Tuesday, 13 September 2016

PR of the Daleks

If you despise that throwaway feeling
From disposable fun
Then this is the one

- Martin L. Gore

(You fall through the clouds, damp tentacles clutch at your tingling cheeks.  Abruptly the opaque surroundings clear and you see that you’re plummeting toward a rather solid looking toy village.  The sun’s low in the distance and shadows stretch like inky sneezes towards the broccoli-wood that hedges the edges.  You don’t feel scared though; not until the screech of a dinosaur rudely wakes you.)

Me:   That’s a T. rex, isn’t it?

Him:  Baby T. rex.

Me:  Baby T. rex.  Okay. The exciting news that broke this week about The Power of the Daleks?

Him:  Oh, yeah.  I definitely know about that.

Me:  Okay, what do you know about it?

Him:  I know that you sent me a link, and the link said, “This does not exist.”

Me:  Yeah!  That’s because, in classic BBC ‘License-fee payers enjoyed the chance to watch these episodes for free when they were first broadcast in the Sixties’ Worldwide fashion they, once again, leaked what the secret reveal was.  All by themselves.

Him:  You have really red elbows.

Me:  Have I?  I suppose so…  There’s a two-disc version of The Power of the Daleks coming out.  It’s all been computer-animated, and it’s based on designs by Adrian Salmon and Mar-

Him:  What’s wrong with The Power of the Daleks animation that’s already on YouTube?

Me:  It’s great, isn’t it!  I do like that one.

Him:  I’ve got a soft spot for it.

Me:  That’s the one we watched when we did our previous ‘review’

Him:  We watched it for about five minutes.  You couldn’t handle it.

Me:  They hadn’t… quite captured Polly’s likeness…

Him:  Ha!  And that one scene with, “Oh yes, maybe this will work. Yes.  Yes, okay, I’ll take this bit and then…   Okay.”  And you’ve just got the little Patrick Troughton drawing standing there -

Me:  Just with the mouth moving.

Him:  - completely still.

Me:  There was that other computer-generated one where he slipped up the wall.  Do you remember that? 

Him:  No…

Me:  It was animated photographs and it was really creepy.  It was a bit like the Annoying Orange.  A little bit Uncanny Valley for my liking.  Soooooo.  There’s been some conjecture that if it’s going to be two discs, then that suggests…  Surely, you could fit six episodes on one disc if it’s just animation and no extras?  There’re rumours that it might contain missing footage, but I don’t think that it’s going to.  Why do you think this might be coming out?

Him:  Why do I think what might be coming out?

Me:  The Power of the Daleks.

Him:  I don’t understand why you think it is.  You sent me a link to-

Me:  Oh no, it is, it is.  The BBC’ve announced it and everything.  It’ll be available to download and you’ll be allowed to own the download after you’ve bought it; it’s coming out on DVD too.

Him:  You’re allowed to own the download?

Me:  The BBC’ve caught onto this new, modern idea.  This… y’know… valueless format.1

Him:  “404 – Daleks not found.”  Really, it’s not…  I don’t know why you think it’s coming out.  I could send you a link, right, having typed in, ‘www.bbc.com’-

Me:  ‘.co.uk’

(Potentially the final appearance of the sea-badger before Hallowe’en 2016…)

Him:  Nah, it’s BBC Worldwide, innit.

Me:  Ha!  If it’d been BBC Miami, I’d have understood.  The whole thing’s probably up there already.  I wonder if Marcel Carmego got his job back?  Anyway… 

Him:  ‘/The_Web_Planet_Episode_7_Through_9’ and saying they’d returned and that they’d been missing…  And we still don’t have the remaining episodes of The Web Planet, but seven through nine have at least returned…  I could’ve sent you that link and said, “Whoah!  Look at this!”  And you’d have clicked on the link and got, “Sorry, this web page doesn’t exist,” and you’d have been-

Me:  Web page!  Very good.  It did come back up at midnight.  I think, basically, what you’re looking at here is…  Because Top Gear’s curled up and died-

Him:  Well, no.  It just isn’t owned by the BBC.

