smarts, courage and tactical thinking he recognises as a threat to his position as top dog among the airheads and losers who make up his troup of female acolytes.

Gaius rails against the Cylons, even though his phantom internal Six is back as his guiding light. He acquires superior weaponry, enabling his women to fight off a male cult that's been stealing their food, and regains his position as leader.

Elsewhere, in another reference to 911, our Cylons are sticking photos of dead loved ones and comrades onto a Ground Zero wall of rememberance on the Galactica; which is touching but separate from the ones the humans are using. Mourning is no healing process. It's one more marker in the gulf between two species who actually have so much in common.

Gaius Baltar

BSG Season 4.5 Episode 1 review: Sometimes A Great Notion
BSG Season 4.5 Episode 3 review: The Oath

List of Battlestar Galactica (reimagined series) episodes here
Screen Junkies' excellent and thorough BSG recap and flowchart!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Jade Goody Killed by the Big Brother that made her


I feel very sorry for Jade Goody. Dying from cancer at a pitifully early age and in the public eye is not a fate I’d wish on any hapless entertainer. There's clear class conflict going on here with a lucky member of the "underclass" (tabloidese for bottom of the working class) made famous, given riches, then chewed up and spat out, for our edification. Let this be a lesson for aspiring chavs: don’t get above yourselves.

The idiot agent who encouraged her to return to the Big Brother house, like Ayesha walking back into the flames that gave her immortality in She, has as good as killed her.

For some, being “fick” is schtick; for Jade and her tribe, it’s the way they are, testimony to our fabulous class-free education system. Without friendly editors on the job, Jade was doomed. Come in number Epsilon, your fifteen minutes is up.

Yes, we know it was wrong for Jade and her undereducated family to unleash race-fuelled spite at Shilpa Shetty as the pressure on the reality show ratcheted up. And it was a joy to see Britons condemning her for her bullying. But she wasn’t Bernard Manning or Richard Littlejohn, and this wasn’t a capital offence. Such was the shock of the whole entertainment machine turning on this stupid but normally amiable woman, with a viciousness usually reserved for murderers and rapists, that it probably triggered her fatal illness.

We knew she was fick. Why were we surprised when she acted fick? She was no-where as sharp as fellow housemate Carole Malone who, channeling the spirit of Iago, began to poison the atmosphere against Shilpa when Malone was up for eviction. Accordingly, Malone’s acolyte, the dumb WAG whose name thankfully escapes me, diverted her hurt at the imminent loss of Queen Bee and mother figure on to the named party. Jade tried to offer solidarity and comfort to her mate using the only way they knew how: target the person who’s most different, with a lot more style, better-looking, and looking hot to win, define her as Other and keep snapping away at her like a pack of yappy dogs around a hobbled panther. Meanwhile, the smarter women on the show slipped the shiv into Shilpa far more deftly while other housemates bravely turned a blind eye. (Before we get all complacent, this was the same dynamic I saw at work in the left and in the SWP in particular.)

The sad thing is that, unlike more cynical performers who’ve had to seek redemption through charitable works, Jade took the subsequent onslaught to heart. Shilpa was impressive and offered a hand of kindness that was allowing Jade to learn. Having had all her windows smashed, her income drying up, finding herself suddenly a national object of shame and hate, Jade tried to learn by going to India and overcoming her fear of “abroad”. She didn’t do too well, what with her colossal cargo of ignorance sabotaging every move she made, but in her oafish way she was trying.

So now it’s terminal and she’s trying to gather as much dosh as possible in a world that runs on money for those she leaves behind. Who can blame her? With a world-wide depression with no end staring us in the face, would you turn it down if your death might save your family? Look at the role models she’s had in her short life, the example set by that dignity and decorum-free zone, two of the greediest bastards ever to occupy Number Ten Downing Street, f’rinstance. But, no, let’s not get angry with the educated posh men and women making money from a war they started and who presided over the looting of Britain. Let’s get the funny stupid slag who showed us her kebab and enjoy the snuff-fest.

Jade Goody is the distillation of everything this society admires: the worship of money and fame. That is a cancer in itself. There is something horrific and yet fitting about her end: death as entertainment. It is sad that she was wafted in on a circus and now exits the same way, but I can’t condemn the poor girl at the centre of it. She’s never had power over her miserable life and now she’s losing it. The lesson I draw is that we need to have a complete shift in our values, and build something better where no-one has to prostitute themselves in any capacity.

For another perspective, see Hagley Road.

Item picked up by France 24 The Observers

Jade Goody Killed by the Big Brother that made her


I feel very sorry for Jade Goody. Dying from cancer at a pitifully early age and in the public eye is not a fate I’d wish on any hapless entertainer. There's clear class conflict going on here with a lucky member of the "underclass" (tabloidese for bottom of the working class) made famous, given riches, then chewed up and spat out, for our edification. Let this be a lesson for aspiring chavs: don’t get above yourselves.

The idiot agent who encouraged her to return to the Big Brother house, like Ayesha walking back into the flames that gave her immortality in She, has as good as killed her.

For some, being “fick” is schtick; for Jade and her tribe, it’s the way they are, testimony to our fabulous class-free education system. Without friendly editors on the job, Jade was doomed. Come in number Epsilon, your fifteen minutes is up.

Yes, we know it was wrong for Jade and her undereducated family to unleash race-fuelled spite at Shilpa Shetty as the pressure on the reality show ratcheted up. And it was a joy to see Britons condemning her for her bullying. But she wasn’t Bernard Manning or Richard Littlejohn, and this wasn’t a capital offence. Such was the shock of the whole entertainment machine turning on this stupid but normally amiable woman, with a viciousness usually reserved for murderers and rapists, that it probably triggered her fatal illness.

