April 29th, 2011

breaking bad


I have come back to Felix Gilman's Magical Western The Half Made World, and I am liking it a lot more now, past the half-way point. It has become more of a Western, with a structure which reflects a traditional movie now: the gunman and the lady doctor going together into the wilderness, pursued by a (kind of) lawman. Like The City and The City it depends on an original and powerful conceptual model, and I was not engaged emotionally at first, because I needed to get my head round the model, an intellectual task. Some readers have said they were put off because they found the characters unsympathetic, and they are mostly quite bad people, but I like them.

I will post a long review when I have finished the book. For now I wanted to write something about the model of the Western itself, which is a genre I like, though I haven't read very much in it. It was declared a dead genre a while back - I remember it being used as a warning of what could happen to SF. However, recently it has found its feet, less cluttered by bulk commercial output, pared down to quality material.

I posted several times on True Grit when it came out - my favourite film this year - and it is a good illustration of an issue that generally comes up in modern Westerns (The Half Made World too) which is how they deal with violence and moral struggle. The very old model of the Western was a dramatisation of good vs evil ('black hat and white hat') but this started to break down way back, at least by the forties an alternative type of Western was being made. From the late fifties Westerns became all about moral ambiguity. I suppose most accurately Westerns are about what morality and love remain, among bad people, when social structures fail - and we see this model passed on to modern TV SF.

There are three different interpretations of the way True Grit deals with violence and evil, and these are also interpretations of the Western genre itself.
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breaking bad

L'esprit d'escalier

Have you seen this enlightened post on the Telegraph site about women MPs? You. Couldn't. Make. It. Up.

This Guardian thread asks for witty responses Angela Eagle could have made to David Cameron saying 'Calm down dear, listen to the doctor'. You know, the kind of clever response to an insult that you only think of hours too late.

What would I have said? In reality something like: 'Calm down? I'll calm down when the PM agrees to (insert real political point here) and not before. And wipe that f---ing smirk off your face Osborne.'

Here are some suggestions (mostly not by me):

'If the PM thinks the NHS is improving under his administration, I can only say he should Go Compare.'

From the Big Lebowski '...calmer than you are.'

'Is that the best you've got?'

'I wonder whether Churchill would have admired the behaviour of the current Prime Minister? Oh, no, no, no.'

'Ooh, matron!'

'Listen to the doctor? Why don't you listen to the whole bloody BMA?'

'That's the nearest this Prime Minister will ever get to being a Winner.' (score!)

'If the current Prime Minister thinks we'll buy this he must think we'll buy any car... And wipe that f---ing smirk off your face Osborne.'