Posts Tagged ‘Les Dawson’

Sketch of Musical Comedy Duo Hinge and Bracket

November 27, 2022

The two ladies, Dr. Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket, were a drag act, the comic creations of George Logan and Patrick Fyffe. The Wikipedia page on them notes that they started off in the gay clubs before entering the mainstream, and that they differed from other drag acts as the comedy was based far more on character. The section on this on the Wikipedia entry runs

‘Patrick Fyffe and George Logan devised the Hinge and Bracket act after they met performing at the Escort Club in Pimlico, London. Fyffe had already gained experience performing in his cabaret drag act as a glamorous soprano named Perri St Claire, and his character had appeared in small parts on television shows such as Z Cars and Doctor in the House, as well as the 1972 film version of Steptoe and Son.

Fyffe and Logan began to work on a comedy act featuring Fyffe as a retired opera singer who still thinks she can sing, with Logan as her male accompanist. The idea developed into a dual drag act featuring a pair of eccentric old ladies. Their act was distinct from drag queens in that their portrayal was more realistic than exaggerated caricature, allowing them to gain more mainstream appeal beyond gay clubs. Some fans were convinced by their performance and were unaware that the elderly ladies were being acted by two young men, although their act was frequently decorated with double extenders. Hinge and Bracket were portrayed as a pair of elderly spinsters who had spent their lives performing classical music. They frequently indulged in reminiscences of their heyday singing in opera and performing with Ivor Novello and Noël Coward. Their characters evoked a genteel English inter-war world and their stage act was frequently interspersed with performances of popular songs (often Novello or Coward) and light opera numbers, especially pieces by Gilbert and Sullivan. Both were singers, and Dr Hinge usually provided the accompaniment seated at the piano.[2] Writer Gyles Brandreth described Hinge and Bracket as “a drag act with a difference. They offered character and comedy instead of glamour and sex appeal.”[5]

The ladies shared a house (known as The Old Manse or Utopia Ltd) in the fictional village of Stackton Tressel in Suffolk; the name was adapted from Fyffe’s Staffordshire birthplace of Acton Trussell. They employed the services of an eccentric housekeeper, Maud, played in the radio series by English character actress Daphne Heard.’

Apparently, they got their broadcasting breakthrough in 1976 when they appeared on The Good Old Days, following which they had their own series on Radio 4, The Enchanting World of Hinge and Bracket which ran from 1977 to 1979. This was followed three years later by a BBC 2 series, Dear Ladies, which ran from 1982 to 1984. They also had another series on Radio 2, The Random Jottings of Hinge and Bracket, from 1982 to 1989. This was followed by another series, At Home with Hinge and Bracket, in 1990. Wikipedia also notes that they also appeared at the Royal Opera House in a production of the Die Fliedermaus, a West End production of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, and Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage, as well as numerous appearances in pantomime and Royal Variety Performances. They also released a record, Hinge and Bracket at Abbey Road, with a cover spoofing the Beatles album. Logan stopped performing as his character after death of Fyffe from cancer in 2002 at the age of 60, but brought her out once more for a performance of the comic opera, The Dowager’s Oyster in 2016.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinge_and_Bracket

I can just about remember them from my childhood in the 1970s but wanted to write about them as they show how TV drag shows have changed between then and now. Hinge and Bracket and Danny La Rue were mainstream evening entertainment. I got the impression that whatever the origin of drag in gay culture, on TV at least it was strongly influenced by Music Hall. There was a joke about La Rue that ‘he wasn’t born, they just found him on Mother’s Kelly’s Doorstep’, referring to one of the old Music Hall songs. And it wasn’t just gay men who performed in drag. Many straight comedians did, including Les Dawson and Ronnies Corbett and Barker. The two were also part of a trend of musical comedy that includes people like Victor Borge, Richard Stillgoe, Kit and the Widow, and Victoria Wood. They’ve been succeeded by the Australian Tim Minchin, while drag returned to television with Paul O’Grady’s creation, Lily Savage and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Minchin’s far edgier than Hinge and Bracket, who were a gentle, genteel form of comedy, while the Drag Race is much more sexualised. This is in line with general changes in sensibility, in which comedy has become more satirical and much more savage and bitter. There’s also an explicit connection to sexual politics through the radical trans movement and the influence of Queer Theory. This would have been extremely difficult in previous decades when homosexuality was illegal, and gays were still extremely unpopular following decriminalisation. But I’ve got considerable nostalgia for the earlier TV drag shows, when it was just about comedy and entertainment. Perhaps this type of distinctly British drag will return in time.

