The Kindness of Strangers

My daughter recently bought the book Girl Online by Zoella – or Zoe Sugg. She’s an absurdly popular YouTube chick who posts videos about clothes, make-up and other things.

My daughter thinks she’s wonderful.

More recently my daughter (who is 12) told me Zoella was holding a book-signing event in Bristol and could I take her? I said sure, I’d take her.

After checking online, she told me that the tickets were only £12 but were sold out in any case, so there was no point in planning anything more about the trip to Bristol.

It makes sense to have a book signing event a ticket-only occasion when you are as popular as Zoella: the poor girl would be sat there day and night for a week signing books otherwise. She has (literally) millions of fans.

But to charge your fans to meet you seems a breach of good taste. Why not make the tickets free?

I immediately thought of other famous people and how they behave towards their fans.

I know that Tom Cruise is famous for spending hours outside premieres talking to fans and taking pictures and talking on the phone to the family of those hanging about outside the theatre.

I think I’m right to say that Stephen King – one of the world’s most famous writers – has a rule that he’ll sign only one book per person at a signing, else the queue doesn’t keep moving. He doesn’t charge his fans to come and get a book signed, and he’s got hundreds of millions of fans.

My daughter didn’t seem to care that it would have cost £12 to meet her online hero, but I would have been annoyed if the ticket had cost 12p.

The charge of £12 per ticket (which generously allowed one adult to accompany their child) seems to be more than just a breach of good taste when you realise Zoe Sugg didn’t write her book in the first place.

That she didn’t write the book makes the £12 charge grotesque.

The only redeeming feature of the cynical money-grabbing exercise is that it might stimulate a discussion about the ethics of ghost-writing.

What are the arguments for and against the practice of ghost-writing?

Does it matter if the book you just read was not written by the person whose name and picture are inside the flap?

One easy answer is no, of course it doesn’t matter – what matters is whether you enjoyed the book or did not. If you did, who cares who wrote it, and if you didn’t, who cares who wrote it? On this level of consideration, it’s only the material which matters.

But what if you bought the book because you thought it was written by the person whose name and picture were on it? Then would it matter if the book were written by a ghost-writer?

By ‘matter’ I suppose I mean is there any reason to care?

I think there is.

If you buy a book because it was written by someone you admire, yet wasn’t written by the person you admire, then you have nothing of that person, only an empty shell with their name stamped on it. You have actually been sold something in bad faith.

The question can be put other ways.

If you buy a great rock-album because you love the band, does it matter if the music on the record was written and recorded by session musicians, even if the live shows are performed by the band you love?

This isn’t that odd. Many singers and bands go onstage and perform songs written by other people.

What’s the difference between asking a singer to sign the album cover, when the songs inside were not written by her, and asking an ‘author’ to sign the cover of a book she didn’t write?

It could be argued that, in the music example, at least there’s something of the singer on the record – her voice. She is at least the singer, and is not claiming to be the songwriter. The writers (and session musicians) are all credited.

With the novel, the ‘author’ could claim the book contains her characters and story ideas – as the album contains the singer’s voice – but the ‘author’ is claiming to have written the material. Is the claim the difference?

Many persons’ work goes into making and presenting a piece of fiction – be it an opera, musical, rock-album or whatever. In these examples, the work of everyone is not on the cover, but they are credited inside the sleeve-notes, or lower on the poster. Even a film credits the caterers.

But withholding credit, odd as this might sound, isn’t the problem with ghost-writing because I can think of at least one example of a writer being left off the writing-credits of a famous show and there’s no ethical case to answer in that example.

What matters in the example of the ghost-written book is the intention of those putting the book out and what could be guessed about the behaviour of the book’s likely audience.

In other words, if the name of the ghost-writer were on the cover, would the publishers expect the sales to be the same? But that is a question which answers itself because if they did, it wouldn’t be ghost-written in the first place.

This shows – indeed proves – that the considerations for those involved are: maintaining an illusion so that they can make money.

Even though this sounds bad – and is bad – it could be justified, I think. So long as a person believes in taking responsibility for their thoughts and actions, it could be justified. Let me explain.

It depends on the audience.

Say, for instance, a bloke who once served in the SAS started putting out books, and they sold because the audience of middle-aged men liked their special-forces and machine-gun fantasies, right? But let’s say that all those books were ghost-written – is the problem the same as the Zoella example?

Not quite, I’d submit.

The naive behaviour of children, naïve because they are children, is different from the behaviour of adults who should know better.

