Monday, 31 May 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936 - 2010

After having read Alexander Walker's review of "Blue Velvet" for "The Evening Standard" in 1986 I was compelled to go and see David Lynch's praised surreal film about the underside of an American small town. It was not just Walker's reference to Lynch's obsession with the Bobby Vinton song of the same name but the description of the villain, Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper that persuaded me I had to see this distilled acting performances that was getting all the rave reviews. I had actually stopped going to the cinema having found it jaded and grotty. I saw Blue Velvet at a Hampstead theatre in London on a late Saturday night and literally fell in love with Frank Booth and the whole Lynch franchise.

I knew of Hopper from other films principally his directorial debut "Easy Rider" but after seeing this movie I sought out all his movies. From "Rebel without a cause" through to the tedious "Sons of Katie Elder" and onto the sublimity that is "Out of the Blue" I found that Hopper had led an interesting life making movies. The drugs and drinks of the late sixties had helped him to
fuse for himself an idealized vision of the film industry that culminated in the brilliant and allusive "The Last Movie" - an exercise in true art-house experimentation that just gets better with every viewing. After that movie the studios decided they could not take chances with the maverick director whose behaviour was described as erratic and dangerous. After memorable appearances in Wim Wenders' "The American Friend" and Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" he completed directing the extraordinary and disturbing "Out of the Blue".

Although acclaimed for his role as the alcoholic father in "Rumblefish" Hopper struggled with his drink/drug problems and checked into a rehabilitation clinic in a final effort to save his sanity. With his role as Frank Booth he reestablished himself as both an actor and an artist and had a further twenty years in the industry albeit not always in top quality material. But his own "Colours" and his scene stealing terrorist in "Speed" remain highlights of celluloid. Both a passionate and ironic man Hopper will be remembered for several roles but for me, sitting in that cinema one April night, as Kyle MacLachlan sends a love letter into Frank's brains and as the curtains drew it is blue velvet that I still see through my tears...

CoverStory - the decline in aesthetics

The art of the paperback novel is fundamental to how one approaches a book and whether the look and set-up appeals to ones own sense of interest. The history of the novel cover is as complex as the actual history of the printing and publication of any novel. Post-war readership increased the demand for a greater yield in "pulp" fiction and so the cover art suffered from an
awful deterioration in the form. Out of this however there emerged in the late 1960's to the mid 1970's a series of covers that became so commonplace to be seen in certain bookshops that the cover actually became synonymous with the text of the book. A prime example is Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" - published 1961 - which with the Corgi edition attracts the contact of the eyes with the mind and the term catch 22. This book always used to assault one upon entry to any bookshop. The combination of gold and red background with black bordering controls the visual senses to focus on the "22" - the book is sold not with an image but with the number. The "catch" is in that and the presentation. It is truly one of the best marketing ploys ever in the history of book selling. Since then (and I am talking about UK editions here) there have been a number of books that have acquired such an iconic status.

Another notable example is David Pelham's exceptional design for Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" - published 1962 - from the 1972 Penguin edition. This bold and imaginative abstraction on the droog Alex conjures up the Kubrick film and the imagery is definitely from there, but Pelham has full command of his art. The green shirt banded by the light blue braces is settled by a mid-3rd yellow backdrop, which itself is exemplified by the block orange. The humanoid face is intensified by the cog-toothed wheel eye motif which does not dehumanise the
character but actually strengthens the depth of its appeal. This is all completed and both deepened and projected by the jet black bowler. Recent Penguin covers (2000/2008) by Véronique Rolland of photographed glasses of the spiked milk have their own appeal, but for personal reasons I find them rather shallow and rather derivative of the plot, for it seems to imply something about the behaviour of the droogs by linking their anarchy with the drugged drink with "knives in it". The Pelham typically stands the test of time because the Kubrick film nails the visual sensation of the book and those who know of both are forced to adapt to this projection of the cover.

