True Lies – America The Forgetful Monster

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So, I’m watching this week’s ep of Crisis and the anguished Chief Of Staff exclaims, anguishedly:

“THEY KIDNAPPED CHILDREN?? WHO WOULD DO THAT??”

And I just sat there and thought:

YOU WOULD. YOUR MURDEROUS GOVERNMENT.

You did that when you kidnapped children into Guantanamo and tortured them.

Really, the break between US TV / film and reality is fucking astonishing.

Haunted By Vonnegut

Last week, my bff and I went to London to shop and eat and generally get the fuck out of Derby for a bit.

On Wednesday night, we ended up in my current fave hangout, VQ on Great Russell Street. It got to around 3am and, as things do, we got onto talking about Everett’s MWI of quantum theory. Neither of us are physicists so I apologise to any actual quantum scientists reading this: we were trying to grapple with the non-maths stuff, some of which is quite dark, like quantum immortality. (As an aside, did you know Everett was the father of E from Eels?)

I was trying to explain, as a corollary of squinting at this, that some theorists believe that linear time is an illusion or, perhaps more correctly, a construction of consciousness (for more on this read Julian Barbour’s End Of Time).

I will be trying to explain that I often come unstuck in time, experiencing multiple perspectives and, sometimes, perceptual frameworks that aren’t congruent with the fat, Indian, male sleeve I’m currently wearing.

So, unstuck in time… who else am I going to invoke than dear old Billy Pilgrim? But my mate hadn’t read Slaughterhouse-Five and so I resolved to buy it for her from Forbidden Planet.

Before proceeding, I should point out that I’m an utter atheist. (It’s kind of unavoidable if you’re a dialectical materialist.) Hopefully, I’m not the annoying, prosyletising kind but I will defend the secular and I do see anything spooky, like religion, astrology, homeopathy as irrational. So, I’m not spooky or a hippy or whatever. Though I am a time traveller from another universe, obviously.

The next day, we ended up in Tate Modern. After weeping at several pieces of art which we should not have wept at, we walked into a cafe desert where we saw this:

I prodded her and said, “Look! Kurt’s haunting us!” She was perplexed and slightly freaked-out. But only slightly because, hey, world-famous author, his most famous book. It’s not that unlikely. And the simplest explanation is the same as when you’re thinking of someone and then they text/ring you. All that’s happening there is that you don’t notice all the people you haven’t been thinking of when they ring/text. SCIENCE!

Later on, we headed to Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue. I beelined to the books. I found Vonnegut. YES!

Nope.

Not there. Loads of others, Cat’s Cradle, Sirens Of Titan, Breakfast Of Champions… no Slaughterhouse-Five.

I was crestfallen. It seemed we should find this book. But we didn’t. What kind of cheating tag was the universe playing? Bah.

Then, Friday, we were wasting time in a glacial St. Pancras, wheeling our droids from pointless shop to pointless shop. Easier for me than her because mine has inertial tunnelling and hers is some rustbucket with maglev. Eww. She spots a shop called Hatchard, I don’t know what the fuck it is, it looks a bit boring but she drags me in.

Of course, it’s a book shop. Of course I head to the ‘V’ section. Of course they have only one book from Vonnegut.

Of course, it’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Crowing, I buy it and present it to her on a bed of smug. She is more freaked out now because she chose the shop, she didn’t know it was a book shop, I didn’t want to go in. And there the book was, waiting patiently for us, tapping its nails against thin veneer. What kept you two??

We travel back to Derby, southernmost extent of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion (well, in this universe, in the one on page 21, he made it to Antwerp).

She goes home, I go home.

Yesterday, Sunday, she pops round to talk shite and text boys. We end up watching Linklater’s Boyhood whilst scoffing a Tennessee Ernie Ford quota of KFC.

And, of course, the boy has a conversation about Slaughterhouse-Five.

Of course.

So, in the space of four days, we’ve had not only three Vonnegut experiences, but three Slaughterhouse-Five experiences.

Like me, she routinely travels through nearby pages in the multiverse. Actually, that’s not true. She doesn’t realise that she travels but I’ve seen her do it many times, Cerenkov-gilded eyes blazing. Cups go missing in the interstices, socks divorced. But she’s uncomfortable with non-linear time and has so far been very wary of anyone from Tralfamadore, no matter how naked they are. Even when I tell her time travel is a savage cut, she’s at best disinterested and at worst bellicose.

Now, around about here, you’re probably expecting some great point to this rambling. But, you see, there isn’t one because this isn’t fiction. It happened. So, it’s simultaneously meaningless and dull. Y’know, like when someone tells you their dreams, in exacting and redundant detail.

But don’t worry, I’m not gonna say ‘so it goes.’

Ripper Street Season Three On Amazon

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Finally had the time to catch up with Ripper Street season three, resurrected from the BBC’s brutal, precipitous axe by Amazon.

And I am very pleased so far!

I was worried that the move from the Beeb to Amazon would perforce obligate budgetary constraints, that the Whitechapel they had painstakingly created in the first two series would be shrunk to a few passing shots and polygonally-challenged CGI.

Nope.

It’s all there. The costumes, the sets, the outdoor scenes. All of them are as they were before. So, I’m guessing that they did not lose any of the existing talent in the transfer. The cinematography is still sumptuous and it frames each wonderful actor perfectly.

I can’t help but feel that people at the Beeb must be watching S3 and kicking themselves. There is a charm in having a detective series set in this time. No mobile phones, no googling, no CCTV-ex-machina. All this leaves more room for the actors to explore their characters. Contrarily, I would love to see a future detective yarn in which our brains are squished by heady VR, AR and other tech which is in our infancy now.

Beyond that, I have a warm, fuzzy happiness from seeing these actors together again, sparring and sparking. This is such wonderful work that deserves every recognition. The new curveball of Obsidian Estates, the ponderings on anarchy, the state, the police are simultaneously historical, contemporary and apposite. Most importantly, although it concerns itself with the broader questions of society, RS does not succumb to ISSUE OF THE WEEK-itis that is the pitfall of many modern dramas.

So, if you were chary about Ripper Street on Amazon, please do dip your toe in the river. It has changed but it is the same.

Tapestry

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My fave ep of TNG wavers. Sometimes it’s Inner Light, sometimes it’s Darmok.

Mostly, it’s Tapestry.

If you haven’t seen it, go and watch it. There’ll be no spoilers here.

The weight of it and the majesty of Stewart is what keeps me returning to it. Yes, you will have seen similar stories, It’s A Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day, A Matter Of Life And Death. This is a story we’ve been telling for a long time, probably as long as we’ve been capable of telling stories.

What is a person but the sum of her choices? Every day, every choice she makes, even the tiniest is a deviation from the current universe into another reality. One day, she takes up smoking, fifty years later she dies of emphysema. Another day, she gives up smoking and lives longer, avoiding painful hospital death. And then gets eaten by a shark on holiday with her dentist.

As an old man, years older than when I first saw this ep, there is an extra poignancy in accepting the uncaringly existential nature of life. Through my thirties, I had many regrets concerning my youth. Only as I grew older did I realise, as Picard does, that one cannot love now without loving then.

“There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads – untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads – it unravelled the tapestry of my life.”

Goodbye, Johnny…