The John Carpenter Blues

Man, this could’ve been such a good film…

One of my favourite directors is John Carpenter. Even the least of his films are imbued with his creative watermark. 1978’s Halloween is the blueprint for all subsequent Middle-American anxieties about youth turned into grim slasher horror; 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13 is a nigh-unbearably tense thriller that manages to foster deep isolation in the middle of a crowded city; I would argue that 1988’s They Live is more relevant & socially resonant now than even at the point it was first released. His Apocalypse Trilogy, most overtly in the 1987 science-cosmic horror (and one of my very favourite films) Prince of Darkness, posits multiple interpretations of the end of the world. The third of the trilogy, 1994’s In The Mouth of Madness, is a homage to literary horror traditions from Lovecraft to King. But it’s the first – 1982’s The Thing – which has remained in the public consciousness the longest, finding Man to be the warmest place to hide its creeping dread.

I can’t even begin to explain The Thing, a loose adaptation of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” where the extraterrestrial, well, thing of the title manages to creep around everything from still-formidable Cold War Paranoia to self-destructive masculinity, fear of the loss of self to good old-fashioned existential cosmic dread, with a tightly-knit script, impeccable performances, brilliant production, and groundbreaking effects. But the most powerful – and most desperately sad – thing about The Thing is the erosion of trust in a close community. People who came to know one another, who relied on each other to survive in a deeply hostile environment that humanity was not equipped to inhabit without technology, started to betray each other and themselves in their rising panic about something that was not them.

You can see why it’s been so popular.

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Alba Because

“Welcome to Scotland” sign showing saltire flag emblem at roadside on Scotland/England border. Gaelic translation “Failte gu Abla” shown underneath in yellow text.

Ever since switching to Alba, I’ve made a sincere effort to be fair and even-handed to the SNP: it is obvious that the SNP are vital to the cause of independence, and I know my friends are no less dedicated to the cause than I or anyone else. But the question as to why I left does warrant more explanation, and I’m afraid it cannot be bereft of some criticism.

Many of my friends will be voting SNP/SNP (as I did in 2016) or SNP/Green (as many of my friends did in 2016) tomorrow. I voted that way because I thought they would deliver on the single, most important part of their manifesto:

We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

Some would say the Pandemic is sufficient mitigating circumstances, to which I cannot agree, for what illustrates the pressing need for independence more than being trapped in an insane United Kingdom with a robber baron perfectly happy to “let the bodies pile high” so long as his precious finances are unharmed?

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West Scotland Alba Launch

I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.

Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.

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A Rat Called Mouse

In a time long ago, I was once privy to secret knowledge. Back in my film criticism/journalism days, I talked with directors, screenwriters, producers, all sorts of individuals: I knew a lot of folk who worked at various levels in the industry. I’m lucky enough to call some of them my friends – damned if I know how or why I found myself in their circles, yet there I was, an errant mote in the whirlpool of Important People. One of my favourite secret memories is when I received some… information. To protect my sources, I won’t say anything beyond that it was related to a significant milestone in popular culture – the sort of thing that only happens once.

I knew that, while some elements would surely be divisive, others would be received warmly, & some would have longtime aficionados leaping to their feet in delight. Oh boy, folk are going to love this, I thought. But I daren’t tell a soul what I knew – quite apart from betraying my sources’ confidence, how could I ruin something that means so much to so many? So, I went on forums, news site comment sections, Facebook groups, Twitter lists, and looked at what everyone was thinking about this pop cultural milestone… while I, privy to secret knowledge, cackled in glee like the proverbial Imp of the Perverse. Reading their theories, their hopes, their fears, all while I knew exactly what was going to happen. Then, the pop cultural milestone happened. Sure enough, some criticized a few parts – but the vast majority seemed to adore it. And I felt that kind of contentment, knowing that I never betrayed my source’s confidence for well over a year, waiting for this great event to unfold. Something of the glamour of prophesy, but for fun.

I wish I had happy secret knowledge like that again.

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Confusing their brains in college-classes

I try my best not to be too critical of fellow independence supporters, but sometimes I feel like I have to plant my colours to the mast. Such a day is today, where Neil Mackay hosts an interview with Andrew Wilson, former SNP MSP and currently (in)famous for the Growth Commission prospectus on an independent Scotland.

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All in This Together… Except When We’re Not

I presume most readers are aware of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” An emperor rather obsessed with fashion is always on the lookout for the most flamboyant and outrageous garments. Two con-men catch wind of this, and hatch a scheme: they claim they can weave delicate fabrics so fine and sheer that they would appear invisible to the unworthy and stupid. The credulous emperor commissions them forthwith, and the two “weavers” set to “work,” pantomime weaving & sewing these nonexistent garments. Obviously the Emperor, his ministers, and his officials cannot see a thing – yet rather than speak & be thought unworthy or stupid, they went along with the con. Once finished (and several bags of gold heavier) the “weavers” pantomime dressing the nude Emperor up for the big parade. As with the ministers, officials, and the Emperor himself, the townsfolk also go along with the con, loudly commenting on his finery as he passed. This farce continued until a little child – who, being a child, is not yet susceptible to pluralistic ignorance – loudly comments “the emperor has no clothes on!” His understandably mortified parents attempt to save face, but once the truth is elucidated, it’s hard to suppress. Whispers became murmurs, hubbub became commotion, until eventually all the crowd were exclaiming the same as the child – “the emperor has no clothes on!” And the emperor, vain and proud to the end, realises that he’s been had… but still marches on, while his sycophantic nobles continue holding his nonexistent train aloft.