"One flew over the cuckoo's nest" - published 1962 - by Ken Kesey is a good example of a book that has become associated to the extent of being homogeneous with the film adaption. The simplicity of the Picador format from the 1970's is in its deliberate selling of Jack Nicholson as the central character McMurphy. Nicholson's Oscar winning performance is next to impossible to remove from the imagination if you read the book after viewing the movie. I fortunately read the book first but the wry-tired-cheeky visage of Nicholson creeps into the cortex so as to become McMurphy in the mental reading of the text. This process is helped by the orange backing. On a side note the Picador edition is not the usual paperback size. Editions of the present are bland and uninspiring, and still they use Nicholson's depiction to help sell the copy. It is really a clever cover because it tricks you by guile into believing you are being allowed in on McMurphy's private war against the system - and he knows you know.

Since the mid 1980's there has been a sharp decline in the cover art as a means to enjoy the book in itself. This is a result of market forces but also a risible attitude on behalf of critics and those who claim to speak for the masses. The common retort is that the cover is not that important but what is between the pages. This is true but it does seem a shame that culture has suffered because of a rather old and jaded view about art. There are fewer noticeable iconic covers these days. If the books sells, the cover becomes familiar to most book readers but that is because of over proliferation and not the art depicted on the surface. The examples beneath are prime examples of this and I am not suggesting they are awful in themselves but that they are deliberately constructed to a market that is vacant of originality.

Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" is indeed a brilliant marketing strategy. The hands holding the 'forbidden' fruit are evocative and set against the black background a genuine eye-catcher, and I admit that the market is about produce and the making of money, but this is not art even if it is iconic. The tease is directed to the audience - a teenage angst ridden depressed one - and the redness of the apple is a psychological ploy on the undeveloped subconscious and it works but this only helps to demonstrate the downturn in the market. If the cover is just to sell and it is about the text why is "Twilight" so often condemned by critics and readers alike. It has its value as a piece of entertainment - but it is no "Dracula".

"The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown is another popular book one will find on book Internet sites. The image is familiar because it is borrowed from the Mona Lisa but there is great tactlessness in the overall structure. It is a potboiler and though it still sells the image is not stationary and quickly removes itself from the memory as the content, not the text mind you, of Brown's book becomes more important than the enjoyment. It is in a similar place as Erich von Däniken's "Chariots of the gods". A flash in the pan that is remembered for the flash - but the pan remains.

The third inclusion is Chucjk Palahniuk's "Haunted". This is how a lot of trendy post-modern books are being detailed. There is a contrived feel to the whole process, and though the Palahniuk may have value as a read, the art is no longer unintentional but enforced. It is as if you are expected to like the volatile approach of this new line. The decline in the love of beautiful things started a while back and death and decay begin to reign supreme. Many will question "so what if the covers are rubbish?" but you see, if the covers have not and do not acquire that cultural significance then we will find that we are expected to enjoy the lesser worth because of it's marketability and not because of its meaning.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Kiswah - Veiling the Ka'bah

When the caliph Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi performed the Hajj in 160 AH he was informed about the build up of the previously place kiswahs upon the Ka'bah. From then it was decided to replace the kiswah once a year. The covering of the Ka'bah precedes the message brought by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and is thought to have initiated with the son of Abraham, Ishmael, peace be upon them. It was originally clothed in various coverings and during the time of the Prophet at the conquest of Mecca it was decided to leave it as it was but an accident burnt it and it was then clothed in white linen from Yemen. Since then the colour of the kiswah has altered from green to the present black. Around 1340 CE the kiswah began to be embroidered and the present appearance with the intricate gold-weave is what has been the underlying condition of the covering. The cost of the kiswah is estimated at SR 17 million and contains at least 670 kilos of pure silk and 15 kilos of gold thread. In looking up the history of the Ka'bah I was surprised that there was no suggestions as to why the Ka'bah was closed so I started to muse on the subject. This has ranged from the obscure to the curious and indeed whether the expenditure of the present kiswah is a waste of money.

The tradition or custom of clothing the Ka'bah is in itself a strange thing. Modern man can only ever really conceive of painting a building and the idea that a specially constructed "cloak" be made to cover a building causes the mindset of the modern man to freeze in consternation. One automatically thinks it is for the purposes of adoration and ornamentation but this cannot be true. If one goes back and looks at the history of the kiswah it becomes apparent that the cloth was nothing more than a dressing and the decorative scriptural references now adorning the kiswah are an addition but not an essential one. In Islam "innovation" is considered a major sin except if the increase of the "deen" is manifestly enhanced by the obvious good in a new thing. One example of this, and perhaps the best, is the collecting of the Qu'ran to ensure its inseparability over the passage of time. The complex needlework on the kiswah gives praise and glory to Allah, glorify His name and how can one think ill of such beauty.

