Posts Tagged ‘ Black Mirror ’

The Demise of Thatcher

The Demise of Thatcher

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Britain –and in particular Scotland- seemed to have a new national anthem yesterday as ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ rang out loud and clear across social media, in the pubs and even on the streets. It is not customary in our nation of reserve and etiquette to celebrate the death-as opposed to the life- of an individual but the passing of Baroness Thatcher- in the exclusive enclaves of the Ritz Hotel-affected many in the country, especially those who grew up in her consumerist greed infested nineteen eighties, in the same way her policies touched them during her reign as Prime Minister.

Actually, perhaps not exactly the same way! The feeling I encountered yesterday seemed to be one of positivism as opposed to the feeling of dread the mention of her name engendered whenever it was mentioned. Having grown up in the eighties I felt the wrath of Thatcherism- politics so strident and defining they acquired their own branding- as many young people who did not embrace the ethos of greed and stamping over others to get what they want also did. She was a major force in the breakdown of our society and divisiveness which is as apparent-if not more so- today resulting in the selfish and greedy nature of subsequent generations who were born into a culture where such things were encouraged.

What then does her legacy consist of?

Many front pages today seem to be focussing on what they term the benefits of her time though that is as much a matter of opinion as it ever was. The Daily Hell has a headline proclaiming her as the woman who saved Britain and is happy to emblazon this across its front pages without a hint of irony. I understand that certain sections and a very certain type of person could flourish under Thatcherism but I am glad to say that I know very few of them personally so this headline is way beyond my comprehension and I consider her the more readily as the woman who broke Britain.

If you were anything other than from the white, aspirational middle class heterosexual family orientated side of life then Thatcher simply was not interested. If you were working class and involved in industry then you were expected to tow the line and do what you were told.

None of the airbrushed news items I saw yesterday even mentioned the horrors of Clause 28, supporting of Apartheid or friendships with dubious dictators although her brushes with the Miners and the Poll Tax were touched upon. More was made of her endeavours to privatise everything in sight including the NHS and social housing. The former is still in a mess almost to the point of collapse following her intervention and its future is forever uncertain. The latter seemed like a good idea to many at the time but with no new housing being built to replace those sold off to tenants its long term effects have seen homelessness increase and rents in the private housing market soar making it even more difficult for those on the lower end of the spectrum to crawl onto the housing ladder.

On and on the legacy of Thatcher continues and I could go on forever about the negative impact of her eleven and a half years as Prime Minister. The media seem to be rewriting an era I grew up in and this is the part which is most shocking to me. The flag at Holyrood Palace –in full view of the Scottish Parliament her tenure necessitated- flying at half mast seemed only to inflame feeling concerning her death and seemed insensitive in a country where few tears were shed over her death. In fact hatred of Thatcher is probably at its strongest among Scots who stood up to her when she introduced the Poll Tax –the instrument of her eventual downfall- here in 1989 a year ahead of the rest of the UK in 1990. The refusal to pay and subsequent riots when attempts to impose this unfair and ridiculous tax made even her own party realise they were dealing with a megalomaniac mad woman and subsequently set out to depose her.

How times (don’t) change though and a week before her death some of the most draconian measures introduced into our benefits system were introduced. It is almost as if she was hanging on to make sure they actually went through before she could rest in peace.

So for everyone who greeted her death as a cause for celebration it might be wise to not take your eyes off the big picture. Last week saw the introduction of the so called Bedroom Tax which is every bit as crippling as the Poll Tax and there was nary a whimper on the street. Her legacy seems to include having taken away the fighting spirit which used to have those with a conscience making themselves seen and heard whereas nowadays the only sound to be heard is the clicking of keys on a keyboard as everyone shares their opinions on a social network without having to leave the comfort of their couch. Complacency and acceptance have set in and however much vitriol people feel it barely makes it past the next status update.