We knew she was fick. Why were we surprised when she acted fick? She was no-where as sharp as fellow housemate Carole Malone who, channeling the spirit of Iago, began to poison the atmosphere against Shilpa when Malone was up for eviction. Accordingly, Malone’s acolyte, the dumb WAG whose name thankfully escapes me, diverted her hurt at the imminent loss of Queen Bee and mother figure on to the named party. Jade tried to offer solidarity and comfort to her mate using the only way they knew how: target the person who’s most different, with a lot more style, better-looking, and looking hot to win, define her as Other and keep snapping away at her like a pack of yappy dogs around a hobbled panther. Meanwhile, the smarter women on the show slipped the shiv into Shilpa far more deftly while other housemates bravely turned a blind eye. (Before we get all complacent, this was the same dynamic I saw at work in the left and in the SWP in particular.)

The sad thing is that, unlike more cynical performers who’ve had to seek redemption through charitable works, Jade took the subsequent onslaught to heart. Shilpa was impressive and offered a hand of kindness that was allowing Jade to learn. Having had all her windows smashed, her income drying up, finding herself suddenly a national object of shame and hate, Jade tried to learn by going to India and overcoming her fear of “abroad”. She didn’t do too well, what with her colossal cargo of ignorance sabotaging every move she made, but in her oafish way she was trying.

So now it’s terminal and she’s trying to gather as much dosh as possible in a world that runs on money for those she leaves behind. Who can blame her? With a world-wide depression with no end staring us in the face, would you turn it down if your death might save your family? Look at the role models she’s had in her short life, the example set by that dignity and decorum-free zone, two of the greediest bastards ever to occupy Number Ten Downing Street, f’rinstance. But, no, let’s not get angry with the educated posh men and women making money from a war they started and who presided over the looting of Britain. Let’s get the funny stupid slag who showed us her kebab and enjoy the snuff-fest.

Jade Goody is the distillation of everything this society admires: the worship of money and fame. That is a cancer in itself. There is something horrific and yet fitting about her end: death as entertainment. It is sad that she was wafted in on a circus and now exits the same way, but I can’t condemn the poor girl at the centre of it. She’s never had power over her miserable life and now she’s losing it. The lesson I draw is that we need to have a complete shift in our values, and build something better where no-one has to prostitute themselves in any capacity.

For another perspective, see Hagley Road.

Item picked up by France 24 The Observers

Friday, 20 February 2009

Morecambe Bay disaster poem: how charity works


Having been invited to participate in a fund-raising event commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay disaster (5th February), I was going to write something about it here.

But seeing how it was derailed from its original purpose by power and money, not to mention the power of money, I've thought long and hard about the role of charity in blinding us to the issues and maintaining the status quo.

It was to be a star-studded gala full of high-rolling movers and shakers. But the idea of reading out letters from the orphaned children of the victims to an audience largely composed of the Establishment who make these rules and set the agenda, made me feel ill. After all, aren't I supposed to be comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable and not the other way round? I spent a sleepless night wondering if I could stand there onstage and make the powerful feel good about themselves. Images of Malcolm McDowell in the last reel of If abounded. I decided to withdraw.

Although the charity doubled its target and the survivors' children are assured of an education until the age of 20, something the charity should rightly be proud of, the original aim of the event was to also raise awareness about unauthorised workers and so try to prevent future Morecambe Bays occurring. Human history is a history of migration. Yet while capital knows no frontiers and is allowed to go anywhere in the world in pursuit of cheap labour, labour must stay home and starve. But this perspective was dropped and the planned presswork suddenly stopped as other interests took over.

My instinct proved right when I read one of the articles put out by the wealthy acting spokesperson of the charity, a Chinese entrepreneur, in which he called for a halt to "'aspiring' illegal immigrants" leaving China; stated that Britain has zero tolerance towards economic migrants, which is a bit of an insult to the British; and telling the Chinese associations their job is to dissuade Chinese from coming here. What wasn't said is that this applies to poor Chinese. If you are rich, the world is your oyster and you can go where you like. As does the author of the article.

So I wrote this poem.

I Am Rich and You Are Poor
Lines on dead Chinese workers and their rich benefactors
February 2009

I am rich and you are poor,
I travel, you seek a foreign shore,
You have needs but I have more.
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

The world’s an oyster, a wondrous thing,
Find the pearl, make an angel sing,
To swinish herds it’s all just bling
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I’ve news for you, I’ll beg, implore,
You aren’t walking through that door,
You figure what frontiers are for.
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I am rich and you are skint
You slave for pennies, I made a mint
This world loves those who’re carved from flint
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I weep for you, I sympathise
Look, tears are welling in my eyes
You’re coming here to seek the prize,
But tales of gold are pretty lies
You want to be where you’re despised?
You’ll be lucky if you’re serving fries,
Yes, me, well I have cash to buy
Whatever I want, I get to fly

Not hide in a truck, rolling in muck
Relying on luck to make a buck
Stuck in a rut with the doors all shut
Banging on gates and the ladder pulled up.
Sucked down in the sands
You ebb with the tides
White under the moon
You shine in the sea

I am rich and you are poor
Bottom of the barrel while I’m top drawer.
I will help you stay where you are
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I am rich, you’re stony broke
I am special, you’re an anonymous bloke
We’ll only love, respect, honour, support, hold you, care for your loved ones, when you croak
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

STOP PRESS: Marina Hyde's trenchant take on charity and the Fortune Forum which proposes tax cuts for the rich to help the poor.

