Monday Night Raw #1

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about pro-wrestling. I just haven’t felt compelled to spew out thoughts on the meta-textual, physical performance art that airs weekly on network television. I either say that or “hot people pretending to fight” — You know, I really haven’t settled on a way of describing it yet.

Last night on RAW, the entire McMahon family came out and addressed the WWE fans. They tend to do this once every few years when TV ratings have hit a low, and they need a way of rebooting themselves.

Even though the McMahon’s are still in character, as the real owners of the company they like to come out and tell us that they “haven’t been listening to fans, but we are now” or “you’ve had your intelligence insulted.”

Don’t tell me whose intelligence is being insulted! I watch a show every week without fail that I only enjoy maybe 25% of the time — I know exactly where my intelligence stands, thank you very much…

These announcements are sort-of storyline breaking, but then quickly settle back into the show by transferring all of the potential heat (negative backlash) to one of the on-screen villainous wrestlers.

It’s like when the director of a school play runs out onto stage to deliver lines for the kid who is puking in the dressing room. Everyone stops to look at the teacher, confused as all hell. But as soon as the lines are spoken the teacher looks to one of the other on-stage students and claps enthusiastically, as they slowly back off to the side of stage.

Everyone is pulled out of the story for five minutes, but then we’re back in it with the same old same old.

And that’s the problem with pro-wrestling, especially WWE — You can only rebrand it so much.

Sure, you can add some new faces and change a few rules — But ultimately it’s still larger than life personalities fighting each other in choreographed performances.

It’s like when your friend says they’re “rebranding” and they show up for coffee the next day in a new hat. But they’re still complaining about the exact same things and still said that one word that you’re fairly certain is an offensive slur, but you don’t want to be caught googling it in public.

But hey, at least they have a new hat.

newhat

They opened the show by punishing and humiliating the former on-screen authority figure. The irony of the McMahon’s punishing a guy who is essentially an actor for all of the creative decisions they’ve actually made over the last three months is laughable.

But still, I’m going crazy because Kurt Angle is there, and Heath Slater is getting some justice too. Ah, wrestling.

The commentators then tell us we’ll be seeing a lot of new faces around on Raw and Smackdown in the coming weeks, and the wife and I immediately start fantasy-promoting people from the NXT (development) roster.

Instead, we get video packages for the floundering NXT mid-carders who haven’t really found a place on the “college league” brand, and also Nikki Cross.

I’m being harsh, EC3 and Lars Sullivan are two guys whom I’ve always said are better suited to the bright lights of the main roster. Lacy Evans and Heavy Machinery however, are talents who could never really find a place in NXT, but who also still have a lot to learn.

Who knows though, because I felt the same way about Liv Morgan and Elias and they’ve both proven me to be the incorrect fan I am.

wrongcox

During a discussion with the former tag-team champions, Shane McMahon established a new and interesting rule. Or rather, he abolished a long-standing one — There will no longer be mandatory rematches for championships.

This is interesting, and definitely the most positive take from the soft rebrand of Raw. For years we’ve had to watch boring, zero-heat feuds go on for longer than they need to due to the “rematch clause” rule.

I’m assuming that if a feud is hot, then we’ll still get some kind of rematch. For example, we all want to see Asuka vs Becky Lynch at some point soon, but we don’t want to see Seth vs Dean agai… oh this no-heat feud for a title is still happening? Okay. Business as usual then.

However despite all of this, the episode did fill the final hour with an eight-woman gauntlet match to crown the number one contender for Ronda Rousey’s championship.

It had some slow spots, sure, but ultimately it was a well-paced match that managed to get most of the competitors over. Natalya was booked like 2009 John Cena and people (including me) went crazy for it.

The only thing this new show was missing was some storyline hook — Some twist in the ongoing narrative that would get people to tune in next week.

I thought for sure it was going to be a Ronda Rousey heel-turn at the end of the night, as she hugged and celebrated with her friend and future opponent. Alas, it did not happen, and it left me feeling that same sense of disappointment I’ve felt for the last three months of Raw.

