Despair in the Void

With no real night or day cycle, it’s hard to retain that idea of a perfect day…but I’ll give it a go.

Waking up in a bed that I don’t need to be physically strapped to. Being able to go for a nice morning piss without having to go through the stupid long-ass checklist or the insidious fear that my dick will get sucked out into the vacuum. Looking out a window and feeling the sun on my face… You know, the kind that wouldn’t literally melt it right the fuck off.

Ideally I’d then have breakfast consisting of foods that haven’t been wrapped in cellophane plastic or condensed into pill form. I’m old-fashioned that way, I guess. Being able to feel your digestive system actually working normally, instead of…whatever this weird floaty, not-quite-repeating sensation is. It’s not just me, speak to anyone who has done a tour up here and they’ll give you the same story.

Terra firma. Gravity… Lovely, lovely gravity…

Looking at something – anything – other than fucking stars. Sitting down – ah, another simple but impossible pleasure right now – to watch a football match without the awareness that everything  you are witnessing is taking place thousands and thousands and thousands of miles away…and that, despite the ‘live’ feed, happened not just minutes but hours ago.

Not having to give a single, tiny shit about surface tension.

Left alone… Huh. Sounds crazy, I know, but aboard this flying garbagecan, admittedly with not another soul to be found in the cosmos, I haven’t had a moments peace and quiet. You can forget about privacy; everything going on within my body is flickering on some screen down at Houston, and the NASA techies nag worse than a controlling mammy if they sense anything amiss.. Sometimes I feel like this rustbucket is just a giant ball and chain, constructed entirely for my benefit.

I’d have a few beers at the end of the day, and lapse into a drunken stupor safe in the knowledge that, come morning, I won’t be having another ‘super-hangover’ fed by the oxygen-rich air. Sweet, sweet oblivion, in gravity’s ever-present embrace.

Can I come home now?

“In the name of Peace and Progress!”

Seeing anything sexual in the image above is counter-revolutionary

Solidarity, brothers & sisters… 

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Hypocritical Rant on Nostalgia Exploitation in Film & TV Culture

Robocop. Fargo. Hannibal. Ghostbusters. Jurassic World. Terminator Genesis (No, I’m not spelling it the dumb way they do). Mad Max. Total Recall. Annie. Westworld. Poltergeist. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes. Police Academy. And, as I found out today, Galaxy Quest.

All are recent or forthcoming remakes/adaptations/reboots/reimaginings of past television and film products that were much beloved and, for the most part, have stood the test of time. Some were appreciated instantly, some became cult classics – all are being relentlessly exploited. Not because they required or merited further exploration and development, but because the cabal of studios, networks and producers who decide what does or does not get made knows that brand-recognition and exploitation of nostalgia equals box office.

I fuckin’ hate it.

It’s only a short list from off the top of my head by the way – there are tens, maybe even hundreds, of examples from the last decade of so. Didn’t somebody say that pop would eat itself? If so, some 80’s and 90’s appear to be the starters, the 70’s and 60’s will be the main course, and we may just have enough gut-space left over to squish in the highpoints from the golden age of cinema. Yum.

Of course, I have to hold my hands up and say that sometimes this results in good output: Hannibal is a cut above most television shows and has developed its own cult following, while the recent TMNT film was nowhere near as bad as some had made out. Both surprised me with their relative success. Hannibal Lector and the cast of characters in his universe are endlessly fascinating, so it should not have been so strange to me that it did well, but the Turtles film… Even though it wasn’t abysmal, it was still unnecessary.

The prospective Ghostbusters film has me quivering in anticipation because of the direction they are going with it – even if it doesn’t succeed, to my mind it will have been worth the shot. Why the apparent cognitive dissonance? Well, I could rationalise it as the potential Ghostbusters always had for further expansion; the whole notion of a ghost-hunting team in NYC is something you could derive all sorts of entertainment from. There are plenty of themes you can explore. This, however, is a bit of a smokescreen on my part, as it is a post-hoc rationalisation of an immediate positive reaction I had upon reading the details of the new production.

Essentially, what I am saying is that regardless of results, the motivation for going back, picking a successful show or movie, then remaking/adapting it for a current audience is entirely dictated by profit motive. At best, they will bring something artistically fresh to the table because they will play around with the source material; Hannibal twists so much in terms of characters and even canon, while the Ghostbusters all-female has already made ructions in the fan community (only a good thing in my opinion).

