Brain dump spoilers: no WONDER those people, you know who they are, are mad online about The Last Jedi

Rey quested across the galaxy to bring Luke’s famous lightsabre to him and restore the legend. Luke threw it away then spat at his own legend for all the good it did.

Luke concluded that attempts to control, including by the Jedi, inevitably create evil and conflict.

Luke and Yoda literally burned down the Jedi institution to smash the crucible of this process. In the light of the flames Yoda said a master’s burden is to be “what they move beyond”. Luke passed no Jedi lore to Rey. He had concluded the religion was flawed and to blame for the cycle of dark vs light vying to control the force. But he did pass on the faith: Luke did pass the symbol of the Jedi to Rey. In so doing he used his power and his legend to reset what the Jedi stand for. Not to control or coerce or persuade or train, but to inspire others from within themselves.

In contrast Snoke’s power brought him death and irrelevance. Snoke’s place in the mythology was irrelevant. He was an avatar of meaningless power and stood in direct thematic opposition to the Luke Skywalker that had mastered the force.

Kylo Ren also sought to kill the past but having learned less from it, continued to seek the power and control that Luke came to understand leads only to suffering.

Luke supported Rey and the resistance’s fight but without controling it. Only by supporting Rey to control her own destiny underpinned by nothing but the idea of the force in balance itself.

Rey looked into the mirror to see her past, and saw nothing but herself. The obstacle to her becoming the protagonist was shown to be sitting on Jakku waiting to find out who her parents were instead of doing something. Rey was presented as simply powerful in her actions, rather than inheriting some noble lineage or inheritance or other elite place in the mythology (although the “you know who your parents were” dialogue seemed to me to be just a story device inside this film).

So to recap The Last Jedi said

  • Fuck the past, it’s up to you now
  • Clinging on to the past may actively hold you back
  • Heroes realise when to burn down orthodoxy, and will light the fire
  • Power and glory are not to be sought; emancipation and equality is
  • It’s not who you are, it’s what you do
  • Bonus extra Poe Dameron subplot hit: sometimes the heroic gun battle oorah just doesn’t help

No wonder some people are angry on the internet. This is hardly the stuff of the power fantasy wish fulfilment.

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I Nearly Sat Out New Twin Peaks Because I Hated Ready Player One: Don’t Be Me

twin-peaks-panel-4385a50eI nearly made a big mistake this summer because of the Ready Player One effect. I was all set to miss the new Twin Peaks. Thanks, misplaced sense of nostalgia-induced ennui!

New Twin Peaks! My favourite ever thing was back! But wait, there I was struggling to reckon with exactly this kind of long-tail relationship with our cultural near past.

Yep, so sick was I of the zombie culture I’m adjacent to I had it my head to just miss Twin Peaks. A part of me thought: to hell with all this retreading every piece of nerd culture forever. Either I’d miss it for now, avoiding all the hype, to catch up with it later; or maybe – just maybe – I’d let sleeping logs lie.

I realise now that this futile culture-critic discomfort I feel at the Ready Player One effect was fucking with my actual shit.

It sounds trite but Twin Peaks forged a big part of my ongoing relationship with art, such as it is. I stayed up and watched it with my mum first time round, but it was 2001 when I really caught it. I was at university and had discovered David Lynch via the Lost Highway soundtrack. Blue Velvet was next then the just-released Mulholland Drive. I saw he directed the Twin Peaks movie I’d half-seen years previously and, lo and behold, the original show that I remembered seeing with my mum. Hello DVD box sets (actually was series 2 a Spanish VCD, because that was the only available version at that time? I forget).

I guess I had been in exactly the right place for Lynch at that time. He’s been my favourite director ever since and it was Twin Peaks that really nailed it. The show transformed my capability aged 19 of thinking about many things. TV and film as a medium, writing, what directorship is, music, pretty much the relationship of the art to itself and to me as a person.

I know: my abstract critical beef with the pervasive weirdness distilled into Ready Player One was a very poor reason not to watch the new Twin Peaks. I just felt that way. And I didn’t like series 2 much anyway, only watched it once. So the feeling that I might just… leave it alone and let that formative experience lie was not purely due to external factors.

Then I remembered: Lynch is brilliant, I love him, to hell with what other people are doing, I mean come on what were you even thinking? And not only that but Lynch didn’t even like series 2 and always resented the way it went down.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was realising that I had this overthought baggage with the wider culture right now, whatever that all means, but that I was going to watch the new Game of Thrones and I was not going to watch the new Twin Peaks.

What had I become?

I’ve had a quiet word with myself. This post is part of my learning process. The new Twin Peaks is astounding and, as the below account on Twitter has shown (really: check out their other examples), the culmination of a lot of David Lynch’s art.

