Posts Tagged With: politics

Have I Got Whos For You (Election Special)

Friday morning? This was where we were.

Don’t get me wrong. A coalition of any sort isn’t a great result. It’s the one we deserve, but not the one we need right now. Prediction: four years of squabbling while the rest of the country sits in limbo, followed by a narrow victory for Labour in 2020, assuming their leader manages to hang on. And if he doesn’t, all bets are off. Economically, politically, ideologically, this is not a good place to be.

Nonetheless, I gained a certain satisfaction in watching a nasty, embittered party push itself to breaking point as it embarked on a series of personal attacks (“the last refuge,” writes Edmund Burke, “of the scoundrel who has nothing left to say”) on Jeremy Corbyn, while its leader became increasingly panic-stricken. It’s hard not to look at both the election and the decisions that were made in its immediate aftermath as the standard political gambit of retaining power, although you can’t blame Theresa May entirely. You have no frame of reference, and neither do I. There’s a scene in series 6 of 24 in which a weary, chastened Noah Daniels – thrown in, much as May was, at the deep end, inheriting a presidency that had suddenly become vacant – says “It’s easy to think you’ve got all the answers, when none of the ultimate responsibility lies with you, but sitting in this chair…until you sit in this chair, you don’t know anything.”

The irony is May is probably quite pleasant if you meet her in real life. But power corrupts. You don’t have to listen to your advisers. And hence we woke on Friday – in the small hours, as Emily and I scrolled through BBC news feeds at four in the morning, scarcely believing, in the wake of my rampant pessimism, what we were actually seeing – to discover a country that had hit back, and a voting populace who had surprised me. Alan Sugar insists that the Corbyn-advocating twenty-somethings were “not experienced in life” and “didn’t know what they voted for”, and there’s probably a ring of truth to that – but the same could surely be said of Brexit (of which Sugar was also not a fan, although his political allegiance has shifted towards the Conservatives in recent years).

Still, it was great to finally discover what DUP actually stands for, right?

I jest, but this is the sort of thing we’ve seen happen quite a lot in Doctor Who: humans who genuinely believe that they can ally themselves with dark forces and get what they want. The idea that said forces might betray them genuinely doesn’t occur to them. It’s the sort of Faustian pact that has you screaming at the TV – “DON’T TRUST THEM!” is the soundbite of choice, “THEY’RE DALEKS!” – but unlike us, none of these people watch Doctor Who. I watched the second Ninja Turtles movie with the boys the other week and we were pleasantly amused by the irony that Shredder utilised the talents of Baxter Stockman and promptly betrayed him, only to find himself receiving exactly the same treatment at the hands of Krang. It’s the kind of thing he really should have expected. (We don’t have time to unpack this properly, but I wrote a lengthy article on human-Dalek collaboration for the Doctor Who Companion, if anyone is interested.)

To be fair to the DUP, they’re not quite the monstrosity they’re painted as in the press. Creationist? Unfortunately. Pro-unionist? Certainly. Anti-abortionist? You bet. So is half of Ireland. This is not the same as being anti-women. Arlene Foster is a woman, for crying out loud, although I would point out that I’ve never seen her in the same room as Paul Merton. They’re also welfare-conscious: their members are right-wing Christian, but many of their supporters are on the breadline. Essentially they’re a party run by evangelicals; this may be seen as backward-thinking but they’re possibly a good deal more altruistic than many atheists. And in a best-case scenario, they’re going to be a thorn in the side of Theresa May’s benefit cuts, forcing the tempering of policy and a recognisable shift back towards the sense of compassion that all but vanished once the last coalition evaporated in the wake of 2015. Realistically this turn of events is not likely, but stranger things have happened.

Still, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that this may end up breaking the Tories: I’m no political pundit but surely they run the risk of losing the support of the moderates by getting into bed with the fundamentalists? However you look at it, this is a simple power grab, just as it was for Labour – and people seem to be waking up to that. And hence, this.

May retained her own seat, of course – although it wasn’t without stiff opposition from Pat McDonald, Tony Hill, and…well, a man with unusual headgear. This is the sort of thing that benefits from a man in Havana; luckily my brother lives in Maidenhead.

“Admit it,” I said to him, by text. “You’re one of the two hundred and fifty who voted for Lord Buckethead, aren’t you?”
“Got me,” he replied.
“I knew it.”

Anyway, I spent much of Saturday trying to work out Lord Buckethead’s cosplay lineage, and –

Sutekh. Definitely Sutekh.

