Oh Shit – Pete Shelley R.I.P.


It doesn’t seem possible that Pete Shelley could be gone. Punks aren’t supposed to die this soon, even if he was the same age as me.

I remember hearing ‘What do I get?’ late one John Peel night, just before moving to Nottingham and away from Punk’s other great centre. I remember it’s b-side when I bought it, one of the most honest break-up songs ever, ‘Oh Shit’. I remember seeing them of Top of the Pops with ‘I Don’t Mind’, which should have been fucking mega. I remember arguing about whether ‘Love You More’ worked or not, and singing along to ‘Ever Fallen in Love (with someone you shouldn’t’ve?)’ the very first time I heard it. I remember the years when it was like a personal theme song, the answer to which was too fucking many times.

I remember playing ‘Love Bites’ and ‘A Different Kind of Tension’ obsessively as soon as each came out. I remember seeing them at the Appollo, the second and last time I saw Joy Division, the night I heard ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ for the first time. I rememeber them finishing with ‘ESP’ as one by one the band laid down their instruments and left until only Steve Diggle was left, playing that incredible spiral riff.

I remember ‘Homo-Sapien’ and ‘XL1’ too.

I remember the Buzzcocks and I remember Pete Shelley and I ain’t never gonna forget and this is why, because you don’t forget perfection.

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Treme: s04 e05 – …To Miss New Orleans


One last time

Of course it ended with Mardi Gras. And with the song that gave the final episode its title, played over a montage that took place some time in the future, showing the fruition of certain things, showing that life never really ends.

Everyone was here. Sofie Bernette returned from college to drag her mother out to Mardi Gras. Sonny, happy and resolved with Linh, was led back into street gigging again by a wife who understands him and loves him. L.P. Everett made no traction over New Orleans. These were our minor players today, showing their faces so we could see them one last time, and say our private goodbyes in the knowledge that their lives continue to develop.

There was no place for Clarke Peters, except in a photo of Big Chief Albert Lambreaux, in costume, the prettiest, behind the bar at LaDonna’s bar, where the Indians rehearsed for Delmond’s walk as Big Chief: over his reservations, he stood in his father’s shoes (or boots), just once.

There were departures. Terry Colson got his transfer back to the Eighth authorised but, as he said, too little, too late. He testified before the Grand Jury then handed in his papers, to preserve his pension. He’d rendered his job untenable, burned his boats in New Orleans, went to Indianapolis, where his sons are, breaking up his brief relationship with Toni, who threw herself back into her work.

Nelson Hidalgo signed himself out of his contracts in New Orleans, to go to Galveston, but not without a goodwill gesture on departure: knowing that the National Jazz Centre was dead, dead, DEAD, he conned Feeney into accepting an exclusive on restaurants there in return for his letting Janette off the hook about using her own name.

Delmond Lambreaux half leaves, returning to New York where his music plays, but keeping a foot in New Orleans, promising to bring his child up in the tradition. You knew Big Chief Albert would be honoured.

And Annie has moved on and upwards, towards the career her talent demands. She had to make compromises along the way, accept being prettified with expensive dresses and short skirts (that was a real handicap) and the glossy look, but she insisted on only making her own compromises to her music.

Davis McAlary turned serious now he’s forty, intent on becoming a sober citizen (don’t laugh). He even told Janette he loved her, which she was wise enough not to repeat back to him. She’s not in love with him anyway. I doubt anyone ever truly would be. It didn’t last. Still, he’s mellowed, so we’ll have to settle for that.

Antoine got the schoolband a rehearsal space through the good auspices of a fellow musician. He got his boys living with him to get straightened out. He got called on to play with Dr. John. He got a wandering eye at Mardi Gras, but only the eye wandered this time. LaDonna got scared when gunshots were fired, but she and her boys escaped unscathed.

Have I left anyone out? The series didn’t. Only Clarke Peters and John Goodman were missing, and though I wondered if an accommodation would be made, especially for the former, there was no trickery, no dream sequences or flashbacks. The dead stayed dead and we missed them.

And their lives go on. Nothing ended except our ability to be with these people. The music went on and we closed on ‘…To Miss New Orleans’, and I will, and I’ll miss my weekly incursion into this musical gallimaufrey thaat’s already led to me buying a Lucia Micarelli CD…

The closing shot, after which all was silence, was of Davis’s pothole, decorated New Orleans style. Some things will never die.

This city won’t ever drown.

