The Shabogans are the invisible underclass on Gallifrey. The plebs. The nobodies. The skivvies. They're not the posh drop-outs. They're not the soup-making rustics. They're the unseen guttersnipes trapped inside the Capitol. They always leave the room just before you enter it. They're the vandals who shoot stasers at the Seal of Rassilon. And maybe, sometimes, they do more than that. Maybe they riot. Maybe they erect barricades. Maybe they throw stones. Maybe they daub things like "GALLIFREY WILL NEVER BE HAPPY UNTIL THE LAST CASTELLAN HAS BEEN HANGED WITH THE GUTS OF THE LAST CARDINAL" on the walls of the Time Toilets. Because if there is hope, it lies in the Shabogans.
I'm Jack Graham. Gothic Marxist. Advocate of the struggle in terms of the strange. Shakespearean villain. Doctor Who fan. Less an organic intellectual than a one-man morbid symptom.
And I did this:
NOTE: This article has been amended to remove factual errors (please see the comments).
It used to be said that Englishmen got their understanding of history from Shakespeare and their understanding of theology from Milton. These days, they get their understanding of history from Simon Schama and their understanding of theology from Richard Dawkins. God help us. In practice, this means middlebrow television and middlebrow publishing. Which could, at the moment, with a little stretching, be boiled down satisfactorily to one quasi-word: BBC.
Shakespeare, meanwhile, has gone largely from being a purveyor of an idea of history to being a bit of history that is itself purveyed. It’s no secret that he’s an industry all to himself. Of course, what that actually means is that he's become an idea people sell - and part and parcel of this idea is a whole complex of other ideas, some of which are still about the history he supposedly tells or implies. Like any industry, the packaging is as much ideological as it is plastic and cardboard. And when it comes to the ideological packaging of isolated, decontextualised, atomised, rendered, pulped and puréed ...
As part of the promised avalanche of Shabcasts, here's another. This time I'm joined by the dulcet tones and clever thoughts of James Murphy of Pex Lives, City of the Dead and (formerly) The Last Exit Show, for a mammoth chat about the Bible, anti-Semitism, Labour, Brexit, the Tories, the May elections and Sadiq Khan... taking in Lee & Herring, Terry Pratchett (I get told off), Stephen King, fame, podcasting, American history, the psychology of Presidents, and Hillsborough along the way. Trust me, your ears will thank you for subjecting them to this pleasant ordeal.
I didn't clock the fact that this episode would be going out on the 100th anniversary of the murder of James Connolly - Irish Republican hero and one of the greatest socialists, internationalists and revolutionaries of the 20th century - by the British imperial state, so I failed to raise the topic with James (which would've made for interesting listening, and a two-part podcast... because we pushed the envelope as it is).
So here are some quotes instead:
State ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism - if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers ...
Today's image is of Magneto killing some Nazis. Because I like that.
The exciting conclusion to Shabcast 19 is now available to listen or download here.
Here are some links to things referred to in both parts of the conversation:
And here's Susan of Texas on the awful Ross Douthat.
Also, here's a link to Kit Power's new piece about Hillsborough. It's excellent.
And here's Norman Finkelstein talking some much-needed sense about the so-called anti-Semitism crisis in Labour.
With Shabcast 18 vanished into the ether, this week we move straight on to Shabcast 19. My now-frequent-interlocutor Daniel Harper of Oi! Spaceman stepped into the fray and helped me bring something in.
We had a looooooooong chat about all kinds of shit, including (but not limited to) Prince, Chyna, sex and gender (of course), Marxism, neoliberalism, intersectionality, voting,Trump, lesser-evilism, Bush, the invasion of Iraq, strikes, the romance of revolution, TV you're scared to go back to, and the exciting future of Dan's own project - he and Shana are branching out to talk about other shows, such as Red Dwarf and Firefly.
The conversation was so long that I had to split it into two parts. (It ends on a cliffhanger.) Part Two next week. There is, perhaps, some hubris involved in chatting for three hours+, recording it all, and then releasing it for strangers to listen to, and being so enamoured of almost everything you said that you basically refuse to edit... but hey, if I let things like that bother me I wouldn't be here. And that'd be a shame, because I think we all agree that ...
