Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Aside from the usual issues surrounding coming off a long haul flight I'm out of sorts generally now. But one small comfort is to be home, at least. For the first time in what seems ages I am enjoying the winter, finding it refreshing. What little of the Southern summer I saw before I arrived back I was unable to enjoy, knowing that it would not last for long anyway.

What can I say? Perhaps with time I will see things in a broader perspective. I will no longer look a fool by saying I went on a trip and disliked where I stayed, focusing on all that appears negative about a place and neglecting the positive aspects of my surroundings. But to repeat a cliche that someone repeated to me - right now I don't have feelings. They seem to have me. Perhaps when I come out from the other end of this tunnel (or at least see the light at the end of it) I may see this differently.

I am also screwed because my home pc is not working right now. Often writing is how I help work through my issues - so I'll have to continue drafting my book in longhand for the time being, along with any other notes and musings I have. Also find the time and the mindset to think about other things apart from my problems which are doing nothing but looming magnificantly on the horizon, and they seem to have no end in sight and no immediate solution either.

So I may continue to be a little quiet. However, watch this space as you will still see some comment. It will just continue to be sporadic for a while longer.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Hey, I saw the infamous Popetown. My opinion? The BBC axed it because it was not funny. And it would upset a religious group in the bargain, so why take such a risk for what is essentially a load of rubbish? If I was in the position of the BBC I'd probably have made the same decision, not so much for fear of upsetting people but because showing complete rubbish that will upset people at the same time is not worth it. Those who want to can buy it on video, nobody should pay a license to watch crap TV. Not because they have the right not to be offended. To show something that is offensive yet funny is worth it. To show what is unfunny yet inoffensive may be worth a gamble, a rubbish cartoon can fill the spaces. But a crap cartoon which may offend in the meantime? No point at all.

Jerry Springer The Opera was funny. But this aint. One word? Yawn.

'Reality' Shite....

For once in my life I am with the Graun and it's commentators entirely (see link). I will plead with my friends on the blogosphere who give this vile show credibility and treat it as harmless fun to stop and think again.

Shilpa may be famous and can probably handle it. That is not the case with everyone who enters the Big Brother house. Most of them are ordinary people who are very often vulnerable with mental health problems. Which makes them prime candidates for bullying.

The treatment of Shilpa on CBB appears to say more about the mentality of the contestants than it says about her. Which isn't funny either. Ignorance and bigotry are not fun to watch, neither are the people who display them. Neither is it fun to see one person singled out like that.

I was bullied at school so I recognise the mentality of many of the contestants and the audience. A 'freak' or somebody who is at least different (Shilpa is Indian, don't forget) is singled out to be a scapegoat and along with being filmed gets their face rubbed in the dirt of the British tabloids. You may say as much as you want that they go on the show voluntarily - indeed they do. But people do all kinds of stupid things voluntarily. Does that mean you must validate it by watching the spectacle?

Now don't get me wrong - I would oppose any kind of censorship. Ultimately if the contestants want to make idiots of themselves by taking part in what is a modern day freak show ( I believe Victorian circus freaks got paid as well, or they got some kind of a living at least) the decision must rest with them, and alas, the producers who have the idea of filming such a thing. Whatever the intelligence or mental health of the contestants I don't want to strip them of free will and look like a patronising middle class moraliser. But that does not mean I have to watch the show. Neither does anyone else.

To the left of the shows viewers I'll posit to them that most of the contestants they laugh at are members of the class they claim to champion - the working class. How can you claim to champion a group of people yet revel in their (partially self inflicted) humiliation at the same time? Most of the people on that show are working class because they are the ones poor and desperate enough to need the money. Toffs don't need it, neither do the 'educated' middle classes. Celeb BB may be slightly different - but hey, we have a new kind of celebrity, don't we?

What does the show say about the mentality of the audience? That you are following what is in essence a pack mentality. You should know better, and if you don't so far then please think about it a bit. Viewing that stuff is worse than viewing S&M porn - hell, there is not even any direct sexual release. It serves to satisfy a kind of sadism but one which is repressed in the British masses, one which has its outlets in the likes of this show. It serves the voyeur but there is nobody naked.

Just some poor idiot being ganged up on, for God's sake. Is it really what it's cracked up to be? True, some of the people who participate may well be exhibitionists. Good luck to them. But what about those who are not exhibitionists but are simply vulnerable for whatever reason? Why engage in what is essentially an act of voyeuristic sadism? If you inclined that way there must be other means. Join a fetish club or something.

As I've stated, the racist treatment of a wealthy actress by a few ignorant people may not in the long run be much to get worked up over. She may well be together enough to handle it by now, having been in the limelight for so long. Actors are used to this, they are exhibitionists by trade. But not everyone who goes on BB is a professional actor. Most are not, despite their hopes of becoming famous.

I forget who it was who said that acting was the most masochistic form of exhibitionism. But they were wrong. Reality TV has turned out to be, a media which is yet at the same time is not acting. It is midway between acting and 'reality'. It is not 'reality' yet it is not a film or play either as it is not scripted. Yet it would also be wrong to call this improvised acting. The 'actors' are playing themselves and they do not know when they may be filmed.
Dead Avian Mule.....