If Vince McMahon really wanted to shake things up, he would’ve retired on-screen as the chairman, and handed the reigns over to his daughter and son-in-law. Even if he didn’t do it in real life for a few more years, just that on-screen change would’ve given the fans a transitional period, before Triple H takes over for good.

I’ll keep watching, because it’s me, but Smackdown and NXT remain the two brands I would show to first-time viewers. Raw is at best a distraction (last night) and at worst a chore (the last three months), and that’s not something I should be able to say about a brand’s flagship TV show.


Today is Tuesday, December 18th and I can’t believe it’s a week until Christmas. Fill me with cookies and wrap me in bacon.

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The Fix Is In

In a bizarre twist, the thing I’ve missed most about British TV has been the prolific amount of panel shows on the air. I understand that their rise has seen a drop-off in scripted comedy, but in recent years the genre has championed young and alternative comics, and I miss that.

America’s first real panel show is now live on Netflix — The Fix is hosted by panel show veteran Jimmy Carr, and captained by Katherine Ryan and D.L Hughley. The premise is that they discuss a major issue effecting society today, and offer comedic solutions, or “fixes”, to the problem at hand.

Jimmy Carr’s monologue at the top of the show is familiar, as it’s in the same style as his 8 Out of 10 Cats openers. Even the delivery of the questions posed, and the back and forth between captains feels the same — To the point where I’m wondering if they brought a few of the writers Stateside along with the on-screen talent.

There are two elements that give this panel show its unique hook. The first is the to-camera arguments made by the team captains each week. They’re pre-written in an almost Daily Show correspondent-esq way. With the use of on-screen graphics and over the top arguments for ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek solutions.

These segments play into the strengths of D.L Hughley, and has him competing for most laughs with panel show experts like Jimmy and Katherine.

The second hook, and perhaps best part of the show, is the inclusion of Mona Chalabi in a statistics segment each episode.

My concern when reading the premise of The Fix was that it would be an irresponsible, lighthearted, almost dangerously flippant discussion of serious modern issues that effect real people in very real ways.

And it sort of is that, in a way. It definitely would be without the inclusion of Mona, who adds legitimacy to the topic of the week by providing raw data, and her excellent brand of easily digestible, graphics-based presentation.

Check out her credentials and career history, she’s doing great things and is a welcome inclusion on The Fix — And perhaps even the crux of its potential long-term success.

monachalibi

The guest comics have been a mixed-bag in the four episodes I’ve watched so far, but that’s to be expected of the panel show format. Some people have looked nervous, while others have displayed confidence and competence.

The key thing about the guest choices, whether they landed or not, is that they’re all stand-up comics. When panel shows work well they champion the current stand-up scene and act as a format for promoting new and touring comics.

And who knows, maybe some American comics just need to get used to the format, and they’ll be much more comfortable on a second appearance. Ron Funches, Al Madrigal and Nikki Glaser were the names who felt at home in this new environment.

The Fix also doesn’t shy away from dark, self-aware jokes that would make some of the great “shock” comics of the past blush. It’s clear that both Carr and Ryan haven’t been toned-down in any way. With Jimmy playing the WASP patsy to many jokes, and Katherine playing her usual role of privileged white-woman who’s very aware of that fact.

Netflix has done an excellent job of booking comics from different backgrounds, and I think that’s the only reason they can get away with some of the jokes being made.

With a diverse cast of comics all poking fun at issues surrounding race, sexuality and immigration, it sticks two middle-fingers to all those who say that “You can’t make jokes about anything anymore, everything is so PC and nanny-state.”

No, it turns out if you invite everyone to the table and not just middle-aged white guys, you can pretty much still make jokes about anything.

The Fix might not end up being the greatest panel show of all time, or even the best one produced in America when all is said and done (and by “all” I mean the human race in 2046). But the key thing is that Netflix have put their best possible foot forward in establishing the genre to American audiences.

By taking experienced panel show performers, not straying too far from the British structure, and using (almost exclusively) American comics, Netflix has hopefully secured the first successful show of the genre.

If you’re a fan of panel shows then you won’t be disappointed with The Fix. If you’re new to panel shows then try to watch as much QI and Would I Lie To You? as possible. Cats Does Countdown is also great for championing alternative comics, although I sometimes think it’s too bizarre a premise for a starting point.

