Inside No. 9

Yesterday I came across something very interesting indeed. When the halloween episode of Inside No. 9 was broadcast on Sunday evening, I thought I’d give it a watch. I usually like Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s work. A few minutes into the program, though, the sound cut out. To check there wasn’t something wrong with our TV, I changed the channel – the sound was fine for bbc1. I changed it back and bbc2 was still silent, so I decided to watch the news instead.

Earlier though, I had come across a link to a Guardian article praising the program for it’s innovation. That, of course, aroused my curiosity so I decided before reading the article in full to give the episode another go. Strangely, though, the same thing happened: it started like any normal drama or sitcom would, with an old guy finding an old lady’s mobile phone, trying to reunite it with it’s owner. But then the same thing happens: everything goes silent.

The guardian article mentioned something about unusual happenings, so I decided to persevere this time. Besides, I was watching it on Iplayer where surely technical problems would have been dealt with. But instead of the sound coming back, the program cut to the bbc2 logo and the announcer apologising for technical issues. I began to regret not sticking with it two nights ago as the effect would have been intriguing: viewers would have been left wondering whether the beeb was having a meltdown or whether this was part of the show. Not watching it live the effect was somewhat lost..

What followed was half an hour of remarkable television which played with the viewer. It wasn’t clear what one was watching. At one point an old episode of Inside No. 9 was tarted, apparently to replace this faulty one, only for the new episode to return. Actors were shown in their studios, watching themselves on live tv and talking about the live twitter feed. Brecht’s fourth wall was torn apart so that we were left wondering where fiction stopped and reality began.

That, however, is what intrigues me. This program begs for analysis. For the bbc to agree to broadcast something like this, it would have to have been planned out to the last detail. Yet it gave the appearance of non-fiction. The actors spoke about themselves as they watched themselves on live tv speaking about themselves. It had a sense of the Real to it, exceeding the scripted and planned. At the same time, we know what we were watching is a pre-planned fiction by the fact it must have been filmed, edited and broadcast. After all, programs like this don’t automatically appear into existence. Try as they might, then, the program makers have to rely on viewers suspending their disbelief if they want to pull something like this off.

By and large, though, I think they succeed. The very fact that one is taken aback by the sound problem as the program begins means one is never totally sure what is real and what isn’t. From then on, the writers and directors play with the viewer, interweaving fiction and reality so that the mobile phone problem from the beginning of the program reappears at the end. We see hand held and head mounted footage cut together with news broadcasts, both of which we associate with reality but which we know must be part of the program. The result is highly inventive, intriguing, and very apt for a halloween special.

David Byrne at the o2

Lyn and I went to see David Byrne at the o2 last  night, our first gig in a while. Truth be told I didn’t know much about Byrne so I didn’t really know what  to  expect. I read he was big in the eighties as part of the band Talking Heads, but further than that things would be a surprise.

I was in for a treat. It’s always a pleasure to go up to the o2 Arena; having a phenomenal mega-venue like that virtually on  our doorstep is quite phenomenal. Byrne and his group put on a  great show, although there probably isn’t much I can say about it. I enjoyed hearing songs like Once In A Lifetime, which reminded me of listening it on  local radio on the way to school as a child. His style of music is very eighties, and a tad too dance oriented for my tastes. That  is to say, the group did lots of intricate dance routines which I felt distracted slightly from the music. Apart from that, it was a great evening. The o2 arena really is a fantastic venue, and I left wondering who we could watch there next.

A very dark trend

The world has today taken yet another very worrying, very frightening turn. I first got word of Bolsonaro’s victory last night from my Brazilian cousin Christina, but waited to see confirmation of it this morning. It is true: Brazil has followed the UK and USA in losing it’s mind and succumbing to the mindless folly of populist nationalism. As bad as this is for Brazil – and it as now elected a truly despicable human being for it’s president – we should also be very concerned about where this trend is taking the world at large. Hard right  views are taking root all over the place; intolerance and xenophobia are once again becoming socially respectable having until recently been confined to uneducated reactionaries. Between Brexit, Trump and now the election of Bolsonaro, we are seeing a trend take hold which I fear will lead the world to a very dark place. All over the place people are being taken in by simplistic, tribalistic, ‘us and them’ narratives which opens them up to manipulation and exploitation.  They believe the conspiracy theories told to them by people like Farage, Trump and Bolsonaro,  not realising that they are being used. The world  has been here before some seventy years ago – surely we haven’t forgotten how that  dark episode in world history ended.