In other words, there’s a (BIG) difference between being fooled and being a fool.

In other words, exploiting children is worse than exploiting those adults who are old enough to see through the charade.

Advertisements

Oranges and Lemons

The journalist Peter Hitchens posted a short blog recently and in that post linked to a short news clip.

Hitchens’s blog is here:

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/10/please-watch-the-events-shown-at-4-minutes-20-seconds-into-this-film.html

The clip he linked to is here:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid601325122001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bctid=4570666989001

Hitchens asked that people watch the events which happen at 4:20s into the clip.

What happens at that point is unpleasant, but not especially shocking.

A person is jumped on by a gang of police officers, who are protecting the visiting Chinese president, Xi Jingping, from having to see anything disagreeable, and that includes the small placards the jumped-on person was holding.

I doubt that Peter Hitchens was shocked, but he’s right to be unhappy about it. According to comments on his site posted later, the person who was mugged by the rozzers was detained and had their house searched.

I have no doubt the thug police officers, if they were ever asked to justify their behaviour, would give the Nuremberg defence and consider the matter closed – but they won’t be asked to explain themselves in any case, so they won’t have to.

What is the ‘real’ problem, here?

Is it that the senior plods were under pressure from their political masters, and so issued the ‘just get it done’ order downhill to the plebs?

Or is it that the pleb-officers were happy to be seen behaving in this tyrannical way? I mean, why not just walk over to the lone-protester and gently usher the person away? Why pounce on the person?

I think the ‘real’ problem is that too few persons will react like Peter Hitchens.

I’ll put it another way. It’s not head-bowed obedience to power and authority that will see to it nothing happens to the officers, it will be that many persons will have seen the behaviour of the police and won’t recognise it as a problem in the first place.

I Screamed – but with Frustration.

Here’s the problem with Scream, the Netflix original series: so far (I’m on, like, episode four) the killer is showing definite signs of omniscience and omnipresence. That’s the problem.

The killer is a phantom, who seems to possess the attribute of invisibility when it suits, because he can get close enough to a character to see tears on her cheeks, but the character cannot see the killer; the killer is also a technological genius – having the power to hack the cell phone accounts of the George Washington High School students when it suits; the killer is able to predict future events, because he (I’m assuming the brutal murderer is not a female, this is a form of anti-sexism sexism) knows when to be down-the –alley or in-the-house or wherever – just as a character happens to show up in that spot.

So what is the point of a show like this?

It can’t be taken seriously (even allowing that it’s fiction) because it is a realist show, with ludicrously unrealist super-powered killer. Something this stupid needs to have comedy to smooth the edges of the irritation it produces in the minds of its audience (that’ll be my mind, obviously) and tell the audience not to take things too seriously. Dexter – stupid fucking show that it is – manages this perfectly and it’s that which makes it bearable.

The only piece of comedy so far is that the nerdy-geek IQ dude almost gets to lose his virginity to one of the hot-chick Heathers, and she gets a blade stuck in her before she lets the nerd stick anything else in. There’s some humour there because who else is going to be giving up a portion for this guy? But even this little bit of redeeming humour lacks credibility because since when do the Heathers screw the Nerds in a US High School show? They always screw the idiot Jocks.

This show is (almost) unbearably stupid.

There’s even a female student having an affair with her English literature teacher, and she hasn’t told any of her friends.

Really?

I’m going to take a punt and say that the teacher turns out to be the killer. I have no idea why – and I don’t much care.

The Exorcist – and what’s wrong with it…

If a critic says The Exorcist is the best movie ever made, then I say that critic can’t really take that position without the story having something to do with it. The Exorcist is not so special a movie that someone could think it the best movie ever made without the story playing some part in why they like it.

The problem is, the story is theologically illiterate – and utter garbage into the bargain.

The Exorcist is a thinly disguised child-rape fantasy, written by a strange person who really dislikes children.

You don’t think so?

Read my extended essay on the novel and the story the novel demonstrates. I explain, using many examples from other movies and novels, that the author of The Exorcist hasn’t a clue about the psychology of fear and wrote a novel which might reveal more about his character than he intended. I make the case that the theological ‘motivation’ for writing The Exorcist could easily be justification after the fact given how much child-rape imagery is in the book.

The book was so successful that nobody is going to admit what is obvious to anyone who reads it and can just state the case openly.

Dream Sketch Two

I find myself in a brothel with BB. Initially, I have no idea that the girls are hookers, I wonder innocently why they have so many boy-friends, but the fact slowly dawns on me. One comes to speak to me. It is KG from school.