The one thing you never see, or almost never see, is a remake of a bad movie. A movie where it did badly at the box office or was critically panned, but could have been a success with a few tweaks here, a clip or two there, better casting, a capable director, one or two less cooks spoiling the screenwriting broth…

No, instead we are subjected to the industry incessantly rummaging around in the our collective conscious, desperately searching for yet another pop cultural artifact that hasn’t had it’s bones constructed into a marionette that can be made to dance for a new bunch of suckers – DANCE, SKELLINGTON, DANCE!

Ahem.

Here’s a brief list of films and television shows that I would have another pop at, either ‘cos the originals were shite, just missed the mark, or just require a new slant:
Black Hawk Down, Piece of Cake, The Beach, A Long Way Down, practically every videogame adaptation ever made seriously you guys, The Help, The Guarantee, Frontier(s), the Star Wars prequels, Bad Day At Blackrock aka What Richard Did, World War Z, 12 Angry Women why not, It’s A Wonderful Life, Actual Anarchist Insurrectionary Club because fuck the subject for Christ’s sake, V-for-Vendetta, It Happened Here, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from the Chief’s perspective like in the book, Inception, Downfall the Stalin edition, Jane Bond or better still trans James Bond.

Ok, so some of those weren’t serious. It’s just that I can’t remember off the top of my head all the (many, many) theatrical and televisual productions that demand, at the very least, a facelift. I’m not even going to try listing all the films that should have sequels or could be expanded into TV serials!

That’s enough waffle for the day. Some would say too much.
They’d be right.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Nosferat’Undine

The deepest man has dived under the Earth’s oceans is about 11 kilometres.

4 times have descents reached this limit.

They have never discovered us. How can they, when we do not wish to be found?

*****************************

Our history is as murky as the depths to which we are accustomed. All I can tell you is what we now are; a species adapted to survive in the cold recesses of the world’s seas, with evolutionary mutations which combine to make us the food chain’s apex predator. Unlike the omnivorous humans, we have learned to achieve a harmonious equilibrium with our environment and so, over millennia, we have cultivated our habitat without disturbing those above the waves…

In a sense, we and the humans are probably related. There is no evidence to suggest when the ‘fork in the road’ occurred, but the similarities in our biological make-up and simply too many to be ignored; the head, the arms, two eyes, mouth, even a nose… All arranged in a manner virtually identical to our land-borne cousins. We are bigger though; an average of 6 feet long and 20 stone, with some achieving a length of 10 feet and weights of over 25 stone. This is mostly comprised of blubber, necessary in order to insulate our bodies from the tempematures of between 1 and 4 degrees celsius.

Our eyes, in order to see in these parts of the world that no rays can penetrate, are larger and capable of emitting light via bioluminescence. Our nasal passages contain electromagnetic gel and numerous sonar-receptor pores that aid us in our spacial awareness. This gives us a radar-like picture of everything in a 360 degree radius, for distances of up to 10 kilometres. Put simply, we have the best detection system of anything, anywhere…localised entirely within our visage.

We, as aquatic mammals, have a tail, along with fins we are able to utilise for extremely precise, swift movements. These fins can even give us a certain amount of mobility on terra firma, but such a scenario is rare to the point of non-existence. Certainly, I myself have never ventured onto the coastline of any landmass, and I know of only a few comrades who have taken such a risk.

It is difficult for us to understand the divisions humanity has enforced upon itself in terms of skin colour, sexuality, and so on. Our body tones vary, but a deep-gray, dark-blue, indigo colour predominates. We are pansexual beasts, whose libidinous urges and desires are taken to be no different from those of hunger or thirst. The thirst… I should not have mentioned the thirst.

This is just a warning. STAY AWAY. We have spent eons avoiding contact with your kind, and believe me when I say that this was not for our benefit. The damage you are doing to the climate of our planet cannot continue. We do not know why you insist on polluting and destroying so much of this ecosystem, and we do not care. All that matters is that you STOP. We can live off the sea, there is plenty to quench our voracious appetites, but if you continue to encroach on what is our reservation… Exsanguination will occur.

Once that begins, not even we will be able to stop it.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Ableism, Mental Illness & Violent Crime

This might do just about nobody any good.

