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Good news, bad news

The good news is that Our Beloved Prime Minister does not appear to be suffering from the same verbal malfunctions as the Former Number One Guy in the US did. His sentences ramble, they use appalling imagery and twee references and catchphrases he probably learned at his nanny’s knee. But they do make some sort of sense.

He isn’t suffering from senility or whatever peculiar form of brain damage the Former Guy has. He is however (and his recent performance confirms this) lazy, incompetent and vain. Only he could have written Peppa Pig (I believe that was the lady’s name) into an address to the CBI, a bunch of people noted for taking themselves and their concerns seriously even when they are on the annual jamboree. I can here him now, in my imagination, insisting on her inclusion to the professional speech writers employed to polish up his whimseys and find good filler for him: “No, no! Don’t be so stuffy! It’ll be fine!”

I realise this is thin comfort but it’s all I can offer you. I am slightly depressed by the possibility that the Tories will now be able to replace him and that the person they find to replace him (no matter how objectively unsuited to high office) will be given a chance to prove themselves by the British People whose sense of fairness will be offended by those of us who condemn them without giving them a chance to prove themselves. Yes, even Michael Gove! Yes, even Pritti Patel.

That dead cat bounce might well be enough to take the Tories first over the finishing line in the next General Election.

I may be forced (horrid prospect!) to say nice things about Boris, about how he is a splendid chap and should be preserved for the nation if I can thereby keep him in office until the next general election. (Odds against a televised debate though, don’t you think?)

EDITED TO ADD:

I just watched a recording of him fumbling through his notes and looking for his place, saying ‘Forgive me…. Forgive me….”

I have dreams like that but only ones in which I am a poor under-rehearsed actor and not ones where I am Prime Minister. I suppose I now have that to look forward to.

A Brief Burst of Cynicism

This week’s DR WHO was very flavourful, nicely concise and didn’t do anything much to annoy me.

I liked the use of the isolated English village in the 1960s, the twisted time-line of the psychic character (which didn’t make much sense when I tried to think about it), the lovely scene inside the mind scape of the psychic as the Doctor confronted the Angel, especially the setting on a causeway (?) or sea-side strand of sand.

But continuing the point I made last time about time fleeting by, I noticed that the focus of the whole mystery of the season is turning again towards the Doctor’s ‘missing memories’ and the nature of the Division. And it occurs to me that that there just isn’t the time to properly explore any memories the Doctor might get access to… So a prediction. The Doctor’s memories will not be explored much, if at all, by the end of this series. Either it will be shown to be a massive deception or red herring or it will be left entirely for the next poor schmo of a showrunner to unravel and make sense of.

And I can’t even figure out which of those is the more cynical option. No graphic this posting as I can’t think of a visual image of cynicism. Oh, wait! I know! A small yapping dog! (For reasons to do with the Greek origins of the word.)

Major fan service next time with the return of Kate Stewart and the villain gloating, unwisely I hope.

Chris (may I call you Chris?)…

…you really need to start clearing things up.

We’re halfway through the six episodes you’ve got to wind up your involvement with DOCTOR WHO and you just introduced a whole new thread, a self-righteous and maternal looking woman who has informed the Doctor that she’s closing down the universe that the Doctor ‘is so fond of’ and there’s nothing the Doctor can do about this and what is more it’s all the Doctor’s fault this is happening because Reasons.

Next week, you’re going to be dragging us back to the 1950s and having Weeping Angels attack a rural English village which will probably turn out to be half St Mary Meade and half Midwich (of Cuckoo fame). You can probably afford to have that be a more or less self contained story inside the wider arc of the Flux. Indeed after this week’s mad ride through history and the backstory of everybody, including the Doctor. (If that was actually her past history and not a double bluff) it would make a nice, restful change.

Which just leaves us the final two weeks to:

Introduce the first glimpses of What Is Really Going On.

Make us tremble at the Terrible, Terrible climax plotted by the baddies.

Kill off any companions you plan to kill.

Give the Doctor a last mad scheme which Just Might Work.

Destroy and/or Recreate the Universe in a form which other writers will be willing to pick up and run with.

Have the Doctor nobly sacrifice herself and regenerate.

Crash the TARDIS and allow it to redesign itself. (I do hope you haven’t gotten it into your head to destroy the old girl, the way you did UNIT, Gallifrey and other plot elements you felt were a burden on your genius.)