…their sovereign’s dominant role is to inspect
Row after row of the state’s armed forces –
Broken down in training, reconfigured from scratch
And then programmed to kill on command.
The sovereign is crucial to the lubrication of Britain’s wars
By its gulling soldiers into dutifully dying;
Then, after paying homage to such victims of state carnage,
By its encouraging arms-trade profiteering.
Arms-makers and their customers are brought together
At Windsor Castle to be honored with fly-pasts –
Monarchy and military business being intimately connected:
The UK’s ‘Defense Industrial Base’ is a royal brand.
A landowning cabal with its heraldry denoting privilege
Still forms an elite network that stakes out the land,
And retains monarchy as its god to deceive those living here
Whose Common land they once stole and enclosed.
The monarchy’s militarism echoes a time when royalty wasn’t flouted –
When to criticize royalty was treason and when those threatening
The status quo could be seized, and their limbs tied to horses
Which took off in every direction as they were whipped.
On seeing royal victims torn to shreds while still alive,
Royal minions sliced their hearts into sections
Then dispatched them across the country for public display ...
You were supposed to be getting Shabcast 18 this week… but it vanished into the ether, owing to a malicious and inexplicable failure of my recording software. The Mailer Daemon collected it and conducted it to internet Hades. It was great too. I had Gene Mayes and (at last!) Jon Wolter in, and we chatted about Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, etc, in a podcast that was a lot sillier, funnier and more ribald than the subject matter really warranted. But, as I say, it is lost forever, doomed to live on only in the memories of the three men who experienced it… which, in a way, makes it all the more precious. One day, it will be the most sought of all lost Jack Graham-related media, and take on a near-mystical reputation, rather like London After Midnight, or Orson’s cut of Ambersons. I actually remember very little about it, as I was somewhat drunk and we were recording in the wee small hours here in Britain, and I spent most of the discussion in a haze of fatigue and mild inebriation. I seem to recall that we talked about the ...
We are now in an odd, reversed position when it comes to William Shakespeare and Richard III: all of a sudden, and for the first time, we seem to know where Richard III's head is, but not where to find Shakespeare's.
I’ve written in previous instalments of this series about the relationship between Richard III (the man), Richard III (the play), William Shakespeare, and history.
Essentially, my argument is that William Shakespeare was, for various reasons to do with his class position, his family, his career, and the historical moment and social milieu in which he found himself, peculiarly well placed to dramatise social energies, feelings, anxieties, and vertigos, which still speak to us today. He was writing at the dawn of modernity, during the years immediately following the end of the medieval, in the immediate aftermath of the English Reformation… all of which is related to the fundamental fact that he was writing during the transition from feudalism as the dominant economic form of English society to capitalism. We still live with the energies and dystrophies of modernity, since we still live in capitalist society. Indeed, Shakespeare has in some ways only become ...
Bit of a loose collection of bits and bobs this week. I've been both sick and very busy.
Firstly, I was recently a guest on the excellent They Must Be Destroyed On Sight! movie podcast, chatting with hosts Lee Russell and Daniel Harper (who is also, as you all must surely know by now, the co-host of the Oi! Spaceman Doctor Who podcast, and an online mate of mine). Check out my episode here (and check out TMBDOS’s other episodes because they’re worth it). In my ep, we chatted about the 1983 Coen Brothers debut Blood Simple (thus making the podcast kindasorta another bit of Eruditorum Press’s now recurring but irregular ‘Minnesota’ series... even though Blood Simple takes place in Texas) and the 1986 David Lynch masterpiece/freakshow Blue Velvet.
Blue Velvet is 30 years old this year, and a restored print is currently enjoying a limited theatrical re-release. It’s almost as worrying, baffling, and brain-frying as it ever was, though obviously it now exists in the context of three decades of subsequent American cinema at least partly shaped by its impact.
On that subject…
Blue Velvet (Just Some Stray Thoughts I Wish I’d Been Able to Develop ...