Thursday, 4 June 2020

Surviving "Surviving Edged Weapons"


 Possibly the greatest insight I've received into American Policing in general, as opposed to what's happening just now, was - well actually, it was probably when I was on a student exchange to Milton Academy Massachusetts when I was seventeen and we were reading Going To Meet The Man by James Badwin and I asked the English teacher who "the man" was, and he answered "You're rooming with Lamont, aren't you? Ask Lamont," and so I asked Lamont, who slept in the bunk below me and was really into Kenny G and played waves to fall asleep, and he told me what had happened to him two weeks ago while I'd popped into the ninety-nine cents store and he had waited for me outside... but my second greatest insight into American Policing - well actually, that was probably from my gap year when I was nineteen - I know, amn't I lucky! -


Rube, 1994

 And I was sharing a ride from Atlanta to Chicago because I had the deposit money but no American driving licence, and Jamal had a license but no deposit, and Doug joined us because he'd just fled New York with chicken-wired wrists because he didn't want to cook for the Mafia any more having received a message from the actual Devil while trapped in a crack den, and because he was good for morale, so we were all delivering a car and we'd stopped to get gas in Kentucky and a policeman turned up and asked us for ID because he'd received reports of "three strange-looking guys" and he said "put your hands where I can see 'em" and I'd heard it as "put your hands on the ceiling" and reached up and Doug gripped my hands and pulled them down and when I chuckled an English chuckle at the officer because he couldn't read Jamal's licence because he wasn't wearing his glasses Doug nearly drew blood from digging his fingers into my arm and vigorously shaking his head in silence and I could see that the silly man was fearing for his life... but my third greatest insight into American policing in general, as opposed to necessarily what's happening just now, definitely comes from the excellent circle of score-knowing slobs at RedLetterMedia whose great work randomly viewing old VHS tapes for Wheel of the Worst led them to the police training video from 1988, Surviving Edged Weapons. To quote this trutorial: "Adding to the threat are a host of improvised weapons - sunglasses that can be flicked to poke out your eyes..."


 "Fish-hooks hidden in earrings are stuck through pant legs to rip your fingers on a pat down..."


 "Boots with protruding spikes..."


 "A baseball cap with razor blades sewn to the back..." 


 And to quote Mike Stoklasa and Rich Evans: "It's not a wonder that cops are paranoid motherfucks that shoot you to death! Because they show them videos like this!" A mouthful was said there. Doug saved my life. Here:


Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Today I'd Like to Remoan About Hostile Environments


 Hi. Twitter Simon here, beginning to wonder if the fall in (aways mild) abuse I receive when sticking my nose in might have anything to do with the new profile picture. I'd love it if people thought I was actually a lawyer from this. Who wouldn't love being mistaken for a lawyer?


 NO FURTHER QUESTIONS etc. But why was this headlining my twitter side-bar last night? What even is "Nine News"? Ever since I read a couple of months ago that a Trump mega-donor had bought a "sizable stake" in the site, I've become very threat-level-hey-now about what it promotes, and so when I returned from last night's quiet walk to see #londonriots trending, I checked the hashtag and indeed most tweets accompanying it were wondering why it was trending as there hadn't been any riots. I did also see footage of the anger in Whitehall. Sure. But I'd witnessed that before, any weekend over the last two years in which I'd been down to do a bus tour and the Brexiters had had one of their "marches" - not marches so much as a crowding into the Wetherspoons as early as possible to drink and drink and wander around with a flag and hurl abuse at buskers, looking for fun or a fight or a fun fight - and I would stand there hoping that London might be a cure for this, and that the racists - I saw their banners and I saw their caps, these were racists - would see how alone they were. But anyway, yes, I saw last night on twitter yesterday's outnumbering of the police outside Downing Street, and I saw some commentators express "boggled minds" that this "brutality" was in response to a shooting on another continent, and I tappity-tapped in my little lawyer's wig a reminder to those commentators just what Downing Street had been up to for the past four years plus: the Windrush scandal, the "Go Home" vans, "pickaninny smiles", "letterboxes", and the much discussed "hostile environment", and hoped - again, hoped - that these protests might illuminate what that blithely bandied-about phrase "hostile environment" actually meant, and how instantly intolerable everyone should find it. Here's another hostility:


 "Ending freedom of movement". And a Union Jack. As I wrote on Monday (okay, Tuesday morning) us pinky grey men never really have to think about "freedom of movement" anyway. I suspect this tweet knew exacty what it was doing though. Division aways benefits the Right, which might be why so much government messaging seems purposefully designed to ruffle liberal feathers. But while I still believe Fascism Thrives On Division, and while I still suspect the PM, and definitely POTUS, would rather see a civil war than their own resignation (for the same reason Hans Gruber blew up the Nakaomi Tower) I'm also very happy to see pressure applied, proper pressure, because no police officer was charged with anything until people marched. Also I'm not sure what we're seeing here is Division. I hope. After the December election I decided to turn this blog into a Politics/Anxiety tag-free zone, because the increasing shittiess of all things seemed such a given I wanted to spare anyone who came here any more (also I still had plans for a series of Time Spanner in which an avatar of the demiurge, President Guff Goofy, declared a zombie apocalypse saying "you know who the zombies are", and I was saving up my politial anxiety for that), but that was six months ago, and now there feels something like a tugging at the monolith, slow work, but potentially effective, an awakening of care, which I find invigorating, and it needs to be kept up. So I remain a remoaner. I looked up what I'd been doing during the last #BlackLivesMatter protests in 2015. I'd voted for Corbyn. Again, I'd been hoping for an awakening of care, but we know how that turned out - care became discredited, and those who'd spent their entire political lives attempting to orchestrate a more just environment became synonymous with bullying and intolerance. So this probably does have to be led from the bottom. And while I have Santa's knee I'd also quite like a government intent on kerbing the manipulation of democracy through online misinformation rather than one led by gamers seeking to become a world leaders in it. That seems another fair demand. And finally, here is my favourite twitter interaction for a while. Elizabeth Jackson's not cowed by a wig. It's important to remember this is also an option.


Tuesday, 2 June 2020


A Pertinent Point About Behaving Suspiciously For Money


 My late night walks are getting later and later, so it's still Monday for me. But before I go to bed, there's a bunch of half-thought-out drafts I keep in reserve and the one accompanying this picture seems the most apt to post before #BlackOutTuesday. The picture wasn't taken today, it's me heading into the City to do a Ripper Walk earlier in the year. I love the job. It's nice pay and you're very exposed but you get to be scary, and I love being scary. Maybe because I'm not very active. There's no Point Break-type activity that I practice to feel more alive or in touch with the sea or the air or the earth or whatever, but being allowed to be scary is proper taste of the bigger freedom. I turn up to these walks in "costume" - a long black cheap mac, black shirt, tie, trousers and shoes, clutching a lumpy clanking plastic bag that secretly holds my hurricane lamp, and here's the point about when I did this: every time I took to public transport in this clobber or hovered round the railings of the Square Mile, waiting for my group to turn up and working on my skulk, dressed like a middle-aged high school shooter, I knew that I would never be stopped and asked what I was doing, or where I was going, or what I was carrying, or why, no matter how egregious or inexplicable I looked. And I will pay myself the compliment of saying that I also knew this was what white privilege looked like, that these were the freedoms I enjoyed, freedoms everyone should be able to enjoy: the freedom to raise questions without being questioned, and the freedom to be scary and still listened to.

#blacklivesmatter and #blackhistorymatters and #statuesofrealpeoplearemainlydumbandscary


 Here's nothing. I'm keeping vampire hours again. Lacking both heat-reisistant gloves and goggles as recommended by the excellent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and unkeen on combing through fourteen years of my social media to wipe it of "personal details and anything that could be perceived as inciting violence" as recommended by the excellent Varaidzo, oh and also, you know, just being a hoverer, I didn't get to Trafalgar Square on Sunday to mourn George Floyd until two in the morning. 


 But General Napier was still there, and Major General Sir Henry Havelock, and the fat prince. The fourth plinth was empty though I noticed, fleeced of its Ninevite Lamassu... "Statue lovers" someone said knowingly of the torch-wielding protestors at Charlottesville, and I've thought about that quite a bit since, and decided yeah, I don't like statues of real people I realise, not really, not any more. Any of them. Even the lovely ones just look creepy and wrong, even Eric Morecambe. Unmistakably unalive. Borne of a tradition intended to literally deify tyrants... And I suppose I'm just retreading my moan from the last post, aren't I, but like Mark Gatiss statues also fetishise the past without a shred of interest in history. Don't get me wrong. I like creepy things as much as the next fantasist. And I warm to the decor of a haunted house. But I wouldn't say I'm a statue lover. I also saw a fox. He looked shiny and unafraid. I think foxes are having a good lockdown.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Van Helsing, Schmutz-Spotter!