Imagine if, at the end of the story, rather than point and laugh, breaking the spell, the adults keep up the pretense. They continue to compliment the Emperor on his finery; they still treat the Emperor as a wise and intelligent ruler; they perpetuate the illusion even when explicitly pointed out to them. Because, to those people, it is less frightening to continue the illusion than face the facts – they were ruled by an idiot who was swindled by a con-man.

Such an alternate ending is sounding darkly familiar.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Scottish peoples’ mandate for a second independence referendum has been reinforced for a fourth time. The SNP had their second best general election result in the party’s 80-plus-year history. Ronnie Cowan, elected to represent Inverclyde for a third time, has increased his majority – and joins 47 other pro-independence MPs. 81% of Scottish MPs – 1 in 5 – is pro-independence. That’s more than the 1918 General Election result in Ireland which preceded the Republic of Ireland.

Anyone who says that the SNP have no mandate for an independence referendum (not even outright independence negotiations, the mere democratic exercise of a referendum) is, to put it bluntly, either lying or stupid.

UK General Election 2019 Results

Meanwhile, England has descended further into the abyss. Aided and abetted by “moderates” and “centrists” who act as midwives for the unspeakable in the name of “reason”; enabled by an establishment who refuses to take the direct action needed to stop this assault on our collective freedoms; facilitated by a “neutral” state media who had one of the architects of the lawbreaking EU referendum on as an election night pundit.

It really is like some sort of nightmare, isn’t it?

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Independence Until Independence

Given the SNP is a national party campaigning in a variety of different constituencies, it understandable – if deeply frustrating – that each constituency will take a different path. Why would you campaign on dairy rural reform in Springburn, or North Sea fisheries legislation in Wanlochead? A general election focuses as much on local issues as it does wider areas. So I can understand (if clench my teeth with no little grating) that some candidates in some parts of Scotland do not put the party’s reason for existance front and centre of their personal election campaign.

An argument could be made – and goodness knows Scottish Independence’s enemies make the argument often enough – that the SNP are so synonymous with independence, there’s simply no need to even mention the “i” word. Blue, Orange, and Red Rosettes can pull their double-act of claiming the SNP simultaneously don’t want independence at all while also wanting independence at all costs, a performance that would have even Janus spinning, while the SNP can justifiably promote their successes in policy.

But, as we all surely know by now, these are frightening times. People are fearful of the future to a degree I haven’t seen – hoped to never see again – since those dark days of the late 20th Century, before the ends of the Troubles and the Cold War dashed some cold reason into the faces of our planet’s leaders. The people want what none of the UK parties are actually offering – certainty, security, confidence, hope. They need more than even fairly unambiguous shibboleths for independence like “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands,” “Scotland’s right to choose,” or the like. And for some, the SNP’s focus on stopping the UK from leaving the EU, defensible as it may be, is not where they want the party’s primary focus to lie.

But incumbent MPs like Ronnie Cowan, Patricia Gibson, Philippa Whitford, Chris Law, Stephen Gethins, Stewart Hosie, Tommy Sheppard, Stewart McDonald, and candidates like Stephen Flynn & Owen Thompson (among others) certainly found space for the “i” word:

That’s why I’m voting SNP in Inverclyde, without any hesitation, without anything holding me back – because, when the chips are down, and when all the policy and politics are stripped away, I know that the SNP candidate for Inverclyde is down in Westminster for one purpose and one purpose only.

 

This election has been a nightmare for so many of us, and unless we get ourselves out of bed tomorrow morning, that nightmare won’t end anytime soon. Scotland needs to wake up.

It Ain’t Effectively So

The SNP’s newest councillor has been criticised over a £600 “telephone and ICT” expenses bill.

Anne McTaggart, who defected from Labour to the SNP last week, incurred costs nearly fifteen times higher than her colleagues…

McTaggart was a Labour MSP between 2011 and 2016 before she was effectively deselected by party members.

– Paul Hutcheon, 6th November 2019

So sayeth Paul Hutcheon in his ongoing Saga of the Evil Provost, as serialised in the Daily Record. I have highlighted the curious phrase “effectively deselected.” Deselected would suggest a fairly matter-of-fact presentation of the process: that the membership was unhappy with Ms McTaggart, & undertook the established deselection process: effectively deselected, on the other hand, suggests that her deselection came about by somewhat less conventional means. I wonder if anyone could elaborate on that?

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