What I’m saying is, you need to get a bit of a move on.

I’m not yet willing to condemn what you’re doing. I am increasingly dreading you either doing something really dumb in the Big Reveal or just failing to resolve the thing you have promised to resolve, a thing that NuWho has been prone to in a manner more offensive than Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s chickening out in Biographia Literaria, which is the worst violator of the Law of Chekov’s Gun I know of.

It’s not just me, is it?

I’ve no problem (yet) with the plot of FLUX.

There was even one killer line: “Where are we going?” “Half a league onward.”

But who the hell turned the sound volume up so high?

Who said to the composer: “I don’t care about the quality but make it Really Loud!”


I don’t want to have to watch with subtitles on just so that I can grasp what’s going on.

Last week I thought it might be me going old and deaf. This week, I’m going to say that the sound mixing is clearly to blame.

Not grumpy yet.

My reaction to the new season of DR WHO?

Well, not too bad.

I’m not trying to damn it with faint praise but the first season of Jodie Whittaker’s time in the role was me saying ‘Let’s wait to see if it improves’, my second was me saying ‘She’s not really being well served by the writers’ and ‘You can’t do that!’ a lot and for the third I’m holding back any enthusiasm lest it comes to bite me in the rear by the end of the season.

Which is only five episodes away. This may be the way for Chris Chibbnal to depart leaving them wanting more or it may be because he and the cast are exhausted.

He started with an in media res full of references to things that happened between the Doctor and Yaz between series which is fine for giving Yaz a bit more depth, competence and confidence. There was a mysterious woman the Doctor was going to meet sometime in the future, a mysterious young man watching at the edge of the universe and the return (briefly for now) of the Weeping Angels and the Sontarans. There’s also a new companion, a new alien race, a mysterious villain who disintegrates people and remembers the Doctor while she does not remember him and the approaching end of all creation.

As Snoopy once remarked “In the Second Half I tie all this together.” Will Chris Chibnall be able to make sense of this along with the utterly blithering elements he introduced in the last series? I dunno. But I will be watching.

My only criticism is that there are too many bits of complicated dialogue being shouted very fast through loud sound effects. I’m going to have to watch them again on iPlayer to pick up what’s going on. This may be me becoming old and deaf, of course. At least I no longer go and hide behind the sofa. I don”t have a sofa for one thing.

I shit you not

I have just received the silliest unsolicited phonecall ever.

“Hello, is that Mr Cule? This is XXXX and I’m calling you from the Clairvoyant Company. (1) How are you today?”

It took a beat but I came back with: “Can’t you tell?”

“We have some good news for you sir. Are you free for a few minutes? An advisor would like to speak with you…”

I told her (very gently, because clearly she was not firing on all cylinders) that she should, please, try to find an honest job and hung up.

It really, really happened!

Their phone number was 01246104530: The reverse phone number site tells me nothing about them. Perhaps those of you who have more patience than me could ring them up and explore their services. I’m sure you’d be doing them a favour.

(1) There’s an AI consultancy in America (who have an office in Hyderabadad and it was an Indian accent on the other end of the phone. If this was them they need to change their name.

A letter to the editor

Sir,

A gentleman of my acquaintance, in his fifties and not in the best of health, today informed me that he had been knocked down by a person riding a powered pedal scooter on the pavement. He was then berated by the owner of the device for wrecking it. The collision occured after the scooter had been driven downhill and around a corner without adequate attention to other road, or in this case, pavement users. The driver was in his thirties but clearly not yet of an age to understand his responsibilies.

Fortunately for my friend there was a police car in the vicinity and the officers had witnessed the incident. They told him that the scooter driver had been charged three times before and released on bail each time. I’m aware of (and approve of, mostly) the fact that the vast majority of those accused of offences are not detained unless they are liable to cause harm to witnesses or otherwise interfere with the course of justice. But to be released the third time of asking? Once is happenstance, twice is co-incidence, the third time is blithering idiocy.

Can anyone tell me why it is that though there are laws against driving powered vehicles on the pavement, the police tolerate this and our local council even permits the setting up of recharging stations there so that you can pick up and drop off commercially available scooters. They may look like something a child would ride but they are powered and of a considerable mass. What is more all you need to hire one (I understand) is a debit card that can provide access to the owner’s website. Providing the details of a driving licence is not required.