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Look to your left (part 304)

The other morning, I spotted this story in The Independent, and for reasons that ought to be obvious it reminded me of David Tennant.

obama

I mean, you can see why, can’t you? “Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…”

Anyway: I posted this in several Facebook groups with the words ‘Americans and Doctor Who fans. They’re not so different’, where it received a generally favourable response, and sparked a couple of interesting conversations about Theresa May. Except in one group (which I will not name), where one user (whom I will also leave anonymous) got quite hot under the collar about the fact that he wanted to talk about Doctor Who, and that we shouldn’t be mentioning politics. When I checked back later, the post was gone: given that I’ve posted other stuff in a similar vein there before, I am assuming that it’s because he complained.

I do try and avoid talking about butthurt in this blog, but this bothered me immensely. It bothers me for the same reason that people complain about religious leaders holding political views (or, for that matter, political leaders holding religious ones) or celebrities espousing particular values. J.K. Rowling is currently mocking supposed fans on Twitter who have seen fit to hold her to account for her views on Trump, suggesting that they might have missed the point of the books. Both holding and expressing political views is a cornerstone of democracy, and you do not forfeit the right to express those views because of a position of privilege. There is a right and a wrong way to do it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s off the agenda. Nor does it mean that political conversation is irrelevant or unwanted. It’s entirely possible to enjoy Doctor Who without having any idea of the allegories therein (my children do it all the time) but this does not in itself mean that a political reading is invalid. Or, as an acquaintance pointed out on Twitter the other day, “subtext clearly goes over people’s heads, but in the case of Harry Potter and Doctor Who, it’s text. It’s explicit!”.

helen_a_fifi

Anyway: here’s my open letter to the group, which explains things a little further.

I’m scratching my head a bit this afternoon.

Earlier I posted a photo of Barack Obama – making what I felt was a salient point about Americans who wanted the impossible, and comparing them to Doctor Who fans who also want the impossible. Eventually it was removed.

I am assuming this was because of political discourse: I had one person say “we don’t want this political crap”. That’s the sort of thing I hear quite a lot when I post things that touch on politics, mainstream or otherwise. The idea, supposedly, is that politics are off the agenda, although I can’t find anything within the guidelines to support this.

But here’s the thing: Doctor Who is a political show. It has been since the first Dalek raised its sink plunger back in 1964. It’s not a show that can be interpreted in that way if you want – it is a show that has been overtly political for a long time. It has a long line of left-leaning writers who held strong political views. It is a show that asks awkward questions and we love it precisely because of this. If you want to censor political discussion because it makes you uncomfortable, that’s fine. But you can’t stop there. You also need to ban discussion about The Daleks, The Mutants, The Curse of Peladon, The Green Death, The Silurians, The Sun Makers, The Happiness Patrol, World War Three, The Zygon Invasion / Inversion, Turn Left, The Christmas Invasion, and Kinda. Among others.

I don’t want to start an argument about Trump or Brexit or the alt right, and would dissuade any outright attempts to do so. I post these things without comment: they are there only to make people think, and I am hopeful that the bulk of group members would have the good sense to stop at the thinking part if they can feel an argument brewing. The role of art is to challenge and commentate as well as entertain – it’s been that way since ancient Greece – and this is occasionally done through the use of political satire. Doctor Who is no different in this respect from Yes Minister, or even Harry Potter. It’s not about possible interpretation, it’s about the actual subject matter.

So this is not a rant against the moderators, whose right to run the group the way they see fit I fully respect. But to those of you who complain (regularly) that “This is a Doctor Who group, can’t we leave politics out of it?”, I’d suggest that you’re not watching the show properly.

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A Trumpmas Carol

scrooge

You know what’s great about Christmas? Ghost stories.

I had a story I’d planned to share with you – it stars the Third Doctor and a familiar-looking Santa Claus creating havoc at a Christmas party – but I haven’t had time to finish it. Still, that’s OK, because Josh has stepped into the breach. His school project this term was to produce something in the Dickens vein – a stage adaptation, a graphic novel, a contemporary retelling, or a fact file about the man himself. After a brief family discussion, he opted to retell A Christmas Carol (chiefly because it is, as you may expect of a boy of eleven, the only one he really knows well) starring you-know-who.