Here’s what I just told my MP on Brexit

Here’s the text of an email I just sent to my MP.

​Dear My MP,
I firmly believe we are better off in the EU than out of it.

I believe what small sovereignty we have pooled with fellow EU members is worthwhile and drives effective policy.

I strongly value my rights secured for me by the government within the EU, and do not believe these rights should be removed from either me or my children as they grow up.

I value our role as a leader in and of Europe.

I absolutely believe that economically it is a no brainer that needs no serious analysis.

I was dismayed that the referendum was even held, let alone the very poor calibre of debate and miscalculation of political issues that in my view led to the slim majority for leave among those who turned out.

I consider this to be the most important political issue of my life, with permanent and irreversible consequences.

Now that parliament will correctly address the matter, please consider my views in whatever decision you make in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Your mama’s an Asset Of Community Value

The Bromsgrove Advertiser reports a failed planning application to build houses on a Rubery pub. A good piece of routine local journalism, but a careless headline. The council refused the plans, not the demolition per se. So what? So, one can normally demolish without planning permission. Yet many believe, incorrectly, that councils allow or refuse demolitions through planning. Not so. And there are regular fusses over such things, like the Greyhound in Bromsgrove at the moment.

In fact, it’s normally up to the owner if they want to demolish their building. They just have to satisfy the council that they’re going to do it safely. The only way to ‘save’ property owned by someone else from being knocked down by that someone is to 1) get it listed by English Heritage or 2) buy it and then decide to not knock it down!

Or there is a third, slightly different option, which is to get a local community group like a parish council or similar to submit a nomination to have the pub listed by the council as an asset of community value. This means if it is put up for sale there can be a six-month moratorium giving time for ‘the community’ to raise the sale price and make a bid for the pub.

Asset of community value? Smells like horseshit

Well quite. Hence this brainfart: the fact a statutory process to protect assets of community value from market forces exists at all is an intriguing reflection of Britain, is it not?

We understand and accept how and why money works, and also the concept of value that cannot be commercialised or monetised. We understand the concept of a public or social good even as we further prioritise (fetishise, even) the private over the idea of ‘society’ or any collective identity.

“My meaning, clear at the time but subsequently distorted beyond recognition, was that society was not an abstraction, separate from the men and women who composed it, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations.”

Margaret Thatcher on her quote, “There’s no such thing as society”

As we employ more resources to create private gain and reduce private loss, we nonetheless understand the fundamental interconnectedness of our lives and we also understand, some buried deeper down than others, that concepts of public or social good bear little relationship to our quests for private gain – if, indeed, some social good in a thing can be agreed to exist at all.

Thus we come – and democratically, through our government – to call some things assets of community value. These tangible things, things with inherent value, things that may or may not return private profits but certainly yield social ones that improve the balance sheet of the souls of people that use them.

In recognition of this we have put in place institutional infrastructure to make the invisible hand (bollocks!) of the market feel the presence of an otherwise unlucrative, and therefore unfelt, public good these things provide. The availability of a thing that brings social value is a weak sensation that the invisible hand (bollocks!) would normally barely feel, but when it comes to pubs and other useful things there is a catalyst for it that drives that weird outmoded democracy we cling to in the face of all evidence and money: angst.

Angst

Angst catalyses our fight to protect such assets from the march of progress: angst caused by our certain knowledge that these pubs, these assets of community value, are products of a past never to be repeated. They are artefacts of a half-remembered Britain that worked on different rules, to which half of us clamour to return in any case. But we cannot, and they are irreplaceable, and we know it.

This is why the fight, ostensibly against turning an unwanted and unneeded thing (a crap failing pub) into a wanted and needed thing (homes, always homes), is so unusually coherent and collective. We have as a society agreed legal processes that protect the failing pub that has ended up for sale and redevelopment just because no one goes there. And then through our angst, little sparks of energy arc from assets of community value to zap the invisible hand (bollocks!) of the market through our collective action.

This is because deep down we understand that we’ve created conditions that ensure no such pub will ever be built again. Whatever social good that pub can be said to provide, its loss would be permanent. And we know it.

We choose to stay at home now. We can pipe almost everything that we used to need public houses for into our private homes (warning! Metaphor). We’ve made positive public policy choices, from taxation to planning and licensing regimes, that prioritise private life over public life. Anyway, what the on-trade has lost in this regard, retail trade has gained.

Land is unavailable. When we build homes we pack them in. There is no space for antiquated public houses. Suburban estates don’t want pubs built in them, and there might be one by a main road nearby. So few suburban people actually go to pubs that after all, you only need one big food-led ‘pub’ per big-ass estate anyway. It’s probably a Harvester.

