A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Week 3

27th December 2020

So did a spot of shopping to get out the house, picking up most of Tesco’s reduced section (surprisingly not a lot of ex-Xmas stuff) then stopping off at a Somali place to get take out. As with many African joints there’s no menu, you kinda negotiate with the cook what you wanna -I settled on some spiced rice and lamb shoulder, reminding me a lot of biryani but with Arabian spices and a salad. Plus some lemony-yoghurty-chilli dip which was super spicy and amazing.

So good, huge portions too (which I’m thinking may be a sign of quality, insofar that the cook genuinely believes it deserves that demand, and that people always finished their plates) -I need to do it again. In terms of Somali cuisine I’ve only ever had the gorgeous looking xalwa (halva) before, which is a jelly-like mix of sugar, cornstarch and spices, and astringently sweet. You literally feel the buttery goodness clamping onto your frame as you move, becoming that same wobbly blancmange. This the posterchild for You Are What You Eat.

I realise their fare is more redolent of the Middle East than East Africa, though it does have a heavy influence from Ethiopia too, in its injera and stews, not to mention Indian (chai, chapattis, samosas), Persian (pilaf, baklava), and even Italian (pasta, coffee and cream). The restaurant is Safari on Falcon Rd -when I signed the book for track and trace (at 3pm) only one other customer had made it that day; Somali food deserves a higher profile and I hope she survives.

After my favourite past-time – a TV dinner, was out like a light in a glorious food coma, before D came round from the other side of Clapham. Well, someone’s gotta finish off all that Crimbo alcohol, and be merry and light. Made it through half a bottle of sloe gin, while D settled for his usual vodka + flavoured water (he can’t do fizzy stuff due to some dodgy ailment). All necked while we watched a steady stream of MVs -Eighties, Nineties, Noughties with occasional forays into Abba and what on earth is number 1 these days. We couldn’t think of a single chart topper that we knew this year, or the past 3 years, even if it was the million $ question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Anyone noticed how Miley Cyrus nowabouts (or at least in Midnight Sky) looks and sounds like Lulu?

My one ban was on the nefarious coven that is the Spice Girls, as D plays them every damn time until they become that dimwit zigazigah nipping at your earlobes, telling us what they want what they weally weally want. He settled on substituting them with the Coors, who apparently all died in a horrific bicycle smash (three four seater) in Belgium in 2002. A actually wanted another stab at the board game Dixit blessim (who knew someone actually likes it -apparently it won game of the year back in 1994) -while D is fucking terrible at playing and has as much fun as a pedo in an old folk’s home. Give him the random phrase of say, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore‘, or ‘AI takeover‘ and he’ll not really know what to do, and match it to a card of an elephant holding a flower, or someone playing tennis with a cat. Still, he won.

We finished off on Disney sing-a-longs, pissed as newts by then and sounding like them too. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Moana and -I hang my head in shame -belting it out with Elsa on that fucking hill to die on, while she crafts homicidal chandeliers. My nemesis. Might just jump out the window in the cold light of day.

Not many people know this but Let It Go was written for a schizophrenic who went on to kill several people and a cat in a New Jersey (and why Demi Levato was first choice).

So what on earth do the kids these days listen to? What is the equivalent of the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boyz or Madonna? Kool n the Gang? What exactly is imprinting on young febrile minds as we speak, that will last till their dying day?

So after doing a spot of research, of course we’d heard of Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Drake, Taylor Swift, though pushing it a bit with The Weeknd, BTS, Blackpink, Halsey blah-de-blah. But who on earth are Bad Bunny, Juice WRLD, Roddy Rich, Lil Uzi Vert? Garnering hundreds of millions of fans across the world and getting themselves plastered over the cover of Rolling Stone at the age of fifteen. There’s a lot of flow, a bitta drill and quite the sideline in Latin rappers with Caribbean tinge, who dare I say, it sound a bit same-y. There’s a thing now: an understated backbeat, crazy styling and self-penned lyrics over vocal talent (‘lyrical lemonade’), which is fab. I wonder if the rappers of early 80’s Compton ever realised that near 40 years later the kids of White America, the kids of the world, and the global music industry would be following their suit.

Frankly it’s gone on far too long that only people with good vocal range and who look great doing it are allowed into the halls of fame, while the rest of the talent become songwriters for other people or give up and spend the rest of their days serving fast food and living out their car. As Lizzo -classical flutist, competition winning free-style rapper, gospel vocalist and icon to body diversity even before she was famous, came one week from doing. Hmm maybe Lizzo isn’t such a good example, she can do just about any fucking thing par excellence, while riding a bike (unlike the Coors, RIP 😦 ).