Aesthetically the present kiswah is pleasing to the eye and one of the most familiar images in history - but only from the perspective of the last 150 years or so, since the invention of photography. Previous to that the record of the the Ka'bah was minimal and was subject to the interpretation of pilgrims and their observations. We conceive of the Ka'bah as we are now familiar with it but ponder this - if the present guardians of the Ka'bah took it upon themselves to revert to how the Ka'bah was dressed during the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him, would such an action incur any unnecessary consequences? Could the site of a white enshrouded Ka'bah cause consternation amongst those who pray 5 times a day in the direction they are commanded to?

The Ka'bah used to be covered on the 10th of Muharram but this gradually shifted to the end of the Hajj, on the 10th. Above you can see the plain bricked structure that is at the physical centre of Muslim devotions. As Muslims we know the Ka'bah is the House of God and was instituted by Him to help us worship Him. When Abraham, peace be upon him, was ordered to erect the house he did so knowing how sacred such an action was. It was here that the direction of prayer to the One God was confirmed. The sacredness of the site does not take away the fact that we, as Muslims, do not pray to the House of God, in truth that is only the direction we are commanded to pray to and to submit to. In this way all Muslims, from any point on the earth turns towards the Ka'bah to fulfil his duty to the Most High. It is a focal point of attention.

The movement of the desert peoples meant that stabilised residences were not high on the agenda and the adapted practise of hauling tents and ones home around with them also meant that any place reserved for worship had to have some significant grounding in either folk or mythic memory. Over the Arabian peninsula you can chart a course between places of veneration, usually to all forms of idolatrous practises but the Ka'bah was the first place where the worship of Allah was centralised into an important fixed point. The building of a structure is actually a physicality of man's obedience to the Will of God and so any worship towards the Ka'bah is never centred on the building but upon the command of He who ordered its raising.

The problems arise with man's intractable sense of the need to believe in something they can see. The removal of the Ka'bah would not affect any true believer for they know that Allah is above all and belief in Him does not require objectification. In other religions the need to have a focus is none the less diminished, be it Christianity or Judaism, and traditionally the direction of worship had been Jerusalem. During the Diaspora worshipping Jews focused their prayers towards the destroyed city of their disgraced nation. In this way they were looking towards a future and the advent, promised them, of the Messiah. Christians use to pray in the same direction but their focus since the middle ages has been more inclined to the self, though the statues and ornament of both Eastern and Western churches show the need for the mind to be able to have something physical to fix on. It use to be that one could pray inside the Ka'bah, hence inside the dressed House of God. We know that when we wash for prayer we are removing that which despoils us and inside the Ka'bah, at the heart of our deen, we find ourselves with nothing to focus on except what is in our souls. That is why the issue of the kiswah is incidental but important in understanding its necessity.

My contention is about whether the Ka'bah truly needs such an elaborate cloth. As depicted by the picture above the barrenness of the structure can be seen to be both deprecating to the serenity of the mind and the aesthetics of the soul but as said a true believer has no need of such things. So is it a case of window dressing? Should the House of God not be regaled by His worshippers in the best manner they see fit? It is no coincidence that the main constituents of the kiswah presently are silk and gold, resources forbidden to Muslims to wear, the idea being that such finery belongs to the residents of al-Jannah, and those who take them now will not enjoy them later, for man falls in love with that which he craves.

In dressing the House with two of the most valuable produces known to man is the Muslim actually directing his love towards that which is clothed in these objects which are 'haram'. Is the kiswah, with its calligraphic pronouncements weaved in gold and silk, hiding that which dwells in the heart of every Muslim? Indeed because of the Muslim's love for His Lord does it not mean that there is a need to lavish on their love the best of things?