I give The Fix, 5/7 or 7/9, but not 8/10. Maybe like a 7.5. I haven’t settled on a ratings scale yet. Just watch the show for an easy, and surprisingly responsible, bit of tele.


Today is Monday, December 17th and women’s wrestling is currently better than men’s wrestling.

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Game of Moans

It’s the final season, and it’ll all end in Spring 2019! There are dragon-like figures, ice-cold monsters and very few good guys left alive. But just like Game of Thrones, Brexit is likely to spawn some spin-offs, and will never truly end.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two and a half years since the 2016 Referendum, and that we’re only three and a half months from the finish line.

I think the average person in the UK probably just wants the whole thing to be over, so that the news cycle can move onto the next terrible thing that’ll end us all. But in the wake of a deal rejection and a vote of no confidence (result: some confidence), it’s starting to feel like this won’t end in March.

The current situation that the UK government faces is well summarised in the following tweet, which should be located just below these words.

Option C is the currently the most likely outcome.

During the initial vote over Brexit I paid close attention to the details and information associated with the decision. I tried my best to sift through the BS from the campaigns and kept coming back to the conclusion that even though the EU isn’t perfect, this idea that we should work together as a species is a step in the right direction.

As the months go by, and especially after all the reveals of the misinformation and anti-democratic strategies from the leave campaign, I find it harder to follow Brexit without slipping into some sort of depressive coma.

These days I need to decant Brexit information in the form of topical satire and comedic podcasts, just to stay lucid.

The irony is that most satirists put more effort into their research on the topic than half of UK news outlets, and they don’t shy away from an overt opinion either.

I’ll take an open and honest comic, who tells us that their words are opinions and presents data alongside a satirical analysis, over institutions like the Daily Mail — Who may as well print “LEAVE OUR COUNTRY, YOU FOREIGN ARSEHOLES” on their front page every morning.

A good friend of mine has made the news a little easier to digest, however. What’s Happening With Brexit? is a website that’s updated daily, at midnight.

It takes the top stories on Brexit from six UK newspapers and displays the data collected in an interactive graph. On the graph you can see what the country is talking about in regards to Brexit, by highlighting the frequency of the words and phrases used throughout the articles.

I’ve found it extremely useful as a tool for following the bigger stories, as I know the big-hitting topics for the day, to then go and read about in more detail.

For example, if a right-leaning paper has DANGER OF NO DEAL in their headline, but nobody else is running the story, then I know it’s probably propaganda.

Of course, that’s a terrible example because there is a very real danger of a no deal Brexit, especially after Theresa May’s short and not so sweet visit to Brussels.

Theresa May, if you’re wondering, is probably the Cersei Lannister of our Game of Moans. She doesn’t have the same ambition, but she’s the one seated in a position of power due to her undying grip to an idea that she doesn’t really believe in anyway.

Boris Johnson is obviously Littlefinger, and most Brexitiers are various White Walkers. David Cameron was Robert Baratheon and most EU officials are members of the Bank of Bravos. Jeremy Corbyn is that old guy in the tree, not really doing much of anything.

threeeyedraven
Jeremy Corbyn pictured at his home in Islington

The other thing I like about What’s Happening With Brexit? is the way the data is displayed. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time watching the buzzwords rise and fall over the months.

It has also been interesting to see how much the right-leaning and left-leaning news outlets discuss different topics.

Some terms and people, such as the PM or “deal” are mentioned equally between both sides. Outlets who side with remaining in the EU are more likely to highlight the turmoil and errors of Brexit (aka, all of it). Whereas on a slow Brexit-news day, outlets who want to leave will spam the headlines with reasons why Brexit must happen now and how we should just leave no matter what.

I’m bias because I know the website creator, and know that he’s dedicated to analysing the slew of information that comes from the Brexit news cycle, in order to present it in an easily digestible way. But, despite that knowledge, I still think you should check out What’s Happening With Brexit?

Comparing Brexit to Game of Thrones is really making me realise that we have no heroes in this story. I mean, the EU are sort-of the good guys, but even they’re not without fault.

