Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shallows dreme

Last night I dreamt I was having tea with the Queen. Over her fireplace was a huge portrait of the Beckhams, painted in different shades of gold. One of her corgis nipped me in the shin.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Shallow faces the truth

If you think about it, series 5 should really have come to an abrupt end with 5.13 Earlier Than Usual, finishing up with Glory holding Buffy's severed head up by the hair before tossing it aside. In the background we can see the dismembered remains of the Scoobies, an arm here, a leg there; perhaps Willow like a broken plastic doll. It's horridly reminiscent of the last episode of Blackadder II.

'Now, where were we, Dawnie?' Glory drawls, wiping her hands and striding forward and past the camera.

Next week: 2.16 Realistic Passion, where Angelus impales Willow, Xander and Joyce on the same pole like a horrific kebab, and leaves it on Buffy's front lawn for when she opens her curtains.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Shallow and the Bush dynasty

On the morning of November 9th 1988, I was in the bathrooms at our student residences when Steve, our American student, came in. 'Who've we got, Shallow?' he asked. I swelled with pride at being able to take even a tiny role in the presidential election process.

Assuming a carefully neutral tone I told him that George Bush had won.

'Oh man,' he said. 'Now I'm going to remember, for the next four years, that you told me we got Bush.'

I wished I hadn't told him. I'd be really, really surprised if I saw Steve in my bathroom tomorrow morning, but in the unlikely event that I do, I hope I've got better news for him. I mean, it's serious now. In 1988, I didn't want Bush to win, but I wasn't afraid for my life if he did.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Shallow at the Prom

My current voyage through Buffspace has brought me to Worst Episode Ever, also known as The Prom. This episode has me cheering on the hellhounds. Oz already deserves to die after his petulant tantrum in Choices, and Buffy - at her self-righteous worst here - also loses my sympathy. I think I hate Buffs more during this ep than at any other time, excepting only the point in The Gift where she threatens to kill her friends.
I hate the way that, after three whole series making the point that being different is a positive virtue, we have this rotten, sell-out coda remarking that mainstream acceptance is the only thing that matters. As if Jonathan would be on the organising committee anyway - even if he hadn't been 'toting a piece to school, not exactly winning him a place with the in-crowd' in the last episode but one.
On a scale of one to ten, this episode sucks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

One of the most frightening aspects of Caleb, series 7's misogynist priest, was his distinct resemblance to Tony, Neil Morrissey's character in Men Behaving Badly. It was as if we were seeing Tony's true self, what he would be like if he had the opportunity to behave badly on a grander scale than just stalking Debs.

I'll tell you where MBB went wrong. It was in the series written after Leslie Ash and Caroline Quentin had successfully agitated for the same pay as Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey. In order to justify paying the actors the extra cash, Simon Nye had to give Deborah and Dorothy equal prominence as characters, and they were just not intrinsically funny in the way Gary and Tony were - because they weren't as fucked up.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Dear Abby,
A long time ago me and my brothers rebelled against the Valar and went back to Middle-earth with Fëanor. Since then I've been beset with ill-fortune. All my brothers have been killed, particularly the youngest, of whom I was especially fond.

Now I very much regret what we did. Should I try and let go?
G., Cerin Amroth

Dear Galadriel,
Yes. Don't look back in Aegnor.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I discover that one reason why so many of the forced postal votes were ruled invalid was that the papers have to be witnessed. I can't think of anything more likely to put me off voting than having to trail round to get confirmation of identity. Unless it's the idea that the names of the witnesses would be a way of identifying the person who cast the ballot.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

You shall have a geranium if you really must

Keep The Aspidistra Flying was one of my favourite books when I was a child. A passage which particularly interested me was the one where Orwell describes how his anti-hero Gordon Comstock reads The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and comes across "the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his aspidistra". Gordon thereafter sees the aspidistra as the symbol of British respectability - hence the title of the book.

Many readings of various editions of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists later, I knew that the starving carpenter Easton was in fact a painter, the plant in question is a geranium and that his stuff has mostly not been pawned but repossessed by furniture dealers J. Didlum, Quality Street, Mugsborough.

Furthermore, the geranium is mentioned because it's standing on a wooden box in the front window. Easton and his put-upon wife Ruth have covered the box with cloth to make it look like a table, hoping that this, and the curtains drawn around it, will prevent the neighbours from seeing that their real furniture has been repossessed.

So the geranium itself doesn't symbolise anything. It could have been a vase. And it certainly isn't an aspidistra. And the point of the passage for me is that, as Tressell points out, the neighbours are probably as badly off as the Eastons anyway.

Orwell may have subconsciously appreciated his mistake, becaue at the end of Keep The Aspidistra Flying, there's an argument between Gordon and his new wife which contains the phrase 'You shall have a geranium if you really must. But not an aspidistra.'

Richard Adams is nudging me. 'Of what value is the grain of sand at the heart of the pearl?' he mutters.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My current Buffython has brought me to Showtime. I realise now that I was unduly harsh in my assessment of series 7 last year. (I think it was coloured by my multiple media disappointments). Historically, it's been the non-arc Monster of the Week episodes that I prefer, and Help and Him can hold their heads up in the company of Lie To Me and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. I particularly liked Him for its televisual grammar - the split-screening and Xander's explicit flashback to B,B&B. Joss Whedon says that he doesn't like to play tricks with form too often, so when it does turn up in Buffy, it's particularly enjoyable.

