Sunday, February 20, 2011

So here's to the next installment in the occassional Pennyblackmusic/GoodnightLondon nights...would be nice to see anyone down.

Anthony Reynolds (ex-Jack and Jacques)
Nick Garrie
The Hall of Mirrors
Alex Monk

Saturday 26th March 2011
The Half Moon, Herne Hill, South London (directions here)
£6 in advance from here
£7 on door
A description of the acts can be found on the Last FM page.
Plus DJs
and stuff
There's a great article by Hugo Rifkind at the moment in The Times (which sadly I can't link to due the paywall at that site) about internship culture, in which he cites the case where said internships at a number of particularly prestigious institutions have recently been sold for up to £3,500 at a fundraising Conservative Party Black and White Ball, as if they were antiques in an auction. Rifkind's point is that internship culture has become so ingrained and specifically designed for the wealthy, that the Conservatives think this is completely normal despite employing Alan Miburn as something called a "social mobility czar".
I'm pretty sure at one point internships generally involved a few weeks work, but not much more, and certainly to be fair "work experience" - which seems to be becoming increasingly distinct from "internships" - still are often not usually a lot longer than three weeks or so. On the other hand, it's now the norm for "internships" to last three months or even longer. Even worse, a lot of companies as far as I can tell simply won't even consider you if you haven't did an internship there. The desired effect, as Rifkind rightly points out, seems to be a shunning of any bright students who don't happen to have the financial clout and/or wealthy parents who also happen to have essential contacts in the right place. "Internships" seem to have gone from a valuable way of getting on-hand experience to being compulsory in order to get any decent job, leading those without the financial wherewithal or contacts isolated in a hopeless Catch-22 situation, regardless of any innate talent or how bright they were as a student. It's not what you know; it's who you know and whether you can afford it. While I would never pretend that the political culture is the same, in some ways this kind of cronyism isn't that different from the political culture which many disenchanted Arabs are protesting against in North Africa and the Middle East. British work culture may not be that extreme, but it's still no meritocracy.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


What with all the timely discussion of hauntology (which I'll admit I only half understand) at the moment, it's worth going down memory lane and recalling the dystopian books of John Wyndham that I read as a kid...such as this:

And this:

And, of course, one of his most well-known books:

Though this also became famous for the adapted TV series:

Leaving aside Triffids (which actually genuinely terrified me as a kid, with its indelible image of psychotic man-eating giant plants) and Chocky (which I can't remember much about and of which the TV series kind of passed me by - anyone else remember it?), the first two came to mind tonight when watching Never Let Me Go at the cinema.
(In case you've not read much about the film, and plan to see it, a spoiler is coming - you've been warned...most of the other reviews by now would have given away the story anyway...and there are spoilers over the two Wyndham books mentioned below too).
Indeed, while there are huge differences between The Chrysalids and NLMG - the three characters in the former can communicate by telepathy, and the the novel is set in some unspecified far future - I couldn't help but hear echoes of that novel and The Midwich Cuckoos while watching the film, with the relationship between the three in the former novel and the description of the sixty children in the latter echoing that of Ruth, Tommy and Kathy and Hailsham boarding school in the film respectively. Just as with the cloned children at the school, we know that there is something strange about the children in TMC, with their silvery-like skin and alien-like golden eyes; we then find out about their mind control and telepathic capabilities. Both sets of children, as becomes obvious, are not fully 'normal' humans as such (hence the children at Hailsham are never given surnames and are told they are "special"), with the consequent idea of lack of 'soul' - the very reason why the teachers at the college encourage the pupils to participate in art, so as to show society that 'clones' can have souls and display the emotions of their 'originals' (which ultimately fails, of course). The issue of genetics, 'cloning' and the accompanying ethical questions, then, is ultimately what unites the three. Furthermore, the deterioration of the character's healths in NLMG after their 'donations' are also reminiscent of the characters in other films such as Primer and Moon: the former self-imposed after the two protagonists make repeated 'copy' clones of themselves as they go back in time, each 'copy' unwittingly a lesser quality than the one before; the latter imposed by the state (as with NLMG) without Sam Bell's knowledge until it's too late.
But whereas Wyndham suggests happy endings of a sort - in The Chrysalids David, Rosalind and Petra ultimately escape to a far-off future society (imagined in the book's front cover pictured above) once their mutations have been discovered and exposed, while in TMC Zellaby destroys himself with a bomb to ultimately destroy the zombie-like children too - in NLMG there's no way out, and ultimately a kind of numbed acceptance pervades despite the primal scream near the end of the film: what do you do when your entire life in planned out in front of you, from birth to death? Where to go but ultimately disappear? I'd be interested to know if Kazuo Ishiguro has ever read any of Wyndham, but in any case, it's good to see a British film which credits the audience with some real intelligence for once.