  Yeah, they own Top Gear.

Him:  No, they lost it.

Me:  No, they’ve got Top Gear, because now it’s a spin-off from Friends and-

Him:  Didn’t it run away to Amazon?

Me:  -just lost the ex-Mr Billie Piper…  The presenters ran away to Amazon.

Him:  Did they?

Me:  Yeah.  That and Doctor Who were the BBC’s biggest brands.2  So now Doctor Who has to carry the torch since Top Gear died on its arse-

Him:  What about whichever one of the soap operas the BBC does?

Me:  EastEnders?  Yeah, but you don’t get EastEnders  box-sets.  You watch it once and then – meh.  It’s not got rewatch value at all.

Him:  It does if you’ve not seen it before.

Me:  If you’ve never seen it before, that’s really good.  It’s like never having bought a National Lottery ticket.3  Just kidding.  Obviously, it’s one of the most important breeding soups for new writers in the country. 

Him:  I thought that was Casualty?

Me:  Same sort of thing.

Him:  Casualty’s very important for new writers and new actors.  Everyone in the world has been on Casualty.

Me:  It’s like Rep.  Or The Bill.  It’s a rite of passage you have to pass in order to get your Equity card.

Him:  It really is, though!  But why?

Me:  Well, it depends.  If you haven’t got a mate running the programme then that’s the route you’ve got to take…

Him:  Even obscure voice actors who’ve only been a voice actor in one thing…  They’ve been in Casualty.

Me:  Of course.  Have you not…  I’ve been in Casualty, when’re you going to be in Casualty?  Have they not got in touch with you yet?  Everyone’s in Casualty.  Everyone in the country.

Him:  Casualty’s like jury duty.

Me:  Ha!

Him:  They send you a letter through and you have to be on Casualty, otherwise you can go to prison.

Me:  Yeah.  It’s a bit like jury duty or leader of the Labour Party.4

Him:  Is Casualty any good?

(Okay, maybe I was a bit hasty with my earlier sea badger prediction…  I did type ‘potentially’.)

Me:  So, anyway…  Paterson Joseph was great.

Him:  Ah!  You’ve got a signed thing from him in Casualty.

Me:  I have.  He played Mark Grace.

Him:  But was he in Casualty for more than one episode? 

Me:  He was.  He was a regular.  I think the reason the BBC’re doing it is because they know they’ve got around twenty-thousand… people… who will shell out for something that costs about 50p to make.

Him:  It costs more than 50p to animate it.

Me:  I meant to manufacture the physical DVD!

Him:  Have you ever manufactured a DVD?

Me:  No.  CDs though…  Once you’re producing a certain amount it gets cheaper with each one.  It’s the initial mastering that costs…  There’s no restoration required.  If the BBC’ve come up with the money in order to do the animation then…  What this one is, really, is something that’s just being sold-

Him:  Last week, I specifically remember you telling me that they were never going to release any more DVDs.  I said, “No, no.  They can still make money off them.”  And you were like, “No!  They’ve said they won’t!  And they never will again!”  And then, not a week later, not even a week later, you’re like, “HRRRR!  THEY’RE RELEASING NEW DVDs!”

Me:  I reckon they’ve got the Hut bugged.

Him:  Then, why even record this?  The BBC’ll put it up.

Me:  That’s true.

Him:  Although, to be honest, no-one’ll hear what I’m saying…  Just your replies…

Me:  Ha!  Let’s be fair, the reason the BBC’re doing this one is because it’s a regeneration story and it’s got Daleks in it.  Also, it’s a classic and they can really push it.

Him:  It’s not really a regeneration story.  Are regeneration stories spread across both stories?  I mean, that makes the TV Movie a regeneration story squared.

Me:  It’s a regeneration story in the same sense that Castrovalva is…  And remember, William Hartnell does appear in it.

Him:  How much d’you think he got paid for that appearance?