Morecambe Bay disaster poem: how charity works


Having been invited to participate in a fund-raising event commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay disaster (5th February), I was going to write something about it here.

But seeing how it was derailed from its original purpose by power and money, not to mention the power of money, I've thought long and hard about the role of charity in blinding us to the issues and maintaining the status quo.

It was to be a star-studded gala full of high-rolling movers and shakers. But the idea of reading out letters from the orphaned children of the victims to an audience largely composed of the Establishment who make these rules and set the agenda, made me feel ill. After all, aren't I supposed to be comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable and not the other way round? I spent a sleepless night wondering if I could stand there onstage and make the powerful feel good about themselves. Images of Malcolm McDowell in the last reel of If abounded. I decided to withdraw.

Although the charity doubled its target and the survivors' children are assured of an education until the age of 20, something the charity should rightly be proud of, the original aim of the event was to also raise awareness about unauthorised workers and so try to prevent future Morecambe Bays occurring. Human history is a history of migration. Yet while capital knows no frontiers and is allowed to go anywhere in the world in pursuit of cheap labour, labour must stay home and starve. But this perspective was dropped and the planned presswork suddenly stopped as other interests took over.

My instinct proved right when I read one of the articles put out by the wealthy acting spokesperson of the charity, a Chinese entrepreneur, in which he called for a halt to "'aspiring' illegal immigrants" leaving China; stated that Britain has zero tolerance towards economic migrants, which is a bit of an insult to the British; and telling the Chinese associations their job is to dissuade Chinese from coming here. What wasn't said is that this applies to poor Chinese. If you are rich, the world is your oyster and you can go where you like. As does the author of the article.

So I wrote this poem.

I Am Rich and You Are Poor
Lines on dead Chinese workers and their rich benefactors
February 2009

I am rich and you are poor,
I travel, you seek a foreign shore,
You have needs but I have more.
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

The world’s an oyster, a wondrous thing,
Find the pearl, make an angel sing,
To swinish herds it’s all just bling
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I’ve news for you, I’ll beg, implore,
You aren’t walking through that door,
You figure what frontiers are for.
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I am rich and you are skint
You slave for pennies, I made a mint
This world loves those who’re carved from flint
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I weep for you, I sympathise
Look, tears are welling in my eyes
You’re coming here to seek the prize,
But tales of gold are pretty lies
You want to be where you’re despised?
You’ll be lucky if you’re serving fries,
Yes, me, well I have cash to buy
Whatever I want, I get to fly

Not hide in a truck, rolling in muck
Relying on luck to make a buck
Stuck in a rut with the doors all shut
Banging on gates and the ladder pulled up.
Sucked down in the sands
You ebb with the tides
White under the moon
You shine in the sea

I am rich and you are poor
Bottom of the barrel while I’m top drawer.
I will help you stay where you are
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

I am rich, you’re stony broke
I am special, you’re an anonymous bloke
We’ll only love, respect, honour, support, hold you, care for your loved ones, when you croak
Hey, let’s all give to charidee

STOP PRESS: Marina Hyde's trenchant take on charity and the Fortune Forum which proposes tax cuts for the rich to help the poor.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Resonance FM Lucky Cat: Madam Miaow on the radio

Zoe Baxter, Merlene Emerson, MM

Zoe Baxter, MM, Jasper Sharp

Had a great time last hosting the weekly Lucky Cat hour at Resonance 104.4FM last night thanks to my guests Merlene Emerson and Jasper Sharp, and Zoe Baxter who invited me along and drove the desk.

Pix above of us celebrating our triumph, dwahlinks, in the local bar afterwards. Hmm, I need to work up a good moody face. Hey, what's that glow out the top of my head?

Resonance FM Lucky Cat: Madam Miaow on the radio

Zoe Baxter, Merlene Emerson, MM

Zoe Baxter, MM, Jasper Sharp

Had a great time last hosting the weekly Lucky Cat hour at Resonance 104.4FM last night thanks to my guests Merlene Emerson and Jasper Sharp, and Zoe Baxter who invited me along and drove the desk.

Pix above of us celebrating our triumph, dwahlinks, in the local bar afterwards. Hmm, I need to work up a good moody face. Hey, what's that glow out the top of my head?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Lucky Cat: Madam Miaow on Resonance 104.4FM Tonight


Madam Miaow, AKA Anna Chen, takes over the Lucky Cat hour on London radio station Resonance FM at 9pm tonight Tuesday 10th February, bringing cultural and political chat into your home. Not that my usual sophistimicated readers require my witteration to refundicate their erudition on home turf. Would I even think that?

I’ll be talking about a range of topics from Anna May Wong — including material I didn’t have time to cover in my recent Radio 4 profile of the Hollywood legend — to the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay disaster when 23 Chinese cocklepickers died in icy waters off the north east coast of England.

What happened to the surviving families? How does the status of the unauthorised workers contribute to their vulnerability, and what can the government do to ensure there are no more tragedies like Morecambe Bay waiting to happen? How does the slogan, “British Jobs For British Workers” impact on these migrant workers?

My guests are Jasper Sharp — east Asian film expert — and Merlene Emerson who has helped raise funds for the victims' families and campaigns on migrants rights in the UK.

You can join in by phoning in: 0207 407 1210

Resonance 104.4 fm is the world’s first radio art station, established by London Musicians’ Collective. It provides a radical alternative to the universal formulae of mainstream broadcasting and does it brilliantly.

