Friday, 30 August 2013

The Worm That Cloned

'Airlock' is quite a find, as it turns out.  There are some very interesting, unexpected things in it.  Not least, an honest-to-goodness flashback sequence (in dumbshow apart from a voiceover), filmed in first-person POV!  This is the sort of stylistic flourish that old-fashioned Who usually didn't bother with.  It ain't Kubrick, but it's unusually ambitious by the standards of the time.  Also, Stephanie Bidmead - a Shakespearean actress - plays Maaga in a far more physically expressive way than the audios might lead one to believe.  She delivers great swathes of her dialogue - which is ostensibly directed to her fellow Drahvins - direct to the audience, staring into the camera.  Nothing like that was seen (apart from Tom's occasional bouts) until Morgus... and even that was an accident.

Of course, charming and fascinating as it is, the story remains hopeless.  The Drahvins are a near-perfect illustration of mainstream 60s attitudes towards 'the woman question'.  Contemptuous, we-know-better-dear, patronising smugness at the sheer unworkable, extremist silliness of 'women's lib'.

The race of evil alien feminists are marked out from other baddies of the era by their towering stupidity and shambolic incompetence.  Despite being ostensibly emotionless clones (drained of all proper female responses) they are hysterical and irrational.  They even have a rubbish old ship that (natch) they don't know how to fix.  (Tsch, lady drivers!)  Their solution is to find the nearest males (be they Time Lords or pompous alien wallruses) and, in their ditzy confusion, attack them while also petulantly demanding their help.  In return, the males must simply consent to be robbed and abandoned.  Really, this would be the favourite Doctor Who episode of any MRA tosspot (consult this acute and hilarious site if you don't know what an MRA is).

There is a strain of cut-price Brave New World-style sneering at 'Test Tube Modernity'.  The flailing Drahvin gynococracy or matriarchy (note: their bosstrix is called Maaaaaaaaga) is steeped in the ostensible horrors of cloning.  This meshes directly with the terrified emasculation fantasy lurking beneath the surface of the story's conception of female independence.  They produce a few males (coyly referring to "as many as we need"... ahem) and then cull the rest like excess badgers.

I'm actually surprised Steven Moffat doesn't like this more.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Humanitarian Intervention


Okay, so there's a house.  Inside, an abusive husband is in the process of beating up his wife and kids.

"We've got to do something" says a concerned passer-by outside.

"I agree," says a liberal onlooker.

"Right," says the concerned passer-by, "wait here a mo..."

The concerned passer-by reappears in a suspiciously short amount of time with a fleet of bulldozers armed with wrecking balls, some petrol in a jerry can and a box of matches.  The bulldozers set about demolishing the house while the concerned passer-by sets light to it. 

Once all is quiet, the concerned passer-by and his mates raid the smoking ruins of the house for all the valuables that are still in one piece and unscorched, treading over the burned corpses of the wife and children as they go.  They strike a deal with the husband (it turns out they are old mates of his and actually sold him the knuckle-duster he was using to punch his wife).  In return for letting him live, he gives them his bank account details.  (He's secretly quite pleased to be rid of the wife and kids.)

"Hmm," says the liberal onlooker, "that didn't go quite how I imagined."

Two weeks later, the liberal onlooker is passing another house in which another abusive husband is beating up his wife and kids.

The same concerned passer-by as before appears next to him.

"We've got to do something," says he.

"I agree," says the liberal onlooker.

"Right," says the concerned onlooker, "wait here a mo..."

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Here are a few of the fortunes I devised during my first week as a writer of fortunes at Trang's Fortune Cookies Ltd:




Mr Trang speaks no English, but he pops his head round my office door every day and expresses his benevolent interest in my work by means of gestures and facial expressions.  I show him my work book.  I concoct something in the region of 500 fortunes a day.  More, on a good day.  Mr Trang cannot read them but he casts his eyes over my work politely.  He smiles and nods encouragingly.  Sometimes he bows and mimes applause.  I smile back, bow in return and mime modest shrugs.  This appears to please him and he leaves.

I came to work at Trang's after losing my job at the Ministry of Insects.  I was doing quite well at the Ministry.  I'd only been there five months and had already been promoted to Under Secretary For Grasshoppers.  I had my career path mapped out.  I would ascend to helm the Grasshoppers Department and then I would rise to a mid-level position in the related field of Locusts.  Once leadership of Locusts was mine, as it surely would be once I had ousted that fool Ormstead, I would deal directly with the other Heads of Department for the various bureaux in the Agricultural Pests Division.  I would establish a power base amongst Pests and clamber up the greasy pole until I was in a position to become the Pests Oversecretary.  The current Pests Oversecretary, Himmelfarb, would be hard to nobble, but I was confident I would find a way.  From there it would be only a short step sideways to any one of several possible paths.  I could choose which path I wanted to take based upon circumstances at the time.  I might continue to rise in Insects, via a route through the large and complex Flies Department.  I saw potential openings in Trichoptera and Megaloptera.  Progress through this area of the Ministry would be slower but would have the advantage of giving me more experience, which might be an issue that would come up later on.  Or I might jump sideways to the smaller but infinitely more prestigious Ministry of Arachnids.  Or I might even be able to jump over spiders and go straight to Marine Arthropods, depending on Tinkerman's attitude to me.  I found Tinkerman enigmatic, with his cold eyes and his monotonous voice and his habit of breaking things slowly and deliberately.  Chairs.  Desk tidies.  Books.  Paperclips.  Anything that happened to be in front of him, he dismantled and left in pieces.  I wasn't sure he disliked me, however.  It was just a suspicion. And, even if he did, there was a possibility that he disliked everyone equally.  Little did I know.