There’s no strong political party that’s acting as the voice for the hundreds of thousands of British people who marched on the streets of London back in October. Labour are remaining quiet, presumably so as not to upset those who want Brexit to happen who may also vote Labour in the next General Election.

They probably shouldn’t be doing that, because it’s another example of playing a game of politics that doesn’t really exist anymore. Trying to play the long game of power is what makes things like Donald Trump and Brexit happen in the first place.

The populist, “bad guys” are shouting louder and louder as the deadline looms. The polar opposite of that is a strong-willed voice of reason, and the people (the remainers) have that en-masse. As seen in the marches back in the autumn.

There’s just no figure to represent them, no Stark kid from the frozen north who’ll be the voice of truth in the face of an encroaching disenfranchised, chaotic evil.

Of course, it’s not that simple, and life isn’t one big HBO episodic drama. I just can’t help but feel that someone should be playing a game that has the interests of the “48%” in mind, and that if they did they’d stand a good chance to win the throne as well.


Today is Friday, December 14th and submitting a podcast to iTunes felt good.

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Youthquake

I was reminded of the word “Youthquake” on a podcast this week. It was a word used to describe the young voter turnout during the UK General Election in 2017. Whether young people are better represented or not is up for debate, but something that’s clear to me in the dying days of 2018, is that we badly need a youth movement in politics.

I’m sat watching highlights from a discussion in the Oval Office between Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer and I’m embarrassed for a generation that has refused to hand over power to people in their forties and fifties, let alone my generation.

I’m sorry, I just checked — Mike Pence is 59 years old. Although given the fact that he just sat there like a barely sentient showroom dummy, I don’t think he’s doing any favours for the fifty-somethings of America.

The squabble, and it was a squabble, was over the approaching government shutdown. This shutdown is due to happen because Trump can’t secure funds for his wall on the border between the US and Mexico.

Trump was the least surprising of the group, given that he was just his usual self. His sort of wound-tight ego never changes — And why would he? It got him to the highest office in the land.

He’ll be at the end of all things and still be bragging about something he just did.

“I do the most solid s**ts — Nobody has seen s**ts as solid as mine. The nursing staff love dealing with my s**t!”

— Trump, aged 76

Pelosi and Schumer are still playing the game that Trump beat in 2016. They might be closer to my political stance than others in the room, but they’re still from that old-guard of politician.

The sort that see it all as one big game, complete with addressing the TV camera instead of your colleague because that’s how you best reach the people; The illusion of a strong democratic discussion.

They’re ill-prepared, with a lack of facts, statistics and case studies. Instead of explaining coldly, calmly and concisely why a border wall is a populist idea that’s designed to secure the votes of extremists and tear lives apart in the process — And that we see through it. We instead get…

“Your wall bad, you cause shutdown.”

“No I don’t, build wall.”

“Won’t build wall.”

“Then shutdown.”

“Your wall bad, you cause shutdown.”

And so on.

Those aren’t their exact words, I should point that out. Although the gaps between each of those lines could be the words of Mike Pence, because he said absolutely jack all in that entire meeting.

The older guard, the Pelosi’s and Schumer’s of the world, don’t want to challenge the status-quo of politics. They want to keep everything as a points-scoring system, so that they can read about how they won in the morning papers.

Trump claimed to play a different game in the 2016 election, and to an extent he did, but he’s still a part of the swamp he promised to drain. He parades around as though public service is a birthright and not a civil duty. And he still watches the morning news to see if he won.

For better or worse, the public can hear your political opinion and “winning” viewpoint via social media. What we want during official meetings is progress, otherwise cracks start to form in this whole illusion of power thing you have going on.

Can’t make progress by agreeing? Then have gritty, intellectual discussions and see who comes out on top then. These one-liners and childlike arguments are getting tiresome.

When the young elected officials are saying more in 280 characters than the four of you can in a televised discussion, then something is wrong with the way you’re doing things.

I just realised that I started talking to them directly, even though they’re not here. That’s how fired up this makes me.

Yes, we have members of congress and the house who will be in their early thirties when they begin serving the public. This is an excellent start, and probably also the point in the piece that I should use the term “youthquake” again.