So quite refreshing that talent scouts now have a new recipe to look out for, but so very new to us after decades of the ol’ tried and tested -that a teenager who druggedly whispers her songs is currently the world’s bestselling artist. And the hook now lies in a certain choice line or two that rides a flow to your brain rather than some ohrwurm that will haunt your days. We’re just not kool anymore.

In my mind’s eye I’ve just turned up at the back of the bus, through a haze of weed, to nestle myself among the teenagers, head nodding, shades down, braids up. But then… my walkman falls out, the cord detaches and Lulu and Take That blare out without my noticing. Oh, the abject shaaaame, don’t you no blame.

No film for us -it was originally intended to be movie nite, but it became much more enjoyable without. Near the end we were smoking in the living room, blitzing a Quality Street and painkillers, and rocking to a heady mix of Guns n Roses with Adele, in a chilled way, in a good way. Kool n the Gang again -just to Someone Like You crooning it out across the airwaves. We’re showing our age methinks but duuude, what can you do?

D finally got an Uber at 2 or 3 something, disappearing into the night. Which was one of them better ones. Good goobley god, it’s nearly New Year’s.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Week 6

Sunday 19th April 2020

Frozen has got to be the world’s biggest hatchet job. On first viewing I mistook it for a straight-to-DVD offering, despite the refreshing take of having two female protagonists rather than the usual Disney woman-chasing-man, whose main preoccupation was to instill the universal truth of beautiful=good, ugly=bad. I swear, Disney has a lot to answer for in terms of setting up generation after generation to subconsciously believe that crap, and act out, like WWII.

OK, so one sister has zappy powers (bizarrely it has all to do with that everyday substance in our lives and loves, ice). And it all turns into a big misunderstanding whereby the villain is understandable, and good and evil aren’t so black and white. Plus there’s that nice sideline in the handsome prince (SPOILER ALERT) turning out to be a baddy, and the lovable idiot actually being the love interest. How refreshing, for the world’s most heteronormative, White-washing, nose-pinching, gender misaligning, hierarchy promoting, Nazi courting media power of our age. That’s why the critics loved it, and yes, that belter of a song too one may have heard on every radio in every child’s room in every karaoke at every point in time ever.

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I do think pre-teen kiddies are a little undiscerning, and easy, avid voters. Make the dictators protagonists pretty and singy and they’ll be invested, add some cutesy idiots and toys/ animals with human personality and they’ll be entranced, then committed, then enshrining it to memory – forever yours to their dying day. Even when there are about 17 writers jostling for position, and a storyline by a drunken, trashy committee waiting for pizza.

Frozen was meant to be very loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, one of his most popular and timeless of classics. ‘Loosely based’ in the most generous understanding of the term, insofar as it has snow and a queen in it, like how Jaws must be a retelling of Finding Nemo.

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Well Frozen II doesn’t disappoint. They manage, within the first 20 mins, to fit in (BEWARE SPOILERS):

A new race of people next door, a tribe everyone forgot to mention in the first film

A war

A flashback to parent memories

An enchanted forest

A ‘transformation’ of the lead characters

Giant footprints, giants

A rockfall of gnomes/ baby trolls

A random forest tornado

A game of charades involving a talking snowman, a caribou and a misunderstanding

A mystical, onset-of-schizophrenia voice only Elsa can hear, day and night

The three most annoying notes every conjoined in time or space, akin to a delivery truck backing out or car alarm as sung by Enya -oooh-eee-ohhh (see above)

A vast, 700ft tall interstate dam that is source of geopolitical instability

Floating coloured ice crystals evenly peppering the air (Elsa’s latest psychosis-induced party trick)

The evacuation of the townsfolk in the middle of the night

The blowing out of all light/fire with a sudden pink fizzle

Rippling urban earthquakes

A big mist that blocks out the sky and pushes out newcomers -source of geopolitical instability

A pink forest fire, set by a cute arsonist salamander (like a baby Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon)

A talking fucking little snowman

Oh and three songs squeezed in already.

You can imagine the Disney team sitting in LA, a bit bored, scrolling through IG and porn, then Hank brings the coffee in. Yeah! Let’s introduce an avalanche! Yeah and under it they’ll find pink earth that makes them sleepwalk! Yeah and a cave which lures them into a place of… of… magic earthworm world! Yeah and one of them talks and we can call him Bingo! No Boner, with an Irish accent! Yeah then Elsa can sing her way out, yeah coz one of her notes makes her hand freeze thing go crazy… and man, d’you have Bono’s agent?

I think their CEO of storyline must be a 7 year old girl. Who is really the daughter of a real Disney CEO. She’s called Emmy and must be obeyed.

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Of course, she works a treat. Frozen became the 5th highest grossing film of all time when released in 2013, and the biggest grossing animated feature ever- only to be usurped by Frozen II (and er, the live action Lion King).