What I want to say is contrary to the opinions of a great many people whose intelligence and principles I respect, admire and try – in my own tiny way – to emulate. It is based largely off of my own personal experiences and thus is, to a massive degree, anecdotal. Take it with a pinch of salt. It is just the view of one man. Ok? Ok. So here goes…

Anyone who takes a life, including their own, is mentally ill.

That’s really pretty much it. No other point to make or belief to declare. Just a solitary sweeping assumption that is doubtless seen by many as, at the very least, flawed. At most, it’s probably some sort of blasphemy.

I’ve suffered from mental illness most of my life. Certainly my entire adult life. I think I was 14 or 15 when I was first medicated for depression, but really I had been experiencing the sort of self-hatred, panic attacks, social phobia and other symptoms since I had first entered secondary school at 12. Of course, as my dad was a shrink, I didn’t manage to muster the courage to get (or need, in the case of acquiring pills) outside help until well into my twenties. I had a breakdown and a subsequent stint in psychiatric hospital when I was 27. If there is one thing I know about, and experience on a daily basis, it’s mental illness.

It is possible, indeed probable, that most if not all people experience mental illness at some stage in their lives. There are some who believe the mentally disturbed and the mentally ill to be distinct groups – I think this is semantic rubbish, a splitting of hairs designed to ‘other’ those whose illness causes harm from those whose illness does not. The reality is that any one of us can sink into the abyss at virtually any moment, for virtually any period of time. This is why medication exists. This is why therapy exists. This is why hospitals exist.

To pretend, as some seem to do, that a person’s mental health is irrelevant when, say, he shoots numerous people to death or flies his plane into the side of a mountain (for it is almost alway a ‘he’ who does these things), is grossly irresponsible. There are a myriad of reasons why individuals act the way they do, of course, but to suggest that a mentally healthy person would – or even could – commit these acts is simply intellectual dishonesty. Some of it I genuinely do not understand; some mental health advocates were up in arms at the suggestion that pilots who suffer or are suffering from depression should not be allowed at the controls. Really? Would you board a plane knowing that the captain was struggling with the psychological strain life presents?

I will be accused of ableism, I’m sure of it. I was accused before, in the aftermath of the Rodgers killing spree in California. Then, as now, I opined that an individual who kills based on a ludicrous misogynistic, entitled, narcissistic perspective of the world is de facto mentally ill. To me, this is not a particularly incendiary statement. It baffles me that, to some, it is.

The fact that it is invariably white killers who receive a focus on their mental health, while killers of colour (KOCs) are denied the same, is not a justifiable reason for slandering the approach – surely it should just be extended to non-white actors? The guys from ISIL who hack journalists’ heads off, mass murderers Boko Haram, the killers of Lee Rigby, the 7/7 bombers… All of these people were or are clearly, to me, suffering from serious psychological torment of one form or other. Al Qaeda were memorably described by Bill Bailey as a ‘loose affiliation of psychopathic zealots’ – do people believe that he was being ableist in his choice of adjective?

Perhaps I am wrong on this. If so, I apologise to my fellow sufferers of mental illness and all those who advocate on their behalf. Here, I’ve just been thinking out loud. Maybe I should do it less often?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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What goes up…

In the air, you feel invincible.

Streaking through the air at over 700 kilometres per hour, courtesy of two colossal General Electric turbofan engines. Armed with a 30 millimetre Avenger cannon, six AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Sidewinders are for self-defence. Just in case.

Every contingency is prepared for.

Your aircraft, the A-10, is commonly known as the ‘Warthog’, but you prefer its official, more impressive title; the ‘Thunderbolt’. You like to envisage your combat role as that of Thor’s Hammer, flashing out of the sky and delivering electrifying justice upon those who have angered the Gods. No mercy, no hesitation, no fear – you are a tool of judgement for the Lord to wield as he sees fit.

You do not give your actions a second thought.

Today you’re going tank-busting. You and your wingman spot suspicious activity on the ground, very close to the active operational area of friendly forces. Immediately, with one swoop, you hurtle towards the vehicles and identify some peculiar orange tubes… They could be Scuds, or some other weapon to be utilised against your Coalition brothers in arms. Embedded on the banks of a small canal, they certainly appear military. You make a brief report of your sighting, and tell your aerial sidekick to prepare to engage. In seconds rather than minutes, you and your wingman have eliminated this threat, and continue your patrol.