Some others in the brothel leave – there seems to be an argument about something, and they head home. I walk out of the building and discover the brothel in set up in a church.

The church is on a hill that overlooks LA; it is night, and I can see the orange strips of light in the distance – the boulevards of LA.

Some people leave and I decide to do the same, I then seem to be driving through a tunnel, looking for the airport, LAX.

As I walk the streets (the driving part quickly stopped) I worry about being attacked and robbed. Two men immediately do so and I decide to fight back. I kill one of my attackers.

My hands have what should be the murder weapon covered in blood gripped tightly, but as I look, I see the evidence is English money – about £25 in notes – covered in runny shit. I know I have to ditch the evidence.

As I bend to drop the shitty cash down a drain, a voice warns me “don’t do it, man. They always check the drains”

I seem to have an accomplice. He warns me about not disposing of the evidence there, and I scarper into the alleyways behind some buildings.

By this time, I realise I am not in LA anymore – I am back in WSM, hiding behind some buildings on the high street.

I notice the police are closing in, and they are in LA uniforms. I then seem to be under questioning. I decide to blag them off.

The chief detective fellow is supremely confidant and assured. He has blonde hair and asks me about my phone. He wants to know if I have made any calls that night. This question seems to be connected to the dead attacker – but I have no idea why. I say I haven’t made any calls, and he asks me for the last numbers I dialled and when. I have the feeling they always knew I had done the crime and that they were just playing with me.

At this point I seem to switch between the person being nicked, and a phantom observer. The person now arrested is a chubbier version of the policeman who asked about my phone. Short blonde hair, but this guy has glasses.

He is arrested and taken to the airport (my original destination) for extradition to the UK.

There is a media scramble, this guy – the blonde with glasses – seems to be a celebrity of some sort; dressed flamboyantly like Elton John.

His hair is amazing. It looks like a peacock’s feathers wrapped against the back of his head. And his hair extends high above the top of his head. On top he is bald, with a few thick black hair – rather like cables – are sticking out. I have the feeling that he has or needs hair replacement therapy.

The media scrum moves through the airport, and one member of the party is Graham Souness, the former footballer.

I have no idea about this dream – and haven’t attempted any sort of interpretation, or searched for any links or meaning and so on.

Dream Sketch One

I’m walking through part of Disneyland, Paris. I visited this place with B and J – but in the dream I’m walking with T and L through one of the park’s restaurants.

The décor is dark purple, and there’s an ‘uneasy’ feeling I have about the place. At the front, by the doors, is a tall woman with a person either side of her, she seems to be in charge and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. I look at the diners and each person is eating the same meal – chicken, with mash potato and red-cabbage. Each plate has exactly the same food. The chicken is ‘on the bone,’ part of the actual carcass, and some people are really shoving the carcass in their mouths to get the meat.

We walk out the doors and are behind the ‘Hotel Santa Fe’ – where me, B and J stayed before, and I think about sending T to the large ‘statue of Elvis’ which I think is in the grounds of the next hotel along – this reminds me of a punctured balloon incident, but I don’t think the statue the balloon brushed against was of Elvis because the hotel was a ‘wild west’ themed hotel.

I say to T and L something like ‘There it is – the hotel Santa Fe.’

It’s as if we’ve been travelling there and have ‘finally arrived.’

I don’t understand this at all. The restaurant was a little creepy – like a ‘good time’ was being imposed and demanded, and I was thinking about this the other day in respect to a proper tyranny. Proper tyrannies make sure you show you enjoy yourself and so on – they won’t let you ‘opt-out.’ The faces of the persons were unclear.

Everyone was eating exactly the same thing – no choice off the menu. This reminds me of a discussion I’ve been having with a guy about the death penalty. He wanted to have executions two minutes after a guilty verdict, and I accused him of picking ‘a la carte’ the things tyrannies did which he happened to like and therefore his attitude was a ‘pick n mix’ attitude. This could tie-in with the tyranny being imposed in the restaurant – I don’t know.

Tyranny in the restaurant: where food is served. A la carte, and pick n mix, are both expressions which refer to food / eating.

The statue of Elvis reminds me of a song by Manic Street Preachers called ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’

Reviewing the lyrics the line which stands out is ‘Overweight and out of date.’ I’ve been thinking about weight-gain since I stopped smoking three months ago, and also about relationships and the reduced choices a person has when they get older. There are vague connections in the lyrics: my father is from ‘ Lancashire ‘ – which is mentioned – and the lyric is, more or less, dark, or bleak, in tone; which would match the mood of my musings about weight and age.