More Sketches of Geniuses of British Comedy: Bob Monkhouse, Rod Hull, Emu, and their Victim Michael Parkinson

November 25, 2022

Bob Monkhouse is, in my opinion, one of the very great figures of late 20th century and early 21st century British comedy. He was not just a comedian, but also game show compering some of the nation’s favourite shows. I can remember him from the early or mid ’70s compering The Golden Shot, for those that can remember that far back. The contestants had to give instructions to blindfolded marksman, Bernie the Bolt to get him to aim a crossbow at a target. If he got it, they won the prize money. I can still hear the words, ‘Up a bit, left a bit…’ and so on. I don’t know if Monkhouse took over from someone else, but there are clips of it on YouTube with a Black presenter with a broad Yorkshire accent. Later on, in the 1980s he presented Family Fortunes. He was asked in one interview what the worse moment from the show was. He replied that it was when one contestant kept replying to each question, ‘Christmas turkey?’ This led to exchanges like ‘What item would you take to the beach on holiday?’ ‘A Christmas turkey’. ‘Interesting answer. We’ll see. Our survey said. -‘ and then the buzzer to indicate that the people surveyed definitely had not replied that they would take a Christmas turkey to the beach’. Monkhouse asked the poor fellow afterwards what happened. He said that he didn’t know, his mind just went blank. In the ’90s or early years of this century he started to come back after a period when he was off camera. I think this followed an appearance on Have I Got News For You, where he displayed his wit. Actually, I think he had scriptwriters with him handing him gags, or perhaps I’m confusing him with another comedian and entertainer whose career was revived by the show.

Monkhouse began his career away from the camera, writing jokes for other comedians and children’s comics. In an interview with the popular science magazine, Focus, he recalled how he nearly created Star Trek. He had been a science fiction fan, and so had an idea about a spaceship, called ‘Enterprise’, whose captain was a Scotsman called Kirk. Ah, that would have been interesting. He also gave praise to the other comedians he believed deserved it for their skill. One on series about various TV comedians, he described Jimmy Carr as ‘the comedians’ comedian’. But that phrase could also easily describe him. He was acutely interested in other comedians and the craft of comedy itself. In the 1980s he had his own show at about 7.30 in the evening, in which he interviewed comedians he admired from Britain and America. One of them, if I recall rightly, was our own Les Dawson. His house was also full of old film and clips of past comedians. He died of prostate cancer a few years. After his death one of the TV channels broadcast his farewell show, with commenters from other comedians. They said they didn’t realise how terribly ill Monkhouse was at the time, and that he was saying ‘goodbye’ to them. Another great comedian lost to us.

Rod Hull and Emu – another brilliant comedy act taken from us by the Grim Reaper. Hull said he was inspired to create Emu while watching a nature programme in New Zealand. This may have shown the country’s national bird, the Kiwi, another flightless bird rooting around on the forest floor. Or it may have shown Australia’s great flightless bird, the emu. Either way, the bird inspired Hull to create this avian monster of children’s television. It was the most terrifying puppet not to come out of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, though some cruel individuals may detect a certain resemblance to the villainous Skeksis in the film The Dark Crystal. Whatever its inspiration, Emus temperament was more like the 12-foot carnivorous Terror Birds that lived after the demise of the dinosaurs. Hull and Emu had a variety of children’s programmes. I remember him from E.B.C. 1 – ‘Emu’s Broadcasting Company’ with Billy Dainty on BBC 1, and then he moved over to ITV and Emu’s World. On E.B.C., Hull and Emu attempt to perform pieces from the Bard, complete with Emu wearing an Elizabeth cap. I also remember a recurring segment where Dainty, another great performer in his own right, dressed in Edward strongman long johns, tried to give advice on getting fit. This was introduced by the 20th Jazz song, ‘Keep fit, take exercise, get fit, and you’ll be wise, whatever you do, keep fit’. The music that introduced the Shakespeare segment, I later found out, was the 16th century German Mohrentanz, played on shawms and crumhorns. Emus also did weather forecasts, which were introduced by the jingle, ‘Weather, weather, all together, what’s it going to do? We don’t know, and so let’s ask, weatherman Emu.’ In addition to his own programmes, he also appeared as a guest on others, most notorious on Parkinson.

