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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Guilty pleasures and morbid imaginings

A guilty secret
The oft-mentioned mellowing effects of age are a true fact, well observed in the case of yours truly. A phenomenon which began with my increasing squeamishness in my mid-30s, the most extreme example of this effect is the case of one of the most hated figures in recent times here in Britain- the late Margaret Thatcher. I shared this hatred quite viscerally, to the extent that, back in the early/mid-80s I used break out into fits of apoplectic rage at the mere sight of her on the TV, and the sound of her in her prime still sends shivers down my spine. And yes, I went to the local party on the day of her death. I didn't sing, I didn't dance, but I'd promised myself I'd turn out and that was a promise I could not but keep, but that's another story.

"Who's got the last laugh
now you mad old bat?"
I blame ex-Chancellor and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for spoiling my party (no, no, not the Labour Party- that had stopped being 'my' party 20 years before the moment in question). No, Brown spoiled my Thatcher's 'death-day' party when, on the occasion of becoming prime minister in 2007, he followed his predecessor Tony Blair's lead by inviting Thatcher for a photo opportunity on the steps of 10 Downing Street. The moment was truly pathetic, this one-time demented ranter cut down by senile dementia and rolled out for all the world like an old-time mummified Soviet Communist Party General Secretary to give her doddering seal of approval to the latest simpering heir to her so-called 'revolution'. And in that moment I couldn't help myself, I felt sorry for her.


"Cabbage? Give me meat,
meat I tell you!"
At least I can satisfy myself that there is a certain delicious irony in my sting being so drawn, a sting in the tale if you will. I believe it was Danton who said that "the revolution like Saturn devours its own children". Some 60 years later a famous bearded German wrote that history repeats itself "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce". If the Bolsheviks' Russian Revolution was the tragic repetition of Danton's French, then Gordon Brown's doorstep photo opportunity was the nth time farce, with the added dimension that this time it was the children consuming their mother.

The show must go on?
What all the best-dressed
crime-fighters are
wearing these days
All of which brief excursion down memory lane and the highways and byways of history is by way of introduction to a sad piece of news I came across recently. I'm a diehard addict of crime and detective fiction and police procedurals. I've read them by the hundreds down the years and I watch them by the bucketload. Most of the TV shows are shallow, gimmicky shite, but I can't help myself. They're my own silver screen candyfloss the way movie blockbusters are for others. One of those guilty pleasures is Rizzoli and Isles, a variation on the CSI formula I watch because I've read Tess Gerritsen's series of novels from which it's derived (they're pure pulp, but better than the TV show).

When I started to watch the current season I was shocked to discover that one of the actors had committed suicide. He was Lee Thompson Young and he was only 29. Young, fit, handsome, successful, Young was one of those people who apparently had everything to live for, but it wasn't enough to keep him alive. This tragedy has made watching the show something of a macabre experience. It shows, for example, how good an actor Young was. I mean to say, I defy anyone to watch him in action in his last episodes of Rizzoli and Isles and see someone who was literally dying inside. More than that, there's the dilemma of how his death will be handled in the show. I know deaths during production aren't unique- Larry Hagman during the revival of Dallas is a well known recent example. Surely though, a suicide demands more circumspection- if only out of respect for the man's suffering. One thing's for sure: whether Young's character is somehow written out or his absence is just passed over in silence, I'll be watching to see what happens. And that makes me feel uncomfortably ghoulish in a way a TV show like this never has before.
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