Though I don’t know why my subconscious put me in Disneyland (there was an art exhibition recently in my town called ‘Dismaland’) or placed me around the hotel Santa Fe. This is a convoluted way – and psychologically wasteful – of getting in a reference to the lyrics from a song. I know the subconcious is smarter than this.

As usual: who knows?

The Ulcerous Wolf

Shame (2009) could be all done in an hour. It’s artificially long – too long for its action, certainly.

Alright, so Michael Fassbender plays a porn addict who can’t create proper relationships because, for porn ‘addicts’ there’s not enough immediate stimulation in real relationships.

His psyche has an ulcer.

This is how it shakes down in real life:

The ‘addict’ realises he doesn’t find (let’s say ‘women’) attractive. He notices this about himself one day. He knows this is odd because he’s not gay – he likes women. So why is he not noticing them anymore? He’s not looking at them on the street like he used to, or noticing what they’re wearing. Once he realises this, he realises he has an actual psychological problem.

Too much porn conditions the brain to expect immediate pleasure – or pleasure quite quickly. A gentleman wants these periods of manual labour to be over quickly, and doesn’t realise he’s training his brain.

So when the gentleman has the company of a lady, he might find that he suffers from one of three possible ‘issues.’

First – and although business is conducted to the woman’s satisfaction in one way – he can’t satisfactorily conclude proceedings. He might not be bothered by this, but the women will not be happy, and will see this as a failure on her part..

Second, business is conducted okay for a while, then the chap softens his position and allows the woman to rest.

Third, the poor devil doesn’t need to soften his position in the first place.

That Fassbender wants to screw his sister (and not for the first time) is, probably, more the cause of his psychological trouble than his addiction to porn is. The porn doesn’t help, but his sister is the real cause of his trouble.

We first see her in the shower – and this scene is very interesting.

We know that, whoever’s in the apartment, they’re in the shower because we can hear the water running. They also put some music on.

So what follows?

Fassbender grabs a baseball bat, and rushes into the bathroom shouting ‘I’ll fucking kill you!’

This is quite clever.

Who did he think was in there, The Yakuza? The London Irish?

He storms the bathroom because that guarantees him a look at his naked sister, and he pushes his way in carrying the huge hard-on he’s got for her – the bat.

This happens while I Want Your Love by Chic blares on the soundtrack, by the way.

She asks him:

‘Don’t you fucking knock!’

And he replies, with some surface justification:

‘What the fuck, why would I knock? I live here.’

The question acts as plausible deniability. But he’s denying things to himself – not his sister.

This is the point: sure, why would he knock? But that he wouldn’t knock is hardly a reason to come storming in like the SAS. If he was concerned enough to arm himself, and be concerned enough to think he better take the intruder by surprise, he could easily have called the cops, or left the apartment and called them. His action is paradoxical.

He’s trying to convince himself he was in danger through his behaviour, but his unnecessary behaviour reveals he never really thought he was in any danger to begin with.

After a few moments he gives his sister a towel, and she throws it back after a moment, revealing herself to him again and smiling, says:

‘Good to see you.’

This is his sister’s fishing line. Now he’s supposed to say, while staring at her naked body:

‘Good to see you, too.’

But he walks out instead.

They’ve been screwing in the back-story and this has left them both damaged. He’s got a fixation with porn because normal sexual relations don’t give him the thrill he got by screwing his sister, and she’s got scars across her arms from self-harming, and is uber-needy with a car-crash relationship.That’s about it, really. They argue about her being in his apartment. He doesn’t like having her around because he wants to screw her.

And she’d let him.

The Duchess of Malfi

The Invisible Pharaoh

I wrote recently about Capital Punishment – a practice I despise. Since then I’ve begun a ‘discussion’ with a person on another site about the topic. He supports the practice, and would like to see it introduced back into British society.

The discussion wouldn’t be worth having if the person wasn’t an atheist. It’s his claim to be an atheist which makes his support for the death penalty – or religious human sacrifice – strange.

I have tried to explain to him how, if he supports the practice, he is a religious person without realising it. He doesn’t understand this.

This seems obvious to me, and I assumed his ‘this makes no sense to me’ posturing was just that, but perhaps he really doesn’t understand?

I’m going to set out how it is a person who supports the death penalty is, whether they say they are an atheist or not, a religious person.