Emu’s style of comedy was pure, anarchic slapstick, whether he was on his own programmes or a guest on a chat show. These performances usually started off calmly, with Hull talking quietly and the puppet behaving itself on his arm. If they were being interviewed, Emu would act docile, snuggling up to the interviewer to be stroked. ‘There, he likes that’, Hull would say approvingly. Then it would start to go wrong, the beak would curl up in a snarl and before long Hull, his guest star or the interviewer would be savagely attacked by the thing’s beak, all with Hull screaming, ‘No, Emu! No!’ This would often end up with the three struggling on the floor while the set collapsed around them in a heap of overturned furniture. Emu was a force of pure chaos, bringing down televisual order. And hilariously funny. But it wasn’t all laughs. I can remember my grandmother telling me I was not to get like him with the sock puppets I made, as Hull had admitted he couldn’t control it. I don’t know if that was true, or another reworking of the old fear about ventriloquists and their dummies. I think Emu was also like Sherlock Holmes as the artist’s creation its creator would like to kill off and move away from but couldn’t because of the characters’ immense popularity. Hull himself was sadly taken from us in a domestic accident. He fell off his roof trying to fix his TV aerial.

I couldn’t sketch Rod Hull and the monstrous bird without also including his most famous victim, the chat show host Michael Parkinson. Parkinson’s show, simply called Parkinson, was one of the mainstays of British television. Parkinson interviewed a number of great and famous stars, like Oliver Reed and Mohammed Ali. And then he had the misfortune to interview, and get assaulted, by Emu. This incident has gone down as a piece of broadcasting history. It became so notorious that it was included in a skit in Private Eye commemorating Parkinson being given an honorary degree or doctorate from one of the universities. Whenever a celebrity, actor, sportsman or whoever, is awarded one of these honorary qualifications, the Eye prints a piece celebrating it in Latin, with the title ‘The …. Laudation In Full’. The Latin is easily understood, recognisable from the Latin vocabular in English. The Parkinson laudatio mentioned his interview with pugilist Mohammed Ali, before adding ‘assaultam cum Emu, avis horribilis. Ave, Emu, salutamus Emu, laudamus Emu’. Or words to that effect. Parkinson had his revenge a few years later when he appeared on Room 101. Parkinson naturally wanted Emu to be consigned to the room containing everything rubbish and terrible in the world. He was obliged when Emu was brought on in a miniature guillotine. Parkinson naturally threw the switch or pulled out the block, and one of children’s television’s most comically terrifying puppets was beheaded, with Parkinson shaking his head as if he couldn’t quite work out whether this was appropriate or not.

Sketches of Some of My Favourite Comedians and Comic Actors

November 14, 2022

Here’s something a bit lighter. I spent part of last week sketching some of my favourite comedy stars. You can probably tell from them that I’m of a certain age, as most of them come from ’70s. ’80s and ’90s. They are of Les Dawson, Victoria Wood, Joyce Grenfell, Dave Allen, Peter Cook, Derek Griffiths and Molly Sugden in war paint as the redoubtable Mrs Slocombe. I’ve drawn Dawson twice, once as himself and then in drag with Roy Barraclough as the two ladies who were a staple of his programme in the 1980s. I know many women find drag offensive, but they were well-constructed characters, and the humour wasn’t malicious. I chose Derek Griffiths as he was on a lot of children’s programmes when I was small, from Play School to Film Fun. This was a history of the Warner Brothers cartoons, set in a cinema with Griffiths playing all the characters, from the cinema manager, the commissionaire, and Doreen the Usherette. He was also in more adult programmes like Terry and June. For all the clowning, he comes across as a very versatile performer. On one programme on the history of children’s TV, he described how he created the theme for Bod on the flute. He’s also done theatre for the deaf, which uses sign language. Joyce Grenfell is in there because I find her dialogues hilarious, especially where she plays a harassed junior schoolteacher telling some little boy called George not to do that. What ‘that’ is, is perhaps wisely never revealed. And I don’t think any list of British comedians could ever be complete without Victoria Wood. As for Molly Sugden, she’s best remembered for Mrs Slocombe, another brilliant British sitcom character. Dave Allen will always be remembered for his wry, and very witty observations on the lunacy of everyday life. But sometimes the real gems are in the sketches. I often wish he were still around to comment on the madness of today’s life. Ditto with the awesome Peter Cook. I’ve tried to draw them as I think they should be remembered – happy, smiling and doing something characteristically funny. But some many of the images I used as source material showed them as solemn and grave, as in this drawing of Peter Cook. And yet he’s probably best remembered looking coolly at an interviewer over a cigarette with the same glint in his eye he had when making Dudley Moore laugh on Not Only But Also. Grenfell, Wood, Dawson, Allen and Cook are no longer with us, but their comedy lives on in DVD. And on the web, where you can particularly enjoy Cook talking to the late, also missed Clive James while a young Victoria Wood looks on completely bemused.