I know it’s tempting to single-out specific names, because some are living up to the job description of elected representative of the people extremely well. But the way we change the game is to empower the ideas over the individuals.

If we want this whole social-democracy to work, in which people receive fair representation and treatment by the government, we can’t put individuals on too high a pedestal.

But what we can say, with confidence, is that one of these images looks more like modern American society than the other.

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 08.55.30

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 08.55.41These are the new members of the house of representatives for the Democrats and Republicans. I’ll leave it to you to decide who best represents America.

And to all the fragile caucasian men out there, we still make up the equal-biggest demographic in the top image.

Politicians should represent the views and will of the people. And while you don’t have to belong to the same specific demographic as someone else to represent their views, a democracy is healthy when people from all backgrounds are represented.

Now, back to the whole age thing. Youthquake and all that.

After watching four baby boomers squabble like point-scoring children whilst sat in the highest office in the land, I couldn’t help but see that four members of the same generation currently represent the entire county.

That feels wrong, and it sounds wrong when you listen to them. The vast majority of people born before 1961 are now retired, and they should have their views represented by a proportionate number of people.

Instead, most of the people in office are representing them and playing their old game on their behalf.

I don’t know, maybe a Youthquake is coming and everything will be fine. The point is that it should’ve happened already. The last four Presidents have been Baby Boomers — Let that one sink in as well.

It’s not that we don’t love you baby-boomers (I really do), it’s just that it’s time other generations had a crack.

We also need to find a better word than Youthquake. It was tedious to type out, and on top of that I’m probably going to make it the title of this flimsy and disjointed morning jumble of words.


Today is Wednesday, December 12th and my 2018 Spotify playlist has more new music than 2017 did.

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Bisbee, AZ

We arrived in Bisbee late in the day. There was about an hour of daylight left and so the first stop was, naturally, a great hole in the Earth. A former copper mine and current museum mark the outskirts of the town — Although only one is responsible for the cavernous hole.

The Copper Queen Mine is the reason that Bisbee exists today. Without it spewing out its bountiful greens and blues, there would’ve been no need for a town like this on the edge of the Arizona desert.

After a quick look at the hole, and a comparison to the size of the Grand Canyon (GC is four times deeper at its deepest point), we made for the town itself.

Rows of arcades, cobblestone streets and shopfronts that are all rich in history and deservingly proud of it. The cobblestones were justifiably arrogant.

We were perhaps the youngest people in town that day, which became clear after reading that Bisbee is a popular retirement destination.

When you think of retirement locations, you think of housing communities and golf courses in Florida, and not tiny towns on the border. Then you realise that one day too, if the universe allows, you will become old. And it hits you that you wouldn’t want to live in a community devoid of culture, and that a place like Bisbee would be an idilic backdrop in which to play out your twilight.

A vintage clothing store had at least fifteen coats I would’ve bought, were I not a struggling writer. I’ll sell a novel, I said, and then come back to buy all the coats in Bisbee.

“That’s what they all say,” said the warm-faced shopkeeper, whose coat I also wanted.

Every artist community in rural Arizona is represented in the form of a storefront. Similar styles were grouped together at the very least, or perhaps simply curated by the semi-retirees who have a good eye.

We weren’t about to blow a stack of green (a term Americans have never used but one I’m trying to perpetuate) on some fine art, not in our socioeconomic position. But we did buy a handmade Christmas tree ornament — The Millennial budget equivalent of displayable creativity.

Yes, we’ll be hanging it year-round on a house plant in order to acquire its full value.

The streets in Bisbee remind me of old English towns in the middle of the countryside. Only with the added proud individuality of the, admittedly mythical, American dream. Each building is trying to declare who it is as a non-sentient being, instead of attempting to blend-in as discreetly as possible.

There are locals who’re jolly, and those who just want to get about town without seeing another bloody tourist. Either way, it shows a love for the place they call home.

Most of the homes in Bisbee are on the sides of streets that wind their way up hillsides. With some being built against some of the steeper ridges on the outskirts of the town.

The shops close and a wood-panelled bar draws us in. It looks more like an English pub than an American watering hole, and so I am home.