Me:  Nothing.  Almost certainly.  Or, very little.  Going on the fact that Bret Vyon vanished off the floor, ensuring Nicholas Courtney wouldn’t get an appearance fee, which was a bit harsh.

Him:  He did come back, I think.  Was he not an extra in one of the later stories?

Me:  I think so, yeah.  He turned up in something, outside a castle…  

Him:  Was he in Casualty?

Me:  He must’ve been.  Colin Baker was.  He had glowing green eyes.

  Was he in Casualty for a long time, or just the one episode?

Me:  He was one of the main characters-

Him:  Really?

Me:  Yeah.  He was the monster that lived in the hospital’s basement…  Or, am I confusing that with something by Lars Von Trier?  So, I think that if this is a success, we’ll probably get The Evil of the Daleks, which would explain the computer-generated Dalek Queen that was in that Doctor Who Adventures all that time ago…

Him:  I don’t think they’ll ever explain that.  Also, that must’ve been years ago.

Me:  It takes a long time to do this stuff.

Him:  It doesn’t take that long.

Me:  It takes a while.

Him:  It doesn’t take that long.

Me:  Alright.  Probably-

Him:  And, if they had a shot of it, then it means they’d probably already done it…

Me:  Could just be a design.  It depends on how this stuff sells.  If The Power of the Daleks sells really well, then it could open the rest of the stories for the DVD market.  If they can flog that one, then they can get away with milking the fans to buy the rest.  Having said that, the BBC’re going to have to start putting in some extra features.  It’s not like there’s any restoration that’s been paid for.  It’d put an end to the Omnirumour as well.

Him:  The ‘Omnirumour’?

Me:  Yeah, that’s the name for the rumour that all the missing episodes’ve been returned and they’re just sitting-

Him:  In the BBC Canteen?

Me:  Unable to escape.

Him:  You would get pretty sick of watching Feast of Steven on repeat.

Me:  Ha! 

Him:  It’s a bit upsetting because that one, it cannot return.

Me:  No.

Him:  Because the BBC were wiping it as they broadc-

(Tape runs out.)

1.  A chat we’ll have another time.

2.  Oddly enough, at the time of typing it’s just been announced that Auntie’s misplaced The Great British Bake Off as well, which really does put a lot of pressure on Doctor Who, a show that’s – basically – not even on this year.

Leaving aside the political scourging the BBC’s currently undergoing, some of it self-induced, it’s probably worth pointing out a few things that might be going on here.  First off, The Power of the Daleks isn’t the step backward some fans might think.  After Spearhead From Space and The Enemy Within, there’s no Classic series stories that’re genuinely suitable for BluRay treatment.  (BluRay’s not a terrific format either, it’s nowhere near the huge jump in quality between VHS and DVD for a start.  It arrived to the party slightly too late as well, with digital media already starting to infect the wider industry.  Even punishing DVD owners by only sticking extras on BluRay didn’t work.  After all, who wanted to buy a new player and TV to see what got chopped out of Prometheus?) 

The range of Doctor Who DVDs is very, very good indeed.  There are a few bad decisions – inverted Terreliptils, ‘improving’ rather than enhancing and a tendency to self-indulgent cronyism5 being the least-defensible – but the love that went into producing them really shines through.  The most impressive thing about the collection however, is also the T. rex everyone’s ignoring: the VAM.

With a few notable exceptions that we’ll get to, the Classic Doctor Who range contains a staggering amount of historical information about one of the most important1 TV shows ever made.  But there are gaps, and, despite what Auntie and other people may argue, those omissions are very, very hard to defend. 