EDIJester Explains the Difference Between Drag and Drag Queen Story Hour

October 22, 2022

This is another excursion into the issue of the trans ideology and specifically that of Drag Queen Story Hour. There have been many protests against it both here and in America. This has largely been done by right-wingers deeply concerned that the drag queens reading the stories are paedophiles seeking to groom children. Unfortunately, in some cases that seems to be very plausible, as when young children have been taken to drag performances in bars and encouraged to dance with the performers or in drag themselves, with the gay clientele throwing money at them. There is, however, an ideological angle to Drag Queen Story Hour that is significant, but rarely discussed. According to mathematician and staunch critic of postmodernism, James Lindsey, at least some of the drag queens involved in this are supporters of Queer Theory, a postmodern doctrine that seeks to exploit and promote people’s unhappiness with their gender identity or sexuality to create a mentally unstable cadre ready for Marxist revolution. It has absolutely nothing to do with, and indeed is deeply hostile to, the idea of creating a more tolerant society towards gay people, and gay youngsters comfortable with their sexuality/sexual identity and respected, functional members of society. This would be supporting a bourgeois order that the people who promote Queer Theory are pledged to destroy.

EDIJester is another gay critic of the trans ideology. He runs a warrior teachers programme training people from all walks of life in how recognise and combat the trans ideology. I’m not in agreement with all his pronouncements, as he has told people to vote Conservative in a recent video. This is presumably due to Keir Starmer and Labour defending the trans movement, refusing to give the LGB Alliance, a group of gay men and women to seek to promote gay rights without the inclusion of trans people, a place at the Labour party conference and the party’s stated intention of banning all conversion therapies. It is feared that this will mean that only treatments for trans people that affirm their condition will be legal, even if this is inappropriate and harmful. I profoundly disagree with Labour’s policy on the trans issue but feel that at the moment Labour is the best option for defending working people and the NHS from privatisation, welfare cuts, poverty and starvation. More Conservative government will be utterly disastrous for these issues.

I’m putting this video, ‘Let’s Talk about Drag and Queer Performativity – Drag Part One’ up here because it tackles Drag Queen Story Hour from a fresh perspective. This differentiates sharply between traditional drag and Drag Queen Story Hour. He begins by drawing a sharp distinction between British and American drag, as in RuPaul’s Drag Race. British drag was mainstream and not completely gay – straight men often did it, like the Bernard Breslaw in one of the Carry On films and the late, great Les Dawson. There was also the camp humour from gay men, who were forced into show business because of society’s intolerance. This created Kenneth Williams and the Polari language in Round the Horne, Larry Grayson and John Inman, for example. He states that there were no ideological motives behind traditional drag – all they wanted to do was to separate you from as much of your money as possible by the time you staggered out drunk. They also raise money for charity. He knows a number of drag performers himself, having carried one of them back to the performer’s own house at the end of an evening of alcoholic and chemical refreshment. He mentions approvingly a traditional drag act oop north somewhere, Funny Girls. He states that American drag has a heterosexual bias, in that in Mrs Doubtfire the hero cross-dresses so he can see his wife and children.

Drag Queen Story Hour is different. And it isn’t about paedophiles preying on young children either. It’s about promoting Queer Theory, often mixed with Critical Race Theory by reading children’s books written from these standpoints. Like retellings of the Three Little Pigs where the pigs are black, brown and pink for gay, and the wolf is white. It’s this highly ideological, genuinely subversive literature he warns people about, not drag or drag queens themselves.