Re-Planning Another Lake District Expedition


Maybe not…

Perhaps I should apologise to Northern Rail, not that I have any intention of doing so, not after the farce they made of my Patterdale Expedition last month. However, I did comment that I couldn’t see any timetable for the 508 bus from Windermere to Patterdale once I finally arrived at the former, and the reason for this is that the 508 doesn’t run after the end of October.

So even if everything had worked like the proverbial clockwork, I wasn’t going to get to the Ullswater Steamer anyway.

I’m going to bear things like that in mind for my annual November visit but now I have to remake my plans for the Patterdale Expedition, 2019 version.

The first change is that I am not going to try and do that via Windermere again. Not unless there is a drastic improvement in Northern Rail’s services of a kind that no-one in their right mind currently anticipates. So that automatically means an increase in travelling costs, because the other way to Ullswater by train from Manchester means Penrith, and Penrith means at least half as much again in fares.

But from Patterdale there appears to be a year-round bus service to Pooley Bridge, and the steamer itself is a year-round thing. And I must admit, I like the idea of a Pooley Bridge to Glenridding first leg, getting the head of Ullswater in my sights for the full daylight leg of the journey.

As it happens, I have arranged my holidays for the back half of the work year to give me a four day break every month, in the wake of my Working Sundays, so if we get, say, a cool, crisp February, I might target the Thursday as a putative Patterdale Expedition date.

How does that work? The short answer is, it doesn’t. It’s physically impossible. Assuming the February timetable to be the same as January, it not having been published online yet, and bearing in mind that the Ullswater steamer is based at Glenridding, not Pooley Bridge, there are only three sailings all day, one of them only to Howtown. Therefore the only sailing from Pooley Bridge that returns there, all day, is the 10.35am.

But the bus from Penrith leaves the railway station at 10.20am and takes thirty minutes to the Crown Hotel, not the steamer landings. And the only reasonably priced train from Manchester, everything else being three and a half times dearer, arrives at Penrith at 10.58.

So, unless I travel Wednesday evening and stay overnight in Penrith, Patterdale in February is in practical terms impossible. Let’s revisit that one after Easter, shall we?

So, can I spend any time in Buttermere on a day’s public transport expedition from Manchester?

This Time Next Tuesday


Deep Space Nine Tuesday is over, after three years and three months. Long before I got anywhere near the end, I swore to myself I would never do anything that long again. But the ritual lingers, and I decided I would need a new Tuesday morning subject.

As of next week, welcome to Person of Interest Tuesday.

Person of Interest, for those who don’t know it, was a near future SF oriented series that began as an apparent procedural, whilst building up a show mythos of great interest. It was created and executive produced by Jonathan Nolan, brother of film director Christopher, and starred Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel.

There are three advantages to PoI. The first is that I have already watched the full run twice and am alive to its nuances. The second that it is a contemporary series, having concluded its run only in 2017, so there’ll be none of my complaints about steps the series failed to take. And lastly, it is shorter. PoI ran for five seasons, the last a 13 episode grace season, to enable the overarching story to be completed. That makes a total of 103 episodes, so we should be out of here in just under two years, and I won’t have to think of something to do on Tuesday morning until the back end of 2020. Sounds like a plan to me.

Join me next Tuesday morning for the Pilot episode.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e25/26 – What You Leave Behind


What you leave behind is loss

So. For the cast, the crew, the writers, the directors, the producers and the original audience, it took seven years to get here. For me, watching weekly, it took three and a little bit. And it all ended with a moment of personal poignance as the final shot was of a boy who became a man staring into space, having lost his father.

I’ve known from before I began watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that the series ended with Benjamin Sisko’s death, and that was how it was. I know that in reality he’s been translated into becoming one of the Prophets, that it is hinted that there is more for him to do and that, in the post-series novels Sisko does return, but Deep Space Nine always was the darkest, more realistic of the franchise, and to me Sisko is dead: he is gone beyond anywhere that his old friends, his comrades, his newly-pregnant wife or, most personally affecting for me, his son can ever see, hear, talk to or touch again. The end is finality.

And this is all about endings, endings and changes. The Dominion War ends, as it always must, in victory for the Alpha Quadrant. There’s the big attack, the great fleet, including the new Defiant, in which the military tide is turned when the Cardassian fleet rebels against the Dominion and switches sides in mid-battle. This comes about when Damar’s rebellion begins to become seriously disruptive: the Female Changeling demands reprisals against the whole population, which Weyoun 8 carries out, causing a great revulsion and reversion.