The radio crackles.

“Popov from Lightning 34. Can you confirm that you engaged the tube and those vehicles?”

Buzzed, you respond in the affirmative, taking care to shield the pride from your voice.

“Roger, Popov. Be advised that you have friendly armour in the group box 3122 to 3222. Orange, small tanks. Just be advised.”

Your blood runs as cold as the air outside your cockpit.

“Hey, Popov three-four, ABORT YOUR MISSION. You got, uh…We…it looks like we might have a blue-on-blue situation.”

Fury, guilt and sickness instantly churn your guts, you want it not to be true as you key the mic.

“Confirm that those are friendlies on that side of the canal.”

At this, command changes tack, and declares that once upon returning to base, all the confusion will be sorted out at your debriefing.

“They did say there were no friendlies!”

Your comrade sounds on the verge of tears, but you have nothing with which to encourage him.

“Yeah, but the orange thing will screw us. Orange panels are the ident friend-or-foe, man. They…they just looked like orange rockets on top.”

From this point until landing, you stay quiet and simply concentrate on not throwing up.

At the debriefing session, you are informed that one British soldier was killed and five more were wounded. A thorough investigation will be launched, but it is highly probable – essentially certain, in fact – that you will be cleared of any wrongdoing. The incident simply will act as a reminder of the inherent fog of war that will occur regardless of modern technology and advanced communications. Blue-on-blue engagements are, unfortunately, inevitable.

This is all meant to be reassuring, but to you it is meaningless. Your wings have been clipped, your hammer cracked.

In the air, you felt invincible.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

***Loosely based upon the events documented in the video below***

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All filler no killer

This afternoon me mam asked had I been writing while she was away, and I realised that not one word has escaped my pen (or keyboard) since 2014. Why? What reason have I for such fantastic indolence? I have a job – just – but I barely work more than one day a week, if that. Mostly I sit on my ass at home, playing xbox 360 and surfing teh net for whatever tickles my fancy. Said fancy is usually tickled by football news, gaming news, mark kermode’s film reviews, and leftist politics. Just in case you were wondering, like.

I’m not seeking pity, you understand – this is actually all quite fulfilling. Yeah, a job would be nice; sense of accomplishment, social interaction, self-worth boost, something to talk about when I meet up with friends/relatives/acquaintances… Twould all be very nice. But, like, that’s in a perfect world. With a perfect job. And for somebody with my kind of anxiety, anything less than that eventually just makes me hate myself and everyone around me. Which makes full-time work essentially out of the question, and even part-time work seriously uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I pretty much enjoy contributing to online discussions and what-have-you, in the time-honoured tradition of the armchair/keyboard warrior. SJW and proud, that’s me. This internet activism lark is pretty much all I add to my side in the class war, but it’s something I guess. Very little, granted, but nonetheless some sort of voice chiming in with the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. Tis a start, ya might say…if you were feeling charitable.

Anyway, that’s over 250 words, so I can say I’ve written something now. HUZZAH!

Now back to World of Tanks. Still haven’t managed to grind my way to a T-34 yet…

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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My Favourite Films of 2014

It’s that time again, when everyone is putting their end-of-year lists together and grading all the things they’ve done, read, watched and listened to, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, somehow, will give the slightest tiny shit about their tedious, uninformed opinions. So let’s get on with it!

All told, I saw about 70 newly released movies in 2014. In no particular order, they were the following (DEEP BREATH);

Uwantme2killhim?, Snowpiercer, After Tiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 12 Years a Slave, The Machine, Grudge Match, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Robocop, G.B.F., Godzilla, A Case of You, The Double, Gimme Shelter, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Calvary, Transcendence, A Long Way Down, The Lego Movie, Road to Paloma, The Armstrong Lie, Now You See Me, Under The Skin, Contracted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Frank, Nebraska, The Zero Theorem, Guardians of the Galaxy, Her, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Locke, Around the Block, Grand Budapest Hotel, Enemy, Charlie Countryman, Canibal, Best Man Down, Night Moves, Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent, Perfect Sisters, The Square, Nymphomaniac, The Guarantee, We Are The Best, Horns, The Monuments Men, The Unspeakable Act, Automata, The Returned, All is Lost, Whitey: United States of America vs James J. Bulger, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, What If, The Babadook, As Above/So Below, Belle, The Maze Runner, Lucy, Predestination, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gone Girl, Joe, The Purge: Anarchy, Tusk, The One I Love, Jimmy’s Hall, The Salvation, and last but not least, The Interview.