It’s an excellent perspective which draws a needed distinction between drag as a traditional form of entertainment, which boasted great and much-loved performers as Danny La Rue, the Two Ronnies, Lily Savage, and Les Dawson, and its contemporary abuse as a form of ideological propaganda.

Clive Simpson Attacks Anti-Gay Backlash over Teacher’s Drag Performance in America

April 14, 2022

Clive Simpson is a gender critical YouTuber, who posts videos critiquing and attacking the trans ideology and the considerable dangers it poses. As a gay man, he is particularly concerned that the emphasis the established gay organisations, like Stonewall, are placing on the trans movement will lead to a general backlash against gay people in general. He isn’t alone in this. I’ve heard similar fears expressed by Graham Linehan and his guests and conversationalists on his YouTube channel, The Mess We’re In.

In this very short text video, Simpson discusses the right-wing rage being whooped up by Conservative commenters and pundits like Matt Walsh about a drag performance by a teacher in an America school. It was done for the entertainment of the school pupils. The teacher doesn’t appear to trans, but Simpson speculates that he’s probably gay. The performance has been predictably attacked for degeneracy. Simpson is afraid that this is the beginning of the backlash that will see the return of the vicious homophobia openly gay men like himself had to live through in the ’70s and ’80s.

I’m getting nostalgic here for some of the drag performances on British TV in the 1970s. One of the star performers on British TV in that decades was Danny La Rue. The Two Ronnies regularly appeared in drag in their show, singing various comedic parodies of classical songs, and then there was the late, great Les Dawson with his comic female persona. This kind of drag act was based in British musical hall and pantomime. And part of the fun with the Ugly Sisters in pantomime performances of Cinderella are that they’re usually played by very masculine men, who don’t look remotely like women. As for Danny La Rue, I believe it came out after his death that he was gay, but there was, as far as I’m aware, never any scandal about him. Quite the opposite. I can remember an interview with him on British television, which impressed my parents with the way he didn’t sneer at anyone or try and put them down. The worst I’ve heard about him since then was the joke, ‘Danny La Rue wasn’t born. He was left on Mother Kelly’s Doorstep’. Which refers to a music hall song he used to perform.

I appreciate feminists objecting to drag as ‘womanface’, but when I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s it was regarded as just good, clean fun. There was a distinction made between the act and the performer, which was unfortunately often maintained in order to protect some gay celebrities from abuse and hatred if they made their sexual orientation public.

I hope that the backlash gay people like Simpson fear isn’t going to happen. And I’d also like the drag acts to become rather more like they were when I was a lad. When it was all innocent fun, and you couldn’t care less whether the artiste was gay, straight or whatever.

The Overlord on Rumours that Mark Hamill Has Sold Image for Hollywood CGI Clone of Luke Skywalker

August 8, 2020

‘The Overlord’ is another YouTube channel devoted to news and views about genre cinema and television. It’s hosted by Dictor von Doomcock, a masked alien supervillain supposedly living at the centre of the Earth. And who is definitely not impressed at all at the state of contemporary popular culture, and particularly the way beloved film classics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and so on are now being trashed by producers who have no respect for these series and their fans. And in this video he talks about the bizarre next step in this process: the recreation of favourite film characters like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker through CGI, completely removing the need for human actors.

A website, WDW Pro, has claimed that Disney are looking for ways they can break the pause in filming imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. They are therefore looking at ways to do without human actors. They have therefore been looking at a technological solution to this problem, using the same computer techniques used to create the films The Lion King of 2019 and the 2016 film version of The Jungle Book, as well as the facial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Rogue 1. Frustrated at the hold-up filming the third Guardians of the Galaxy flick, Disney will use the technology, Cosmic Rewind, to create a completely computer generated movie, but one that would be presented as using human characters. This is going to be an experiment to test the possibility of creating films without human actors and the need for their salaries. According to a rumour, which WDW Pro has not been able to confirm, the projected film is about Young Indy, and its effectiveness will be tested when a rollercoaster based on the film comes on as part of Disneyworld.