We sit at the bar, where pints and gin happen, depending on who you are in the group. I people-listen to the table beside us. One that begins with two friends, but slowly more join them over the course of the evening.

They all look retired, and sound merry — A tight-nit group of six, plus a dog. They bitch about the President, politics and the current state of things, in the same way that myself and my friends do now. There’s forty years between us and we are still each other. We are human.

Of course, you can’t just say these sorts of words to strangers, and so I listen to them laughing together. One of them touts that they photoshopped an image of George HW Bush’s dog taking a dump on Trump’s head.

Rebels to the end. It’s a blatant and tasteless satire, but who’s critiquing at their age. All that matters is that they’re still at the game of punching up at those who deserve it.

At night, the town is something from an indie postcard. Hotels light up, and Christmas illuminations become apparent. This is a town that’s looking after itself, or at least trying to.

We bump into a local man, who strikes up a conversation with us. After bonding over time spent in Colorado, he tells us we should really visit the mining museum. Maybe next time, or every day after I move here.

He left us by saying, “Someone said something to me when I first arrived in town, and that’s that everyone in Bisbee holds an opinion, but nobody holds a prejudice.”

I could’ve change that quote — To be first-hand from the stranger himself — But I liked that it was handed down, and that perhaps the person who spoke to him of the town in that way, wasn’t even the original source.

I saw no sign of prejudice, I saw retirees from all kinds of backgrounds living in harmony. If it all changes when the tourists leave for the day, then fair enough. But they do a very good job of keeping up the act if that is the case.

I can imagine visiting someone I once knew, in this town — An old, forgotten friend who has taken up residence in a discrete two-bedroom on a hill. I have been here before, and yet I have not.

The roads are familiar, and the people are this pleasant combination of all who I’ve ever met, and all who I’ve ever dreamt-up in stories. This is a town that has always been in the back of my mind, that has now revealed itself to me at the edge of Arizona.

I begin to wonder if I am the forgotten friend who is supposed to take up residence here, and that in my later years I can greet someone who has travelled thousands of miles to see what’s happening in the town beside a massive hole.

We are each a line of mirrors — One for every year of our existence. At first glance we can only see our own, present self, reflected back at us. But if you tilt the glass, and find the angle, you can see where you were, or where you will be.

I can see the town of Bisbee in one of my mirrors.


Today is Tuesday, December 11th and a talented friend did a thing.

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — Review

The best thing to come out of the age of the franchise blockbuster is the speed at which “indiewood” movies arrive on streaming platforms. I watched Lady Bird in the springtime, Sorry to Bother You in the fall and now the latest Coen Brother’s outing has arrived on Netflix after a short theatrical run.

I guess they’re no longer worthy of cinema release because nobody is wearing a colourful jumpsuit. Actually, you know what, I think one guy actually was. I should stop my flippant criticisms of the superhero genre — People like them and that’s what matters.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a short film collection of six standalone stories, all connected by themes of death, betrayal and expectation, as well as the setting of the Old West.

The stories are tragic, darkly comedic and strangely uplifting, and due to the timed shifts between the narratives, the film is over before you know it.

There’s something to take away from each of the six narratives and I’m going to attempt to briefly explain just what those things are. Spoilers ahead and all that.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The opening outing sees the two extremes of the western genre mashed together into one piece — The ultra-violent shoot-a-thon and the prairie musical.

Buster Scruggs is a singing, shooting cowboy who dresses like the Milkybar Kid. He rides around the West yodelling his tune, which leaves his enemies unsuspecting of his violent ways. He dispatches of them in a series of comedically violent methods before engaging in a showdown with a black-clad roamer.

Scruggs is instantly shot and killed, as the tone is set for the entire film — Don’t grow attached to any of the characters we will be presenting to you today, for the protagonists will be slaughtered, no matter which end of the Western book we peruse.

Near Algodones

This story felt like quintessential Coen brothers, with 90s-style gallows humour (quite literally) and comedic, almost slapstick action. Despite this, it was perhaps my least favourite of the stories. There was no intrigue because I felt as though I’d seen it before, in another world at another time, with different players.

Stephen Root puts in a great little performance as a bank teller, but James Franco offers nothing to the lead role that any generic male actor couldn’t bring to the table.