Which brings us to licenses, of which new ones are effectively impossible to get near homes. We will only really license a new pub in a community if it’s more a restaurant with incidental alcohol, like your Harvesters or Two for Ones or whatever. Wet-led pubs are drinking destinations. Wet-led pubs create drunk people and should now be in urban centres with the infrastructure to deal with drunk people. No-one wants drunk people near their house, the noisy bastards. We want our wet-led pubs away from our homes. This may be bollocks, but it’s not without a grain of truth: an irritating grain that has created the pearl we know as licensing laws.

We have dug the hole for our pubs, and we are pushing them into that hole, and as they fall in we know that we somehow wish they wouldn’t, and we pretend that they are assets of community value, and we wring our hands over their loss, and we protest the local council for failing to Do Something.

Well. I take off my hat to anyone that can run a pub outside a town centre without going bust in the era of Netflix and much cheaper off-license booze.

A potted personal history of video game milestones, for no reason

Bubble Bobble coin op on a ferry.

Chuckie Egg on a friend’s BBC micro.

Kenny Dalglish, Feud, Bruce Lee, School Daze on ZX Spectrum at a cousin’s house one summer.

Double Dragon on C64 after school at a friend’s.

Monkey Island 2, X-Wing on PC at relative’s (funeral).

Super Hang On, Altered Beast on Mega Drive at relative’s (wedding).

Gauntlet, Shadow Warriors on Atari ST at a friend’s.

Civilisation, Warcraft, Pinball Fantasies on PC at the same cousin’s house.

The milk bottles Game & Watch (1st game at home).

Super Mario Land, Tetris, Duck Tales on a Gameboy I borrowed from a kid down the way.

Street Fighter, Snow Bros, Golden Axe, Sunset Riders, Final Fight, Turtles, Simpsons, on various coin ops.

Ninja Gaiden, Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns on Game Gear (1st games owned).

Street Fighter 2, Mega Games 2 on Mega Drive (1st TV games owned).

Sensible Soccer, Worms, K240, Xenon 2, Jaguar XJ220 on Amiga 500+ (1st ‘computer’ owned)

Pre release Toshinden and Twisted Metal demos on a PlayStation dev kit at a friend’s.

Quake etc at the first BT Wireplay LAN party.

Consumption levels peaked with 14 consoles connected via complex switches.

Importing and serious playing began.

Became obsessed with Virtual On coin op.

Broke all Wipeout 2097 records, lost memory card.

Discovered how bad at Tekken I actually was at the Eurotekken tournament.

Moved to Japan, queued for GameCube launch.

Played the shit out of a bunch of games.

Rationalised to just an Xbox 360 and Steam.

550 hour Football Manager 11 save when dad died.

PS4 because Evelyn, 3, loved Little Big Planet.

Two 2DSs, one each for me and Evelyn.

Will Britain now dodge huge EU air pollution fines?

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Will Britain avoid heavy regulatory penalties for local air pollution after it voted to leave the EU?

Britain has for decades failed to clean up its worst-polluted areas and was subject to heavy fines under European air pollution rules, that the country had signed up to and that will not be enforceable outside the EU.

Actions to reduce air pollution to safe levels are likely to be required by future British law, but as the current regulatory framework is European the existing penalties in the pipeline many not now be levied.

The government had been fighting the pending EU pollution penalties, which it was set to pass down to local authorities with responsibility for air quality, because it believed they were unfair. Air quality is estimated to be a contributing factor to over 30,000 premature British deaths a year, and to no less than €25billion in healthcare costs. Severe regulatory fines were pending, but the British government wanted more time to address the problems.

So entwined are the regulations with EU mechanisms that the outlook is wholly unclear.

The Conservative government’s stance on how it will now write and adopt Britain’s new regulations is not yet known. It is probably fair to assume that it is unlikely to strengthen or increase regulations. This will not be a process led by the current leadership, re-elected just last year, in any case after David Cameron announced his resignation. It may yet be a campaigning point in the snap general election some people are predicting will be called to elect a government tasked with actually managing the enormous task of removing Britain from the EU.

This assumes of course that Britain does leave the EU, which is by no means guaranteed, with almost half the nation wanting to remain, and many more now regretting voting to leave faced with the reality.

However it is clear that the stiff penalties that were coming, after decades of existing regulatory failures to protect people’s health as had been required, may not be levied outside the EU. It is also unclear that the timescales to act that currently exist continue to apply. As such and at this time, what is driving the regulatory incentive for anyone to act to actually reduce air pollution and stop unacceptably damaging people’s health?