Lucasfilm has also apparently made a deal with Mark Hamill within the last 18 months in which he has signed over his image to them so that they can use it to create a CGI Luke Skywalker. This Virtual Skywalker may also be used in the projected Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park. However, due to the project’s severe financial problems, this may not happen anytime soon. Disney are slowly moving towards using this technology to dispense with human actors so that they won’t have to suffer a similar pause in filming ever again, although they won’t move away from human actors altogether immediately.

Doomcock himself laments this development, and feels that it is inevitable in a world where Deep Fake technology has advanced so far that we don’t know if the people we see or the news we watch are real, or that the characters we see on the screen are brought to life by real actors using the skills and craft they have learned. He wonders what will happen to our civilisation – what we will lose – if everything we see on the screen is synthetic, and we are removed another step again from reality and anything that has ‘heart’. It might all be all right, but it seems to him that the more we remove the human element from art and culture and make it the creation of AIs, the more removed we are from our culture.

He also vents his spleen about the choice of subject for this putative movie, pointing out that there was a TV series about Young Indiana Jones years ago, and nobody wanted it. He recommends instead that if this grave-robbing technology is to be used, it should be used to recreate the mature Indy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. He also criticises Hamill for what he sees as his poor judgement in making the deal with Disney. Hamill should know personally how a poor director can ruin a beloved legacy character, the actor’s own contribution and a favourite film franchise through his experience playing Skywalker in The Last Jedi. He famously wept on set during that movie and bitterly criticised the director’s decisions. He’s sarcastic about the respect Disney shows such legacy characters. It’s rumoured that George Lucas is returning to helm the Star Wars films, in which everything will be fine and we can look forward to a bright, new golden age. But considering the potential for abuse, Doomcock states that he is dismayed, flabbergasted and disgusted by Hamill’s decision and fearful for humanity’s future. As human culture becomes made by machines, hasn’t Skynet won? Who needs to launch nukes, when we have a CGI Skywalker dancing like a monkey in a bikini?

Here’s the video, but as Doomcock himself warns you, it isn’t for children. It has adult humour. Blatantly adult humour.

As you can see, there’s more than a little hyperbole in Doomcock’s argument, and some people will take issue at what he views as the humiliation of Luke Skywalker to push a feminist or anti-racist message, like Black Lives Matter. But his fears of the abuse of such technology aren’t unfounded, and have been around for quite some time. The possibility that actors would sell their images to film companies to recreate them Virtually, while making the flesh and blood person redundant, was explored a few years ago in the SF film The Congress by Ari Folman. This was loosely based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, The Futurological Congress, but is very different, and, in my opinion, inferior. For one thing, the Lem novel is hilariously funny, while the movie is grim and depressing. The movie is about a Hollywood actress, Robin Wright, playing herself, who makes precisely the deal Hamill is rumoured to have made. She then stars in a series of action movies, including one sequence that is definitely a tip to Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. But this is all computer animation. The Wright herself isn’t remotely involved in their filming. Indeed, it is a condition of her contract that she not act at all, and live the rest of her life in a very comfortable retirement. These developments are followed by the discovery of a drug that allows people to enter a vast, consensual Virtual Reality, in which they can be and do anyone and anything they want. The world’s masses abandon reality, so that civilisation decays into a very grim, dystopia of ruin, poverty and misery. At one point Wright takes the drug, which will return her to reality, only to find herself in a food queue in a burned out, abandoned building. Unable to come with this, she returns to the Virtual world to search for the son she lost while in a coma as a result of a terrorist attack on the Las Vegas congress she was attending at which the hallucinogenic drug was launched. As I said, it’s a depressing film in which such illusions really are bringing about the destruction of humanity. And there is no escape, except into the Virtual world that has caused it.

The film follows a number of other SF works that have also predicted similar dystopias brought about by the hyperreality of mass entertainment. This includes John D. MacDonald’s short story, Spectator Sport, in which a time traveller appears in a future in which all human achievement has ceased as the public live out their lives as characters in VR plays. Another, similar tale is Good Night, Sophie, by the Italian writer Lino Aldani, about an actress in a similar world in which people live harsh, austere lives in order to escape into a far brighter, more vivid fantasy world of entertainment. Rather less pessimistic was the appearance of the SF film, Final Fantasy, all those years ago. This was supposed to be the first film in which all the characters were CGI, and who were supposedly indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood reality. The fact that further films like it haven’t been made suggests that, reassuringly, people want real humans in their movies, not computer simulations.