Though tbf to Emmy, Andersen’s offering was along the same lines. It did also throw up a set of questionable fictional devices, such as semi-siblings in love, a magic laughing mirror, the devil, trolls, a murderous snow queen, a pandemic of evil mirror crystals, a magical rose garden, talking flowers, a talking crow, a fake prince lookalike, an evil sorceress, a bush that can see the dead, a robber band, a robber girl, a robber girl’s pet doves, a frozen lake called the Mirror of Reason, a winning pair of skates, red shoes, a reindeer called Bae (Disney surely missed a trick on that one), a Finn woman, a Lapp woman, and a spelling bee. Maybe the Frozen series is just a majestic retelling in the spirit of northern European folk fables. As in you start off with some adorable 1 percenters then add whatever happens to be dawdling along in your mind after a heavy bong/ green fairy sesh (might as well throw in breakfast/ Fido’s dinner) as filler before an Abrahamic happy ending.

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Though I still have yet to see a Disney princess as anything other than a catalogue model, or fat -and no, Moana is not.

As with all sequels, not only do they have to contend with the previous cast of characters they now have to introduce new ones. Each time there’s another instalment they try and keep the favourites or forever court fan disapproval, though in the end they’ll be dragging along a Big Brother House, each vying for screentime and a dedicated writer who thought them up to battle for their segment. Just look at Ice Age, once one of the most lucrative sagas and its gaggle of rabidly intrepid explorers, denigrating into a repetitive series of comedy shorts for each of its 25 characters (no, really – 25). Thus the franchise had to end, winding down into vastly confusing storylines borrowing one personality after another on multiple leads. A winning example of profit over art.

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In other news Disney has stopped paying about half its employees -100,000 of them, saving it $500 million a month despite announcing $1.4 billion profit for its shareholders from the last 3 months alone. The new streaming site Disney Plus is also seeing extraordinary growth with the international lockdowns, clocking up 50 million subscribers since launching 5 months ago. Rest assured, Chairman Bob Iger has selflessly given up his paycheck for the duration of the pandemic in the spirit of comradeship, though his $47.5 million from last year ($130,000 per day) might help him cope. Chief exec Bob Chapek has also vowed a full 50% paycut, that’ll limit him to only one new mansion a fortnight.

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So yep, I sat through that for the evening’s entertainment. Such a big part of my life.

This is the shit I have to put up with in lockdown. Rant OVER. Should just let it go.

Took a walk with J, all the way to the river and back via Battersea Park, stopping off at an old church looking like the original template for the ones in New England. It had a graveyard which J was most interested in as it reeks of history. A lot of the gravestones had melted away after a century or two of acid rain; it’s a shame if they’ve ever been recorded, and are now just slabs of rock, to be used as paving.

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A transcript of the above will show that Mary Stringer, born 1751, outlived her husband Edward, who died at only 33. She became his widow for the next 50 years till she died at 82. She also outlived her three sons, John aged 3, Edward aged 5 and Thomas aged 22. Only her daughter Mary Ann survived her.

Another gravestone speaks of possible emigration, rift or perhaps fall in riches. A family tomb bearing only one name, whose ancestors ultimately chose a different plot, if at all they existed:

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These are what we’ll be remembered by one day, if anything. What legacy will remain, perhaps electronic, or lost to ether, given that Facebook or Instagram are unlikely to last the next century if not decade – my gravestone may well turn out to be that arm poking into a TikTok of a cat vomiting. Or maybe we’ll be remembered only in figures, in transactions made and algorithms changed. And some day one of those equations will become alive, a new god, and remember us. My little hand tapping coyly on that keypad, my darling porn History adding to its journey to sentience. Perhaps my heart will go on as one of the billion fuckers to ever watch a Frozen film, and contribute to their $2.35 billion takings. I am that $7.96 back in 2014 and 2020, that bottle of water Bob ordered in Cannes, that so sated his wonderful lips. We can but dream, as ever furnishing the lives of the rich and powerful and ice zapping, that is so much of what our lives amount to. To spread the magic.

My friend once did a gig as a photographer on a Disney ship, where they worked her every day of the year, made her pay for the camera and equipment, and wouldn’t let her off the damn boat or break contract, while playing the oafish hordes of the type of people who go on Disney Cruises. She said it was shit.

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And I’m not even going to mention Walt’s admiration for fascism (note how everyone in say Monsters Inc are just SO happy to work in a vast, inhuman factory that rules their every waking thought and identity). Celebration, the Floridian Disney town whose residents are banished if they get a criminal record, and whose strict rules made them refer to it as Mauschwitz issued an edict that they’d be turfed out if the term was heard.

Of course they then dubbed it Duckau.

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