You can listen live to Resonance over the Internet worldwide in two formats: Real Audio and MP3 (at high quality for broadband and low quality for dial-up). Either click on the MP3 or Real Audio links on the website frontpage or click on the listen page for more information.


Thanks to Zoe Baxter who normally hosts Lucky Cat

Lucky Cat: Madam Miaow on Resonance 104.4FM Tonight


Madam Miaow, AKA Anna Chen, takes over the Lucky Cat hour on London radio station Resonance FM at 9pm tonight Tuesday 10th February, bringing cultural and political chat into your home. Not that my usual sophistimicated readers require my witteration to refundicate their erudition on home turf. Would I even think that?

I’ll be talking about a range of topics from Anna May Wong — including material I didn’t have time to cover in my recent Radio 4 profile of the Hollywood legend — to the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay disaster when 23 Chinese cocklepickers died in icy waters off the north east coast of England.

What happened to the surviving families? How does the status of the unauthorised workers contribute to their vulnerability, and what can the government do to ensure there are no more tragedies like Morecambe Bay waiting to happen? How does the slogan, “British Jobs For British Workers” impact on these migrant workers?

My guests are Jasper Sharp — east Asian film expert — and Merlene Emerson who has helped raise funds for the victims' families and campaigns on migrants rights in the UK.

You can join in by phoning in: 0207 407 1210

Resonance 104.4 fm is the world’s first radio art station, established by London Musicians’ Collective. It provides a radical alternative to the universal formulae of mainstream broadcasting and does it brilliantly.

You can listen live to Resonance over the Internet worldwide in two formats: Real Audio and MP3 (at high quality for broadband and low quality for dial-up). Either click on the MP3 or Real Audio links on the website frontpage or click on the listen page for more information.


Thanks to Zoe Baxter who normally hosts Lucky Cat

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Delta Blues: MC5 guru John Sinclair jams with Charles Shaar Murray

John Sinclair

A collectors' item and UK exclusive at Madam Miaow's. Author, journalist and one-time New Musical Express gunslinger Charles Shaar Murray on blues guitar gets down and dirty with legendary John Sinclair, beat poet and former manager of the MC5.

John is performing his poem, The Delta Blues. CSM is playing an old Hofner arch-top wood-bodied acoustic tuned to open G.

Recorded January 2009 in north London for John's radio show. Only up for seven days so download now.

John will soon be performing again in the UK. Check John's blog for dates.

Charles Shaar Murray

The Delta Blues: MC5 guru John Sinclair jams with Charles Shaar Murray

John Sinclair

A collectors' item and UK exclusive at Madam Miaow's. Author, journalist and one-time New Musical Express gunslinger Charles Shaar Murray on blues guitar gets down and dirty with legendary John Sinclair, beat poet and former manager of the MC5.

John is performing his poem, The Delta Blues. CSM is playing an old Hofner arch-top wood-bodied acoustic tuned to open G.

Recorded January 2009 in north London for John's radio show. Only up for seven days so download now.

John will soon be performing again in the UK. Check John's blog for dates.

Charles Shaar Murray

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Greased Up And Ready To Go: short story by Madam Miaow


Private Eye just gave the most damning review to an anthology of chick lit called In Bed With, which is supposed to be all about sex. “No crass wordplay or creamy cliche goes away unbludgeoned. Bushes get trimmed, the word ‘come’ is mutilated beyond recognition, chests are always ample and curves glorious.” I thought, hmm, I can do that.

So they finally greased her up and threw her over the prison yard wall.

She’d heard of this fabled activity so often in her life, as have we all. A strange unlikely event that only happens in bar-room banter and TV comedy scripts. Yet here she was.

Naked.

Shivering in her fresh bikini wax and three hundred dollar haircut.

Oiled.

Waiting.

She’d paid her five thousand dollars to the organisation she’d found on the internet. Oh, yes, she’d eventually succumbed to the inevitable despite years of tutting at the plethora of sex that threatened to overwhelm her family, just like every other nice middle-class mother with kids about to graduate. But with a husband who’d long ago abandoned passion, she’d been vulnerable. Like an overwound elastic band, something had to snap.

She’d sighed as she remembered the early days, when sex was urgent and went on all night and they’d slept into the afternoon. Then they married and, what with jobs and practical day-to-day matters, sex had settled to a pleasant twice a week. Then the twice a week had halved. A bad chest infection that lasted all winter had provided an excuse for a drop to monthly forays into the world of sensuality — they’d never gotten back into the swing of things after she’d nursed him back to health. And then it had stopped. Except for Christmas and birthday treats. And even then ... ye gods! Three minutes? Yes. She had timed it.

Cookery was her favourite way to fill the void. You kill the dying hours preparing the meal and then you get to eat it. At least her mouth was having a good time. Food was her obsession and she had the love handles to prove it, even if there was no love to put them to good use. Internet searches for recipes occasionally led to those sites where some poor soul’s lost daughters and errant sons disported themselves shamelessly. Who’d have thought that sandwiches, cream pies and the humble roast could have laid the way to such loathsome degredation?

At first the paysites kept her out. Who in their right mind leaves a credit-card trail leading back to their upstanding lives and their real identity? Christ! She was chair of the PTA, after all. Then the free porn gathered in wave after wave and washed up on her dry sandy beach. Fear of discovery and discoveries subsided under something stronger. Driven by curiosity, she told herself, her fingers had slipped inexorably, first to the laptop keyboard where swift eager keystrokes soon took her to her chosen destination, and then to her own lap and shuddering dissatisfaction.