The cost of the kiswah spirals with each year and a return to the austerity of the original clothing would save money but is that the point? We known we do not worship the Ka'bah, and the sight of it in newspapers or books should make not one jot of difference if it was clothed as it is now or in plain white Yemeni linen. Personally I go along with the ummah in this matter. When the kiswah is removed and a period of undress, during hajj, begins, the Ka'bah is then re-veiled and the year old kiswah is cut into pieces and handed out to pilgrims. May Allah have mercy on us.

Friday, 28 May 2010

You fat - : Domestic Violence and the descent of comedy

Olive : Arthur why do you let Stan say things like that to me? Arthur : Because I never think of them first.

"On the buses" was a British sit-com from LWT that aired between 28th February 1969 to 6th May 1973 over 7 seasons consisting of a total of 74 episodes. The main premise revolved around bus driver Stan Butler and his job and home life with the focus primarily on his run-ins with his Inspector Blake and Stan's frequent attempts to have sexual relations with the opposite sex. The other characters were Stan's mother, his sister Olive and her husband Arthur. He also had a lecherous friend called Jack.


Key : Brother - Husband - Others - X


1. The Early Shift - X

2. The New Conductor - X

3. Olive takes a trip -

4. Bus Driver's stomach -

5. The New Inspector - X

6. The Canteen -

7. The Darts Match - You great stinking-


8. Family Flu - X

9. The Used Combination - You great steaming nit

10. Self Defence - X

11. Aunt Maud - X

12. Late Again - X

13. Bon Voyage - You big fat-


14. First Aid - X

15. The Cistern - You silly-

16. The Inspector's Niece - X

17. Brew It Yourself - X

18. Bus man's Perks - "stupid fat"/you clumsy great-

19. The Snake - X

20. Mum's Last Fling - you great lump/you great steaming idiot

21. Radio Control - X

22. Foggy Night - X

23. The New Uniforms - you silly great-

24. Going Steady - you great gumpf/you stupid great-

25. The Squeeze - X

26. On the Make - X


27. Nowhere to go - X

28. The Canteen Girl - X

29. Dangerous Living - X

30. The Other Woman - "that great fat lump" / "that great fat lump happens to be my wife

31. Xmas Duty - you stupid great big idiot/ you stupid idiot

32. The 'L' Bus - X

33. The Kids Outing - you stupid nit

34. The Anniversary - you stupid great lump/ you stupid great lump

35. Cover Up - you stupid great lump

36. Safety First - X

37. The Lodger - you dozy lump

38. The Injury - you big fat lump/you stupid nit/you stupid great idiot/you stupid idiot/you daft thing/ you stupid nit

39. Not Tonight - X


40. The Nursery - you stupid great nit

41. Stan's Room - X

42. The Best Man - X

43. The Inspector's Pets - you stupid great nit/ you stupid great nit/ you stupid great-

44. The Epidemic - X

45. The Bus man's Ball - you stupid great lump

46. Canteen Trouble - X

47. The New Nurse - you great guts/ great fat pig

48. Lost Property - you stupid great lump

49. Stan's Uniform - you clumsy great lump/ stupid

50. The Strain - X

51. The New Telly - X

52. Vacancy for Inspector - you great fat pig

53. A Thin Time - you stupid great lump

54. Boxing Day Special - X


55. No smoke without fire - you stupid great nit/ you greedy pig

56. Love is what you make it - you lazy specimen/ you miserable so&so/ "the old bag"

57. Private hire - you stupid great 'nanna/you stupid great fat incompetent idiot

58. Stan's Worst Day - you stupid great idiot/ oh you stupid-oh you stupid

59. Union Trouble - you stupid great fool

60. Bye Bye Blakey - you idiot

61. The Prize - X


62. Olive's Divorce - you stupid great nitwit

63. The Perfect Clippie - you stupid great nit you

64. The Ticket Machine - you stupid great idiot

65. The Poster - X

66. The Football Match - you stupid great twit

67. On the Omnibus - you stupid great nit

68. Goodbye Stan - X

69. Hot Water - you great twit

70. The Visit -

71. What the stars foretell - you great lump

72. The Allowance -

73. Friends in High Places -

74. Gardening Time -


Dreaming of Lara

During 1997 I first saw "Resident Evil", a Sony PlayStation game on their new console. Previous to this the only experience I had was of the old Atari Space Invaders from the early 1980's. I was startled by the sudden advance in both technology and graphics, and indeed in the actual game play. The person who was demonstrating the game to me kept saying how great it was, and how interactive it became, and this I could see quite clearly because behind every door a zombie lurked which caused them to jump out of their skins. He always said that it was advised to only game play for a short while, but did not elaborate on it.
After watching him, and not once having the inclination to participate in shot-gunning the undead, I left and made my way home via the overland tube line. The moment I stepped out into the bright light of the afternoon I sensed an alteration in my perspective. Initially I thought it was the effects of the closeted space I had just left and its drawn curtains. Sitting on the station I suddenly realised that I was looking at the reality before me in a funny way. Both movements and colours had changed perceptibly to mimic the game play I had not long witnessed. At first I conceived a slight fright at this situation but reason made me realise that the brain had been reorganised by the projection on the screen and the circuitry that had been invented to help ferment the use of that kind of interactive experience. I was astonished that a televisual image could affect the brain like that, though I was well aware of the effects of flashing lights on epileptics. Was this momentary condition of "distorted reality" an indication as to the nature and structure of this world?
Some time later I acquired a PlayStation computer console with a few games. One of these was "Tomb raider" which detailed the exploits of adventuress Lara Croft, a daring archaeologist, as she searched for some kind of treasure. Told from the 3rd person perspective this involved the player having to lead her through a series of levels that become increasingly more complex and dangerous.