Selfless is more of a flawed gem. I didn't like the rewriting of Anya's back-story. To me, Anya was strangely literal (speaking with an unnatural evenness and choosing her words a shade too carefully) because she had forgotten what being human was like. The idea that she was like that to start with seemed unnecessary and a bit, well, literalistic.

I was more ambivalent about the revisiting of Once More, With Feeling in this episode. I would have told them 'You created a masterpiece in OMWF. Now walk away from it! It belongs to the ages!' On the other hand, that jump cut between Anya the bride-to-be and Anyanka with a sword through her chest was possibly worth it. Stark. Harsh. Wholly symbolic of the synthesis of the sublime and the ridiculous which makes Buffy worth watching.

Friday, April 30, 2004

The pictures of Iraqi prisoners being maltreated by US troops had strange contradictory effects on me. On one hand I was reassured that the mainstream American media was carrying the pictures, even if they did delay release for two weeks. On the other they confirmed my fears about the way quasi-Riley and his squad will treat me when they arrive. Though I can't imagine Riley forcing demons to simulate having sex with each other. Oh - suck jobs from vampire trulls - hold on, I can now.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I'm afraid again. I'm afraid that - Onion-style - the British people are going to Shrug, Line Up For Fingerprinting. My theory is that, some time between May and August 1997, David Blunkett casually said to one of his new civil servants, 'Mmm, what an interesting texture this pendant of yours has, Ms Halfrek. You know, I wish British people didn't have a fondness for liberty.'

And so we found ourselves in Bizarro land, where suddenly, you could assault people with impunity if you didn't think they were mourning Diana Princess of Wales sincerely enough. You could blockade oil terminals until society was a week away from collapsing, and the police would just sit there and watch you. You could attempt to murder a burglar and get a standing ovation from the Tory party conference. Worst of all, the government could seize on terrorist attacks in order to implement their repressive social agenda.

(I don't know how this theory explains the 1.5 million people who marched against the attack on Iraq in February 2003. Maybe they thought they'd suddenly woken up in Bizarro land too)

Having accepted that I am in Bizarro land, how should I cope? I can take the Cordelia approach - fail to realise that anything has changed, and get myself killed in short order - or the White Hat approach, to try and make even a tiny difference. You have to respect Bizarro Giles, possibly one of the bravest people in the Buffyverse, battling on with no Slayer and his dwindling band of alternate Scoobies.

Friday, April 23, 2004

So there I was, completely crushed.

As it turned out, though, this huge disappointment sort of inoculated me for the disappointment induced by the actual episodes in the second half of series 7. That came partly from a misunderstood glimpse of a summary for Storyteller. I got the idea that the series would conclude with the apotheosis of Buffy. I don't think any television could have lived up to how that looked in my imagination.

Even if I hadn't been expecting that, I'd've felt let down by the 'Junior Slayers Platoon' arc. To me Buffy was never about Buffy being in command of anyone. When she did try to give explicit orders to the Scoobies, they often resisted. Like in The Harvest for a start, when Buffs ordered Xander and Willow not to help her... If I wanted army stuff, I would have bought the boxed set of that spinoff featuring Riley in the jungle, the one with Xander - stuck in 'military guy' persona - as his second-in-command.

Come to think of it, I dreamt about Riley last night. I think he's the last credits-quality character to turn up in my dreams. He dealt with this bloke who was hassling me at my friend's wedding. I feel such an ingrate now, because I've always hated Riley, but in the dream we were best friends.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

After my mismanufactured cassette disappointment with series 7 part 1, there were several weeks of waiting for a replacement. Then there was more waiting for the boxed set for the second part of the series to become available. I hadn't been at such a pitch of anticipation since I was a child.

(Actually that isn't true. The last time I was at such a pitch of anticipation was when I was waiting for the BBC to start showing series 6.)

It was a momentous day when the set arrived. A day that ended in tragedy. 45 seconds into the first episode, a line of interference ran down the picture accompanied by a loud buzz on the sound track. 45 seconds later, it happened again. It was the same everywhere on the tape.

I cried real tears at this point.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I was halfway through the BBC run of Buffy series 6 when I saw the Afghanistan episode of South Park. I suddenly had a terrible fear that there was a similarly dreadful Buffy experience waiting for me. I confided in a friend who'd seen series 7, and she assured me I had no reason to fear.

She was right in that there never was any explicit flag-waving. But when I finally did see series 7, Bring On The Night made me a bit uneasy. Perhaps I was unconscously sensitised by the echo in the title of Dubya's 'Bring it on', but when I saw Buffy's closing oration I thought I detected a Karl Rove subtext under it. 'We just became an army'. 'Anyone else who wants to run, do it now' - not so far from the 'get out of the stadium' rhetoric in South Park.

Immediately afterwards, I discovered that my series 7 boxed set concluded with episode 12 Potential instead of episode 11 Showtime. Come to think of it, I was a lot crosser about that than I was about the possible subtext.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I am afraid. I'm afraid that American soldiers are coming to take me away. They'll be grim faced and professional, while anyone is watching. Their leader will look a bit like Riley in his Initiative days, and the resemblance, far from being any comfort, will jar horribly. But at least that will give me something to think about as I'm being manhandled into a vehicle. I'll be sorry I was ever pleased that Ethan Rayne gets bundled off into constitutional limbo at the end of A New Man. I'll think about the remarkable prescience of whoever wrote that episode. I'll need to, to distract me from the nasty looks that pseudo-Riley's second-in-command is giving me. It can't be Forrest, because Riley killed him, but he'll be just as hostile. I'll surely be only seconds away from being clouted round the head with a rifle butt.