There was a strange story on New Zealand radio yesterday concerning drugs being smuggled into a prison via a dead pigeon. The offending mule was thrown over the wall of the prison yard, after which the prisoner caught it. Alas, he was caught by the guards and had both his mule and its booty confiscated.

What touched me more than anything was the naivety displayed (probably wilfully for the benefit of his listeners) when talking to the prison spokeswoman. It did not transpire until the end of the interview that the bird in question was a pigeon and not a hmm, penguin or albatross. ‘Surely you’d need a big bird to fit drugs into?’ he said.
‘Well, no’, she replied. ‘People today still assume the drug of choice would be cannabis, for which you would need a bird the size of an albatross. These days the drug of choice in prisons tends to be crystalised methamphetamine, for which a pigeon suffices as it can be measured in spoons’.

Crystal meth! The same evil which has plagued rural Montana!

Can you imagine such an interview taking place on the BBC? No chance. People know that the drugs of choice taken in prison would be cocaine or more likely heroin, which can easily be measured in teaspoons. The Brits are not so naïve to assume that somebody would go to that trouble for a bit of weed. I assumed immediately the bird was a damn pigeon and had no need for it to be explained to me!

To speak frankly I don’t know whether this is something I like or dislike about this place, as it is only a sign of its isolated nature and its provincial tendencies. Yet at the same time it makes me slightly nostalgic for the innocent days of my parents.

What more can I say?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Man in the Mask......

I’m not normally one for Batman type comic book action movies. I did, however, enjoy ‘V for Vendetta’ on video yesterday, based on an old comic book.

It was disturbing as it was set in a futuristic Nazi Britain. With concentration camps, a fuhrer, the cross of St George in red with a black background, uniforms and all the other paraphernalia. It was also set in a modern context, with Muslims replacing Jews. The poisoning of London’s water supply by the fascists (for which they blamed the terrorists) was the Reichstag fire which consolidated their power. References were made to the Iraq war and protests.

However, it is highly unlikely that fascism would take on its classic form were it to come into power. It would be far more subtle. Britain is not a fascist State at present, but the increasing surveillance we live under and the added powers given to the State do pose cause for concern to anyone who cherishes liberty.

The superhero goes simply by the name of ‘V’. He wears a Guy Fawkes mask to cover his burns. His aim is to get revenge on the government who were responsible. One by one he kills party members, gaining support among the population to eventually topple the regime by blowing up parliament. His supporters show their solidarity by donning a mask to match.

What makes it most interesting, in my view, is the relationship between him and his lover. Young Evey never completely knows the man who has taken her under his wing. This is symbolised most obviously by the mask, which he never removes due to his disfigurations. But the mask symbol goes way back into ancient mythology. The marriage of Eros and Psyche springs to mind most readily, where the Olympian God would not show his face to his mortal wife. Psyche is in turns enraptured by him then frightened of what he might do. His distance does not allow her to fully know him.

The comic-book love affair depicted in the film is in part a retelling of this ancient myth with its many layers. To an extent we all wear a mask, as Carl Jung was keen to stress. The persona we show to others does not tell everything about us. This is why the mask has long been used to symbolise the theatre. But what kind of lover is Eros, or Mr V? What kind of a man keeps himself from a woman in this way, and what kind of woman loves such a man? The answers can be many. The masked man is more of an evocative symbol than ‘the masked woman’, which should tell us something about sexual roles and behaviour. Most important is the fact that we can never completely know another person. After even many years together a woman may not completely know her husband, and vice versa.

Not knowing whether the masked man is a hero or villian (due to his unpredictable nature and the part of himself he deliberately keeps back) is part of his allure.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dr Fell and New Edinburgh.....

Investing people and places with symbols is an ancient thing. Some of us may be able to divorce our experiences from our surroundings, but I think more of us tie them together than do not.

I have been writing of my travels, relating both good and bad experiences. Recently my musings have been negative but they are just a reflection of my state of mind. It is no insult to the place.

I wrote earlier of the Southern city of Christchurch. I liked it, despite it being a very English town (or perhaps because of - who can say?) Despite all what I heard about it being a crime capital with traces of English snobbery, puritanism etc and all the things I moan about back home I still received good vibes from it. But what the hell do I know just being a visitor?

I later wrote of Dunedin and I felt obliged to say good things about the place so as not to look like a complete idiot. Sure, I could see there was a lot of art there, and it had a lot of culture for a town which is small by British standards.

But if I'm going to be totally honest - it was a case of 'Dr Fell' as far as me and that town went. I got bad vibes, I didn't like the place and was unable to articulate what it was. Perhaps something to do with me being Catholic and it being a noticably Scottish protestant settlement? It being a university town off season and quiet due to the students being away? But no. Neither of those things defined my feelings and my wishes to leave the place asap. And I don't know if it was actually anything to do with the place or if it had anything to do with my circumstances (which looked brighter then than they do now, although there probably had been a storm brewing in the background without my knowledge).