The cause of keeping bicycles off the pavements has long been abandoned: if we are going to allow powered vehicles to take them over pedestrians will have to start wearing body armour.

A little research tells me that though you cannot ride a privately owned E-Scooter on the pavements (and the person who hit my friend looks likely to be charged with that) you can ride one of the ones hired by the council approved company. Why the difference? Are renters of dangerous devices more reliable than owners?

Yours

Michael Cule

(Too crusty old gentleman? Well, that’s how I’m feeling right now. I’ll send it to the GUARDIAN: their readers may be willing to decry the cosy relationship between councils and commercial enterprises.)

I Told You So (Or at least I think I did)

Reading the depressing news from Afghanistan had the effect of sending my mind scuttering back twenty years to the arguments that raged about first sending a huge international force into the most unconquerable terrain in the world to find a small handful of ideological terrorists or failing that their chief financier and spokesman.

I seem to recall being a bit dubious of it at the time but I sort of accepted that the wrath of the United States was going to have to be appeased. Which was probably my big moral failing in the affair, a bit of cowardice I shared with a lot of people. But even then I think I was doubtful about whether there would be a proper plan or that anyone in the Pentagon was going to know what to do with a country once you’ve conquered it.

I’m fairly clear that my opposition to the policies of the Bush administration had congealed into futile rage and disgust by the time the invasion of Iraq happened but it occurred to me that perhaps I’m remembering with advantage and the fierce Jeremiads I recall writing back then only ever existed in my own head. There are people who supported (and some who still support) the whole exercise who are convinced that nobody ever objected to the Twin Wars. Was I as deluded as them?

(The picture up there is supposed to be Jeremiah: he was called ‘The Weeping Prophet’. By Michaelangelo: I think it’s out of copyright.)

I didn’t have a blog back then so I can’t go and look but I do have the zines I wrote for ALARUMS & EXCURSIONS, the venerable gaming Amateur Press Association in somewhat readable form in longterm memory storage so I went off to investigate.

I only found a few references to Afghanistan. Lots of stuff about Iraq but that was at the end of the whole sad process when I was trying to persuade another contributor to A&E that his blithe optimism and ‘support the troops’ attitude was misplaced and his ‘why do you liberals not condemn Islam’ rhetoric was witless. We didn’t communicate much but we did each make our positions clear to the other. Which is something I suppose.

I heard President Biden say repeatedly that he had never supported ‘nation building’ in Afghanistan. What depressed me was that he seemed to feel that it was a reasonable position to invade a country, smash its existing government to bits and then not do enough to fix that situation. “We made the mess but it’s not up to us to fix it.” Ye gods and little fishes.

(At least he seems more coherent than the last fella. He repeated himself a fair bit but I got the feeling that was because he was trying to batter his message into the minds of the listeners rather than running on automatic.)

So what this seems to say to me, as a government statement of policy, is the following:

1) America has the power to invade any country in the world and make a godawful mess of its armed forces, government and economy.

2) America isn’t going to hang around long enough to clear up any mess and is incompetent to do so.

3) America has not intention of using the advantage this gives to ‘build democracy’. America has it seems forgotten how you do that since the Second World War.

4) If you attack America we have the power to take vengeance and the right, will and power to do so.

I keep thinking of Sondheim’s last number for INTO THE WOODS.

“Careful what you say

Children will listen.

Careful what you do.

Children will see.”

America, when you tell your children to clear up their mess, don’t be surprised when they ask you why they should. You will raise up a generation that loves vengeance and thinks itself entitled to it. Oh, wait. You already did.

Dammit, you know, I think I did say this back then. I think my principles and my prudence were enough to say back then: “Do the job properly or don’t try to do it at all.” And I certainly remember saying: “Armies won’t help. This is a police and intelligence job.”

Let’s see what Jeremiah has to say. Oh, look. Such a lot. (Though the Internet seems to have confused the Prophet with some TV series.) Ah, yes, this will do.

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”

I’m not sure that ‘the ancient paths’ are always the good way. But I don’t think the good way is so hard to make out as some people are saying to cover up their own complicity. And I see Tony Blair is sticking his nose in again. One of these days he may slip and tell us the actual reasons he supported British involvement. Or perhaps he remembers with advantages too and has rewritten the whole thing in his memory. Perhaps his lie has become his truth and he honestly doesn’t recall what really happened.

What the absolute…. Oooh Shiny!

