Left in the dust?

Change never stops. Change is a challenge. Change always gives you a choice. This is as true as ever in today’s “post-shame, post-truth” world.

Satire bites the dust?

The game is never fair. The game is always changing. The pleasure is to play*.

“You’re fighting a nuclear war with bows and arrows if you’re doing satire now.”

This is comedian Stewart Lee, from his recent appearance on Tara Flynn’s lovely Taranoia podcast. Lee contemplates the seismic changes to UK comedy during his lifetime. He ponders the fate of satire in what Alastair Campbell recently termed our current “post-truth, post-shame world”**. Lee says:

“Satire on some level is about shame. Satire on a person works on the assumption that they will feel bad about having done something wrong, or that they can be shamed or made accountable.”

The polite rules of gentlemanly boxing


Can satire work when shame or accountability have left the building? Here’s Lee’s take:

“[A journalist recently told me that] when you’re interviewing Farage or someone like that, the BBC interviewer is like someone boxing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules – the polite rules of gentlemanly boxing, the rules of engagement. But the alt-right aren’t playing by those rules. It’s sort of – there’s no point. I don’t really know what to do. I think news has been left in the dust by it. I don’t know what comedy does, either.”***

Do the Marquis of Queensbury rules apply if your opponent is a kangaroo? You might well find yourself left in the dust.


Blogging bites the dust?

Has the art of blogging been left in the dust? I’ve been pondering this over the past few days, following a tweet from Julian Summerhayes, which asked: “Is blogging dead?”

The death (or otherwise) of blogging is a long-standing topic of debate. Julian’s tweet reminded me of a Flip Chart Fairy Tales post from eight years ago. Back in August 2011 Rick contemplated the seismic changes to blogging during his lifetime, in Is Blogging Dead?

Rick riffed on a piece by John Band. Band had observed that “it’s looking like the sense in which we’ve traditionally understood blogs – roughly, a community of people who link to each other’s posts, comment on them, and write pieces that track back to them – no longer really applies. Facebook and Twitter have killed it, in favour of something flatter and much less based on the blogger’s personal brand.”

Rick’s own view was that blogging was not dead. Rather, blogging was changing. Facebook and Twitter were transforming the way that people shared and reacted to his blog posts. But, for Rick in August 2011, the art of blogging remained essential:

“Blogging forces you to put some effort into understanding your material and constructing a reasoned argument. Most bloggers, even the ones who irritate the hell out of me, usually have something interesting and thought-provoking to say, some of the time. The fact that we have to put some thought into our posts acts as a brake on our more idiotic tendencies.”

Words spark or illuminate thought

I like Steve Marshall’s response to Rick’s resharing of this post. Steve expands on Rick’s view that blogging provides a perfect medium to refine, to explore and to express one’s ideas:

“‘Content’ has to start somewhere.”****

These words ring true for me. I love to write. For me, writing is a pleasurable end in itself. It is also an endlessly self-renewing challenge, to find new and different ways to express and to explore ideas. Blogging is always changing. Writing is always changing. The blog is just (for me, right now) a perfect medium to explore what words can do.*****

Words – no matter the medium through which they are shared – spark or illuminate thought, conversation and debate. It has to start somewhere. That somewhere will more than likely be the word, in whatever form it takes.

Even in the post-truth, post-shame world, we can use words to seek meaning, clarity and truth.

The forms available to us for expressing our words never cease to change.

Change always gives you a choice

Change never stops. Change is a challenge. Change always gives you a choice.

I’ve always liked filmmaker Danny Boyle’s words about change. You have a choice to embrace change or to reject it. But the latter won’t stop it happening. Boyle says:******

“You’ve got to go with it. And if you become unable to deal with it, that’s fine. Because it means your time is finished and it’s time for other people to take it on.”

Change always gives you a choice. You don’t have to be left in the dust.


* The dear departed Ian Kilmister sought to remind us that the pleasure is to play. Makes no difference what you say. The Ace of Spades.

** Whatever your views on Alastair Campbell, his July 2019 blog post entitled How the seeds of fascism are being sown by Trump and his fellow populists is well worth a read. I also second his recommendation in this post of Shirer’s excellent The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – a book that helped A-Level History come alive for me. Campbell’s blog post includes the following paragraph, in which he describes our “post-truth, post-shame world”:

Populism today is the relegation of fact and reason to lies and emotion. Trump, and Johnson, are both politicians of the post-truth, post-shame world. They lie. They invent. They exaggerate. They deny saying things they’ve said, and wave away evidence that proves the lie. They answer difficult questions with answers to one that wasn’t asked. They take credit when it is not due, and spread blame that should be theirs. They are unabashed by scandals, and rely on fawning mainstream media supporters, outriders and sock puppets to help them through them.

*** There is definitely irony at play here, too. Comedy, like everything else, is in a permanent state of change and evolution. As Lee himself acknowledges, his own career would not have happened in the way it did without the alternative comedy boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The alternative comedy boom wiped out so much of what had gone before, leaving whole previous generations of stand-up comedians in the dust. If you’ve a spare 40 minutes, Stewart Lee’s interview with Alexei Sayle (discussing his second memoir, Thatcher Stole My Trousers) includes some fascinating nuggets on those times.

**** Steve also notes the preponderance of “utterly outrageous and shameless voices” out there. Sadly, this is endlessly true of the post-truth, post-shame world.

***** Blogging is by no means the only medium that offers this. For me, Twitter is another perfect medium to explore what words can do.

****** Boyle is here talking about the breathtakingly rapid evolution from traditional to digital filmmaking that he’s seen during his career. This quotation comes from such an unlikely source. Gentle reader, did you know that Keanu Reeves not only made a documentary, but that it is also pretty good? The documentary is entitled Side By Side, and is well worth a watch (provided you have any interest at all in film production in the first place!).


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