They say your sexuality only gets stronger as you grow older. If you are a woman. What sort of cosmic joke was this? Peaking at fifty for womankind, men are left trailing from seventeen. Where the hell are you supposed to cross over? She did the maths and wept. Then she clicked on the link that had been calling to her these past months.

Ecce femina!

She stood there, arms outstretched and waited to be overwhelmed and overpowered by sheer unbridled male sexuality. Men denied the most basic satisfaction, tortured by forced abstinence for years with no prospect of relief, riven by deep subterranean urges stoking up like magma under Mount St Helens. She wanted to be there when it blew, to feel it blast right through her, to be taken to a realm she had dreamt of so often, where fears and guilt fell under primal grunting drives. To be greased and slippy not knowing who was doing what to her where or why and, oh, mama, am I a bad girl who deserves a whupping coz I bin dirty?

The men blinked.

Some went back to their conversations about the state of the food, if that’s what you call it, when their parole was due, and what a bitch she was, no sooner was he thrown into the jammer when she’d gone off with her cousin like he always knew she would. Living in Chicago, but, heh, he’d find ‘em when he got out. Which, due to the body count in the basement, wouldn’t be any time soon.

Others began to work out with Pythagorean maths the viablity of breaking out and drew sketches in the dust. Hey, if someone could get in so easily, surely they could get out.

“Jeez, looks like a sow,” someone said.

“Heck, I’m married. Old lady’d kill me.”

“I might be tempted if you was a buck, but we got plenty of them in here. All you can eat, ‘specially on shower days.”

“Hey, last time ah saw a woman naked I’d just strangled her.” Then louder for the guard, “‘Cept it wasn’t me. That’s what ma lawyer says.”

One huddle of bredren called upon the almighty to smite the Jezabel thrown into their midst as a supreme test which they were up to. Oh, yes, they were up to it all right and would not fail. The more they were up to it the bigger the test and the greater the glory of heaven, o lord.

“Here, sister,” said the Christian, averting his eyes. “Have my jacket. Are you saved?”

Maybe she should have asked for the “trussed up like a chicken” extra. A bargain at five hundred dollars down from a grand if you ordered within the fourteen day sale period. But she’d be needing her hands and so she'd declined.

She threw off the grey denim he was draping around her shoulders, hitching it up each time it slid off her oil-slick flesh .

“Hey. Hey! What is wrong with you? Hey, you with the jacket. Don’t look away. Look at ME! No, not into my beautiful baby blues. Look at me — here!”

Fifty pairs of eyes looked where she directed.

“Oh, I hate it when they look freshy plucked like that.”

She dropped her fists onto her hips. She was angry now.

“What they do? Put bromide in your coffee?”

“Damn sure yells like my old woman. You got a light, lady?”

“Where’d you expect me to keep matches? Oh, yeah, sure. I got a Zippo stashed away. Why don’tcha come and look for it?”

An elderly guard rushed across from the tower, clutching his gun to his chest and tugging his cap down firmly to reinforce his authority. Stumbling to the scene of the excitment-free zone, he chattered into his radio: “Chuck, we got us another one.”

“You all come here like you’re Catherine The Nerve or Belle du frickin' Jour or some sort of Eurotrash prevert,” said the Governor in his office. She perched on the chair on an old denim shirt someone had had the caution to throw over it first, sipping a glass of water, looking like a schoolgirl in front of the principle. “Them French. Damn degenerates. Gimme Liberty fries any day. I’m a hard working Joe with a job to do. And you come in here disturbing my prisoners? Some of them are sensitive. Now, go home.”

She walked back through the prison, past the prisoners filing in after their exercise break, and out through the front gate.

I am SO getting a refund, she promised herself.

[copyright applies]

Greased Up And Ready To Go: short story by Madam Miaow


Private Eye just gave the most damning review to an anthology of chick lit called In Bed With, which is supposed to be all about sex. “No crass wordplay or creamy cliche goes away unbludgeoned. Bushes get trimmed, the word ‘come’ is mutilated beyond recognition, chests are always ample and curves glorious.” I thought, hmm, I can do that.

So they finally greased her up and threw her over the prison yard wall.

She’d heard of this fabled activity so often in her life, as have we all. A strange unlikely event that only happens in bar-room banter and TV comedy scripts. Yet here she was.

Naked.

Shivering in her fresh bikini wax and three hundred dollar haircut.

Oiled.

Waiting.

She’d paid her five thousand dollars to the organisation she’d found on the internet. Oh, yes, she’d eventually succumbed to the inevitable despite years of tutting at the plethora of sex that threatened to overwhelm her family, just like every other nice middle-class mother with kids about to graduate. But with a husband who’d long ago abandoned passion, she’d been vulnerable. Like an overwound elastic band, something had to snap.

She’d sighed as she remembered the early days, when sex was urgent and went on all night and they’d slept into the afternoon. Then they married and, what with jobs and practical day-to-day matters, sex had settled to a pleasant twice a week. Then the twice a week had halved. A bad chest infection that lasted all winter had provided an excuse for a drop to monthly forays into the world of sensuality — they’d never gotten back into the swing of things after she’d nursed him back to health. And then it had stopped. Except for Christmas and birthday treats. And even then ... ye gods! Three minutes? Yes. She had timed it.