There’s a definite air of The Tripods about TV Professionals Who Happen To Be Doctor Who Fans.  The Uncapped are cattle fit for milking and mocking and not much else.  Occasionally, one of these ‘Milkable Barkers’ will win a place at the side of the Chosen.  That these happy few seem to always hail from Arslikhan is just one of those things.  Like Derren Brown tossing ten heads in a row.  Or ‘needing’ a zombie to provide a jump-scare climax to a 28 Days Later homage that makes Pebble Mill’s Cyberman look like a herald of the Apocalypse.1 

Two Troughtons returned.  No extras.  Those days’re done.  Whatever the official reasons for vanilla releases with no accompanying documentaries, they’re bollocks.  Truly.  Not just a poor show, there’s no excuse.  There wasn’t at the time, and there isn’t now.  I’m sure that BBC ‘License-fee payers enjoyed the chance to watch these episodes for free when they were first broadcast in the Sixties’ Worldwide will disagree – these are the folk who gave us the Regeneration and Fourth Doctor boxsets after all – but it’s an attitude that’s smug and arrogant and, well, rather entitled.  The world’s changed – it might not even have very long left – so denigrating your customers while they still exist, should probably not be company policy.  (You might want to leave the knitting patterns alone too.)

In much the same way that record companies totally misunderstood how mp3 worked and criminalised it as a format (remember then, kids?), the BBC need to be very careful here.  It’s a no-brainer that The Evil of the Daleks and then Mission to the Unknown/The Daleks’ Master Plan are the next in line for production.  Both (yeah, yeah) stories have surviving episodes, which minimises the need for animated episodes, and both feature Daleks – which, let’s be fair – and Aaru never lie - are the main draw after the incumbent.  The Daleks’ll be back next year – AsBill’s intro presumably fulfilling the contractual obligations for 2016, we’ll see – so that’d be the time to relaunch them.  Give Mr Chibnall’s run a boost/fighting chance/Open-Airing (delete according to bias).

The BBC then have the opportunity to flog a box-set containing every Dalek story.  The DVD market-door’s closing, but folk out there might be tempted.  A download bundle’s one thing6, but A Complete Dalek Story Box-Set You Can Drive?  “Hey!  This cash prints itself!”7

Auntie’s not got long.  The twenty thousand (cit. needed) fanfolk she’s been exploiting won’t wait around forever.  There’re good quality reconstructions in the wild, complete with artwork that matches her own design better than she’s always managed.  DVDs are already a desktop-publishing market, and her market knows the production costs.8

If, y’know, being all speculative, the Dalek stories sell, then…  Well, within a limited timeframe…  There’s the potential for half-a-century’s double-dipping.  Forget Dalek and Cybermen and Doctor- themed box-sets, forget even the multiple season box-sets…

You see where I’m going?

The BBC’re currently running nostalgic reanimations of things they killed with bricks.  It’s desperate and sweaty, but understandable.  Imagine.  Just imagine.  A complete Doctor Who Collection box-set.  It’s Auntie’s only reliable brand.9  The potential’s incredible – for Humanity if nothing else.  Y’know, if Auntie doesn’t go full-Dodgson.10

3.  Other opinions are available.

4.  Triple-bluff for balance there.

5.  Still, that’s showbiz.1

  It’s, let’s be fair, the same as taping an album for a friend/reading a magazine in Smiths/finding a VHS in the street, and being charged full-price for the experience .1

  For Kroll’s sake, don’t throw in a ring modulator though.  If the peasants and livestock see behind that particular curtain, the outcry’ll be horrific.  Thankfully, Equity don’t seem to care. 

8.  If there’s an actual proper reason that The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear cost so much to bring back to life there was nothing left in the budget for VAM, then the BBC shouldn’t shy from explaining what that reason was – when they can.  Barring the Destruction of Humanity, I can see this story running for a while yet.

9.  BC.

10.  She will, just you wait.  I’ve presented a potential business model for the brand11 that emphasises integrity and longevity in the long-term (I doubt I’m the first).  This isn’t a Barrowmenesque rejection of the facts.  Torchwoodthe ship that sank itself.  Hopefully Class’ll do better.  After all, it only exists to keep BBC 3 viable, and surely it can’t get that wrong…

11.  Ych y fi

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Hicks in the City XII

We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight.
- H. P. Lovecraft


All rationalism tends to minimalise the value and the importance of life and to decrease the sum total of human happiness.
- H. P. Lovecraft

Or (if you want to be all obvious about it):

As a baby, Shakespeare showed few signs of becoming the most significant figure in literary history, so nobody bothered noting down the details of his life.
- P. Cunk

The Him’s making a noise.