It’s been done before. But this is his version, and he’s proud of it, and I felt it warranted sharing. I get the feeling that this is the only year I’d get away with printing this here – while Donald Trump is, as we go to press, still President Elect instead of President. I wonder if, a year down the line, it might be something we no longer want to talk about – or perhaps the miracle will happen and there’ll be no need. In any event you will forgive the inevitably unrefined political views therein, coming as they do from a first-year secondary schoolboy (who is, nonetheless, rather wiser than his years, and I suspect wiser than many of the electorate). It was done with minimal help from us – a few creative nudges aside, the ideas and the story are by and large entirely his own. I cleaned up the grammar and punctuation a little but didn’t touch anything else, restricting myself instead to the Photoshopping (with the exception of that image at the top, which I nabbed – and you can tell, because it’s the only one that’s wholly successful).

Take it away, Josh. And incidentally, a Happy Christmas to all of you at home.

A Trumpmas Carol

The day Donald Trump was elected great cheers erupted from his supporters. He grinned and made his speech: “Fellow Americans, to celebrate my victory I will start building this great wall to stop Mexicans entering our homeland, our country, our city!” More cheers. “I will start building it on Christmas morning, 8:00 AM to be to exact, also all Mexicans who happen to live in here will be thrown out back into Mexico!” At that exact point every Mexican in America sighed dismally but the ones who sighed the most were the Gonzalez family as they sat in a house the size of a shoe box right next to the Whitehouse.

Months passed as Trump got his blueprints ready for the wall and on Christmas Eve he had just arrived home to check the blueprints and as he was looking at them they shifted around to form Margaret Thatcher’s face. Donald Trump suddenly dropped the blueprints into the fire. They burst into flame but Margaret T was not done yet. From out of the smoke arose her ghost and she said in a grave, gravelly voice “Donald Trump, you will be visited by three Mexicans at midnight!” before drifting off into the night air…

trump_thatcher

Donald Trump could not sleep, every time his eyes closed fear and anxiety twisted his insides violently, forcing him to stay awake. All was silent excluding the large grandfather, “Tick Tock Tick Tock!” it screamed. “Oh great,” he muttered. Tiredly he walked towards the door but the door slammed shut before he got to it. The clock chimed midnight. The room went cold. Very very cold. Very very very cold.

Suddenly through the (locked) window came a small Mexican girl. She grinned and took out a list of her and started reading the list, her eyes scanning down it, “T… T… T… Thomas… Thompson… whoa you Americans have some funny names, aha Trump. Oh my name’s Maria by the way” she said as she pulled him out the (still locked) window.

Whilst in flight Donald Trump spent most of his time picking glass off of his dressing gown while Maria kept apologizing, “listen Donald I’m sorry, okay. I forgot about the mortals can’t fly through windows rule.”
“Whatever, just wondering what’s that big blue light?”

Maria looked off into the distance. “Ladies and gentlemen you reached your destination, please fasten your seat-belts and hold on tight!” then… silence… nothing… they were blasted into an icy cold void.

trump_flying

“Yay, let’s do that again!”
“No let’s not!” Donald Trump had nearly fainted and also dripping wet. While Maria observed the area, “Look Trumpy a fight! Who is against who? Look Trumpy you’re fighting someone!!… soon punches were being delivered by either side. Then with his last burst of strength Donald Trump pounded the other kid to the floor. Then there was a bright flash of white light and the ghost, the school field and the school where he grew up in faded away.

Somewhere in the distance a clock chimed one o’clock.

Donald Trump was back in his bedroom when a cry like thunder shook the room making him jump. “HELLO AMIGO MY NAME’S PABLO!” said a big booming voice…

Donald Trump gaped as a massive bulk of a man came crashing through the roof almost crushing the enormous four-poster bed, which moaned and groaned as he plunked his heavy backside on it. This big bulking figure made Donald Trump look like an ant. In one hand he was holding a mug the size of a barrel full to the brim of beer. In the other hand he was holding a ripped untidy list full of names in scratchy untidy handwriting. He took a sip of beer and burped loudly. Then he grabbed Donald Trump by his shirt collar and lifted him off the ground…

Donald Trump was not aware were they were going nor did he know what travelling by giant was like but he soon found out the answers to both of these questions. First off travelling by giant was absolutely preposterous. He settled down on a comfy spot (as comfy as sweaty matted hair can get) and tried to get some rest but soon discovered it was impossible to rest when head-lice the size of horses are chasing after you.

