You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

I read the obituary of Bill Miller in the Guardian (25 November), and the note from Lewis Rudd on the 15th Dec.  Bill Miller and Paul Thompson were imprisoned while Oxford students for breaches of the Official Secrets Act – that is, they wrote in Isis about dangerous antics employed by British forces, which could have triggered a nuclear exchange. At that time we were all shit-scared about the possibility of nuclear war; we had seen deeply disturbing photographic coverage of the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima  bombs on places and on the human body.  We carried these images in our heads: we were afraid it might all happen again, but ten times worse, and to us. It’s difficult even to remember how disturbed we all were. Now we are inured to it, but the possibility of nuclear weapons being used by some state on another, or by terrorists who have got lucky, remains a present danger.

I remember Bill being indignant about newspaper reports which had him going into court wearing a red tie: he hadn’t worn one of course, but that conveniently put a “”Commie Bastard” marker on him.  That hasn’t changed: the equivalent newspapers are still happy to push lies to make a sneaky point. The other thing which hasn’t changed is the concept of the Official Secret..  The material Bill and Paul set out was already public,  well known in some circles – their crime was that they had sworn not to reveal what was already public knowledge. Nowadays, given the Internet, something can only be awarded Official Secret status when everybody knows it. If an English Flying Saucer freak hacker
could gallop all around the Pentagon’s secret files, leaving signed footprints as he went, who can believe that the serious boys hadn’t been there already, carefully wiping their prints before leaving?

16 Dec 2009

For the artist the problem is always “What is the story?”  By artist I mean any creative person.  Mind organises information, and it comes out of the peripherals as poetry, drama, painting, sculpture, a letter, a blog even. But the problem remains. To put it slightly differently, “What are you trying to say?”  It is the problem Graves engages in his poem In Broken Images – “He in a new confusion of his understanding: I in a new understanding of my confusion.”

Those of us who are addicted to House know the problem well. The mechanical base of House, of each one-hour programme, goes like this: somebody falls (complicatedly) ill; through a series of attempts to come up with a correct diagnosis (which necessarily involve getting it wrong several times along the way),  the problem is finally solved through House’s genius, not so much by a Sherlock Holmes ruthlessly logical linear sequence, as by an apercu, a sudden AHA experience. For instance, House may see a ladybird, and the spots on the ladybird may suddenly tell him that the spots on the patient are the crucial issue, QED. But of course this is not the story, which is really about House’s complex, contradictory and exasperating personality, his relationship with his best friend and his would-be lover Cutty, with his personally complex medical team, and his patients (who are allowed, perhaps, just one fold of complexity). The most stunning episodes. (the trip to the funeral, for instance, which is as rich as a whole film like About Schmidt, partly because it has episodes of familiarisation behind it) are about social interaction rather than medical complexity, which is a necessary scaffolding, but beyond the knowledge and understanding of most viewers   The pleasure of House is to see real intelligence in writing plotting and performance survive, at best even ignore, the strictures of commercial television, just as the greatest Elizabethan and Jacobean drama bursts through the strait-jacket of the Revenge Play and becomes something else. The would-be restrictive framework is not the story.

08 12 09

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