Thankfully it’s the shortest of the stories, and we quickly move onto something with a little more depth.

Meal Ticket 

Perhaps the most tragic of the six stories, Meal Ticket sees Liam Neeson travelling from town to town as he puts his act on for ever-decreasing numbers of spectators. His act is a young man with no arms or legs, named Harrison, who recites classical poetry and famous speeches.

Their profits are dwindling and the winter is cold, and Liam Neeson treats his meal ticket as an object rather than another person. Liam Neeson is then conned, as he purchases a “magic” chicken that can perform basic arithmetic.

Of course, the magic itself is in the contraption, but he only sees that a chicken requires less care than a man with no arms or legs. So he drops Harrison from a high bridge and continues on the road with his chicken.

In this story, nobody wants to see a curiosity — A strange twist on some classical narratives — They’d rather watch a chicken. Is this about modern media?

neutralfuturama.gif

All Gold Canyon

We follow an ageing prospector as he looks for a gold ore pocket in the middle of a mountain valley. His struggle is uplifting and his connection with nature is admirable, but by this point in the film I knew he wouldn’t make it out alive.

Whilst I attempted to predict his method of demise, a lone gunman approaches him from behind and shoots. After a two minute pause, as the gunman watches the prospector bleed out, the prospector surprises the gunman and kills him.

The bullet has “gone clean through”, he patches himself up, collects the gold and rides off to the horizon. A happy ending! Our expectations have been subverted in part 4/6, so maybe everything will be okay from here on out.

I mean, he’ll probably die from an infected wound, but we don’t know that for sure. The Coen brothers give us hope before…

The Girl Who Got Rattled

We watch two people fall in love on the Oregon Trail, a series of events occur and “the girl” tragically kills herself when she “needn’t have done that”.

This served well as a thirty-minute narrative, but had this been feature-length with the same outcome, even I (captain misery) wouldn’t have enjoyed it. There’s too much natural chemistry between the leads for it to end this way, but it did and that’s the point.

This story is about an uncertainty for the future, but a calm tranquility in the present. The girl chooses the path of the known, the certainty of the now. But by choosing this route she makes a mistaken decision that costs her everything.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Damn you Coen Brothers.

The Mortal Remains

I’ve seen a couple of reviewers brag about how they “understood the deep meaning behind The Mortal Remains”. Mate, this wasn’t a difficult text, the reapers even call themselves reapers.

This final story is about three souls making the journey from death to the afterlife, as they’re taken in a carriage across the plains to “Fort Morgan”. They explain their personal philosophies, musings and perspectives on the nature of man, before one of the reapers vaguely clarifies what it’s all about.

They arrive at their destination, finally sure of where they are, as the book closes for the final time.


Like with all Coen Brother’s outings, it’s the characters that keep these stories ticking along. Just don’t get too attached to them, as they won’t hang around. Such is the nature of the West.

Not their best work, but deeply enjoyable on a cathartic level. Confront death with the Coen Brothers for two hours, set to the tune of a familiar genre that they’ve proven themselves competent with.

8/10 — Probably don’t need to watch it twice, but you should see it once.


Today is Thursday, November 29th and I’ve almost finished the Spyro games already. Oops.

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Twitch Streaming and Human Connection

I’m a little behind the times, and so I’ve only really just figured out what Twitch is. I’ve always known it to be a streaming platform for gamers, but I’ve never really had a reason to tune in to anyone’s channel.

This autumn has seen the release of many games that have peaked my interest, and so YouTube clips eventually lead me to streams from dedicated full-time gamers. Most are working for tips, as any live performer would, with the more established streamers making a living from subscribers (patrons) and sponsorships.

I remember Twitch being criticised last year for allowing non-gaming streamers on the website, largely because this came in the form of “hot girls” in low-cut tops talking to their camera for tips. It was thought that these streams would take audiences away from the gaming streamers, but the website appears to be as popular as ever.

These non-gaming streams spawned sub-genres such as Music & Arts, Just Talking and Game Shows. Also ASMR — Gently crafted soundscapes to help you relax and sleep.

As someone who dabbled with live streaming around ten years ago, I completely understand the appeal of performing and reaching out to an audience.

