It’s October 22nd, 2016. Little Mix are at number one with “Shout Out to my Ex,” with James Arthur, the Weeknd, Sia, Ariana Grande, and Calvin Harris also charting. In news, most of 2016 has happened. The US Presidential election is in full swing, Theresa May is in 10 Downing street, Jeremy Corbyn has survived an attempt to replace him as head of the Labour Party, and UKIP is in its usual chaos.
While on television… well, actually, let’s start there. Class is on television in a sense that we’ve never really dealt with before. It’s a BBC Three show. But unlike Torchwood, which premiered ten years earlier to the day, BBC Three in 2016 is an online only channel following a round of budget cuts that resulted in the shuttering of BBC Three as a broadcast channel. This move contained a wealth of decisions about priorities and privilege. For instance, BBC Four, the more adult-oriented channel with a heavy focus on arts and entertainment programs, remained in place. Instead what was axed was the channel focused on the 16-34 age group and on experimenting with new programs and new talent.
As a hedge against the ...
I've been admiring Christine Kelley's Dreams of Orgonon since before either of them were called that. It's smart, insightful music criticism that lived up to its obvious debt to Chris O'Leary's Pushing Ahead of the Dame and was no small influence on my own decision to make a song by song Tori Amos blog my next project. So when I needed someone to fill in for a few months while Jack wrote his book, asking her to crosspost her work to our site was the obvious choice. And when it became evident that her first post for us would be Kate Bush's first big hit, well, that just seemed like destiny. It's my absolute pleasure to give Christine a bit of a boost and to have her on the site. If you want to read the story thus far, her blog archives are over here. But for now, welcome to the site, let's get on with it. -El
A misty morning
Begin with an instrumental call-and-response in the form of a spine-tingling arpeggio which is met by the same figure repeated an octave higher. Eight seconds in come the vocals, which sound ...
Nearly forgot I now have wednesdays to post whatever subsidiary stuff I have.
In our second episode, Daniel tells me all about former KKK Grand Wizard, "king of the angry Facebook grampas", and man who wrote an autobiography it took 42 hours for him to record himself reading, 'Dr' David Duke.
Download or listen here.
As ever, we're discussing fascism, racism and bigotry generally, so warnings apply.
Almost as soon as Doctor Who abandoned its post the world went to hell in a handbasket.
The first visible sign that 2016 would be a cacophonous disaster came ten days in when David Bowie died. Like Doctor Who, Bowie served as a sort of mass culture Lamed Wufnik; an enduring figure that lasted over countless cultural shifts steadfastly defending his corner, ensuring that the strange and wondrous had some quarter in any landscape. For a long time the two moved in sync—scrapping their way to the center of the culture over the 60s, co-founding glam in the early 70s, becoming shambling and gaudy wrecks in the mid-80s, and finding new, if niche life in the paranoid back alleys of the cyberpunk 90s. Then they began a period of effectively taking turns. Bowie held down the fort in the late 90s and early 00s with a respectable dotage that would have served as a perfectly acceptable final act, albeit one with the unsettled and partial ending of a minor album and a final world tour cut short by a heart attack. Then, as he pulled his great disappearing act, Doctor Who roared back to life. Finally, in 2013, they reconverged ...
As many of you will know, our very own Daniel Harper has been researching the so-called 'alt-right' (really the far-right) for more tha two years now, listening to their podcasts and YouTube shows, documenting what they say to each other in their own spaces.
This new podcast series - entitled (very cleverly, I think) I Don't Speak German - will be me in conversation with Daniel, giving him an opportunity to tell us what he heard.
We're discussing fascism and racism, so this podcast comes with big warnings.
Here's the first episode, on perhaps the best-known representative of the 'alt-right', Richard Spencer, his career, style, and ideology. The episode also touches on the origins of the term 'alt-right', the infamous 'heilgate' occurance after Trump's election, etc.
Our episodes will cover one 'topic' per show. We plan to keep the episodes as short as possible, and crank them out regularly (in direct defiance of our usual operating methods).
The next episode will be on a more old-school fascist, David Duke, former Klan 'Grand Wizard' who spoke at Charlottesville.
Please consider spreading the news about this new show.
In other news, I'm going to be taking a bit ...
After an eight year furlough, Iain M. Banks returned to the Culture series in 2008 with Matter, the longest Culture novel to date. The problem is that it’s not entirely clear why he did this. Matter, to put it bluntly, is a mess. Were it not for Consider Phlebas’s intense lack of quite knowing what it wanted to do with this “Culture” idea, Matter would straightforwardly be the weakest novel in the series to date. The problem, from what I gather, is not that Banks has run out of ideas. I’ve not read Surface Detail or The Hydrogen Sonata yet, but they are apparently perfectly good books. It’s just that Matter… isn’t.
This is not a hugely controversial opinion about Matter. Most of the diagnoses center on the ending, which amounts to basically every major character in the book dying in rapid succession, starting when an ancient planet-killing machine wakes up with very little setup and eliminates the entirety of one of the three plot lines that had been occupying the book thus far, and culminating when everyone else dies stopping it. This has led to suggestions that Banks’s heart simply wasn’t in the book, or that he ...
I'm joined for our first and last Doctor Who podcast of the year by the delightful Miranda, whose DeviantArt is well worth checking out if you're into My Little Pony.
Back Wednesday with a new Cultural Marxism, and on Monday with Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea: Blackstar.
I mean, it was fine in the sense that this is clearly as good as we’re going to get within Chibnall’s bold five year plan of “what if Doctor Who, only bad.” This is him firing on all cylinders, making a confident piece of self-consciously major Doctor Who that struts around like it knows it’s in its imperial phase. It’s the best script he’s written all year. And it’s perfectly entertaining, in a sort of straightforward junkfood television way. There are even a couple of bits—most obviously the parallelism between the Dalek making its shell and the Doctor crafting her sonic—that are actually intelligent, subtle, and interesting. As the Chibnall era goes, this is a triumph worth celebrating.
It’s still fucking crap TV Movie-tier television. I mean, you can see this from its basic conception. There’s no idea here other than “what if we brought back the Daleks with a real make them scary again vibe?” And so we get the bog standard tricks for that: one Dalek, its identity revealed fifteen minutes in, and we don’t actually see it in its case until fifteen from the end. There’s no larger concern here. This is just a ...