Cookery was her favourite way to fill the void. You kill the dying hours preparing the meal and then you get to eat it. At least her mouth was having a good time. Food was her obsession and she had the love handles to prove it, even if there was no love to put them to good use. Internet searches for recipes occasionally led to those sites where some poor soul’s lost daughters and errant sons disported themselves shamelessly. Who’d have thought that sandwiches, cream pies and the humble roast could have laid the way to such loathsome degredation?

At first the paysites kept her out. Who in their right mind leaves a credit-card trail leading back to their upstanding lives and their real identity? Christ! She was chair of the PTA, after all. Then the free porn gathered in wave after wave and washed up on her dry sandy beach. Fear of discovery and discoveries subsided under something stronger. Driven by curiosity, she told herself, her fingers had slipped inexorably, first to the laptop keyboard where swift eager keystrokes soon took her to her chosen destination, and then to her own lap and shuddering dissatisfaction.

They say your sexuality only gets stronger as you grow older. If you are a woman. What sort of cosmic joke was this? Peaking at fifty for womankind, men are left trailing from seventeen. Where the hell are you supposed to cross over? She did the maths and wept. Then she clicked on the link that had been calling to her these past months.

Ecce femina!

She stood there, arms outstretched and waited to be overwhelmed and overpowered by sheer unbridled male sexuality. Men denied the most basic satisfaction, tortured by forced abstinence for years with no prospect of relief, riven by deep subterranean urges stoking up like magma under Mount St Helens. She wanted to be there when it blew, to feel it blast right through her, to be taken to a realm she had dreamt of so often, where fears and guilt fell under primal grunting drives. To be greased and slippy not knowing who was doing what to her where or why and, oh, mama, am I a bad girl who deserves a whupping coz I bin dirty?

The men blinked.

Some went back to their conversations about the state of the food, if that’s what you call it, when their parole was due, and what a bitch she was, no sooner was he thrown into the jammer when she’d gone off with her cousin like he always knew she would. Living in Chicago, but, heh, he’d find ‘em when he got out. Which, due to the body count in the basement, wouldn’t be any time soon.

Others began to work out with Pythagorean maths the viablity of breaking out and drew sketches in the dust. Hey, if someone could get in so easily, surely they could get out.

“Jeez, looks like a sow,” someone said.

“Heck, I’m married. Old lady’d kill me.”

“I might be tempted if you was a buck, but we got plenty of them in here. All you can eat, ‘specially on shower days.”

“Hey, last time ah saw a woman naked I’d just strangled her.” Then louder for the guard, “‘Cept it wasn’t me. That’s what ma lawyer says.”

One huddle of bredren called upon the almighty to smite the Jezabel thrown into their midst as a supreme test which they were up to. Oh, yes, they were up to it all right and would not fail. The more they were up to it the bigger the test and the greater the glory of heaven, o lord.

“Here, sister,” said the Christian, averting his eyes. “Have my jacket. Are you saved?”

Maybe she should have asked for the “trussed up like a chicken” extra. A bargain at five hundred dollars down from a grand if you ordered within the fourteen day sale period. But she’d be needing her hands and so she'd declined.

She threw off the grey denim he was draping around her shoulders, hitching it up each time it slid off her oil-slick flesh .

“Hey. Hey! What is wrong with you? Hey, you with the jacket. Don’t look away. Look at ME! No, not into my beautiful baby blues. Look at me — here!”

Fifty pairs of eyes looked where she directed.

“Oh, I hate it when they look freshy plucked like that.”

She dropped her fists onto her hips. She was angry now.

“What they do? Put bromide in your coffee?”

“Damn sure yells like my old woman. You got a light, lady?”

“Where’d you expect me to keep matches? Oh, yeah, sure. I got a Zippo stashed away. Why don’tcha come and look for it?”

An elderly guard rushed across from the tower, clutching his gun to his chest and tugging his cap down firmly to reinforce his authority. Stumbling to the scene of the excitment-free zone, he chattered into his radio: “Chuck, we got us another one.”

“You all come here like you’re Catherine The Nerve or Belle du frickin' Jour or some sort of Eurotrash prevert,” said the Governor in his office. She perched on the chair on an old denim shirt someone had had the caution to throw over it first, sipping a glass of water, looking like a schoolgirl in front of the principle. “Them French. Damn degenerates. Gimme Liberty fries any day. I’m a hard working Joe with a job to do. And you come in here disturbing my prisoners? Some of them are sensitive. Now, go home.”

She walked back through the prison, past the prisoners filing in after their exercise break, and out through the front gate.

I am SO getting a refund, she promised herself.

[copyright applies]

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Battlestar Galactica 4.5 Review: Ep 3 The Oath


SPOILER ALERT

Let us look through a glass darkly and imagine a world where this could happen.

You’re in a pressure cooker with disaster staring you in the face, your dreams dashed, no future, social meltdown. The foreigners in your midst who were once your friends, partners, workmates are now the enemy and have to be destroyed. It’s us or them.

Yup, that’s either us on Planet Earth 2009 or the 39,643 survivors of the human race in the Battlestar Galactica fleet who have started killing each other.

Just as a new era of brother and sisterhood promises to dawn rosily, wouldn’t you know it, fear-fuelled bigotry feeds the demagogues and triggers an uprising that may end in auto-extinction of the species. The four crew who have recently discovered they are the Final Cylons — Colonel Saul Tigh, Chief Galen Tyrol, Lt Sharon “Athena” Agathon, and Ensign Samuel Anders — find themselves personae non grata, and prevented from boarding the fleet’s ships without permission.

This is inconvenient as, with trillium fuel running out, Six has promised the fleet valuable FDL drives. The Quorum parliament is told to toe the line by Admiral Adama’s military leadership desperate for the superior Cylon technology.