And Damar’s rebellion is nearly derailed when he, Kira and Garak are caught, and housekeeper Mila killed. They are to be summarily executed, but the Cardassians accompanying the Jem’Hadar soldiers revolt and kill the captors.

All is put into a raid on Dominion Headquarters. The compound is impenetrable, until a door is opened to eject and execute Legate Broca on the Female Changeling’s orders: this gives the raiders access, but for Damar the charge is fatal: in lead the raid to free his people, he becomes the first to be killed. Only three survivors reach the control room, Kira, Ekoor and Garak, who executes Weyoun with great relish: the last Weyoun, the second to be killed.

But though the War is won, it is not yet over. The Female Changeling is dying, and aware of the irony of dying as a solid, but she still fears a Federation invasion of the Gamma Quadrant and an attempt to wipe out her people, and so victory will be bought with such a cost of men and ships that the Alliance will not have the strength to fight again.

It is here that Odo intervenes. By linking with the Female Changeling, he is able to both pass on the cure to her, over Garak’s deep and wholly justified reservations, but also persuade her to share his trust of the Federation. Restored to health, she orders a stand down, signs the official surrender and submits herself to trial for war crimes.

It’s over.

And with the end of the War comes the changes that separate friends, allies and lovers. A phase is over, and with it the ties that bind are loosened and people once again discover that they have individual futures and not merely the collective one to which fate and destiny have bound them for so long.

Chief Miles O’Brien will no longer be dumped on as he has been so relentlessly. He and his family, a final appearance from Keiko, Molly and Kyrioshi, are to return to Earth, where he will become a Professor of Engineering at Starfleet Academy. It means the breaking of his great friendship with Doctor Julian Bashir, to the regret of both. But Julian and Lieutenant Ezri Dax have become lovers as well as being in love. Their’s is a future to be explored together: Julian will never return to the Alamo without Miles, but he has created a new, and identical scenario for he and Ezri at Thermopylae, as the beleagured Spartans.

Lieutenant Commander Worf also leaves Deep Space Nine, to become the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, under Chancellor Martok: a new age is dawning, an age that will see a restoration of honour.

Odo and Colonel Kira Nerys are to be separated, permanently. Though I never agreed with the making of this pair into lovers, though I never accepted how Kira forgave him his betrayal of Bajor, this too was full of emotion I couldn’t ignore. Odo must go to his people. He must bring them the cure, he must enter the Great Link, this time to stay, to convince the Founders that they have nothing to fear now from the solids. Kira will deliver him, and stay until the last moment, before returning alone, where she will become the new commander of Deep Space Nine.

Quark remains Quark. He’s the only one who understands Odo enough to intercept the Changeling’s attempt to depart without goodbyes, and is immensely satisfied when Odo walks off without conceding a goodbye. Things will not change all that much for the Ferenghi: Colonel Kira will remain his implacable opponent.

Which leaves the Sisko, the Emissary. As the Dominion War crashes to its conclusion, there is a second front, a secret front, taking slow steps to undo everything. Gul Dukat’s sight has been restored and he returns to the Kai’s palace. She has completed deciphering the Khosst Amojen (having exiled myself from Memory Alpha during The Final Chapter, to avoid spoilers, I’ve had to guess at spellings, incorrectly) and is now ready to release the Pah-Wraiths from the Fire-Caves. She needs his assistance.

What she needs Dukat for takes a long time to materialise, as the aspect of the story is dragged out until after the War has been won and well into the Peace. Dukat is the sacrifice, to honour the Pah-Wraiths, poisoned by wine and dying. But not for long.

On Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko heeds the call no-one else can hear, and leaves the party in Vic’s (as a finale to which, the abhorrent hologram lounge singer Vic Fontaine serenades a crew together for the last time with ‘The Way You Look Tonight’: it isn’t a patch on the Peter Skellern version but it’s heartfelt, and appropriate, and moving, and reconciles me to him). The Sisko knows what he must do, and he leaves his wife and unborn child to do it, not knowing the full extent of his destiny.

He arrives at the Fire-Caves seconds after the resurrection of Gul Dukat, restored to his Cardassian appearance. It is he, not Kai Winn Adami, who is to be the Pah-Wrauth’s Emissary, he who wields powers not granted to the Prophet’s Emissary, as it ever was: Evil vests power in its servants but Good’s servants triumph because of themselves.