How old is this wall?

I realise this is a rather random, slightly  silly question, but I am  sort of curious about it (that  and I need something different to blog about). Not very far away in charton village is  a wall. It divides the park and the road, and I follow the pavement along it quite frequently. It looks very, very old – old enough to arouse my curiosity. Judging from the look of the brickwork and the height of a doorway cut into it, I’d say it was at least medieval. My question is, then, how can I find the age of this  wall?

Gove and Johnson should be in jail

No doubt the two weasels in question will try to lie their way out of being held accountable for their crimes, but yesterday Lord Alan Sugar stated  the obvious: Michael Gove and Boris Johnson should be tried and jailed for deliberately misleading the country during the Brexit referendum. I could barely agree with that more. Before the 2016 vote, they toured the country in a bus bearing a pledge to give the money we currently send to the EU to the NHS. They  knew full well that no such money existed, and that such a promise would be untenable; they just wanted to use our affection for our national health service to con us into voting to leave the EU. I find that utterly, utterly despicable – even by the low  standards of these troubled times.

However they might try to justify their lies and worm their way out of it, as far as I’m concerned, Gove, Johnson  and the other Outist leaders are criminals who must be held accountable for the damage their lies have done. Our rights, freedoms and prosperity are now imperilled because these snivelling insults to humanity conned the country into voting to return  to their Dickensian hell.

Jones talks to Zizek

Slightly lazy blogging I know, but I think this conversation between  Slavoj Zizek and Owen  Jones is worth checking out. It’s pretty fascinating to hear them discuss what is currently going on in the world, from Trump to Brexit to Corbyn. There’s some really interesting analysis, but I think deep down both men are just as aghast as the rest of us.

David Schwimmer has probably never even heard of Blackpool

I’m just flagging this story up simply because it’s so bemusing  and random. The fact that it’s on the bbc news website in the first place makes me chuckle. David Schwimmer has been forced to deny stealing beer from a shop in Blackpool after cctv appeared to show a Look-a-like  nicking cans from a shop up there. People on  social media identified him.  I find that funny on  two fronts: firstly, that it was allowed  to go so far that Schwimmer was obliged to make such a denial;  and secondly I find it funny that Schwimmer now knows of the existence of Blackpool.

This is getting beyond a joke

Surely after reading this you’ll agree  the Outists have lost any grip on reality they ever had. With austerity measures driving more and more people with disabilities to suicide and Brexit about  to have a major impact on the economy, they’re now suggesting a new £120 million royal yacht  Britannia, presumably to  pander to their egotistic nationalistic image of  brand Britain. The dumbass Liam fox said:

“We believe that now is the time to commission a new Royal Yacht Britannia as a new symbol of global Britain, designed and built domestically to showcase the best of UK shipbuilding and industry, and as a platform for promoting trade.”

It would be quite funny, if it wasn’t so obscene. It’s as if they still believe Britain is a great empire ruling the  waves. Surely anyone so  deluded, whose grip on reality is so  obviously tenuous, cannot be allowed to rule and should be removed from government.

Back from the visit

It is the monday morning after a great weekend. Seeing Steve and Jenny was terrific. I honestly don’t think I had seen Jenny since graduating our Batchelor’s eleven years ago. They make a lovely couple, and their two little daughters our bright as buttons. As Steve rolled me onto the train yesterday (I’d gone in my manual chair as Steve needed to use his car) I decided to go back up there again soon. Those days at the MMU campus at Alsager now seem an age ago, but it’s great that I haven’t lost touch with my old friends from there. I suppose, due to the internet, keeping in contact with people is easier than ever; but even so the occasional trip to go visit my friends is very welcome.

Mind you, part of me feels guilty that I didn’t go to the Brexit protest on saturday. From the look of the photos it was enormous (700,000 at the ‘People’s Vote march, compared to a piffling 1500 at the pro-brexit gathering of morons). Part of me wishes I went to that, but friends come first. And besides, there are bound to be more and more Brexit protests as the mountain of shit gets higher and higher. Not only did I get to see my friends and their two bubbly young daughters, but I also got to explore York. In all, not a bad weekend at all.