Answer two: the Gonzales family house. “Why are we here?” asked Donald Trump. “Why won’t you shut up!” shouted the giant. Then he bent over and shook Donald Trump off his head. Even though he was only a couple of metres off the ground when he landed he felt a searing pain in his left leg. Donald Trump looked at the cracked shards of glass that they called a window. The children were tying pine-cones onto some string as they were too poor to afford real baubles.

trump_present

“Santa will love these I hope I’ll get another bag of cheese crisps, they lasted for months,” said the youngest, “mummy do you think Santa will like my decorations?”
“I’ll bet he will Antonio” said Elisabeth Gonzales. “Now why don’t you get to bed and maybe…” There was the sound of church bells chiming and all was still…

There was a looming menace in the air as a ghostly hand drifted through the key hole and ushered him out of his bedroom and towards the graveyard. “Where are we going?” The streets were full of people going around shouting “HE’S DEAD YESSS HE’S REALLY DEAD”. Donald Trump stared at these strange people. “Who’s dead?” The hand said nothing…

The graveyard was an unpleasant place filled with unpleasant corpses in unpleasant and rather ugly graves while he was there he saw one gravestone that caught his eye: RIP the Gonzales family: died of hypothermia. A tear welled up inside his eye as he respected those people, those good good people but there was no time to lose the hand dragged him on to a shallow grave already with a gravestone: RIP Donald John Trump: the nightmare is over then in his own handwriting was written “No, it’s only just beginning”…

Donald Trump was falling… falling… falling… down… down… down… into a bottomless pit falling… falling… Then he landed in hell’s fiery depths. It was so hot in there that I’m rather surprised these pages weren’t scorched to a crisp. But like it said on the gravestone the nightmare was only just beginning. The devil walked up towards him, a permanent sneer was fixed on his face. Then he said two words. “You’re fired!”

Suddenly Donald Trump found himself tied to a large wooden catapult, like the ones they used in the middle ages to catapult rocks at a wall. This was going to be used for a far more grisly use. Before he knew it he was strapped on to this big lumbering beast then was in a room full of speakers. Soon the theme tune for The Apprentice filled the room. Then the wall of speakers directly ahead of him burned and was soon filled with shards of glass then he was catapulted toward them as two words came out of the speakers: his own voice said “You’re fired!” He screamed.

trump_hell

Donald Trump woke up screaming with pain, surprisingly he did not wake up buried alive in a coffin but in his own bed in his own house in his own street in his own city in his own country, yes he was Donald Trump and he ruled the country. He looked over at his alarm clock, 7:30. Unless he wanted to end up in hell’s fiery depths again he would have to change quickly. Donald Trump smiled. Today was going to be a good day.

8:00 AM, that is what it said on the clock. His butler walked in “Excuse me mister president but it’s 8:00 AM,” Donald Trump looked over at the clock. “Yes yes, indeed it is, do you have the blueprints?” The butler nodded. “Here they are Mister President,”

Donald Trump looked at them then ripped them up into tiny little pieces. The butler looked astonished. “Mister President are you feeling oka…” Donald Trump laughed “Yes yes I’m feeling fine,” then he leaped out of bed and made a bolt for the door then he walked slowly back in. “Oh by the way is my car in the garage?”

Mexico was now one of the richest countries in the world now thanks to Donald Trump he told his chauffeur to drive around Mexico’s streets at 300 MPH (so it didn’t take too long). Then he attached bags of money from the wall building profit then a couple of hours later he was back and Mexico was rich as a fruitcake but Donald Trump still had one big bag full to the brim with bars of gold. He scrawled a quick invitation and stuck it on to the bag: Dear the Gonzales family you are invited for a Christmas party in the Whitehouse – Donald Trump…

Donald Trump was now poor, but he was also loved, and that’s what Christmas is all about.

The End

Epilogue

“Hank! I owe you 50$,” shouted Frank towards the vague direction of the kitchen. Hank walked in. “No you don’t.” Frank pointed at the headline. “He didn’t build the wall.” Hank shrugged. “Who cares. It’s Christmas!”

trump_mexico

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The inevitable Doctor Who / Donald Trump thing

trump_doc

Disclaimer: I’m not a blue collar American. I didn’t grow up with the right to bear arms, or healthcare you pay for without help from the state. I don’t pretend to really understand politics. I do have a rudimentary awareness of how the media works: that the best way to shift units is to pick the underdog (the more contemptible the better) and ridicule them to the extent that there is a tangible shift in public sympathy, evening the race and making it more interesting, and thus more newsworthy. That’s the way it goes. Deal with it.

There are those who suggest that choosing between Clinton and Trump is like choosing between crucifixion and being buried alive. There are others who suggest that of the two, Clinton is the lesser of two evils. There are those who suggest the opposite. Clinton’s past is supposedly murky, but the assassination conspiracies are the screaming rage of people who will see what they want to see. Of the two, Clinton – while far from the model of integrity that Obama appeared to be – is balanced, rational and compassionate. I can’t say the same for Trump.