The Him:

Me:  I don’t think that a slow puncture counts as a spirit animal.

The membranous noise continues.

Me:  Satisfied sea lion?

The Him:  Hrrrrrmphhhhhhhhhflfffflf...

Mystery Voice:

Me:  Sounds like a bear lying down and being quite happy about it.  Is it a sea badger?

Him:  I don’t know, but it’s getting really difficult to do.

Me:   Yeah,okay.  So, we did our annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh to see the Socks, amongst other things-

Him:  Yes.

Me:  - and this year, you got to come along with me and the Mystery Voice and see some other acts.

Him:  Yes.

Me:  Did you enjoy that?

Him:  I dunno.

Mystery Voice:

"Oh hi, Denny."
Me:  Different experience to usual?

Him:  It was certainly a different experience to usual.  It involved two trips to Edinburgh.

Me:  In a helicopter.

Him:  Sure.

Me:  Hmm?

Him:  Sure.

Me:   We always go in a helicopter.

Him:  Do we?

Me:  Yes, you spoon.

Him:  I don’t remember that part of the continuity.

Me:  We went in a helicopter last year as well.  You were mostly asleep.

Him:  I don’t remember that part of the continuity at all, but if you want to keep track of it…

Me: Well, someone’s got to.  It’s all in m’head.

Him:  That’s true.

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  Everything’s in your head.

Me:  Along with your, ummm…

Him:  Along with me.

Me:   Ha!  No!  You’re not imaginary.

Him:  I am.

Me:  No more than this sea badger is.  Well, it’s imaginary at the moment, but not for long...  Right!  Who did we see first?

Mystery Voice:

Him:  Well, that’s up to you.

Me:  We saw Stewart Lee first.

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  It was a smaller venue than we saw him in last year, and it was a work in progress.

Him:  Well, I wasn’t there last year.  I kind of was, because I am you, but…

Me:  Yeah, so…  Actually…  Apart from the Pun Run last year, that was the first – ah, no it’s not.  The Socks’re comedy…  It was more traditional stand-up.

Him:  What were you going to class the Socks as, if not comedy?

Me:  They’re not stand-up though…

Him:  The Clocks!

Me:   The Scottish Falsetto Clock Puppet Theatre!  I don’t know how that would work.  I’ve done enough on clocks recently what with Watchmen and Suicide Squad and-

Him:  Oh!  Not that again!

Me:  So, Stewart Lee…  You’ve seen the Comedy Vehicle.

Him:  Yes.  But the Comedy Vehicle was too good and too many people were watching it.

Me:   So the BBC killed it?

Him:  Yeah.

Me:   To see where all these golden eggs were coming from.  It was more of a traditional show that he did.

Him:  That’s definitely something you’ve said.

Me:  We had great seats for that show.  We were right at the front and-

Him:  We weren’t right at the front.

Me:  Well, tucked up to the side.

Him:  There’s such a thing as being too close to Stewart Lee.

Me:   Ha!  What, on the stage?  Close enough that he can steal your pint?

Him:  The seats up front were on the stage!

Me:  They’re always like that.  It’s totally different to a music gig where you’ve got-

Him:  I’d have felt a bit threatened being that close to Stewart Lee.

Me:  -burly people in tight t-shirts, hearing voices in their ears and stopping the great unwashed getting too close to the gods of the stage…  Yeah, I thought it was really good.  He looked like he was enjoying himself.

Him:  And the drinks!  The drinks were in glass!  Glasses.  Glasses made of glass.

Me:   Yeah!  Which isn't something you get in a music venue, either.

Him:  No.

Mystery Voice:

Me:   No.  And you be- you met him.

Him:  I don’t remember betting him.

Me:   You bet you could make a horror movie, and then next thing you know: Manos.