 Further to last night's Question One, I really enjoyed Big Faced Frank Finlay's first appearance as Van Helsing here in this BBC adaptation from 1977, (which is hopefully where this video starts). His bedside manner's very convincing. He feels like an actual doctor, which makes the vampirism all the more convincing as a disease. There's a lot I liked about this adaptation, which I came to via this piece in The Chiseler praising the focus given to Judi Bowker's Mina (and I bet you money Mel Brooks watched it). As the Count, Louis Jordan gives the impression that he at least thinks he was perfectly cast, which might be all one needs, it's certainly all he needs, and the cutting-edge, nineteen-seventies video effects used sparely, but unahsamedly, to signal Dracula's reality-fracturing otherness is a pretty good match for the proto-modernist surrealism of Stoker's book. The only real problem is its fidelity to the source, a problem no adaptation I've seen has managed to solve. Cure's aren't thrilling. So the opening's superb - staying at Dracula's castle is a hard episode to get wrong - and the fall of Lucy is similarly gripping - there's no obvious nod to The Exorcist, but attention has clearly been paid - but once Lucy's "saved" there's no escaping the fact the climax is a band of heroes who all get on chasing, basically, just a box, accompanied by a heroine who needs to lie down a lot, which is hardly Jaws.

 "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Nice ship you've got here, gents. 
Shame if something... happened to it." Count Dracula

  And I haven't seen the final episode of the latest BBC Dracula yet, but given that the first two roll out the usual Gatiss/Moffat triumph-of-the-will pissing contest between intellectual bullies whose every move is nevertheless either two steps behind the audience or too stupid to have been entertained, I'm not gagging for more. I mean, I'm honestly sure Mark Gatiss is a properly lovely man, but everything he writes suggests someone who loves the past without being remotely interested in history, and it's hard not to feel right now that that's making the world shitter.

My Round Again


Chuck Jones originally referred to this character as "Antwerp"
apparently because he looked like both an ant and a twerp.

 We did another quiz. Here's my round. No pictures. It falls apart a bit at the end. I've posted the answers in the comments.  

 1. ODD ONE OUT
Which of these actors has never played Van Helsing:
Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Plummer,  Herbert Lom, Hugh Jackman, Mel Brooks, Dolly Wells, David Suchet, Frank Finlay or Weird Al Yankovic?

 2 & 3. THE GAME OF THE THRONES
"Standupstraight Taily" and "Ignore Subtractty" are the opposite of WHICH TWO ACTORS who played royalty in the show? (Someone suggested a whole "Game of Thrones" round but not enought of us had seen it. I, for example, hadn't seen it.) 

 4. ODD ONE OUT (AGAIN. A LOT OF THESE WERE GOING TO BE ODD ONE OUT.)
 Which of these is not a Font: Hoe Down, Saddlebag, Van Cleef,  Paleface or Wantedo? (This took far longer to research than I hoped, because nearly everything, it turns out, is a font.)

 5. VAGUE THREATS
Which film came first?
A. "It! The Terror from Beyond Space"
B. "It Came From Outer Space!"
C. "The Thing (From Another World!)"
D. "Them!"

 6. SPECIFIC THREATS
Which of these is the second Godzilla movie?
A. "Son of Godzilla"
B. "Destroy All Monsters"
C. "Godzilla Raids Again"
D. "Godzilla versus King Kong"

 7. TERRIBLE QUESTION
What do these directors have in common, given Question 8: Peter Weir, Alan J. Pakula, George Lucas, or Mike Nichols  
(Noone got either of these. It was a rushed question. I... I'm not sure it even makes sense.)

 ... & 8. TERRIBLE QUESTION FOLLOW-UP
What director is double the answer to Question 7? (See parenthesis to 7)

 9. ODD ONE OUT AGAIN
Yeah. Just which of these is the odd one out?
Barney Rubble, Captain Caveman, Marvin the Martian, Elmer Fudd?

 10. THIS WAS GOING TO BE ANOTHER ODD ONE OUT QUESTION, ABOUT THE MANDELA EFFECT, BUT I COULDN'T THINK OF A TRUE FACT THAT MIGHT CONVINCINGLY BE MISTAKEN FOR A FALSE MEMORY SO THIS ENDED UP AS JUST A BOG STANDARD TRIVIA QUESTION
What brand takes its name from its two original main ingredients sodium perborate and sodium silicate?