Trisha Noble

So, it’s a Saturday so I’m obviously watching Columbo on Channel 5 and the ep is Playback. The baddie is a awesome Oskar Werner and this was probably the first time I saw him if I saw this when I was a kid, his Truffaut turns were unknown to me then.

In the gallery scene, I’m hypnotised by this beautiful actress:

Who is, apparently, Trisha Noble, an Aussie actress. BUT wait, she was also a singer and had many hit records, including two number ones in Australia. Here she is, looking very young:

What a beautiful voice! And she was only seventeen here, bless!

So, she was a successful pop poppet and eventually ended up doing telly and that eventually lead to this appearance in Danger Man in 1966:

She was also in Carry On Camping and I’m pretty sure I remember her fromBuck Rogers In The 25th Century when I was a nipper:

https://youtu.be/bLyb1qQQ-OA?t=17m17s

And then we’re up to where she appears in Columbo:

In 1975, Noble appeared in the Columbo episode “Playback”, where she meets the murderer (played by Oskar Werner) in an art gallery wearing a low-cut dress. She was cast by the director who had spotted her in a party wearing the same dress. (Source)

I’m completely unsurprised that director Bernard Kowalski was as beguiled by her beauty as I am. But, as pretty as she is, it’s her presence as an actress that is electric. Watching her in Columbo and the other titles I’ve managed to find, Noble is an accomplished and powerful actress, whether it’s bawdy comedy, McGoohan-style terse flippancy or the glorious kid-SF of Buck Rogers.

Oh, and she wasn’t done with major films yet. Here she is as Jobal Naberrie:

 Yep, that’s right ~ she’s Padme Amidala’s Mum. Which means that Trisha Noble is Luke and Leia’s Granny!

So, from teenage pop sensation to respected actress who is still now, at the age of 71, doing theatre.

Now that’s a life! 

Nightmare

Last night I had a horrible nightmare where I was trying to fight this monster made out of sliding slabs of stone. It kept blocking my path out of rooms, the noise of it sliding over itself was horrific, like nails on blackboard.

I got so scared I woke up and hugged my wife to me, spooning her like she loves. I could smell her hair, feel the soft plumpness of her hips, her little belly under my hand.

After a while I realised I was dreaming and that she left years ago but I wanted to stay in the dream. So badly.

I woke up alone.

Humans

I’ve been intrigued by the trailers for Humans and the first ep tonight didn’t disappoint me. Where I thought I knew where it would be going, it took a big swerve with the introduction of Colin Morgan’s character and his compatriots.

This series is an adaptation of the original Swedish series Real Humans but truthfully both owe a huge debt to ‘90s SF. Greg Egan’s Permutation City came out twenty-one years ago and, as ever with mainstream culture, it’s only now that TV can deal with the themes and tech that SF dealt with back then. Delving further back, every contemporary film or TV series (Ex Machina, The Machine,Black Mirror White Christmas) seems to have some version of Gibson’sWintermute lurking as an AI baddie. Obviously, Mary Shelley has ultimate dibs on ‘created being kills its creator’ though I prefer my nemeses to be more Arnie metal machine music and less dead-body collage.

Humans at least acknowledges the vast history of fantastical fiction it inhabits in the scene where the ‘synths’ (synthetic humans) are said to be be bound by Asimovs, as in Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. It was a nice touch and probably made many an elderly sci-fi geek like me a little sentimental.

So, because I’ve been loving robots since I was a tiny, tiny child, I find TV/film SF to be too simplistic when it comes to androids. It’s nearly always an excuse for bludgeoning male gaze, handily gorgeous fembots undressing for no narrative reason (hello, Ex Machina) or some kind of wittering about ‘human essence’ or ‘soul’ or other god-bothering bobbins.

Humans doesn’t seem to be falling into any of that so far. Yes, there’s been one sexbot scene already and yes, she was female (why do we never see male sexbots, hmm?) but I don’t feel the scene was too prurient, it was played more to be disturbing, to have the viewer identify with the bot and not the grubby human using her.

Since I’m being utterly spoiler-free, I shan’t talk about plot details but what I can say is that the cast are all tight, on it and beautifully embedded whether they’re playing synths or humans. The Brit lawyer family could be any average Brit family (barring the robot) and it’s the attention the director has paid to setting that up mundanity that makes the intrusion of the synth more believable.

Similarly, I don’t actually know what Colin Morgan’s Leo character is. Is he a synth? Doesn’t sound or act like it but I’m prepared to be surprised – maybe he’s a new model who’s great at looking grizzled and being fancied by every girl I know. That’d be a sure-fire moneymaker.

For the actors playing the synths, Gemma Chan, Ivanno Jeremiah, Emily Berrington, Sope Dirisu, it’s not an easy job. They have to both portray absolute synth-ness and, on occasion, deviations from that. The actor is acting a robot with sentience that’s acting at being a robot without sentience. Gemma Chan, in particular, handled this brilliantly. In ep 1, she created a complex synth character that was simultaneously terrifying and sympathetic, KILLER BOT and Runaway Slave. Which leads me to…

For those of us born with genetic sunblock, Humans will inevitably make us more uncomfortable. We will realise that if this was 150 years ago, we could be the property owned by these whites, we could be harmed or raped or killed and no-one would care because, after all, we aren’t human, we’re just things. And then, of course, we remember that slavery isn’t dead and that human trafficking is a thriving trade but it’s been mostly displaced from our Western eyes.