Him:  'Mangoes'.

Me:   'Cans of Fruit'.

Him:  My rendition of Manos would be swell.

Me:  How would it go?

Him:  It would star me.  Well, it would be Manos, but with me.

Me:  Would you do all the parts?

Him:  Yeah.  I would.

Me:   How would you do Torgo?

Him:  Um…  Carefully.

Me:  Give me an example.

Him:  Oh, you want to hear some of the lines?  Well, I’ve been doing some of the motions there for a little bit.

Me:  Yeah, but that doesn’t really help people who are reading this.  I mean even digital-  As interactive as this is, and it is ergodic literature, you’ve still got to-

Him:  Hang on, this is being typed up, isn’t it?

Me:   Yeah.

Him:  So it doesn’t matter.

Me:   No.

Him:  Alright.  So…  This is how I would do Torgo.

Me:  You’re not going to make an effort and put on a voice?

Him:  I did put on a voice.

Me:   You never put on a voice!

Him:  I did put on a voice!

Me:  You always do it in your own voice.  Even when I complain, “Do the voice!” you never do!

Him:  I just did do a voice!  I did the Torgo voice.  It was about as Torgo as it gets.  I’m still doing it now.

Me:  But that’s the way you always talk.

Him:  No, it’s not.

Me:   Wait a minute…  Are you… Torgo?  So, who did we see second?

Him:  Well, it wasn’t Torgo. 

Me:  It wasn’t Torgo.  It was Katherine Ryan.

Mystery Voice:

Him:  I think we spent too long talking about Torgo actually, given that he has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand.

Me:  It’s fine.

Him:  Alright.  So, Katherine Ryan.

Me:   Uh huh.

Him:  Did you enjoy yourself?

Me:  I thought it was great.  Like I said, her star’s been in the ascendancy ever since I held her baby…  In a tiny oven, about two years ago, with the Mystery Voice.  We were in the front row for that one and…  Yeah…

Him:  You should stop – y’know – stalking Katherine Ryan.

Me:  I’m not stalking Katherine Ryan.  We just go and see her show and give her money.  It’s not the same as stalking somebody.

Him:  You do like her though.

Me:   That’s because she’s really good.  She’s excellent.  So confident.  You had an interesting moment.  You got missed in the Audience Participation round-

Him:  That’s because no-one can see me but you.

Me:  Ha!  She asked me how I was doing.

Him:  Yeah, and you said you were ‘bettering up’.

Me:  I said I was bearing up, but she couldn’t hear what I was saying.  I became quite conscious that I was accidentally derailing the gig and…  I should just’ve said…  I don’t know.  “My leg’s fallen off,” or something.

Him:  Am fine.

Me:   ‘Am fine’?

Him:  Am fine.

Me:  That sounds like someone that would write romance novels.  Actually…  Isn’t Anne Fine a writer?

Him:  You would know that.

Me:  And the, after the gig – which was great – we malingered around outside.  We hung round in the rain, and then she came out.

Him:  Yeah.  About half an hour after everyone else had left.  She’d seen us and was, like, “Sigh.  Let’s just get this over with.”

Me:   She wasn’t at all like that!  She was lovely.

Him:  She waited as long as she could, but we just weren’t leaving.

Me:  She gave me a hug.

Him:  Yes.

Me:  And we got a photo that no-one’ll ever see.

Him:  Yes.  That even you will never see.

Me:   She signed your ticket too.

Him:  I don’t know where you put that.

Me:  It’s just above this section in the blog.

Him:  Okay.

Mystery Voice:

Me:  So, the second day…  In the morning we went into the Arctic and had a look around, and then late afternoon we headed up to see the Socks.

Him:  Yes.

Me:   That was… So, what was the theme of the Socks this year?

Him:  Why…  Why did you look at the ceiling when you asked that?

Me:  I dunno.  I thought I might’ve been having a stroke-

Him:  It was confusing.

  Yeah.  Exactly.  Everything went a bit swimmy.  Yeah, so… Erm…  So, what was the theme of the Socks show, this year?