Because Trump’s a bullying narcisstic egomaniac. Does that in itself make him a bad choice for President? Perhaps not. But it does make him a wildcard. I can’t understand why you’d publicly endorse a man who brings out the worst in people. Only a blinkered fool would look at him and see anything other than a liability. And nowhere does this make itself plainer than the vitriol that comes out of his mouth.

So I found a selection of quotes this week and I married them with images from Doctor Who. I don’t care that some of them are out of context, or have had their accuracy disputed. I won’t apologise for the occasional ickiness: Donald certainly never does.

And for those who’d say that, as a white British male, the election of the American President is none of my business, I’d suggest that if we’re talking about a man who has significant impact on the UK’s foreign policy and his finger on the big red button, I’d say that it darn well is.

Wouldn’t you?

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don't go into government. My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body..

I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.

Thanks sweetie. That's nice.

My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault.

The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.

The other candidates — they went in, they didn't know the air conditioning didn't work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don't think it's gonna happen.  You know, it really doesn't matter what the media write as long as you've got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.  Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry.

Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they're small, something else must be small.' I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee.

I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I'm more honest and my women are more beautiful.It's freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming! All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected. I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.

The point is, you can never be too greedy. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.

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Thoughts on the EU referendum

brexit_-_Google_Search_-_2015-08-18_22.25.30

We interrupt our normal scheduled broadcasts to deal with the elephant in the room. Here’s my take on things.

DISCLAIMERS:

1. What follows isn’t a perfect extended metaphor – as Gareth pointed out, “It says ‘why is this stupid thing a referendum in the first place?’, but most people who think that are Remain, since not having a referendum allows remaining.”

2. I’m not a political commentator and don’t pretend to be. I’m just tired of the whole thing. I know where my loyalty lies – purely from my own perceptions of what constitutes common sense – but I’d really rather not have to do this, particularly when it’s ripped the country more or less in half. I don’t advocate Brexit but nor do I fear change: I accept that at some point (not now) leaving the EU may turn out to be the best option. But I’d rather it was decided by people who actually know what they’re talking about, which is not (from what I’ve seen) most of the country.

3. Yes, I will be voting on Thursday. You’ve kind of forced my hand really, haven’t you?

The Jones family needed a new car. Their old one, they decided, was getting past its sell-by date. It was still roadworthy, but it needed quite a bit of attention these days, and it was only a matter of time before it would need replacing.

Mum and Dad had talked for a while about what sort of car they should get. They’d asked friends for their views and Dad had looked in some magazines and had a brief search on the internet, but they hadn’t yet found the time to go to a dealership to have a proper look. All the while, the kids were whining. “When can we get the new car, Dad?” “What sort of car is it going to be?” “C’mon, Dad. All our friends laugh at us. Can’t we get a new car tomorrow?”

That was when Dad had his bright idea.

Illustration for the eureka moment.

“We’ll let the kids choose the car!” he said.

Mum wasn’t sure. “I’m not convinced by that,” she told him. “I love our kids to bits, but they’re not exactly experts. Why don’t we get an idea for the sort of car they want and then see if it fits in with what works best for the family?”
But Dad was shaking his head vigorously. “No, no,” he said. “It’s a great idea. They choose the car, the pressure’s off us. And it’s what they want. They’ll be thrilled that we’ve given them what they want! Everyone wins!”
“What if they have their hearts set on something we really don’t want?”
“We’ll overrule them.”
“That won’t make them happy.”
“I won’t tell them, then. Not until the decision is made.”
“Don’t you think they’ll be cross when they find that out?”
“Oh, only for a while.”

Mum still wasn’t sure. But when Dad had made his mind up there was no stopping him. And so one Saturday afternoon, the family – Mr and Mrs Jones, and their children, Simon and Celia, were off to the local dealer. Mum had said that they might want to consider doing a bit of online research first, but Dad thought that was overkill. “Just ask your friends what they think,” he said. “That’ll help you decide.”

They hadn’t even got to the ring road when the trouble started.

“A blue one.”
“No, a red one.”
“Blue!”
“Red!”

Simon wanted blue. Celia wanted red. Simon thought red was too close to pink, which was a girl’s colour. Celia thought this was a ridiculous argument. So for that matter did Dad, but he didn’t say anything, purely because he wanted to remain impartial.