Humans does what the best of SF does: by changing one thing or saying ‘hey, what if…’ it creates narratives that move beyond middle-class comfort fiction. It holds up a mirror to us and it makes us examine our lives, our societies, our identities and what being human means. Is it flesh? Is it thought? If we create beings who are sentient… will we enslave them? Will we treat them with the inhumanity with which we treat other humans?

I’m looking forward to episode two.

On Thatcher

Hey how are you? I hope you’re doing great. Hey i just saw a post in your blog about Margaret Thatcher and it was quite some time since i wanted to ask you something about her. Look i’m very intrigued about those Thatcher years, and i know somethings obviosly from pop culture but also i have read about that era but i think i don’t get the full picture. I know it was a bad time for middle class and working class people but my question is: how is her figure seen in the present, and most important how was it? to live in the U.K those years? how was the social climate? i know this maybe sound silly but i’m just really curious.
seppuku-en-espanol

I was a teenager when Thatcher was in power in the ‘80s. For my generation, she left deep scars that will never, ever be healed. Obviously, lefties vilify her but even Tories have to acknowledge she was a divisive figure.

She was openly racist:

“If we went on as we are then, by the end of the century, there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.” (Source)

Notice ‘swamped’. Not enriched or enlivened or strengthened or fresh blood: swamped. She was unashamedly xenophobic and set the tone for the ‘80s for Tories. And, through the NF, then BNP and now EDL and UKIP, established a lineage for fascism / racism in UK mainstream politics.

Thatcher is who solidified my hatred of Tories and made me join my first Marxist party. I remember hearing an older comrade sum her up, “She’s a great class fighter but she’s fighting for the ruling class, for the capitalists. I wish we had class fighters like that in the Labour Party leadership on our side.”

Thatcher set out to break the unions because, unlike many so-called socialists, she realised that the unions were the best line of defence for the British working class. With union power unchallenged, how could she attack wages, lower living conditions, create the pool of disenfranchised, desperate unemployed that capital finds optimal?

The crazy thing is that, thinking back, I would have to say that Thatcher understood Marxism better than most left reformists. She understood that society is based on an economic system which gives rise to inevitable class conflict. Like a surgeon, she sought out the strongest organs of the working class, the National Union of Mineworkers, the print unions and so many others and directly attacked them. She brought new laws into place to prevent people travelling (as they might be supporting a picket) and thus edged the UK closer to Stalinist-levels of government control.

She embarked on a huge project of privatisation, ‘selling off the family silver’ and soon trains, telecoms, gas, electricity, council housing… All of them were sold off after being supported by taxpayers’ money for decades. And her privatisation crusade is what her Tory descendants are carrying on now with the NHS, albeit lying and pretending they aren’t, unlike Thatcher who was proud of her lunacy.

Here’s Thatcher spewing homophobia:

You can see here some of the insanity she channelled. And that Britons everywhere lapped up as they kept voting her back in.

I could go on and on about the macro, the big things she did. Like dragging Britain into a war with Argentina simply to win an election, glorying in slaughter. But I think small things sometimes say more.

When I was a kid, pre-Thatcher, walking round, I would never see beggars. I would see, at the bus station, actual tramps who were mostly older men who seemed to have decided that was their life. Now, if I walk around Derby, I’ll pass young, homeless people begging on the streets at least four, five, maybe more times. That is Thatcher’s legacy. She savaged the unions that would otherwise fight for a living wage for young workers. This lead to a huge increase in part-time workers and transitory, unreliable employment. She sold off council houses and at the same time cut budgets for building replacements, creating huge housing shortages. She also attacked mental health funding, putting young people at risk like never before. And, some of them inevitably ended out on the streets.

She called unions and their members ‘the enemy within’ at the same time as being best friends with mass-murderer Augusto Pinochet.

The woman was simply, utterly evil. The only love she had was for naked, unfettered capitalism at any cost.

The greatest evil is that she is not dead. The spectre of Thatcherism is behind the current Tory “austerity” measures. Once again, the working class are to be attacked and hounded into early graves while our taxes are given out freely to bankers and their yacht-makers. We are told to pull our belts in while the richest in society feast like never before.

Sense8

I’m on ep 3 of Sense8, created, written and executive-produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski and I’m loving it.

In tone, it most reminds me of the first series of Heroes. Yes, the multiple storylines are reminiscent of Cloud Atlas, perhaps directing that is what made the Wachowskis hanker for more.

But, overall, the storylines here are more varied and, with the vast sprawl of a whole series, we can divert far more into the minutiae of the characters’ lives. Plus, the stories vary more in terms of light and shade: there’s actual fluffy comedy in a couple, balanced with bleak horror in others. This leads to the whole endeavour feeling more believable as an ensemble piece, I’m glad that it isn’t incessant grim. It feels more lifelike.

(Oh, yaaaay, Berwick Street! Hello, Soho!)

And then there’s the issue of representation. Trans people playing trans people, Indians playing Indians, gayness EVERYWHERE! Yaaaaay! (though I’m gonna minus some points for the very Indian Naveen Andrews playing, apparently, a Persian / Iranian).

This is a global cast and a mixed cast which makes the whole premise of the series feel more real, more organic. This could so easily have been strangers all linked up who were in one white, US city. Or they could have all been straight. Or middle class. Having the scenes zip from continent to continent, from slums to swanky penthouses… it leaves the viewer breathless and embedded. Going back to normal TV drama is going to feel distinctly monocultural.

It’s only with episode three that we see the true power of the eight. Until then, it was at best a distraction, a dangerous removal from the “real.” But with Capheus’ fight, we see the possibilities. And they’re pretty fucking cool.

Here comes episode four! WHEEEEEEE!