From the first level it became clear that one must be able to adapt to the controls and this was essential if one wished to eliminate any waste of time, for it was clear that the figure of Lara, in her three dimensional existence, was as fragile as ours in our own reality. The first level was more of a tutorial and involved mild forms of threat to the running girl from bats, to wolves to bears. Adding to these targets was the risk of poisonous darts and the 'fall' - the 'fall' was not a problem in this level but it was an indication that the computer character had default lines she was not able to cross.
It became plain after the puzzle solving and need to learn the controls quickly that the figure of Lara was more of a puppet than a "game component". If one desired to kill her and leave her to die at the savagery of wolves one could do so but it was always with the knowledge that time was being wasted. Every moment spent being careful with her and her progress through the game could be dashed in an instant by some new calamity. The need to balance the game action with the blue save crystals scattered throughout the game became one of the most prioritized matters. With Level 2 the exposure to danger increased and it became clear that the eye/hand/brain co-ordinates involved in detaching oneself automatically from thinking about the real world was as important as if one was to become Lara.
Her constant brushes with death and indeed numerous instances of finality began to make me feel as if there was something innate in the idea that one could express a mentality within the concept of a screen, thoroughly unreal, character. I knew from her appearance that Lara Croft had excited passions amongst teenage boys across the world and no doubt amongst grown men as well but this fixation never rose in my mind. Lara was merely a means to an end - the completion of the game and the victory over the separate. If I could use her to reach and achieve a state of computer nirvana by control and care in conquering all obstacles presented by the game planners than I would count it as a small victory. This converted eventually into a kind of subliminal concern for Lara, though it had no basis in the emotions but solely in the reasoning faculty, similar to that one has for a guard dog who dutifully keeps watch.
After wearily struggling to complete level 2 with help we spent an entire night with no sleep utterly addicted to making our way through the next level, which contained a search for keys and cogs and attacks by raptors and a Tyrannous Rex. The next morning we made our way through level 4, which was one surprise after another ending in a filmed sequence involving a suspect cowboy. We entered level 5 - St.Francis Folly - in good spirits and the first part of that level involved climbing up buildings and pillars and it became obvious that any slip would result in death. Then I was left on my own.
There was nothing particularly striking about Francis Folly, and upon entry into its main frame one is give a save crystal. Looking over the ledge one can see it is a death drop and I, like I suspect most gamesters having become inured to Lara's mortality, walk her over the edge. The drop is long and truly (for that very first time) bone breaking. Game over. Reload. One then carefully finds their way around the top structure. The first indication of discomfort is a mild attack by bats. It is manifest that any needless sprints will end in death. Carelessness will end in death. Miscalculated jumps will end in death.
St.Francis Folly is mainly a trunk with side rooms full of devastating surprises including killer apes, rolling balls, falling hammers/swords and death by incineration. The trunk is where the save crystals are located but it is not that simple. To collect the keys one is compelled to return upwards and downwards and it is not until one has acquired the skill and knowledge of this simple labyrinth that one can work out the best way to save and attempt the tests in the rooms.
Death became normal for Lara, endlessly falling in a scream of despair that could only be equalled by the fate of those who take their own lives in the real world. The repetition and loss of hope at finishing this level began to absorb into my subconscious till I drifted into a most beset sleep that vibrated with the visual imagery of Tomb raider, and was always accompanied by auditory signature. Lara became a demonstration of the fallibility of man in his pursuit to achieve some kind of meaning against the tide of the inevitable. I knew I would finish the level but every death seem to etch a niche in my marrow till I began to loathe Lara Croft.
It was the realisation that she was a permanence to the game in that she never truly died for she never truly existed. She had become an existence of my will in much the same way a footballer directing a ball places his will into the foot and connects with the ball hoping it reaches its target. Lara too had become for me a ball to kick. She was no more relevant than that but that was what the dilemma was. If Lara was nothing but a pencil with which to draw the picture why did each death send a shudder through my conscious. This detachment became apparent and I freed myself from the delusion that control was driven by the will. All it required was patience and a significant increase in agility as regards the handset.
The computer and its contents was programmed and had a limited density and scope. If Lara took two steps forwards, one to the left, pushed the stone, climbed and handstand! ole! In practical terms it was evident that a child could be taught this form of learning quite easily and it only confirmed my grounded suspicions that driving and anything that followed a strict set of guidelines was capable of the vast majority of people. A recipe followed to the letter with the ingredients of the top quality will always produce the same meal. Why wouldn't it?
So St.Francis Folly broke me but I fought back and endured and I no longer dream of Lara for she has returned to that search for the eternal truth that is hidden within the subtext of her game play scenarios.