Vice President Tom Zarek turns into Dennis Kearney and whips up anti-Cylon hatred into a militant uprising by the civilians and sections of the military led by Lt Felix Gaeta against the interlopers. He uses the “Will of the People” to justify murder and a power grab with the help of Gaeta, bitter about the loss of his leg, effectively rendered by CGI.

All before the opening credits.

In The Oath, Episode 3 of the final series, the pressure is piled on relentlessly as terror of Cylon sabotage become self-fulfilling. You can't miss the irony of the fact that the great destruction they seek to avoid is actually coming from themselves, rotting them from within as the humans lose their humanity and the Cylons gain theirs. Old ties are broken, lovers betrayed. Even ex-girlfriends can’t be trusted. Sam Anders is captured by Diana and her team of kidnappers, bashed up and thrown in the brig.

Athena and her daughter are seized and her human husband, Helo, brutally beaten. One mutineer tells Helo, “You backed the skin-job against your own kind” and threatens to rape his “sweet toaster wife”. For the next few minutes I was transfixed by the image of his big-brain stuck in my four-slice. Driving home that this is an assault on all that is precious and even The Family isn't safe, they are jailed along with Sam and Six.

A former comrade tells Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, "No-one knows what you are any more". Hey, I told you I identified with Starbuck.

On the Colonial One ship, civilians are tooling up. The old lefty call to arms “whose side are you on?” is now a reactionary rallying cry. Lee Adama, still in the civilian government, is isolated and concerned for his father. Zarek tells Lee, “Honour thy father and be true to your oath” can no longer work when stakes and passions are this high. They fear, not without reason, that Adama’s experiment in democracy is about to end, but the means by which they are challenging his rule is about to result in the fascism they are desperate to avoid.

Kara saves Lee Adama from a murderous rebel crew. But all five Cylons are now in danger.

Back in the brig, Six, pregnant with Tigh’s baby, observes that “the thought that the Cylon race can survive through natural procreation terrifies them”. Their world is so frakked that making love is making war.

On the Galactica, Gaeta’s rebel troops kill Adama’s staff on the bridge. Justifying his actions to a horrified Adama, Gaeta asks why has he worked so faithfully all these years only to take orders from a Cylon.

The fleet tears itself apart. Headless chickens come home to roost and run around shooting each other. Metaphors are mangled, that's how bad it gets. Who’ll retain their integrity? Who’ll panic? Who will abandon their humanity and give in to base instincts? Almost everyone who isn’t a Cylon or already in power, that's who. Is this what the makers of the series envisage? That faced with economic meltdown, environmental disaster on a shrinking planet, and everything else that comes with it, this is how we will respond? It's a gloomy warning we could do with heeding. But why change that habit of a couple of million years?

Gaius Baltar’s base instinct is to leave his adoring harem and run for cover. President Laura Roslin appeals to Baltar’s sense of self-preservation and gets his wireless communication. They both know they are frauds and this is their chance to atone. Bursts of music transmitted deep into the psyches of the entire crew, the same that heralded the revelation to the Final Five Cylons of their true identity, hold out the promise that everyone might eventually recognise their common humanity and stop frakking around. Huh! That'll be the day.

President Roslin broadcasts an appeal: Reject those traitors who would use your fear of the Cylons. She’s cut off before she can finish. Baltar calls Gaeta and reminds him of “our little secret” hidden away. Having forgotten what this is, I can only imagine Gaius has Felix's leg stowed away as some sort of pervy memento.

Tigh and Adama have overpowered their captors and joined forces with Kara and Tyrol. Tyrol arranges an escape craft, but escape to where? Claustrophobia mounts, danger closes in. Will President Roslin, Baltar, Lee, and Kara escape in the Raptor? Gaeta, fully aware of who’s likely to be on the craft, orders it to be destroyed. Tigh and Adama — Cylon and human — stay to fight side by side to the bitter end.

And there we must leave it until next week's exciting instalment of "It's Us, Really!"

BSG Season 4.5 Episode 1 review
BSG Season 4.5 Episode 6 review

Battlestar Galactica 4.5 Review: Ep 3 The Oath


SPOILER ALERT

Let us look through a glass darkly and imagine a world where this could happen.

You’re in a pressure cooker with disaster staring you in the face, your dreams dashed, no future, social meltdown. The foreigners in your midst who were once your friends, partners, workmates are now the enemy and have to be destroyed. It’s us or them.

Yup, that’s either us on Planet Earth 2009 or the 39,643 survivors of the human race in the Battlestar Galactica fleet who have started killing each other.

Just as a new era of brother and sisterhood promises to dawn rosily, wouldn’t you know it, fear-fuelled bigotry feeds the demagogues and triggers an uprising that may end in auto-extinction of the species. The four crew who have recently discovered they are the Final Cylons — Colonel Saul Tigh, Chief Galen Tyrol, Lt Sharon “Athena” Agathon, and Ensign Samuel Anders — find themselves personae non grata, and prevented from boarding the fleet’s ships without permission.

This is inconvenient as, with trillium fuel running out, Six has promised the fleet valuable FDL drives. The Quorum parliament is told to toe the line by Admiral Adama’s military leadership desperate for the superior Cylon technology.

Vice President Tom Zarek turns into Dennis Kearney and whips up anti-Cylon hatred into a militant uprising by the civilians and sections of the military led by Lt Felix Gaeta against the interlopers. He uses the “Will of the People” to justify murder and a power grab with the help of Gaeta, bitter about the loss of his leg, effectively rendered by CGI.