For all the news items devouring her passing last night possibly the best example I came across of Thatcher’s legacy could be witnessed in E4’S timely return of ‘Made in Chelsea’. This bunch of over privileged, self obsessed, whinging expensively educated idiots are a perfect example of where it all went wrong. They and their ilk may have spent generations sneering down at us condescendingly and thanks to the auspices of Thatcher, who made sure they were protected under her policies, they still do. Thatcher may be dead but unfortunately Thatcherism is still very much alive and kicking.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday March 1st

 The Next Day

Only the beginning of March and it feels as if spring has already arrived with reasonably mild temperatures and a welcome amount of sunshine. Here’s hoping it lasts. March also means that awards season is more or less over and the culmination of these backslapping extravaganzas took place with last week’s Oscar ceremony which was as boring and predictable as I thought it would be. So much so that I never even bothered staying up to watch  or subsequently write about it, so mind numbingly irrelevant was it.

These ceremonies seem to consist of fatuous types rewarding the biggest industry players-those who make the most money- with accolades which allow them to charge ever more exorbitant fees and produce ever more vacuous art. Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook  were the main contenders and unsurprisingly enough took home several of the main awards although it was more of a surprise that Tarantino’s Django Unchained also took home an award as despite his advancing years and success he is still considered something of an enfant terrible and outsider in Holly wood circles.

Despite this many of my favourite films over the last year didn’t even get a mention –and I have seen countless movies in that space of time- and thus Bullhead, The Hunt, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Untouchable all remain unrecognised amongst mainstream cinemagoers although whether this is a good or a bad thing is up for debate.

Tonight sees Neu! Reekie hold court at Summerhall and already a sell out it looks like being another class show from this always reliable night. BMX Bandits, Miriam Gamble, Scott Hutchison and Ron Butlin are just four of the acts confirmed for tonight’s show  and after missing their Burns night spectacular there is no way I am letting that fate befall me again this month. They also have interesting other extracurricular shows coming up so I will keep you informed as and when I have any details.

Another name to watch out for and catch if you can is Homesick Aldo. I attended a specially invited showcase for him last weekend and apart form being an excellent show it also kick started a few plans into motion so watch this space as they say. Whoever they are!

It seems at the moment we are living very much in David Bowie’s world in the biggest way since the seventies and in a way which seemed unlikely during his artistically moribund eighties or slightly more credible nineties. That a sixty six year old with nearly forty five years in the business is perhaps the most relevant artist in rock and roll at the moment speaks volumes in itself. This week alone sees him on the cover of virtually every leading music magazine as well as almost daily updates on his upcoming new album The Next Day in the Broadsheets and the tabloids alike.

It is certainly a good feeling to have him back in our lives after rumours of ill health and even impending death circulated over the last few years. As I am writing this I am listening to the upcoming album in its entirety and can confirm he sounds very much alive; in fact more than he has done since the late seventies. The title track snarls and sneers its way voraciously showing that the lead off melancholic single ‘Where Are We Now’ was untypical of the albums rockier content and that Bowie could sidestep predictability and wrong-foot us all yet again.

The video for new single ‘Stars Are Out Tonight’ featuring a female model masquerading as his 1975 persona The Thin White Duke plays around with his legacy as well as gender boundaries and androgyny. Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast as his wife-they play an elderly couple whose cosy existence is disrupted when a group of musicians move in next door- and in many ways his female doppelganger with her alien features and haughty demeanour. It is a video which is fumy, weird and full of self referential imagery which is delight for long term fans and newcomers both. The interesting thing about Bowie is that he is a style which never goes out of fashion and this new video and its attendant single certainly prove he has not lost his touch and this is confirmed by the advance sales for the the upcoming V&A exhibition which already looks like being the busiest they have ever had.

As  said before I am listening to the album at the moment- The Next Day, Dancing Out In Space and Stars Are Out Tonight are immediate standouts so far- but will post a review after two or three listens and the songs have started to sink in, as every album requires this at the very least.