Dukat glories in himself, in the destruction that is to follow, the burning of Bajor, of the Celestial Temple, of the entire Alpha Quadrant, but most of all he glories in his personal victory over Sisko, the private war they’ve conducted since the Emissary first arrived to take command of Dukat’s surrendered fiefdom, Terak Nor/Deep Space Nine. It is his weakness and his undoing. At the last, Winn redeems herself, screaming to Sisko that it is the book. She tries to hurl it into the flames, but Dukat draws it to him and burns Winn to death. In doing so, in relishing it so, he takes his attention from the helpless Sisko. Free to move, knowing that the book must burn, Sisko charges Dukat, hurling both of them, and the book, into the flames. Sisko locks a door to which there will never again be a key. The payment is his life.

And so it ended, with departures and sunderings. As well as those I’ve mentioned already, Garak goes home, his exile over, returning to Cardassia, although he has lost the Cardassia he longed to return to. His friendship with Bashir is over, despite the promises. Ensign Nog becomes Lieutenant Nog: like Kira, Bashir, Ezri and Quark, he remains, on course for the glorious Starfleet career he has grown into.

And Jake Sisko remains, looking into space where the Wormhole at last opens again. Looking where he believes that something exists that equates to his father. But not in my eyes. Sometimes, in war, people have to sacrifice. To know that, and to honour that, is not to forget the effect on those that love you, and have a long lifetime ahead without you. What you leave behind is loss.

And I leave behind Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I shalln’t be returning.

Uncomfortable Bedfellows


For many years, my growing discomfort with the Guardian has been down to the increasing number of right-wing commentators it has given a home to.

One of these has been Matthew d’Ancona, a former speechwriter for David Cameron. What place does someone like him have in a supposedly left-of-centre liberal newspaper? The likes of him play a part in my decision, some months ago, to stop buying a newspaper I had been taking every day for thirty-seven years.

So I hate having to agree with d’Ancona, whose column for this Monday coming is now available on-line.

But I do have to quote this paragraph, with 100% agreement:

‘So often one hears that the British people “were not consulted” about immigration levels. To which the answer is: oh yes you damn well were. Every time you insisted on a properly staffed NHS, on social care that was halfway decent, on a service economy that worked, on affordable decorators, on your Tesco and Amazon deliveries arriving on time. Each time you took that landscape for granted, you were complicit in the immigration policy that preceded the Brexit vote.’

Frankly, that is nail-on-head time. I wish someone on the left could have said that so clearly.

Film 2018: Ma Mere


This is the last of the foreign contingent in my single DVD collection and as with several others this year there is a single reason why I have it, and that is Isabelle Huppert. In a way that is different from all her other performances reviewed this year, Huppert is again superb, holding the eye every moment she is on the screen, but that’s not to say that this is a great film, or even a good one on more than one level. With the posssible exception of Fantasia 2000, it is the poorest film of my collection this year, and the one about which I have the most doubts about reading.

The film, madein 2004 and adapting a 1966 novel, is set on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Louis Garrel plays Pierre, a 17 year old boy, who has left a Catholic Boarding School to spend the summer with his wealthy parents, Helene (Huppert) and his unnamed father. Pierre’s father dies, abruptly and anonymously, offscreen and unmourned, leaving Pierre to the tender care, or rather mercies of his mother.

But Helene has already pronounced herself to be sexually unfaithful, a bitch, a slut and a woman of – and the word here is exactly appropriate though it’s never used in the film – depravity. Actually, Helene’s exposure of herself is less a pronouncement than a boast, and it sounds like a hollow boast. There are going to be several times when characters will talk of depraved things they have articipated in, but it’s all talk. We are going to see enough unconventional sexual behaviour throughout Ma Mere, though in itself it’sthin and slightly desperate stuff, but the real hardcore doesn’t get to the screen, except in a relatively mild whipping scene.

What we get is a parade of decadence. Helene is promiscuous, though we don’t actually see her having sex. Sexual acts yes, as in playing with the breasts of her friend and partner-in-depravity, Rea (Joanna Preiss), who’s about half her age, and who takes Pierre’s virginity, in public, at night, in a shopping complex, whilst Helene watches.

And just before disappearing, with Rea, for about half the film, Helene implies that she and Pierre have had sex, in the aftermath of an orgy, though whether this is true or not is a matter for the individual viewer to decide for themselves.

Pierre is left alone. He has already fired his parents’ servants, Marthe – the only one genuinely pleased to see him and more motherly than anyone else in the film – and Robert, but a sweet-looking young girl, Hansi (Emma de Caunes) takes him up. Hansi is part of Helene’s coterie and has been tasked with looking after Pierre, though she denies having been paid to do so.