We’ve also seen the appearance of a number of computer generated celebrities. The first of these was the vid jockey, Max Headroom on Channel 4 in the 1980s. He was supposed to  be entirely computer-generated, but in reality was played by Canadian actor Matt Frewer under a lot of makeup. Then in the 1990s William Gibson, one of the creators of Cyberpunk SF, published Idoru. This was a novel about a man, who begins an affair with a Virtual celebrity. Soon after it came out, a Japanese company announced that it had created its own Virtual celeb, a female pop star. Gibson’s books are intelligent, near-future SF which contain more than an element of the ‘literature as warning’. The worlds of his Cyberspace books are dystopias, warnings of the kind of society that may emerge if the technology gets out of hand or corporations are given too much power. The creation of the Virtual pop star looked instead as though the corporation had uncritically read Gibson, and thought what he was describing was a good idea.

But going further back, I seem to recall that there was a programme on late at night, presented by Robert Powell, on the impact the new information technology would have on society. It was on well after my bedtime, and children didn’t have their own TVs in those days. Or at least, not so much. I therefore didn’t see it, only read about it in the Radio Times. But one of its predictions was that there would be widespread unemployment caused by automation. This would include actors, who would instead by replaced by computer simulations.

Computer technology has also been used to create fresh performances by deceased stars, sometimes duetting with contemporary performers. This worried one of my aunts when it appeared in the 1980s/90s. Dead performers have also been recreated as holograms, to make the stage or television appearances they never made in life. The late, great comedian Les Dawson was revived as one such image, giving post-mortem Audience With… on ITV. It was convincing, and based very much on Dawson’s own live performances and work. It was good to see him again, even if only as Virtual ghost, and a reminder of how good he was when alive.

I don’t know how reliable the rumours Doomcock reports and on which he comments are. This could all be baseless, and come to nothing. But I share his fears about the damage to our culture, if we allow our films and television to be generated by technicians and algorithms rather than flesh and blood thesps. Especially as the rising cost of movies mean that the film companies are unwilling to take risks and seem determined to rake over and exploit past classics rather than experiment with creating fresh material.

CGI’s a great tool. It’s used to create vividly real worlds and creatures. But I don’t want it replacing humans. Even if that means waiting a few years for new flicks to come out.

 

Hope Not Hate: Nazis Hold Rally in Blackpool, People Ignore Them

March 13, 2016

There’s an interesting piece in the Insider’s Blog today on the anti-fascist, anti-religious extremism site, Hope Not Hate. This reports that yesterday the North West Infidels and National Action held a demonstration in Blackpool. There they ranted about the Jews and immigration. The holidaymakers and good burghers of Blackpool responded with an overwhelming display of complete apathy.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. The anti-Fascists of Hope Not Hate take the lack of interest in the Nazis’ antics as a good thing. They’ve been showing for some time that the actual membership of these Fascist organisations is dwindling rapidly, and the organisations themselves are splintering into an ever increasing number of feuding sects. Put simply, the good people of Blackpool are able to ignore them, because they don’t pose much of a threat. Or at least, not there. Everybody was used to what they were saying, and no-one from outside these organisations were likely to be won over. so instead of starting a fight or a riot, it was just as well to ignore them and enjoy the early spring day. After all, in a competition between the Golden Mile, the Blackpool Tower and even, tucked away in the backstreets, a museum to Music Hall and Variety stars and acts, and a bunch of goose-steppers, most people would choose the former. I’d far rather imbibe the atmosphere of the spiritual home of such great funny men and women as Les Dawson and Wilson, Keppel and Betty and the Sand Dance than listen to more Nazi raving.

It also shows how far the Far Right has also cast off its attempts to play down its Nazi past. In the case of the anti-Islam organisation, the EDL, it consciously tried to present itself as non- or anti-racist, despite the fact that its grassroots seemed to be the bog standard Fascists in all the other far Right organisations. The North West Infidels similarly claimed to be concerned with combating Islamicisation. Now it seems they’ve dropped this façade, and gone back to simple Nazism and hating the Jews.

For more information, see the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/blackpool-ignores-jew-hating-rally-4802

And just to cheer you up after mentioning these sordid shenanigans, here’s some footage from 1933 of Wilson, Keppel and Betty in action.