RedCarBlueCarT1

They got to the dealer and were momentarily overwhelmed by choice. There were big cars and small cars and long ones and short ones. There were cars for families, cars for couples, sports cars and saloons. There were vehicles for the town and big, gas-guzzling off-road vehicles for the country, most of which would probably end up being driven round the town on the school run.

For a moment, the Jones family were wrapped in a congenial bubble of attentive silence. It was broken by Celia.

“That one!” she shouted.

The car was big and dark green and cost about as much as the annual GDP of Luxembourg. Mum hated it.

“It’s a bit…well, big, isn’t it?”
“But it’s got so much space!”
“Darling, it’s got space for seven people. I don’t think we’ll need that. Your Dad’s had a vasectomy.”
“But we can fold the seats down and go camping in it!”
“Celia,” Mum reasoned, “We all hate camping.”
“We might not, though, if it’s easier.”

Simon, meanwhile, had his eye on a flashy sports number on the other side of the lot. It was bright yellow and had mechanical doors.
“This one,” he said to his father.

Lamb

His father raised an eyebrow. “It’s only got two seats. What happens if we want to go somewhere as a family?”
“We can take it in turns to take the bus.”
“What if there isn’t a bus?”
“We can get two of them, then.”
“I’m not sure you’re really thinking this through,” said his father. “What about something a bit bigger?”

Simon headed over to the family car section, stamping his feet moodily. Meanwhile, Celia was looking at an estate.

“What about this one?”
“Well, it’s a Renault,” said Mum, “and they’re not always the most reliable of beasts.”
“But I like it. I like the name. It sounds foreign and exciting.”
“But you don’t really know anything about them,” said Mum, who was reasonably well-versed in the reliability or otherwise of Renaults.
“It feels right, though,” Celia insisted. “It feels like this is the right car for us.”
“I realise that, darling,” Mum said. “But we have to go on more than a feeling.”
“So you’re saying that my gut instinct is wrong?”
“No, just-”
“Forget it,” said Celia, folding her arms sulkily. “I get it, all right?”
“Celia,” Mum said, “I think you’re getting a bit cross, and I can understand that, but you haven’t considered the fact that I might know more about this than you do.”
“Well, why’d you ask me to choose then?”
“I didn’t,” said Mum, sighing a little.

article-2615128-1D70B02B00000578-195_634x369

Simon came over. “I’ve found it,” he announced. “I think we should get that one.” And he pointed at a large four-wheel-drive jeep.
“It runs on diesel,” said Dad, who had been looking at the information card in the window. “Diesel tends to be quite expensive round here. Also it’s got a lot of mileage for a vehicle this age.”
“Yeah, but it’s cheap,” said Simon.
“Cheap doesn’t always mean good,” Dad explained.
“But we’ll have more money to do other things,” said Simon. “You can give us more pocket money if you’ve spent less on the car.”
“Ooh!” said Celia. “That means we can buy more things! There are loads of new magazines out that I’m interested in. I can get a subscription.”
“Yeah, and I can get – ”

Dad shook his head, trying not to make eye contact with Mum, who was staring at him very hard. He told himself that he’d made the right decision, letting the kids choose. Having them fantasise about money was preferable to having them fight, at least.

Unfortunately, that was what happened next.

“DVD player!”
“MP3 player!”

It didn’t take a genius to work out why Simon and Celia were arguing, which was lucky for Dad. Mum sighed and rubbed her temples, which had started to throb. People were staring. Dad took both his children by the collar. “Listen, you two,” he said, in a venomous hiss. “You’re embarrassing yourselves, and me.”
“And me,” Mum added, slightly put out.
“And your mother,” Dad added hastily. “Now will you please make a decision?”
“I WANT THAT ONE!”

Both children were pointing at different vehicles, both prohibitively expensive and entirely unsuitable for a family car. One was a two-door GTI, brand new. The other was a hearse.

Dad sighed.
“I don’t think you’re really thinking this through,” he said. “I don’t think you’re making the decision for the family; you’re making it for yourselves. You mean well but you don’t really know cars. You don’t really know how much money we have to spend or how much we’re likely to need.”
“We sort of know,” said Simon.
“You don’t really know, though,” said Dad. “You just think you do.”
“But we want to help!” said Celia. “It’s our car as well, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” Dad said. “But maybe the best way to have you help would have been for me to find out what you like and then make the decision in conjunction with your mother, rather than letting you make the choice. That’s our job, after all. Sometimes we have to decide these things ourselves.”
“So you’re saying our opinion doesn’t count?” asked Simon, hotly.
“No,” said Mum. “We’re saying that we know things you don’t, and understand things you don’t. That doesn’t mean we always get it right, but we can look at this properly. You two aren’t really trying to find the best car for the family anymore, are you? You’re just arguing about who’s right. That’s really what this is about.”

