The Cut ⚔️ Issue 18

We’re told to go out. We’re told to stay in. We’re told we can gather in groups. No, not that many people. The Situation changes with every passing day. Is there nothing on which you can depend?

Just us, o Readership. The Cut’s record of dependability, of delivering what we say when we say, speaks for itself. That’ll probably fall over next week. Until it does we are the only publication you can trust.

This week, free jazz against fascism, the joy of rice and a profile of the actor everyone hated. Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


A wide-ranging music section this week. We begin in Tupelo, the town with a righteous claim to fame–it’s produced more Elvis tribute artists than anywhere else. What, you think they just come out of thin air? There’s training involved here, folks! There’s hairstyle instruction! It’s a competitive field, and the rewards are manifold…

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/elvis-tribute-artists-tupelo

It would be easy to diss Mariah Carey. She is a figure ripe for parody and ridicule. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming an iconic singer and recording artist with a trunkful of hits. She’s also done it her way, writing her own tunes and living her life as it suits her best. You may not be a fan of her music, but after reading this Vulture profile you may be more appreciative of the woman.

https://www.vulture.com/article/mariah-carey-rarities-profile.html

Marc Bolan was the very definition of the star that shone brightly for far too short a time. A prime architect of glam rock, an early and enthusiastic supporter of punk rock and the guy who could rock a feather boa like no-one else. With the release of a covers album of his music, Alexis Petrides looks at the man and the glitter bomb he exploded over the seventies. There’s even a helpful Spotify playlist of deep cuts to get you in the mood.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/sep/04/marc-bolan-perfect-pop-star-t-rex-singer-tribute-album-elton-john-u2

To close out the music section, a quick look at a loose but ferocious collection of musicians using free jazz as a form of anti-fascist protest in Denmark. We can’t help but think bringing the noise is an excellent way of turning the tables on a very nasty resurgence in far-right agitation.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/k7q54a/jazz-far-right-denmark-rasmus-paludan

Right, we’ve got the tunes, let’s head to the kitchen. Who here likes fried rice? Mmhmm, thought so. How about pancakes? Yes, as expected. In that case, my hungries, have we got a treat for you!

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/fried-rice-pancakes

For such a simple food, rice is surprisingly contetious. We linked in Issue 12 to the irascible Uncle Roger and his horrified reaction to Western takes on egg fried rice. Best not to get involved in any discussion on jollof–as Jamie Oliver discovered, the one point on which Ghanaian and Nigerian opinion meshes on the subject is how badly he messed up the iconic African rice dish when he tried to make it. The Guardian looks more closely at one of the world’s staple foods, and how different cultures treat the grain.

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/sep/03/grain-of-truth-i-once-saw-a-chef-cook-80-kilos-of-rice-in-a-combi-oven

Yes, yes, we know, a lot of Guardian links in this week’s Cut. We will not apologise for including this brilliant piece on rewilding farmer Derek Gow. Pressure on the land has never been higher as an increasing population demands cheap food. Returning rural landscapes to a better natural balance instead of trying and failing to bend it to our will has real and quick-to-see benefits for everyone and everything. Bring back the beavers!

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/04/its-going-to-be-our-way-now-the-guerrilla-rewilder-shaking-up-british-farming-aoe


We start our entertainment section with a review of a movie featuring an absolute cracker of a cast. Who wouldn’t want to see an action thriller starring John Rhys-Davies, Laura Dern and George Clooney? Grab your popcorn and settle back, Readership. Let’s enjoy Grizzly 2!

https://www.theringer.com/movies/2020/8/31/21406226/grizzly-ii-george-clooney-laura-dern-john-rhys-davies

Hannah Berry is Britain’s current Comics Laureate. Her work is funny, sharply-crafted and thoughtful. In this article for the British Council, she’s clear-eyed but sombre on the state of the comics nation and the challenges anyone who wants to make a living in the Realm of The Ninth Art will face. Now more than ever, it’s tough to be a star of the gutters. As Jack Kirby said, ‘comics will break your heart.’