The Unconscious Worlds of Jeff Randall

The television serial "Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)" by the ITC film corporation was aired between September 1969 and March 1970. It tells the story of a private investigators agency where one of the partners, Marty Hopkirk, is murdered in the 1st episode and returns as a ghost to persuade the other partner, Jeff Randall, to pursue his killers. Subsequently he is unable to return to his state of rest and over the next 25 episodes the two, alongside regular Jeannie Hopkirk - the dead Marty's wife, engage in cases from the mundane to the weird.

Anyone who has ever watched the entire series cannot help but to notice the narrative flaws and the bad stunt doubles but there is something else of interest. The number of head injuries the living Jeff Randall acquires that result in his blacking out. Most brain surgeons and doctors of note will concede that three incidents that result in unconsciousness should be a worry but Jeff Randall's fictionalized brain damage is worrying to the extreme.

*** *** ***

2. A Disturbing Case : Knockout

4. Never Trust a Ghost : Knockout

5. That's How Murder Snowballs : Knockout/Knockout/Knockout

6. Just for the Record : Knockout

14. Who Killed Cock Robin? : Knockout

15. The Man from Nowhere : Knockout

17. Somebody Just Walked Over My Grave : Knockout/Knockout

19. A Sentimental Journey : Knockout

24. Vendetta for a Dead Man : Knockout/Knockout

26. The Smile Behind the Veil : Knockout/Knockout

*** *** ***

Out of a total 26 episodes, an air time of 1,274 minutes, Jeff Randall is knocked unconscious 22 times. Some of the incidents are negligible but some are so serious as to render the possibility that the fictional character is so traumatized over the entire series that he has begun to hallucinate the ghost of his partner. As viewers we are informed that only he sees the ghost, and at times it is clear so do a few others, but these others tend to always involve the direct possibility of danger to Randall. Is it possible that the constant threat of injury and death, from the first murderous attempt on his life in the first episode, has provoked an existential schism in the way Randall perceives and experiences the external world.