Celia said nothing. Simon shuffled his feet.

“Maybe,” said Dad, “I made a mistake in telling you that you could choose.”

Mum raised an eyebrow. It was a look that clearly said Now you’re getting it, doofus.

Sunset on the eve of the Autumnal Equinox, Sept 21, 2012, with the Sun setting due west at the end of westbound Highway 1 to Banff, Alberta. This is a frame from a 315-frame time-lapse movie.

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Look to your left

An opening: if you’ve been following the UK news this last week you won’t have failed to notice the DWP scandal that saw the Government release leaflets about benefit sanctions that featured false testimonials. Said leaflets were awash with remorseful tales from chagrined claimants who’d been shown the error of their ways by a wise, thoughtful ‘work coach’ who is absolutely not disillusioned, incompetent or under desperate pressure to fulfill sanction targets. Unfortunately the testimonials were fake, and the photos of ‘Zac’ and ‘Sarah’ were stock. “They have now been removed,” the DWP assures us, “to avoid confusion”.

In recent days, and as a damage control exercise, events have taken a more bizarre turn.

This isn’t the place for debate about the DWP – suffice to say I spent a few years working for them and saw for myself how the organisation recruits from the bottom of the barrel and how it is dispirited, overly bureaucratic and afraid of its own shadow, and that was before we elected a Tory government. In any event the Left is loving this, if only because it gets to dump on Iain Duncan Smith, and also because it diverts attention away from the political in-fighting that’s going on during its election campaign. (The Labour party is hardly unique in this regard – Louise Mensch’s aborted smear campaign is proof enough – but it is amusing watching Andy Burnham threaten to challenge the result only to get smacked down by Harriet Harman.)

The last time they had a leadership campaign, of course, we wound up with Ed “Don’t call me Dave” Miliband, whom I’ve always contested looks rather like Richard David-Caine from Swashbuckle – sentiments only re-affirmed since he recently grew a beard.

Ed-Richard

Here’s the thing. Miliband is ideologically very different to Tony Blair, his most recent-but-one predecessor, but one thing that strikes you when you look at the body language and the rhetoric is how much he’s obviously been groomed in the same manner by the party’s spin doctors. In fact, you could say that spinning him in this manner was part of his political undoing: Labour under-performed in the last election, particularly considering the exit poll, the result costing Miliband his leadership of the party.

Bringing the conversation back to Doctor Who, we may thus infer from this that Ed Miliband is Anthony Ainley to Tony Blair’s Roger Delgado. However good Ainley was, he will always be remembered as “someone who was told to play it like Delgado”, and this is to his detriment as a performer. There are some great Master moments during the 1980s, but half the time Ainley comes across as a rather camp Delgado impersonator, rather than someone who was allowed to develop the character in his own right. (This also makes Geoffrey Beevers Gordon Brown, which sort of works if you see him without makeup.)

The one to watch in this campaign, of course, is Jeremy Corbyn, who is in favour of nationalisation and higher taxes for the one per cent. People wiser about these sorts of things than I am tell me that his election would potentially obliterate the Labour party, “because people don’t want a socialist government”. I really don’t have a clue how true this is, and it’s for this reason that I don’t usually talk about politics on this blog. I leave that for people with greater interest and less cynicism, such as the friend of a friend who wrote this:

“He is eccentric and beardy, with distinctive slightly retro dress sense. He has traveled alone for a long time though is now looking for a companion. They say he’s going to take us back to 1983 with him, but he’s actually more interested in taking us to the future. He’s stood alone as a fighter for his beliefs and dropped from view during the nineties but has had a massive resurgence in popularity in recent times. He’s been pictured with people the world sees as villains but would prefer to talk to them rather than fight them. He believes that speaking honestly can be effective even to those robotic types who want to take over the world. His position on jelly babies is unclear but apart from that, Jeremy Corbyn is basically the Doctor.”

It’s a good argument, although it stumbles at the first hurdle with the mention of beards, because (‘Leisure Hive’ / ‘Day of the Moon’ / ‘Wedding of River Song’ aside) the Doctor himself is not beardy, with the exception of John Hurt, who plays someone who does not refer to himself as the Doctor. So I’m still on my Master analogy, although Gareth – when pressed – said that he looked a bit like Rorvik from ‘Warrior’s Gate’.