So that is me also entering the world of David Bowie yet again and apart from an outing to Neu! Reekie later tonight that is my Friday taken care of.

To hear the new David Bowie album The Next Day follow the following link.

http://pitchfork.com/news/49744-listen-to-the-new-david-bowie-album-now/

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday February 22nd

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Quite a lot been happening over the last week not least the sad news that Shadow Morton –the genius behind the Shangri La’s and producer of the ill fated second album ‘Too Much Too Soon’ by the New York Dolls- had died, trial by social media for  the James Bulger killers which leads neatly into the latest instalment of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ series and, of course, that invective inducing shambles The Brits.

Worst things first, let’s look at the Brits –or should that be The Shit Awards aka The Skits- and how the sight and sound of One Erection murdering Blondie and The Undertones-now as an act of revenge wouldn’t the sight of those two groups murdering One Direction be something to see and in fact Debbie Harry could probably blow them to pieces with one blink of her eye- will remain one of the most horrendous moments of 2013. What is most worrying of all is that the boy bland themselves might actually think they are any good. Newsflash guys; you’re not. Definitely not!

The whole debacle was trite and embarrassing and far from showing what an unhealthy state the music industry is in it merely re-iterated that it is now over run by money men who care little about the quality of music they are peddling to an ever growing mass market. Last year however saw old music outselling new music for the first time so surely that statistic in itself speaks volumes. Having already attacked this ceremony in full I will not repeat the bile which already spewed forth and if you missed my ‘critique’ then it can be found here.

Not even getting a mention at the awards was Shadow Morton the legendary producer who died last week. Creating mini rock and roll operas for teenagers- rape, death, parental fall-outs and bad boy fixations were just some of the controversial subjects covered-  with The Shangri La’s in the early sixties, Morton’s legacy still looms large over modern music. What was Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ album if not an attempt to capture some of that aforementioned girl bands pathos for a twenty first century audience? ‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘Give Him a Great Big Kiss’, ‘I Can Never Go Home Anymore’ and ‘Past, Present and Future’ still sound as fresh today as they must have done fifty years ago.

Lapsing into alcoholism Morton was more or less washed up by the time the New York Dolls approached him to produce their second album ‘Too Much, Too Soon’-the title proved prophetic as the Dolls were ahead of their time and it wasn’t until punk exploded several years later that their influence was recognised- though this was far from a fruitful venture and more or less killed off both their careers simultaneously. Morton disappeared from the music scene after this fateful encounter and languished in alcoholism throughout the eighties and relative obscurity until his death last week.

Much has been said concerning the alleged revealing of the former child killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables who tortured and murdered two year old Jamie Bulger twenty years ago. The revealing of their identities via social media can as far as I can see do no good for anyone involved. All such actions can do is refresh the pain of the victims families- the pain will always be there but just dealt with in a different way however the unwelcome intrusion of any form of media can only bring it to the fore and heighten any anguish- as well as the expense of relocating and providing new identities,yet again, for the perpetrators.

Much like the horrors committed by Myra Hindley-the thought that a woman could involve herself in such horrific acts still shocks even today- it is more the fact that they carried out such atrocities whilst still children themselves that makes most peoples blood run cold. Their crime was horrifically shocking both then and now but the justice system-which is far from perfect-, has tried to deal with an unprecedented case in the best way it knows how. Trial by Twitter –unconfirmed alleged images of the  two killers as they are today went viral last weekend- is perhaps the way our society is moving but this does not however make it right as it interferes with an already beleaguered justice system which is struggling to retain any semblance of credibility and control as it is.

It was a subject which reared its head in ‘White Bear’ the latest episode of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ series this week in which a young woman who has committed tortuous acts on a child wakes up in a justice camp where her trial involves her being pursued by a baying audience armed with mobile phones capturing every second of her torment as meted out by her captors. She is tortured and disorientated and as a drama it could not have been better timed to coincide with the revealing of the Bulger killers identities and the subsequent fall out if Brooker had tried. A full review can be found here.

