PAWN STARS

I don’t subscribe to Netflix, but I do have a friend who can ‘access’ it (if you know what I mean), and she kindly stuck some of its more celebrated output onto a memory stick for me recently. I appreciate I’m receiving a miniscule sample, but what I’ve seen has pissed on most home-grown TV drama output I’ve encountered in the past five years. The first two seasons of ‘The Crown’ easily surpassed my low expectations, and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ – the one about the orphaned girl who rises to become world chess champion in the 60s – is, I have to admit, utterly gripping viewing. Sometimes the hype is justified. In the make-believe landscape, this is permissible, especially at times like these. Quite frankly, if I wasn’t watching ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ in my online downtime, then it’d be back to all the vintage television and cinematic produce I routinely review on here. Perish the thought I’d be tuning into ‘Newsnight’ instead. Not that the dear old BBC is operating in a vacuum, mind.

If you believe the balanced impartiality of CNN, for example, America has gone from Pearl Harbour to JFK’s Camelot in barely two weeks. Yes, just in case you blinked and missed it, the West has pulled back from the kind of earth-shattering precipice to rank alongside 9/11 and the Wall Street Crash and has strolled into a glorious sunrise in which Critical Race Theory is reintroduced to the curriculum and male athletes can smash women’s sports by identifying as female. And, let us not forget, US tanks are rolling back into Syria now that the nasty ‘Literally Hitler’ era of non-interference in foreign affairs is mercifully over; Team America is restored to its rightful place as the World Police Force. Moreover, the sick bucket that has been empty ever since Obama exited the White House four years ago has been retrieved from the Oval Office broom cupboard, now swilling to the brim with a fresh intake of puke courtesy of both Kamala Harris’s cosy TV chinwag with her old man and the response to a cute little Girl of Colour reciting a poem preaching unity in a nation poised to heal the great divide by impeaching the Bad Orange Man in order to satisfy Nancy Pelosi’s deranged appetite.

It was interesting that the heavy military presence in Washington on Inauguration Day passed by without the MSM outrage that would’ve accompanied a similar show of strength had Trump been sworn-in again, but equally poignant was the fact that Antifa were burning flags and vandalising Democrat premises in Portland, Seattle and Denver whilst Sleepy Joe was taking the oath before his afternoon nap; the party is quietly disassociating itself from the Brownshirts it was eager to egg on last year. Having served their purpose, anarchist collectives are suddenly finding they’re surplus to requirements; more fool them for thinking the new administration would still need them now they’ve seized power. A flurry of Antifa-related accounts vanished from Twitter as soon as Biden took office, underlining their usefulness has now expired as well as highlighting how deeply engrained big tech is in this New Woke Order. The nauseating euphoria bleeding into social media is the sound of a million silly sods receiving an antidote to the self-inflicted mental illness they were struck by in 2016; Trump’s exit is their vaccine. But if they want to believe things can only get better, let them; after all, only a mean killjoy would tell a child Santa Claus doesn’t actually exist.

Anyway, Biden’s not my President anymore than George Washington was; not that you’d know it if your sole newsfeed was that of the mainstream variety. When was the last time the UK’s most-watched terrestrial TV channels devoted live airtime to the swearing-in of a French President or a German Chancellor – or even the man heading the Government of one of the USA’s neighbours like Canada or Mexico? Good luck with finding an answer to that question if it happens to be anything other than ‘never’. Sorry, I momentarily forgot about the Special Relationship. Immediate post-war Governments in the UK were torn between the choice of maintaining that and forging alliances with former enemies on the Continent; half-hearted unions with mainland Europe from 1973 onwards never really supplanted our ongoing love affair with America, so it’s no great surprise a majority of the electorate rejected the EU in 2016. Perhaps if a fast-food chain specialising in bratwurst or frog’s legs had seduced the Great British palette in the 80s, things might have turned out differently.

Not that it really matters; the showbiz circus of US politics is a mere distracting sideshow from domestic concerns, anyhow. Now that half of the country is living in the new workplace, the SNP’s aims of criminalising private opinions in the private space has acquired a greater relevance, for home is no longer where the heart is but has instead become both classroom and office for those whose escape from either is restricted to bedtime, an environment in which every move is being observed and monitored by outside forces. I have friends in relationships whereby one half is permanently engaged in Zoom conferences that the other half has inadvertently gatecrashed with a bollock-naked stroll-by as the mystique of work colleagues’ home life has been exposed to a nation of nosy parkers. One of the many memorably chilling sequences in the John Hurt version of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is the interactive TV set nailed to the living room wall whereby the proto-Joe Wicks fitness instructor transmitting the daily regime to the proles is able to see the viewer’s performance. As far as I can remember, she doesn’t go by the name of Alexa, but who knows?

Oh, well – let the plebs deliver to the door and the rest can continue to self-isolate in unison with the corporate world at the kitchen table. True, curtail the furlough scheme tomorrow and see how long the pro-lockdown class support the policy – yet throw £500 at infected lepers and watch the cases rise in line with the dubious stats as the rush to identify as a victim soars. Yeah, less than a month in, and 2021 is proving to be one hell of a new dawn. Bar the mandatory mask parade, the novelty of Lockdown Mk I is nowhere to be seen now as traffic flows along roads that were temporarily emptied last April and a weary populace sinks into shoulder-shrugging amnesia; no, on the surface, it doesn’t feel quite the same. But twelve months of Project Fear has undoubtedly imbued the sufficient level of compliance with undemocratic Government edicts, so the people being frozen in the kind of paranoid stasis that suits nobody but the professional fear-mongers and those who are having a ‘good lockdown’ appears to be a satisfactory compromise.

Yes, I’m rambling because no singular story has prompted a post, and like most, I’m invariably still reflecting on how the New Normal is impacting on me personally. I couldn’t attend my friend Barbara Hewson’s funeral in Ireland last weekend because of it all, but I did manage to dispatch a wreath over the phone, which was the best I could do. I went to the trouble of sourcing some appropriate lines by Yeats for the accompanying card and hoped they’d suffice. The service wasn’t streamed, but having the anticlimactic experience of ‘attending’ an online funeral described by a friend who’d been through it, I concluded those denied being there in person were perhaps better off setting private thoughts aside for the dearly departed on the day. The likes of ‘Songs of Praise’ is staged by expert TV technicians well-versed in overcoming the variable acoustics of old churches and bringing the best virtual recreation to the audience; expecting such venues to suddenly acquire these skills and please potential attendees forced to watch events on their PCs is a tall order indeed. Maybe PC monitors should be reserved for ‘bootleg’ copies of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, even if a chessboard and its pieces are racist. They must be by now, surely?

© The Editor