The State can take your possessions and can even take you from your home and place you somewhere you do not wish to be. This won’t always involve a ‘fair trial.’ The state has a great deal of power over the citizen. Much of this power is latent.

What can one person do about this? There’s not much. If a person wanted to try to attack or weaken the power of the state they would be advised to try intellectual, not physical, attempts.

A person has more intellectual freedom than they do physical freedom. This is to get to the point: how much intellectual freedom does a person have in Britain?

The answer depends on the person.

Many of us consider our ‘nationality’ part of our identity. Many of us are ‘proud’ to be British. This expression – ‘proud to be British’ – should make us suspicious about the minds of the persons who use it. The idea a person could (never mind ‘should’) feel ‘proud’ about a thing which was not an achievement of theirs should immediately demonstrate the fatuousness of the expression. But different states around the world encourage the patriotic impulse with regular booster-jabs like the World Cups for different sports and the Olympics.

Patriotism, at best, is irrational.

In accepting the patriotic line (and who gets a choice?) the person is baptised in the first religion they’ll meet: The Order of the Holy Patriot, and without knowing it, the person has given up some of their intellectual freedom by accepting the patriotic line. The majority of persons are not intellectually free, but don’t realise it; and many don’t want to think for themselves because of what thinking for yourself actually means.

We all like to think we think for ourselves, but most of us don’t. Thinking for yourself means giving up illusions, and some of us cling to them like an infant clings to a comfort blanket.

The first illusion to go should be the idea of a heavenly father – He who will save us from death. There is (almost) certainly no survival of death, and no loving supernatural being looking over us all. We need to get over it.

The idea of loyalty to a state, or a flag, should be next to go. Different emblems and symbols and national ‘anthems’ – which can sometimes reduce otherwise intelligent humans to tears – should be seen for what they are: pieces of manipulative theatre and an insult to the intelligence.

The loyalties persons should have should be between family and friends (if they deserve it) and aspects of culture. A person should side with the ideas of freedom of speech and expression; freedom of enquiry; freedom of assembly; a person should defend the disciplines of science and philosophy, and should place truth above ‘feelings.’

Pieces of cloth with colours on them and tinny fucking tunes should be given the disrespect they deserve.

But I digress.

The religiosity of Capital Punishment comes from surrendering part of your mind to something outside itself, in this case, the state.

Once a person allows the state the ultimate power over the citizen, then the citizen has surrendered a fraction of their reasoning power to the state. Even if the citizen wants capital punishment for murder only, then it’s too late – the concession has been made.

The State, by default, is given ‘higher-power’ status because now, there are matters above and beyond the human’s need to reason: thinking has been deferred above and beyond, upwards, to the State – the God replacement.

The point here is actually simple: all a person has to do, to be a true atheist, is to reject the Hobbesian idea of Political Obligation.

But that involves placing a huge burden upon yourself: the burden which comes from thinking for yourself.

The amount of intellectual freedom you have will be exactly the amount you demand for yourself.

Fear The Walking Dead…..season finale

It was about time we saw some zombies eating some people: the infected infiltrating the army base was one of the best set-pieces since the farm, the prison and sanctuary all fell in the other show. This was more like it, but it was over too soon.

And that’s it – the season is over and it ended with the death of who (I’m sure) everyone thought was going to be a series regular. I think it was a mistake to kill her because there was a lot of drama to be had between the two women. Madison telling Travis that it was Liza’s fault the soldiers took her son in custody – all that ‘she did this’ business – was what I’d hoped to be the start of a female grudge match that could have lasted a full-length season, but now they killed her! I quite liked her.

Travis finally cracked; he told Blades he didn’t like guns but when the soldier popped the psycho’s daughter, old Travis laid down a real beating – and we didn’t get to see what happened to that soldier. Did he get infected? And why shoot the daughter? It made some sense in that he would want to really hurt the guy who sliced him up – and shooting the daughter is a good way to do it – but that entails the soldier is a total ice-man psycho and he was trying to get into the daughter’s underwear a few episodes ago. Maybe the excuse for this this character re-write-for-convenience is that Blades sliced more than his arm – maybe the torture messed with his head?

Now we’re waiting, what, a year for season two? Six months?

Here’s what I don’t get. Why create this show in the first place? I’m still suspicious that The Walking Dead might become the junior partner in time because with Fear – they can do what they want, they are not locked-in to adapting stories and using comic characters.

Maybe Fear will become the premier show? Watch out for the announcement that The Walking Dead is taking a two-year break or something, while all the work and budget goes into the new show.