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:
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 ...
I am often asked about Shabogans. People want to know whether this or that person they’ve seen could be a Shabogan, or whether this or that group they’ve seen could be Shabogans. I generally reply that if you’ve seen them, they’re not Shabogans. As with elves (at least of the household chore performing variety) the quintessential trait of the Shabogan is that one does not see them. Castellans will sometimes speak of arresting, detaining, charging, and imprisoning Shabogans… but this is simply how Castellans talk. They certainly spend a great deal of their time doing all these things to other gradations of the plebeian masses on Gallifrey, but Shabogans are never caught. At least as far as we know.
There are, supposedly, Shabogan legends about one of their number being caught drawing a moustache on a portrait of Chancellor Tavia, and subsequently being exhibited in chains in the Panopticon for the Time Lords to gaze upon with excited curiosity and thrilled loathing… but as with all accounts of what Shabogans think or say, we must treat it with suspicion, as it comes to us via the Time Lords and their genteel curation of ...
This should be read as, in some ways, a continuation of the previous instalment.
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time.
Richard III, I, I
Used as the epigraph to Ben Aaronovitch's novelisation of 'Remembrance of the Daleks'
In Richard III, as I started to talk about last time (in Part 4), Richard draws upon his ‘deformity’ for an identity. As noted in a previous instalment, Richard is a narcissist (hardly an original observation) and a vital part of his narcissism is expressed in his concentration upon what he sees - or spins to us, the audience - as his own physical monstrosity. He concentrates on his physical ‘defects’, talking them up, poetically riffing on them and exaggerating them (if he were as monstrous as he says he is nobody would be able to look at him let alone accept him as colleague or husband) until ...
Just a reminder: I recently guested (again) on the Oi! Spaceman podcast to talk about ‘Caves of Androzani’. Download here.
What makes an English king ‘bad’? It certainly isn’t starting wars, brutally oppressing peasants and vassals, invading places, or killing and exploiting lots of people. If it were, most of them would be seen as bad, and Edward III (who basically started the Hundred Years War) and Richard I (crusader) wouldn’t have the perennially good reputations they still enjoy. Generally we seem to decide a king is bad if he lost something. We - by which I of course mean 'someone somewhere' - seem to have decided that John, Edward II, Richard II and Richard III were the 'bad' kings. Losers all. John lost a lot of France, and a lot of his power to his barons, an event marked by Magna Carta. Edward II lost to Robert Bruce at Bannockburn, thus losing control of Scotland, and then lost control of his kingdom to his wife and Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. Richard II was challenged by the peasants’ revolt, and ousted from power twice by his barons, being finally deposed by Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Lancaster. Richard III ...
As promised, hot on the heels of Shabcast 16, here's Shabcast 17 ... hopefully making up for our regrettably Shabcast-free February.
As also promised, this episode festures special guest Shana Wolstein of the Oi! Spaceman podcast. Oi! Spaceman is the best Doctor Who podcast I'm not directly financially linked to... though I am the podcast's official boyfriend (which is not something I ever expected to say).
Back on the subject of Shabcasts, this episode is plenty-minutes of Shana and I chatting about two of her favourite films (and mine) the 80s Jim Henson fantasy masterpieces The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Also, if you didn't catch it, remember to check out Shabcast 16 from last week, in which Kevin Burns (of Pex Lives) and I spend plenty-minutes attacking The Matrix trilogy... amusingly, I hope.
On that subject: I now slightly regret the timing of that last Shabcast, for obvious reasons. But I hope it's obvious that disliking some of Lilly Wachowski's films doesn't mean Kevin or I have anything but best wishes for her personally.
Podlings of the world, unite!
I'm planning to make up for the lack of any Shabcasts in February by providing loads in March, and here's the first.
This time I'm joined by the amazing Mayor Kevin Burns - my favourite US politician, and one half of the Pex Lives team - to talk about the Matrix movies. For some reason.
I wanted to hear him indulge his hate, you see. I went in intending to sortakindamaybe half-play the role of 'good cop' (at least with regards the first film) but that didn't last long.
Please enjoy our show, in which we analyse (i.e. pillory) the three films, review the old 'do movies cause violence?' debate, complain about the Hollywood CGI singularity, ponder the unfortunate obsessions and attitudes of the late 90s-early 2000s, and look back with sadness and shame on our wasted youths.
Next time I'll be joined by the wonderful Shana of the Oi! Spaceman podcast, to talk about some good films, the 80s Jim Henson fantasy masterpieces The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Spoilers. And, more broadly, the assumption you’ve seen it.
In ‘Kafka and his Precursors’, Borges lists texts and writers which, as the title suggests, he sees as foreshadowing Kafka. It is strange that he omits Dickens, whom Kafka admired, and whose Circumlocution Office - in Little Dorrit - is surely a direct influence. The Coen Brothers could do justice to the Circumlocution Office, as indeed they could do justice to the absurd bureaucracy which tyrannizes Joseph K in The Trial, the bizarre events and grotesque characters encountered by young Karl Roßmann in Amerika, and the rural Zeno’s Paradox experienced by K. in The Castle (Zeno’s Paradox is one of the precursors Borges adumbrates). Indeed, in A Serious Man (2009), the Coens seem to take some affectual and stylistic cues from Kafka.
Borges also remarks:
If I am not mistaken, the heterogeneous pieces I have enumerated resemble Kafka; if I am not mistaken, not all of them resemble each other. This second fact is more significant. In each of these texts we find Kafka's idiosyncrasy to a greater or lesser degree, but if Kafka had never written a line, we would not perceive this quality; in other words, it ...
There are fucking zombies everywhere these days. There are so many fucking zombies around these days that there are things complaining about how many fucking zombies there are around these days everywhere these days. There are so many things complaining about how many fucking zombies there are around these days that we’re on the verge of crossing a kind of things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days event horizon, whereupon all the things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days will collapse in upon themselves and be crushed to a things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days singularity. Or something. Whereupon there will suddenly not be many things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days. Or many fucking zombies, for that matter. No more than usual, anyways. No more than before the recession, which is the event which caused the already insane proliferation of zombies to escalate to a kind of meta-proliferation. The zombies will die down. Back to their original, natural level of presence and prominence. The only thing you can be sure of is that The Guardian’s arts/culture opinion writers will notice and announce it as an exciting new development (which they alone have noticed through their unique powers of penetration) exactly three years and eight months after the very last member of the category known as ‘Everyone Else’ already got ...