Him:  It was Shakespeare.

Me:   And was it good?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  Was it very good?

Him:  Are you going to give your thoughts on any of these or are you just going to ask me repeated…?

Me:   I’ll stick them in at the bottom.1 

Him:  Repeated questions.

Me:   I’ll stick them in at the bottom.

Him:  You can say that all you like.

Me:  Yeah, but it won’t make for a very interesting read.  It was great, wasn’t it?

Him:  Wait.  First of all you go through and pretend you’re talking to someone else so you can write up your reactions-

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  Then, afterwards, you write up your reactions.

Me:   Yeah.  One day, I’ll have a syndrome named after me.  We’ve written over a quarter of a million words on this blog.

Him:  Do you…  even need to pretend that you’re talking to anyone else?

Me:  Doing your voice hurts my throat.  And makes me sneeze.

Him:  It just makes you look insane.

Me:  Yeah.  Do you know what the really difficult bit is?

Him:  What?

Me:   You have to use the second set of vocal cords for doing – when you do throat singing, you access your second cords.  That’s the only way I can do the moments we talk across each other.  Using the two voices at the same time is very, very difficult.

Him:  But…  You’re typing this up.

Me:  I know.

Him:  And we’re not talking across each other.

Me:  No, but-

Him:  Because there’s no way to type that.

Me:   No, but I have to do it in such a way that it sounds like two people speaking.  It was great, the Socks’ show was great.  And afterwards, their manager – the wonderful Kev Sutherland-

Him:  Yis.

Me:  - took us for drinks.

Him:  Well, he took you for drinks.

Me:  That’s true.

Him:  Because I’m not real.

Me:   No.

Him:  Ethereal beings don’t need to drink.

Mystery Voice:

Me:  That’s true!  The Mystery Voice got orange juice-

Mystery Voice:  

Him:  Yas.

Me:  I got my sparkling water, and I had to go up and pour yours into plastic glasses from the water jug on the bar and put them in the space where you’d be sitting if you existed.  Mr Sutherland was really good though and didn’t mention it once.  We had a good natter about things and stuff.  I thought it was great.  The show was…  The show was more together than last year.  You laughed a lot.

Him:  Yeah, it was good.  It was very good. 

Me:  Hell of a lot of work’s gone into it.  Some of it’s incredibly clever.  Right, after that we kind of squared-off a circle.  This isn’t part of the Fringe ‘review’, but we went to see Finding Dory.

Him:  That was not at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Me:  No.  I think we should mention it because…   I’d like to capture your thoughts in this sort-of digital amber.  When we came out of it – because we stayed right to the end – it felt…  To me it felt as though it really – and not all sequels do it – it felt like an incredibly well-crafted conclusion to the story begun in Finding Nemo.

Him:  Like the second Godfather film?

Me:  Yeah.  It dovetailed together so well .  A lot of care and love and effort-

Him:  That’s why it’s taken so long.

Me:  Yeah. 

Him:  It hasn’t been churned out a year after the original film came out.

Me:  You said something interesting about the theme of it.

Him:  Did I?

Me:  You did.

Him:  Well, I can’t wait to hear what that was.

Me:   The way it addressed mental illness.

Him:  Oh!  That was you, but…

Me:  And how the first one’s about parents and Finding Dory’s about-

Him:  I feel really sorry for anyone who’s not seen it and’s reading this, thinking, “Oh, the Edinburgh Fringe and – what’s this?  Endless, endless spoilers!”

Me:  We haven’t really said anything spoilery.

Him:  Oh, I dunno.  You named it.

Me:   That 'Boy With the Tail' ad at the start was a bit…  Well, we tweeted about that.  What was it you said?

Him:  At the start I made up a joke about seeing someone escape from a van and, only after the film did I realise there was a better joke to be had, in that they’d been advertising fish fingers before a film about sentient fish.

Me:  Ha!  It was really harsh!  “If you’ve enjoyed this film, why not eat the cast?  There’s a restaurant only fifteen yards from this cinema.”