Top night out for me this weekend has to be The Subterranean Homesick Aldo Blues Experience at the Institute in Marchmont. A genuine superstar in the making this looks like being a great gig although it is an invite only showcase event but I shall report back on the evening, as well as posting an interview and exclusive pictures of the man himself in the next week, alongside upcoming dates and news.

To finish off here is ‘Leader of the Pack’ by the Shangri La’s which is probably the song most will associate with the late, great Shadow Morton. All together now ‘Is she really going out with him?’…

BLACK MIRROR

Black Mirror

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Admittedly I had only seen half of one episode in Charlie Brooker’s one off dramas during its first series and being decidedly non-plussed never bothered investigating any further. However last week on a rainy day I decided to check out the first episode of the second series- social media, twittering etc. had, ironically as it turns out, piqued my interest- and was pleasantly surprised by an episode which was eerily disturbing-not unlike a 21sttcentury update on the seventies classic series, fondly held in many hearts including my own, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’- which raised some thought provoking issues as well as asking us to look at ourselves and the way we live our lives today. The black mirror of its title is presumably the reflection we would see if we actually looked at ourselves properly rather than simply gazing at the contrived self conscious image we hope we reflect to others.

The opening episode ‘Be Right Back’ told the tale of a self satisfied couple. Ash and Martha, whose lives and careers are trundling along very nicely indeed although Ash’s addiction to social media infuriates Martha no end, to the point she even throws something at him to ensure he is ‘still solid’. This proves prescient as soon after he is killed in a car accident and overwhelmed with grief she discovers she can obtain a replicant replacement clone-shades of Bladerunner here- who not only looks the part but actually behaves however she wants him to.

The downside is all his responses and reactions are created by his social media profiles-one part how he actually is to nine parts of how he wants to appear- and he becomes the perfect boyfriend; even sexually as his viewing of porn makes the replicant Ash a far superior lover to the real thing who often preferred the self satisfaction followed by the old roll over and snooze routine, but eventually this inevitably becomes frustrating.

It was an intriguing story which not only showed how our emotions are now controlled by how we want to be perceived and learnt rather than felt. It was a sympathetic treatment which constantly lulled the viewer into a false sense of security whilst raising several questions as to where society is heading.

If ‘Be Right Back’ eased the viewer into Brooker’s observations then the second episode ‘The White Bear’ pulled no punches and moved at full throttle  never letting up throughout its duration.

Entering a seemingly totalitarian world where a  girl wakes up from a hazy nightmare where she is pursued seemingly with malevolent intent whilst a crowd films the whole proceedings on their phones. Terrorised and in fear for her life she escapes and is caught time and time again until eventually it transpires that she is actually a prisoner who has been involved in a child’s torture and slaying therefore the confusion, uncertainty,disorientation, pain and terror she is experiencing is perhaps indicative to the horrors she herself has previously inflicted and this is a new form of justice being meted out.

It was certainly an interesting observation on how we have all become voyeurs- Big Brother and The X-Factor auditions immediately sprang to mind- and our entertainment resembles a Coliseum where humiliation is our ritual. It also brought the recent paedophilia allegations concerning Jimmy Savile as well as others such as the Moors Murderers very sharply into focus and showed how we are sickly fascinated and attracted by the ghoulish whilst questioning how and why it has ended up this way. Perhaps it is time to put down our phones, switch off our laptops and relearn basic human emotions again.

Brooker has created an inventive series with ‘Black Mirror’ and although I was initially sceptical have since realised he is putting questions on our screens which don’t really have an answer or a solution as he is presenting things-albeit exaggerated for effect- just as they are or at the very least how they are going. I am not sure what the third episode of ‘Black Mirror’ has in store but guaranteed I am tuning in next Monday just to find out.