I got a Brown Envelope today!

I dread these: I think most of us do. But the fact it was addressed to ‘The Resident’ reduced my worry to background level neurosis.

Inside was a letter from the Office of National Statistics. I have nothing against that organisation. They doubtless provide useful data for politicians to ignore or twist to their own purposes and employment to many persons of a mathematical bent. Several of my relatives are bent in that direction though they tend to find private enterprises pay better.

The letter was to explain (this is the bit that strained my credulity) that in a few weeks they would be sending me another letter inviting me to take part in a survey that could provide them with valuable data for their future number-crunching needs.

I know that I am old and getting a bit unadventurous in my lifestyle. But I am not yet so feeble of mind that I need a couple of weeks’ run up to making the decision whether to answer a survey or not. I have already decided to do so as my life is a little lacking in excitement just now. The fact that they offer a ‘five pound voucher’ is not an inducement because I know these government freebies of old. They are always giving you credit which you can spend a number of places whose only recommendation has to be being enthusiastic supporters of the Party of Free Enterprise. Even if you do want to keep the voucher for later you will probably store the details on your computer and then lose it.

So why, for the love of St Thomas More (patron saint of civil servants) are they sending me two letters instead of one? Is there some psychological theory that says people respond to government surveys more often if they get a warning it’s coming? Seems unlikely. If there are foes of government overspending out there I recommend they go after the person who set this up. Not me, it’s too darn hot for writing letters to the press.

#####

I got an Amazon parcel today!

I had been having a conviction that I should polish my shoes for the past few weeks, on and off.

Those who know my sartorial care and elegance will not find it surprising when I say that I probably hadn’t polished them since before the pandemic started. I wear the same pair of black, buckled barge boats day in and out. The NHS provide them to support my fallen arches and keep my diabetic feet from chafing in ill fitting mass produced shoes. They are what I wear because my feet no longer tolerate anything else. And since I haven’t been invited anywhere that involved a wedding, a funeral or an appearance in court I haven’t bothered with polishing them.

But even I can think that perhaps I need to care for them better. So I went and looked for my shoe polishing kit.

It wasn’t in the place it should be. It wasn’t in any of the numerous places I casually put things down and then pile things on top of them. It wasn’t in my suitcase (where it normally gets put when I have to go and visit other people who might care about shoe polishing more than I do). It was not to be found.

Which doesn’t mean I’ve lost it other than I’ve lost it in the flat. But it wasn’t available so I went and bought a new kit from Amazon.

It arrived today and it’s nice. I polished my shoes and all was good. But now I need to find something to keep the new kit in. And it should be big enough to keep the old kit in as well as I’m going to find it any day now. And small enough pop into the drawer where I normally keep my shoe polishing kit.

Perhaps I should have paid more for the kit which came in a fake leather bag or even the one that came in a little wooden box. Now I’m going to have to start searching the flat for the various leather bags I’ve picked up from my years in the Far Isles and which I sort of remember having. If I can’t find those where I think they should be then I can see a whole new cycle of acquiring stuff that I’ll put away ‘somewhere safe’ and then lose.

This is why I’m a slob, folks. When you get trapped into the cycle of buying stuff it’s downhill all the way. Well, until the accumulated clutter forces me onto the street.

£££££

And now for the Big News. I have had work! (Insert triumphal trumpets here!)

Well, four lines of a recording for Audible which will not be winning me my own star on the Hollywood sidewalk however much I might merit it.

But it is for something very cool: Part 2 of Dirk Maggs audio adaptation of the SANDMAN comics. I play a demon grovelling to Lucifer as Cain comes to him as an emissary from Dream. Recorded in my bedroom via a large number of iDevices and a lot of takes.

Which gives me a tiny amount of streetcred among my fannish acquaintances, a small amount of money and absolutely no chance of being noticed for the in production live action version of the comic Netflix is doing. I’d have made a lovely Fiddlers Green, as well. Harooom Harooom.

Here, have a link: http://adbl.co/morpheus

I’m sure they didn’t mean it that way…

Reasons to get other people to prufreed your text aren’t confined to typos. Also there are reasons advertising copywriters can earn generour salaries.

In evidence I offer a banner from an online advert that passed by my eyes which read in toto:

Immigrate to Canada

Want Canadian Citizenship? Get professional help

No? Just me then? I’ll get me coat.