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2020/comics-in-crisis/

Rex Harrison made a living portraying a particular kind of Englishman–the stiff upper lip personified. A little cold, emotionally distant but with a warm core. Away from the stage and cinema screen, Harrison was all that and less, with hardly any sense of redeeming features. The warmth he brought to his roles was replaced by a block of ice. In short, he was a monster and universally disliked. Graham McCann profiles him for the British Comedy Guide. We remain astonished that he got as far as he did with the attitude he presented to the world.

https://www.comedy.co.uk/features/comedy_chronicles/rex-harrison-his-greatest-hits/

One for the writers among us. Punctuation is a vital part of clear communication–the difference between ‘let’s eat, Grandma’ and ‘let’s eat Grandma.’ For many, though, proper punctuation is just not that big a deal. Why sweat a misplaced apostrophe? We at The Cut understand both stances, realising that language is an ever-changing situation. It’s still important to understand the rules in order to break them, we feel. And a little historical perspective never hurt. Therefore, although we appreciate this is not for everyone, we urge you to check this look at the history and evolution of punctuation.

https://aeon.co/essays/beside-the-point-punctuation-is-dead-long-live-punctuation

This week’s Exit Music is brought to you by the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series. Or rather, the new iteration now that musical artists can’t cram into Bob Boilen’s office to play and sing. The acclaimed series of short, intimate shows is now being recorded by musicians at home, but it was clear viewers missed the iconic backdrop of shelves crammed with memorabilia.

How then, do Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas look as if they’re in Seattle as they present two recent songs? The answer is refreshingly low-tech, and worth sticking around to the end to see. Also, we like Billie’s way with a tune.

See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 13

Thirteen weeks of this foolishness! The smart move would be to bail while there’s a scrap of dignity left to wrap around our scrawny thews. But no, that is not how we operate, as well you know. Therefore, o our Readership, the luck is all good for you. Enjoy this week’s slumgullion of linky loveliness.

Come on, we’re all friends now. Say it with me.

Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


Continue reading The Cut – Issue 13

Liable To Deprave And Corrupt

The UK Government's attempts to nanny up the images that we are allowed to make and view just took a new and twisted turn. Under amendments to the outdated Obscene Publications Act, which have already passed the Lords and become law on December 1st, there's about to be a major clampdown on the legality of extreme imagery—one that should worry every British film-maker.

I've made my disapproval of state control on the moving image clear in the past. If people want to bring a camera into the bedroom, that's their business. But, in using worries over child porn to pass ever more restrictive legislation, lawmakers have gone too far.

The existing rules are already open to abuse, and cases with laughably thin evidence have already gone to court—thankfully, usually to be thrown out. A recent case featuring an unfortunate young man found to have a beastiality video on his phone hit the headlines when the animal in question turned out to be a bloke in a tiger suit, who finished off with a cheery thumbs up and a Tony The Tiger-style “that's grrrreat!” Hilarious, right? Not for the poor sod in question, who lost his job and suffered two years of approbrium. Turns out the film was sent to him by a mate. I wonder how strong that friendship turned out to be…

The new amendments seek to legalise (gee thanks) the depiction of normal sexual activity on screen. And therein lies the problem, of course, because we now have a government intent in codifying what constitutes normal sexual activity and criminalise anything that isn't—at least, on screen. God help you if you like a bit of bondage and the rules and safe words that you and your partner worked out in advance aren't on there at the beginning as a kind of censor's warning.

So let's look at those amendments, just in case you think I'm over-egging the pudding. The new restrictions make it illegal to show torture with instruments, bondage with no clear sign of consent, realistic depictions of rape, and dismemberment. Which are terms so vaguely drawn that they could describe almost anything. Certainly, most horror movies made in the last 50 years fall into those definitions in one way or another. As does art-house fare like Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and Lars Von Trier's Anti-Christ. As does the work of prominent directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. As does last week's episode of Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD. As do recent episodes of Eastenders. At a rough count, thirteen nominees for the Best Picture Oscar over the last 20 years would be illegal under these new laws, including five winners and the current holder of the award, Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. In short, any film that shows any gore other than a gunshot squib or a blood-pack stabbing, or any captive tied up against their will will be subject to prosecution under these new laws.

Except, of course, there's a handy little out-clause. Anything with a BBFC certification is exempt from the rules. Hollywood breathes a sigh of relief. But where does that leave the film-makers who choose not to go through the hoops and expense of the Soho Square tango for a short film they made for zero budget in their shed? Where does that leave the horror enthusiasts who show at festivals like Horror-On-Sea or Grimm Up North? Where does that leave talented film-makers like my mate Mike Tack, whose work is based on just the kind of extreme imagery that Westminster wants to ban?