Potential ‘by-default’ deregulation of air pollution rules resulting from Brexit may come as a huge boon to many British businesses and parts of the Conservative British government. Not everyone has an appetite for regulation that slows growth, as Britain pursues a national economic strategy to ‘build its way’ to economic growth and mitigate a housing shortage that is both chronic and acute.

Any effect of deregulation on pollution levels, and thereby related health problems, will not become clear until the medium term at the earliest. Existing data means we know the wider picture well, but absent of specific, live, and enforceable environmental regulations there is no accountability for pollution.

To a certain degree, it is already too late. The effects lag behind the emissions. Decades of failure to control air pollution in Britain have already created some substantial public health hazards and now the better-late-than-never regulation that did exist under the EU may become even more difficult or impossible to enforce. What comes next is, like all such questions post-EU in the current political climate, unknown. Meanwhile, people’s health suffers as a result of too much pollution being allowed to be emitted into the air.

And with the sheer volume of Brexit related issues to deal with – will anyone be particularly interested in a debate on trading off public health for less regulation of air pollution? Will anyone even notice?

Post-referendum Britain needs post-stupid conversations

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Now I’m getting used to the idea of Britain outside the EU, which whether I was for or dead bloody against is now irrelevant, there are questions.

Not bullshit ones like “where’s the £350m for the NHS, then?” because those claims were always lies. It just didn’t matter that they were, because we were demonstrably not making a factual choice here we were making an emotional one. Experts were not welcome. It’s been called a post-fact and post-truth referendum. Whatever. Now there is a need to be post-stupid, because there are serious questions like “what next for…”

1. Import tariffs

Britain currently does all its trade with EU members tariff-free. It takes two years to exit the EU. It takes at least five years to negotiate a free trade deal. There would therefore be a gap period when Britain has left the EU and has not yet reached a free trade deal with it. In such a gap period, WTO tariffs of 10.2% would apply to food (and other lower tariffs on everything else) between Britain and EU members.

Furthermore trade between Britain and non-EU countries whose existing trade deals with Britain are EU-based will also be subject to renegotiation, but surely on a faster timetable than with the EU as largest trading block in the world.

Britain currently trades significant amounts of food, particularly with EU members and mostly to import food, and I would like to hear a coherent strategy on this matter and proposed policy goals.

On this one, the clock on higher prices at supermarket checkouts is audibly ticking: let’s not do that, OK?

2. Scotland

In the broadest strokes, Scotland’s relationship with Britain is not dissimilar to Britain’s (former) relationship with the EU. Close, mutually beneficial, but with clear faultlines and a general nationalist sense that I don’t get everything I want from this bigger group, so local independence could be a good thing for me.

The last referendum on Scottish independence showed that where Scotland differs from England is that it wants independence not at a severe material price.

However English voters have just decided the opposite, to take more independence and pay the price. Scotland continued to choose to preserve the status quo. So the question now is what is more costly for Scotland: exiting the EU and remaining part of Britain, or exiting Britain and joining the EU? Neither is particularly more attractive for Scotland than the status quo they voted to preserve, but I want to hear what is being proposed to ensure Scotland remains in Britain. Not only because I think this island is weaker divided, but also I don’t want to have to bother getting dual citizenship for the family thanks.

3. Ireland

Peace in Ireland currently relies on EU mechanisms including an open border and supranational oversight of British policing including under the ECHR.

Britain has just voted to exit the EU explicitly and specifically to stop both of these EU mechanisms: control immigration by closing the borders, and to deliver British justice by taking back control from the ECHR.

Now we are where we are, I want to know how we square this Irish circle. I have no opinion on what the outcome should be except that the best interests of the population there, not here, should be put first, and I’d rather avoid creating any more terrorism with crass and ignorant politics. We’ve got enough of that already.

4. Public spending in poorer areas

The EU is the mechanism for much of what small redistribution of money there is from the more productive areas to the less productive areas.
I want to hear how the British government plans to deal with this issue particularly in the context of fiscal and political devolution of national powers to regional bodies.

5. The law

Our legal system is firmly entwined with the EU system and has been for 40 years. When we leave the EU those laws will become unenforceable. Therefore by the time we leave the EU, many laws will need to have been redrafted, which means working really fast right now.

I want to hear how this process is proposed to be managed.

I am highly concerned that a single government will effectively be required to rewrite British law. This is an unprecedented risk of new, probably illiberal, badly thought out laws being rushed in by the bucketful.

Will the sheer volume of work require delegation of the power to do it away from parliament to a sub group? Or can parliament somehow actually process that volume of lawmaking in that short a time? How meaningfully engaged would the electorate be in any such process?