All before the opening credits.

In The Oath, Episode 3 of the final series, the pressure is piled on relentlessly as terror of Cylon sabotage become self-fulfilling. You can't miss the irony of the fact that the great destruction they seek to avoid is actually coming from themselves, rotting them from within as the humans lose their humanity and the Cylons gain theirs. Old ties are broken, lovers betrayed. Even ex-girlfriends can’t be trusted. Sam Anders is captured by Diana and her team of kidnappers, bashed up and thrown in the brig.

Athena and her daughter are seized and her human husband, Helo, brutally beaten. One mutineer tells Helo, “You backed the skin-job against your own kind” and threatens to rape his “sweet toaster wife”. For the next few minutes I was transfixed by the image of his big-brain stuck in my four-slice. Driving home that this is an assault on all that is precious and even The Family isn't safe, they are jailed along with Sam and Six.

A former comrade tells Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, "No-one knows what you are any more". Hey, I told you I identified with Starbuck.

On the Colonial One ship, civilians are tooling up. The old lefty call to arms “whose side are you on?” is now a reactionary rallying cry. Lee Adama, still in the civilian government, is isolated and concerned for his father. Zarek tells Lee, “Honour thy father and be true to your oath” can no longer work when stakes and passions are this high. They fear, not without reason, that Adama’s experiment in democracy is about to end, but the means by which they are challenging his rule is about to result in the fascism they are desperate to avoid.

Kara saves Lee Adama from a murderous rebel crew. But all five Cylons are now in danger.

Back in the brig, Six, pregnant with Tigh’s baby, observes that “the thought that the Cylon race can survive through natural procreation terrifies them”. Their world is so frakked that making love is making war.

On the Galactica, Gaeta’s rebel troops kill Adama’s staff on the bridge. Justifying his actions to a horrified Adama, Gaeta asks why has he worked so faithfully all these years only to take orders from a Cylon.

The fleet tears itself apart. Headless chickens come home to roost and run around shooting each other. Metaphors are mangled, that's how bad it gets. Who’ll retain their integrity? Who’ll panic? Who will abandon their humanity and give in to base instincts? Almost everyone who isn’t a Cylon or already in power, that's who. Is this what the makers of the series envisage? That faced with economic meltdown, environmental disaster on a shrinking planet, and everything else that comes with it, this is how we will respond? It's a gloomy warning we could do with heeding. But why change that habit of a couple of million years?

Gaius Baltar’s base instinct is to leave his adoring harem and run for cover. President Laura Roslin appeals to Baltar’s sense of self-preservation and gets his wireless communication. They both know they are frauds and this is their chance to atone. Bursts of music transmitted deep into the psyches of the entire crew, the same that heralded the revelation to the Final Five Cylons of their true identity, hold out the promise that everyone might eventually recognise their common humanity and stop frakking around. Huh! That'll be the day.

President Roslin broadcasts an appeal: Reject those traitors who would use your fear of the Cylons. She’s cut off before she can finish. Baltar calls Gaeta and reminds him of “our little secret” hidden away. Having forgotten what this is, I can only imagine Gaius has Felix's leg stowed away as some sort of pervy memento.

Tigh and Adama have overpowered their captors and joined forces with Kara and Tyrol. Tyrol arranges an escape craft, but escape to where? Claustrophobia mounts, danger closes in. Will President Roslin, Baltar, Lee, and Kara escape in the Raptor? Gaeta, fully aware of who’s likely to be on the craft, orders it to be destroyed. Tigh and Adama — Cylon and human — stay to fight side by side to the bitter end.

And there we must leave it until next week's exciting instalment of "It's Us, Really!"

BSG Season 4.5 Episode 1 review
BSG Season 4.5 Episode 6 review

Monday, 2 February 2009

North London Winter Wonderland: and still it snows

The street, ma-a-an!

This is the view from the front door of my north London flat this morning. It snowed yesterday, it snowed through the night and today it's still snowing.

Such a thick covering of snow is unusual for the capital city, London being far enough south and generating enough heat to melt normal snow flurries in minutes. As picturesque as this is, it's playing havoc with transport. Buses are cancelled, tube and rail badly disrupted.

The economy's screwed, the weather's trying to kill us, we can't travel. This is the End Of Days!

I feel sorry for the strikers having to stand outside all day if it's anywhere near as bad up North.


The gardens

The birds and the squirrels will be having a bad time, too. I've put out dishes of boiling water which should last a while without icing up, and they now have a selection of fat balls (a sad affliction — don't ask!), bird seed and peanuts.

So, guys, while you're taking pizza and solidarity to the protesters, don't forget the wildlife.

North London Winter Wonderland: and still it snows

The street, ma-a-an!

This is the view from the front door of my north London flat this morning. It snowed yesterday, it snowed through the night and today it's still snowing.

Such a thick covering of snow is unusual for the capital city, London being far enough south and generating enough heat to melt normal snow flurries in minutes. As picturesque as this is, it's playing havoc with transport. Buses are cancelled, tube and rail badly disrupted.

The economy's screwed, the weather's trying to kill us, we can't travel. This is the End Of Days!

I feel sorry for the strikers having to stand outside all day if it's anywhere near as bad up North.


The gardens

The birds and the squirrels will be having a bad time, too. I've put out dishes of boiling water which should last a while without icing up, and they now have a selection of fat balls (a sad affliction — don't ask!), bird seed and peanuts.

So, guys, while you're taking pizza and solidarity to the protesters, don't forget the wildlife.

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