The 'deep South' (for want of a better term) is said to be a bit of a mad place. Dunedin once had an alternative rock scene (something I would have liked) but that died with the collapse of the 'Flying Nun' record label. The boys in the region have been known to do mad things like throw surfboards out of windows and self harm. Janet Frame, one of New Zealand's best known authors, was born and grew up there. Her work is very intense because she suffered mental health problems.

Was it the madness in the region that I was picking up on? God knows. Seeing the touches of madness in myself it may be something I am sensitive to. But so as not to look a total idiot I shall just put it down to old Dr Fell.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What began as a news blog appears to have turned into more than this since I have been away from Blighty.

It has become what a blog literally was first thought to be - an online diary.

I will be back in England in two weeks. I will visit Napier and a few other places before I spend a few days in Auckland and get the plane home.

I don't blame the city - I know that this feeling is completely subjective, animistic and irrational. But the city of Wellies right now gives me nothing but bad vibes due to the events which have transpired here. I wish I could say otherwise but wishes aren't horses. I may be at a turning point in my life. When I return to the UK I should be better able to deal with my problems.

When I am back in the UK this blog shall return to what it was - a commentary about news and culture.

Meanwhile I would like to thank my friends on the blogosphere for their support and for keeping me writing through these days.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Seven Achievements of 2006....

Political Umpire of Fora tagged me for this. It may be hard but I'll try....

1. Starting this blog.
2. Getting other people to read it and receiving positive feedback. Especially from Dave Hill, China Blue, Ellee, PU, Gracchi, James etc. Thanks to all who have put me on their blogroll.
3. Managing to read a few more of the classics which I have neglected for a few years. Finally read Thomas Hardy's 'Jude' and 'The Woodlanders'.
4. Started my own first novel and actually have a full plot and characters worked out.
5. Getting a little more of my non fiction published and getting my ideas accross.
6. Reconciling myself at least partly with my past mistakes.
7. Learning to appreciate what I have.

The Queen.....

Happy new year all.

As to keep this blog one which is a commentary on news and culture I shall lay off the personal stuff for a while. Washing my dirty linen in public is not a pretty sight.

Any more than the debacle involving the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, ‘People’s Princess’, ‘Queen of Hearts’ etc was a pretty sight.

I saw Helen Mirren star in ‘The Queen’ the other night. And I was impressed by her performance. Along with the convincing portrayals of the Duke of Edinburgh and Alistair Campbell. The political machinations behind the scenes of the newly elected Blair government were interesting, to say the least.

I hate to say this – but the royals came off better in this than did the British public. Don’t get me wrong – I felt very sorry for Diana and her premature death was a tragedy. Her troubled marriage and her mental health problems made her a figure who could be related to by people of all classes. I don’t buy the line promoted by many leftists that she was nothing but a rich bitch. She may have been an aristocrat but she was by no means a happy one. One who did not have the skill of keeping her emotions under control. But, I did not know the woman personally. Therefore her death meant little more to me than would that of any other stranger. I did not buy into the mass hysteria, although I understood why she was a figure related to by ordinary people. That is as far as it goes.

During the movie the Duke of Edinburgh remarked on the hysteria over the death of a woman they never knew and said ‘And they think we’re mad?’ Likewise, the Queen Mother advised her daughter not to capitulate to the whims of ‘a bunch of hysterics with candles’. They wanted it kept private, but in the end the Queen had no choice but to give the fans of her former daughter in law what they wanted – a personal visit with a live address on television, having already conceded to the demand for a public funeral. It could not have been easy as the Queen is not of the same generation of Charles and his siblings, with their messed up love lives and their public relations disasters. Charles was portrayed as being more empathetic to the public’s feelings for his former wife than was his mother. And face it, the Queen could not have had much love for Diana, who since the marriage had been from her perspective nothing but trouble to her family. Any affection was nothing beyond the fact that Diana was the mother of her grandchildren, William of course being in line to be king one day.

I found myself not exactly liking, but to some extent respecting and admiring the Queen’s character. Neither am I a fan of the institution. But she was brought up to keep her emotions under wraps and never to express them in public. She can be admired for keeping it together, at the very least, which is more than could be said for poor Diana, the product of a fairytale that was not to be. The cold and stiff upper lip portrayed by Queen Elizabeth contrasts with the open displays of vulnerability displayed by Diana during her lifetime. Both may have their ups and down sides – but it seems to be the Queen’s path that wins through in this world, for now. Although the cult of celebrity may indicate a shift, as many people speculated during the Diana spectacle.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Take the Weather....

It is a cold day here, the first of Jan is the equivalent of the 1st of July in British seasons. But it is colder than I remember any English July day ever being, and that is saying something. Folks here don't believe in contral heating so I am snuggled up with a sweater or by a single radiator. It cold very well be an English New Years Day!

Reminds me of a song by Crowded House...'Everywhere you go, always take the.......'

So far Weather in the city of Wellies is worse than any English weather I recall in an earlyish summer. C'est la. If it was a hot day (as it was the day before yesterday) it may not match my mood as I was homesick with all that implies (yep, including the British winter). As they say, be careful what you wish for! If I don't have London't scenery at least I have it's seasonal weather.

Makes me think of another song, it was called 'Winter in July'. I forget who it was by though.