Him:  Ha!

Mystery Voice:  

Me:  Right, we better wrap up there, so…  I’ll explain why the square’s a circle and write up the other stuff underneath this…  Can you make the noise of a sea badger, please?

The Him makes the noise of a sea badger, using all his cords.

Me:   And, on that bombshell…

The Him’s Socks Review.  It’s a tradition, or an old charter or something.

Or: 2

This is usually the section where I blather on with an actual ‘review’ of the shows we saw.  I’m not going to do that this year because, well, things change.  And that’s okay.  It’s certainly nothing to be scared of, to misquote Adam Ant. 

There’s a mountain ledge in the Arctic’s Werewolf Country that’s clear of snow this time of the year.  It’s high enough to allow you to look down on the clouds, but the road to the ledge is often closed, even in ‘Summer’.   The seasonal melt releases incredible amounts of water to piss joyfully down the slopes, dislodging boulders that bounce like rolled cheeses onto any vehicle unlucky enough to be grinding up the ascent at the time.  I neglected to mention this might be a factor to the Mystery Voice, which is mostly why he agreed to drive up there in the first place.

A lifetime ago I took the Him to see Finding Nemo at a cinema that doesn’t exist anymore.  I’m not sure, but it might well be the first time he’d even gone to the pictures.4

We’d lost all coverage as the road started rising, so the Mystery Voice had to rely on my directions.  He’s obviously braver than anyone realises.  We reached the ledge and parked up.  Within seconds of getting out, all of us were drenched.  The ground falls away quickly there, thousands of steep feet lead to a plain sprinkled with trainset-sized Christmas trees.  All the life-threatening torrents are distant enough to look like tears running down a wall.  The further away you are, the more real it feels; the way patterns naturally repeat becomes more obvious.  The air tastes white and the border between the world below and the other one are thin enough for you to feel fictional.  If you’re prepared to look, to properly look, then you can get a brief glimpse of how time works.

They skinned the cinema first, exposing its concrete skeleton and hidden chambers.  Discarded slabs that used to be walls were ground and smashed by bright yellow machines, until they were rendered removable.  The walls of a cinema hold dreams and memories in the same way a mountain stores fossils.  But cash, like rust, doesn’t understand sentimentality.

There are tributes scattered around the ledge, looking into the valley and the clouds.  Flowers, bleached cards, metal plaques: all of them mementos mori.  The dead see things differently. 

The Him and myself watched Finding Dory in Europe's tallest car park disguised as a cinema.  The film itself is stunning.  Individual grains of sand fall and clump, foam foams, scales sheen, all of it a tribute to Moore’s Law.  There’s something else though, something lurking inbetween the callous certainty of cold binary.  It’s like a ghost, but ghosts aren’t real.  The Turing Test misses the same, most obvious, test of what it is to be human, that English exams do.  Y’see, there’s no difference between low art and high art, and there never was.  Art isn’t objective, agendas are.  Does it move you?  Does it make you feel?  Does it tell you something about yourself?  It’s not enough to know how it was made, or even why it was made – those explanations are almost always wrong anyway – the only thing that matters is that it’s there, and that encountering it changes something in the you that lives behind your eyes.  Shifts it.  Maybe only momentarily, maybe for the rest of your life – avalanches gotta start somewhere, after all – but there’s a reaction to it that takes place on an animal level.  That’s all that matters.  That’s all that counts. 

After twenty minutes there were still no werewolves, so we got back in the car.  The creatures we used to be watched us turn back onto the shrinking ribbon and head downhill, growing steadily less distinct.  Eventually we vanished into the cloud and they went home.

2.  You pays yer money, you takes yer choice.

3.  Arf.  Just kidding.  I’d only type something like that if I was passing myself off a ‘professional writer’, darling. 

4.  It definitely wasn’t the first film he saw though.  That was The Wolf Man, which remains one of the few watchable films set in Wales.  Certainly the best one with a werewolf in it.