Hansi is a junior sexual adventuress, an acolyte who hasn’t yet gone half as far as Helene but who’s striving defiantly to catch up. Desire has no boundaries, the film proclaims, and so do half the characters, and it may be my background, my uupbringing or just that I’m repressed, but it comes over to me as if the main person everyone is trying to convince is themself. The film is both shallow and hollow, pursuing its aiming of corrupting itself with no real enjoyment.

Hansi does reach a limit, in whipping the eager masochist Loulou. She’s been ordered into doing so in concert with Helene several times, and whilst she pursues the whipping with inflexible determination, caught up in the moment, she is convincingly tearful the next morning, needful of Pierre’s promise that they won’t do that again. Hansi tells Pierre that she loves him, she really does, though the film doesn’t give us enough time afterwards to test whether that is true or merely gratitude.

What strikes me most is that all this sexual pursuit is completely devoid of feeling, only sensation, and that the sensation doesn’t seem to be doing anybody any good. Rea is the most energetic and most wilful, insisting on perversion for perversion’s sake, but it’s a soulless pursuit. All she wants is what she wants: she has no thought for what others may want, nor the consequences to them of her doing what she wants, following her passing whim on the moment.

Rea is the more active and thus extreme representation in the film. Helene, we are meant to beleve, is her superior in practice and breadth of experience, but she’s an essentially passive practitioner her, watching rather than doing. Huppert is languid, slow of movement, a husk even before Helene pronounces herself burnt out. Here’s the brilliance of her performance: Helene’s eyes are dead, allowing us to understand that she is dead inside, though the film doesn’t give us enough to decide whether she has always been like this or whether it is a consequence of her self-indulgence.

I should mention that Pierre’s pere is briefly portrayed as no better: he knows of and is unconcerned about Helene’s promiscuity, and after his death, when Helene delegates to him the too-wearisome task of getting rid of his ‘rubbish’, Pierre discovers a substantial porn collection, over which he first masturbates then pisses.

And later, Helene claims she never loved Pierre’s father, that he first met her riding naked in the forest, aged under 13, and more or less raped her.

Ultimately, everyone in this film, with the possible exeption of Marthe and Robert, is alone. They have rejected convention, and Pierre for all his piety is on his way too, but in rejecting convention and giving way to the pursuit of doing exactly what they feel like – more for the sake of it than the enjoyment of it, or so the film feels to me, which, if you read the blurb on the back of the DVD case is not what I hopes to convey – they have rejected connection on any level except the body. Personally, that’s not enough. That’s way not enough.

The ending is meant to leave us with a final, transgressive shock. I certainly remembered it from the first time I watched Ma Mere, where virtually no other details were retained, but this time I was just unmoved. Helene and Rea return outof the blue. Helene monopolises and fascinates Pierre, to the chagrin of Hansi. She asks him to sleep with her that night. Using the scalpel from her surgical kit, he cuts her abdomen, prises the cut open with his finger, and masturbates. Whilst he does, she cuts her own throat.

Is the corruption of Pierre complete, or is it a superficial thing that he will shrug off as a teenage summer’s wildness? If we care, we are left to wonder. But I note how Pierre was able to finger Helene’s cut, and her blood, when throughout the film he’s rejected the stickiness and moisture of sex and genitals, the sliminess of semen.

And the ending that shocks us so? Pierre visits the funeral parlour, his mother’s body laid out in a glass case, a bier. The attendant retires discretely. Pierre leans against the wall, slides down until only his head is visible.The attendant suspects and enters to prove his suspicion: Pierre is wanking himself off. He lurches towards the bier, sceaming, “I don’t want to die!” and the film cuts instantly into its silent closing credits.

As well as everything I’ve said above, the film is confused, and blurred, in both its laying out of the story and its direction. It meanders. It does little within its 108 minutes to establish that Pierre is or ever really has been pious: I got that for the Wikipedia entry. Garrel, from the outset, plays Pierre as a typical moody teenager, unpleasantly selfish.

That said, for all its flaws, I’ll keep Ma Mere, for the reason I bought it in the first place: Isabelle Huppert. From first to last, she is her usual superb self, andthough in real life she was nearly a decade older than the 43 years Helene is supposed to be, her small, slim form carries in it a charged sexuality that is present in every scene, though unlike Preiss or de Caunes she does no nudity: Huppert is a silk blouse and linen pants just looks the heat.

And for someone whose acting is usually as full of life as can be, she is equally impressive in her emptiness and inertia. It’s a pity she didn’t have better material to work with.