The law as it stands has sent innocent people to jail and ruined their lives for entirely consensual activities. Now that law is tightening its grip on independent film-makers who choose to use rubber and corn syrup, or CGI, to create films that will shock and disturb, but also get us to think about our lives and the frequently fragile grip we have on them. I could talk at length about the importance and history of horror, and how we love to be shaken and stirred by the dark arts. There should be no need.

There should also be no need for legislation to reach this far, or be worded so vaguely that it can be used on nearly anything on which the police care to prosecute. It appears that in fact, police are increasingly using the Act when they can find no other way in which to charge people, as Jane Fae points out in a recent politics.co.uk article (which at least opens up a little hope that this law may be quashed in the court). In the meantime, indie and underground film-makers are on the verge of discovering that their work has made them lawbreakers.

Let's end with a fun game. Take a look at the Charging Practices section of the new Obscene Publications Act, and see how many films you can prosecute!

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/obscene_publications/

 

 

 

 

 

It’s The End Of The World Again, Almost Definitely This Time, Really, Honest.

Well, I hope you’re all packed and ready. According to Christian radio show host Harold Camping, 3% of the world’s population will be gathered up to Heaven in some sort of holy Hoovering tomorrow morning. The rest of us will then have five months to wait until God draws the curtains and shuts off the lights for good on October 21st. The fact that most churches have scheduled regular services for Sunday shows how seriously Mr Camping is being taken by the religious community at large.

In eschatological circles, Harold is a bit of a pipsqueak. He’s predicted the Rapture four times thus far, giving up (or rather, diving back into the books for a bit more of a considered approach into the numbers) in 1995. This is small potatoes. Fire and brimstone preacher Charles Taylor saw the end coming 12 times between 1972 and 1992. That’s got to put a crimp into your long-term savings plans.

The end-of-the-world racket is a fascinating subject for study, and stuffed to the brim with nutballs, loonbags and conmen of all stripes. It’s surprisingly easy to pick a date for the Four Horsemen to gallop over the horizon and then backtrack when the sun sets when nary a hint of apocolypic hoof beats. For example, Edgar Whisenant wrote a best-selling book 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988. His prediction: final trump to sound between September 11th and 13th. When those dates turned out to be trumpet-free he pushed the date forward, first to the 15th, then October 3rd. Still nothing. This didn’t deflate Whisenant, though, who released another book the following year, The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989, and would continue to release updates until 1993.

Predictions of the end time are born out of intense, numerology-heavy readings of the Bible, and as reactions to ongoing world events. The recent triple-whammy of disaster landing on Japan has, as you’d expect, sent the scene into a tizzy. But events as varied as the Rodney King shooting, the founding of the state of Israel and any manner of celestial objects getting within astronomical spitting distance have all sparked doomy predictions. As for the close-study readings, Camping’s method is an exemplar of clarity and logic compared to some I can mention. Dan Brown’s got a lot to answer for…

None of this would be a bother if it didn’t involve hucksters conning gullible rubes out of their hard-earned, and self-styled prophets setting themselves up as cult leaders. End of the world predictions can mean exactly that. Suicide cults like Heaven’s Gate and the followers of messianic maniacs David Koresh, Jim Jones and Joseph Kibweteere are all evidence that apocalypses can and do happen, and are events that we cannot see coming, and have no way to prepare for.

As for Camping and his Rapture? Well, his past record isn’t encouraging, and frankly his methodology has holes wide enough to steer the Halle-Bopp comet through. I’m not convinced. And anyway, aren’t we supposed to have until December 2012, when the Mayan calendar runs out?

Tell you what, while we’re waiting, let’s have a little dance, shall we?

This post would not have been possible without reference to Chris Nelson’s extraordinary Brief History of The Apocalypse, which is anything but brief and will eat your day if you let it.

Low Blows And Dirty Tricks: X&HT Saw Sucker Punch

I’m grateful. Really, I am. It’s good to have a low water mark against which all else can be judged. It’s good to know that when a friend rags on a film that you can chip in and say, “Yeah, but at least it’s not…”

Let’s put it another way. We have our new Battlefield Earth.

Continue reading Low Blows And Dirty Tricks: X&HT Saw Sucker Punch