Back then it was basic webcams and cheap USB microphones on a now-defunct platform called Blog TV. I never tried to make any extra pocket money from it, but my friends and I put together a 48-hour long livestream to raise money for charity.

Even though huge pockets of that were broadcast were unplanned, I remember having so much fun scheduling segments from various artists, performers and guests — All talented friends who, like me, just wanted to be noticed for a moment whilst doing something to help others.

We switched between webcams to different areas of my attic bedroom that had been converted into an amateur studio. It felt like a reverse Wayne’s World for the digital age.

Life happened, as it always does, and so I stopped streaming — But it was fun while it lasted.

During our two-day livestream we were featured on the front page and peaked at around five-hundred viewers, which is a drop in the online ocean compared to the number of viewers that top Twitch streamers get nowadays.

As I type these words, the two most watched channels in the world right now have 50,000 and 25,000 viewers each. They’re playing the games Fortnite and a little game you may have heard of, called Chess.

The most beautiful thing about this is that twice as many people are watching masters play chess than are watching a Fortnite streamer. I guess you can’t beat the classics.

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The overall Twitch community doesn’t seem to be too healthy, but like all digital social circles it’s hard to pin-down exactly who the average Twitch user is. Some streamers will have an obscene chat, filled with memes and bigotry — Whereas others will have a positive chat, filled with memes and love.

So I guess memes are probably the common trend, and you cultivate a community that reflects your personality.

I find it difficult to keep the chat open whenever I’m watching a stream, because it’s usually a barrage of nonsensical noise, with people looking to connect to the host.

That’s the really interesting thing about live-streaming — The connections people are looking to make.

In the digital age we’re all just looking to connect to others. Every time we post a Tweet, photo or update, we’re asking for people to notice us. We want to be recognised, seen and heard in an increasingly loud world.

As much as I keep this daily blog for personal reasons, I can’t deny that my heart is warmed whenever someone likes a post or comments on some nonsense I’ve written.

Social media induced endorphins man; The real drug that’ll get you.

Streaming though, particularly on Twitch, is a raw and extreme version of that connection. Sure you can glam yourself up, change how you behave and even adopt a persona, but ultimately you’re putting more of yourself out there for the world to see than in, say, a photo on Instagram.

You’re live, you’re unfiltered and you’re asking to be noticed.

I think it takes a dash of ego to be a successful streamer — To plug away for so long in order to gain an audience. But I also think that bravery is a crucial trait, just because of how exposed you leave yourself to a faceless crowd.

I’ve seen explicit and inappropriate things in Twitch chats, largely directed at female streamers who’re just trying to play a video game and, presumably, not looking for men to describe how they would get into her pants.

But I’ve also seen the uplifting — The harmless communities formed around a shared interest and personality, the stories told to each other, and the games played together.

The most interesting part of this platform, for me, is the new streamers. The people who’re playing to an audience of less than five, but are still trying just as hard to gain a following.

This next bit is going to sound a little creepy, but imagine me approaching this with Louis Theroux levels of inquisitiveness and it’ll seem a little better.

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I’ve found myself scrolling to the least-viewed streams of a game and tuning in. In some cases I’m the only viewer, and the person is just sat there, playing their game. Then, after a few moments they notice they have someone watching (me), and so they begin a performance.

They start to commentate themselves, and make a few forced jokes. You watch them transition from someone practicing a routine at home, to performing that same routine on a stage, as they shift from one version of themselves to another.

It’s fascinating to watch, but I don’t linger for too long, as the interaction is all one-sided. They talk into a microphone and I watch, both of us gaining some kind of distant human connection for a moment before parting ways for good.

As I said, a little creepy, but it’s so intriguing to witness a live version of someone looking to fill that basic human need of connection. And not only that, but at its very root.

Watching someone stream to an audience of two is like noticing that someone in the room wants to say something — The connection isn’t fully formed yet, but they’re trying, in order to connect to others. And in that seed for potential interaction you see a familiar struggle — You see yourself and everyone you’ve ever known.


Today is Wednesday, November 28th and my cat jumps at windows to get the bird, but she never gets the bird.

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If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

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