Rorvik-Corbyn

He does, sort of, although Rorvik’s a slave-driving (in a quite literal sense) despot, hopeless to the last, so perhaps that’s why I’m still not sure about the analogy – the Master may be despicable, but at least he’s got a winning personality. “Actually,” said Emily, “Jeremy Corbyn looks like a whole bunch of middle-aged men with short beards”.

Corbyn-Wilf

They’re both right.

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Beg, borrow or steal

I can’t remember the exact circumstances under which Gareth and I were talking about Ico. Our conversations tend to take these spirally twists and turns through one thing or another, by degrees of separation. For the most part we will steer clear of politics and personal stuff, concentrating on film and TV and gaming, or a mixture of all three. We both love anything by Tolkien, although he is far less keen on the cinematic incarnations than I am. He knows a ridiculous amount about Doctor Who. I, on the other hand, can quote extensive passages from A.A. Milne, whom he has never read, so it all balances out.

If you haven’t experienced Ico, by the way, I recommend you stop reading this right now and go and find a PS2 or 3 and play through it. The whole thing is ridiculously good. On its release it was described by Official Playstation Magazine as being “the gaming equivalent of a Ken Loach film” – elegiac, slow and calm. Trapped in a windswept castle on a cliff overlooking the ocean, your only means of escape is a delicate, timid young girl who can open locked doors, but who must be protected at various points from apparitions that will attack her, while seemingly ignoring you.

As you can see at 1:30, the creatures that pounce on Yorda take the form of smoke monsters, and it was this recollection that prompted me to theorise that J.J. Abrams looked to Ico as a source of inspiration when he was writing Lost. Smoke monsters are nothing new under the sun, of course, but we might as well cite the PlayStation as a source of inspiration, seeing as they seemed to be drawing as many different ideologies and themes as they possibly could during the show’s run. So I mentioned this possibility to Gareth, and we went from there:

Gareth:
I heard about Lost, and the premise sounded interesting at first. But then I decided that it was going to be a series with no actual planned conclusion, and which was going to wander drearily along until they threw some disappointing nonsense together, so didn’t bother watching it. (Did I turn out to be right?)

[He did, of course, and I told him so.]

Gareth:
Something-doing-something-that-something-else-did reminds me. I recently listened to a Big Finish Who story from a couple of years ago. And it was one of the Lost Stories, in this case one of the Sylvester McCoy stories that would have happened in his next season, had it happened. In it, we had the Doctor being “taunted to death” by being told how he uses others to do his dirty work, doesn’t care about them, etc. Lots of phrases that were quite familiar from recent Who. And the same story had a sentient planet, and to communicate one of the humans gets taken over and acts as the mouthpiece. Only it needs to be a female, because … well, for exactly the reason in the recent Christmas Who.

Me:
I do remember reading The Writer’s Tale, in which Davies goes through the process for writing ‘Journey’s End’ (and particularly that excruciating beach scene). Nowhere at all does he mention BF as a source of inspiration. But you wonder; is he just looking at the stuff people are chatting about on the internet and writing about that? Look at it this way – at some point in our online group discussion, during the first season of Torchwood, someone (I forget who) said “What’s the betting on Jack turning out to be The Face of Boe?”. And while I know that’s not exactly concrete, a few months later – when ‘Last of the Time Lords’ was broadcast – we thought “Ooh, uncanny perception!”. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe other people were saying the same thing elsewhere and RTD and Moffat just nicked all the ideas.

Gareth:
There was some fuss with Babylon 5 and someone suggesting a plot idea that JMS was already planning, or so I vaguely recall. Being the US, he then shelved the plot for a while and went through legal wranglings with the poster so that he could use it without being sued. (Not that the poster would really have done so – but to cover themselves.)

[Later that evening….]

Gareth:
Spooky. Earlier, I was listening to a Now Show from 2007. (I have lots of News Quiz, Now Show, etc, and listen to them while falling asleep.)

Anyway, this one was talking about Tony Blair’s departure. They talked about his conversion to Catholicism, and explained it as him believing he would become a saint, describing various miracles he had performed. And they also mocked his “legacy” world tour, dragging his departure out for months as he went to visit everyone famous he’d ever known.

Then I thought, hang on – his replacement (not counting Gordon Brown) was someone disturbingly young, with a strangely spongy face and not enough eyebrows.

So, hmm, we were talking about where RTD gets his ideas from…

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