I also saw Mystery Road in 2013, but since it only got a proper release this year…I’m counting it. The films marked in blue are the ones I would heartily recommend to anyone who is looking for something great to watch.

Anyway, that’s why you won’t be seeing the likes of The Raid 2, Boyhood, The Rover, Interstellar, The Canal, Fury or any other of the myriad of potentially fine films released this year; because I haven’t seen them. Bearing all that in mind, these are my top 5 (drumroll, please):

5. Grand Budapest Hotel

How you react to this movie really depends on your overall perception of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre; if it’s too twee for your liking, you’ll probably hate it. However, if you adored Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, or his adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, you will love this, his best work. Sumptuous to look at, filled with laugh-out-loud moments, and strangely poignant given the implied backdrop of Nazi-era repression, the Grand Budapest Hotel also features some of the finest comic acting this year, from a glorious cast.  Tony Revolori gives a breakthrough display in the lead role, and who knew that Ralph Fiennes could do comedy?! Exceptional film.

4. Calvary

John Michael McDonagh followed up The Guard with something a lot darker, more layered, more seedy, and harder to watch. The Irish auteur is fast becoming one of my favourite filmmakers, partly because he knows how to frame a great shot, and partly because he is economical with dialogue. His efficiency means that he can cram a lot of complexity into the characters and story within a relatively short running time, and a seven-day plot that moves along at a brisk pace. Props here to Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran, who both act against type to turn in quite heart-rending performances. Calgary’s pathos stays with you long after the end credits.

3. We Are The Best!

Easily the sweetest film of 2014, and my pick of the foreign language films this year. Based on Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel Never Goodnight, the adaptation is brought to the screen by Coco’s husband Lukas Moodysson, who takes the directorial reins with aplomb. It’s just a really lovely story about a couple of teenage girls growing up in early 80’s Sweden, enduring all sorts of hardship for being unapologetic, hardcore punks. The kids at the centre of the movie put in such earnest and talented portrayals that you can’t help but love them, and the whole thing is just beautiful to watch. An absolutely stand-out feature.

2. Mystery Road

This is a tale of identity, divided loyalties, justice, prejudice and honour. Set in present-day Queensland, this film is an homage to classic westerns, hardboiled detective stories, crime thrillers, and social dramas. A whodunnit in the Australian outback, with all the environmental beauty acting as counterweight to the grim deprivation of the people residing there, Mystery Road follows an aboriginal cop as he tries to solve the murder of a young indigenous girl. In so doing, he comes up against the understandable distrust of his fellow aboriginals, the racism of the local white populace, and even the feckless incompetence of his colleagues in the police force. Aaron Pedersen is outstanding in the lead role, but mention must also be made of Hugo Weaving’s electric supporting turn. A genuinely unique and brilliant film.

1. Locke

It’s funny; the other films on this list – and the one which barely didn’t make the cut, Predestination – are all visually complex affairs, with hard work required to execute the director’s vision. This, in sharp contrast, is the simplest of aesthetics; one man, in a car, at night. Of all the features listed, this is the one that sounds like it could easily be a stage play, or indeed a radio play. There doesn’t seem to be much to it.

Boy is that a daft assumption.

Oddly spectacular despite it’s limitations, Locke is the story of the eponymous Ivan Locke, a construction engineer working on the biggest job of his lifetime, who makes the sudden decision to abandon his career obligations in order to…you know what, I won’t spoil it. Just watch the damn thing!

Tom Hardy is simply extraordinary, a magnetic and mellifluous man at the helm of a tough, gnarled, strangely poetic vessel. The voice-only supporting performances by Andrew Scott and Olivia Coleman are wonderful too, as they have to be in order to maintain the gripping drama of it all. Make no mistake, in a film as apparently bare-bones as this, whether the whole shebang succeeds or fails is down entirely to the cast – and every one of them is marvellous.

Writer-director Steven Knight put together the most breathtaking of austere movies and, as a result, Locke is my favourite film of 2014. By far.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters… 

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