From the initial episode there are certain indications that the script writers were aware of the problematic nature of the series. It is true that they stuck close to the parameters that are dictated by the expected audience view as regards the psychic world. From the moment of Marty's death, a deliberate hit and run, we are shown a man who appears to have a rather empty life. Jeff Randall returns to his lodgings alone, looking tired and emotionally bereft and it is at this point, that of sub-charged misery, that he receives a phone call from his late and departed partner. It is known that trauma, whether physical or emotional, can cause certain auditory/sensory hallucinations. There are numerous cases of the sightings of ghosts by relatives especially after the initial death. These can take varied forms from thinking you heard them calling your voice "like they use to" from another room or even imagining you have actually seen them.

The phone call from Marty sounds as if it comes from far away, and even though he has just returned from the funeral Randall's automatic reaction is one of familiarity and joy. This quickly subsides as reason comes to the fore and he decides someone is playing a trick on him. After several such calls Randall disconnects and falls asleep. During this ordinary unconscious state he experiences a form of somnambulism and is guided to the grave of his friend where the "ghost" magically appears sitting on the recently disturbed ground. There is no real shock on Randall's part and he accepts the situation all too readily, for his reason now dictates that he cannot dispute the evidence of his own eyes. The next scene we see is Randall awakening, surprised at where he is, and one must question whether we have seen a dream or a genuine psychic experience.

Most viewers would assume that it is just a TV programme and to take the view that the script writers intended us to suspect the viability of the discourse by using the art of whim and deception. But there are no accidents. If the script writer did not believe in an afterlife - and there are a few noticeable faults in the conception, particularly in Episode 24, where even Marty questions the knowing of what becomes of the falling jailbird - then he would negate any sense of the spiritual and reduce the credibility factor to zero. This is necessary because the guidelines for mixing religion and spiritualism are quite strict. There are, therefore, very few religious themes in the show and an absence of any religious depth. We are expected to accept the "ghost" as a result of his sudden and untimely death.

Jeff Randall's concussions vary from the semi-groggy to long hours of unconsciousness and are as a result of several forms of assault from a simple blow to the jaw to an assault with a blunt object on the back of the head. Several times he is shown recovering from this state and on one particular occasion actually looks as if he is suffering from the after effects of a real attack. The amount of injuries may obviously be put down to market demands but there could be another more subtle reason. Each time Randall is captured and locked up the script writers have to devise a form of communication whereby the ghost can rescue his material partner.

These rescue attempts take many forms. From the self-hypnotized psychiatrist through to the near-death operational patient and onto the psychic tea lady in the quaint English village. These are all to help suggest the physicality of the "ghost" and dissuade us from considering any other possibility except that the "ghost" is real though immaterial. If, and there are cases to prove the argument, trauma (both physical and emotional) is capable of projecting beyond the mental confines the seemingly real appearances of the dead, then is it not possible that the force of character - the will power - can affect others in the same way. Could Randall's brain damage and emotional lack of fixation produce elements of auto-suggestion and crowd hysteria.

There are several moments in the series that would demonstrate this argument to be in error. The psychiatrist is a point in question. He has no original contact with Randall but Marty tries to persuade his patients to get him to see Randall (who has temporarily been impersonated by a doppelganger). Now the psychiatrist would use his reason and learning if informed of the matter and ultimately refer to Jung's theory of synchronicity. The number of coincidences in the series are actually minute, and though some of the episodes are derivative, the main thrust of the show is about Randall's relationship with the ghost.

In episode 22 Randall is keen to resume a solo career and attempts to deter Marty from helping him but he cannot and as usual Marty has to rescue him. Even in episodes 4, 8, 10 and 17 the trust of both partners is called into question. Both consider the other to be in serious error as regard to the factual incidents of the case - this is peculiar for the "ghost" never really calls his position to the fore as a strength in any debate, and even in episode 8, the ghost's credibility leads Randall to consult a doctor on the ghost's health. There is a weird absence of trust and this I believe to be as a direct result of the continuous threats to Randall's well being and state of mind. He becomes comfortable with the ghost, reliant on him, and enters into a secret life which others would question as mentally unbalanced.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Moment

That would be now for the moment
was from before to the

"Red and yellow and blue and green,purple and orange and pink,I can sing a
rainbow,Sing a rainbow,Sing a rainbow too"