Speaking of things I didn't know, I had also entirely reckoned without Fotheringhamgaymortontonford at the Ministry of Long Names.  I never saw him coming.  I never knew that he harboured such animus towards me, such venom.  I never knew that a desire for vengeance burned in his rotten heart, like sulfur in a cess-pit.  I never knew how closely he was watching my every move, calculating my every thought, waiting for his opportunity, preparing his strike against me... a strike that would destroy my prospects, send me tumbling from my high perch down to the depths of ignominy and reduce all my exalted dreams to ashes in my mouth.

My work here at Trang's has gone through several stages. At the start, I made an effort to make my fortunes seem like predictions.  I found this hard so I would buy newspapers and plagiarize the horoscopes.  I was careful about it.  I would use the horoscope I had selected as a template and subtly alter it so that it became unrecognisable while still retaining that ineffable flavour of prediction which I found so hard to synthesize myself. So, for instance, I might take the following horoscope (which, as it happens, was published in the Evening Standard on 19th May last year, addressed to Sagittarius)...

You were born with great energy and drive.  However, you worry about hurting others as you push for what you want.  Partly, your worry is justified.  Take stock of your recent achievements and try to think how they might have put noses out of joint.  Saturn is settling down in the next few weeks, so this is an excellent time to think about being conciliatory.  But beware of compromising your ideals and goals.  

...and use it as the raw material from which to fashion the following fortunes:


Monday, 19 August 2013

Damp Little Ideas

Phwoar, look at the imperialist symbolism on that!
That bit in 'The Empty Child' when the Doctor talks about the "damp little island" standing alone against Hitler... when I first saw that I hurled a coat-hanger I happened to be holding at my television.

Okay, so: patriotism as progressive, yeah?  "Don't forget the Welfare State" or whatever he says.

Hmm.  You will unsurprised to learn that I have doubts.


There is sometimes an unwarranted elision of the idea of 'patriotism' with the idea of 'loving one's home'.  This is an elision that many left-wingers have been guilty of, from Orwell to Billy Bragg.  But it confuses distinct concepts.  Moreover, it acquiesces in the ideological project of confusing these concepts, a project of immense utility to ruling classes going back to the very birth of the state.  Patriotism isn't just a cynical scheme of the rulers... though it is  that, amongst other things.  The point here is that it is an ideological construction and a form of social practice which cannot be simplistically overlaid upon personal affection for one's origins and surroundings.

I love London.  In order to get sentimentally misty-eyed about this, I'd have to forget that the city is a concentrated site of racial discrimination, police repression, social cleansing, centralised state bureaucracy, drastic inequality; that it's the hub of the organisation and enforcement (physical and ideological) of a neoliberal and neo-imperialist power, strewn with monuments to one of the most savagely aggressive colonial empires in modern history.  And on and on and on.

The love of one's home is one thing.  'Patriotism' and 'nationalism' are both, finally, ideological notions mapped-onto it.  They both immediately elide the flexible and contextual concept of 'home' with the political category of 'country'.  Even the term 'homeland' starts to do this.  We should never let ourselves become deaf to the shades of meaning imported by extra syllables. 

The idea that patriotism can be a 'way in' to a larger feeling of social involvement is similarly dubious.  To the extent that patriotism makes the individual feel connected to something larger than him-or-herself, the connection is a masochistic one.  It is the sublimation of oneself into a dominating framework, not the integration of oneself into a genuinely collective endeavour, whatever the rhetoric.

Besides, this sublime idea of ecstatic sublimation is not only unduly R/romantic, but is also so vague, and so applicable as a description of so many varied and mutually-exclusive things, that it loses all substantive content. It can refer to mysticism, chauvinism, trade union activity, identity politics, family, etc.  Richard Dawkins feels 'part of something greater than himself'; so does the Pope.  For the idea of personal integration into wider structures to be meaningful, it must be individuated... whereupon we start to see patriotism as a distinct phenomenon, quite separate from, say, social work or progressive activism.  The mooted connection collapses.

Ideas of 'national community' are largely ideological constructions which artificially smooth-out hugely contradictory social arrangements riddled with class antagonisms. The idea that 'the nation' is a space where we can work for 'the public good' is similarly panglossian. In societies divided into social groups of mutually-exclusive interests that are constantly in material conflict, is there such a thing as a 'public good'?  Any concept of 'public good' is always, consciously or unconsciously, an expression of class interest, because it always ends up being an assertion that the interests of one class are synonymous with the interests of all classes.  This is simply impossible, barring something extreme like the immediate threat of a massive nuclear explosion.  Given that even imminent environmental catastrophe has not been enough to convince the bourgeoisie that they share a common interest with humanity as a whole, it's fair to say that 'the public good' is a last, temporary and remote possibility... at best.

The heart of capitalism is the antagonism between the interests of those who produce surplus value and those who pocket it. That makes me very suspicious of 'the nation', which in its modern form, is an integral part of global capitalism. Patriotism, similarly, is an ideological buttress of this system. It is also intimately bound up with imperialism rather than just being an unfortunate side-effect.  Patriotism has always been linked to the competition of states.  Viz the rise of patriotism alongside the rise of the modern state in Early Modern Europe, viz the patriotism of Roman senators, etc, etc.


Does patriotism ever do any good? Well, as far as I can see, only when it's bound up with other ideas that actually conflict with it (which happens, of course).  The great post-war national liberation struggles against European colonial domination, for example... something Orwell never lived to see, leading him to rather simplistically seperate patriotism (good) from nationalism (bad).  Back 'home', many crusading socialists who laid the groundwork for the Welfare State, many Chartists etc., stressed the common welfare of 'the people' of 'the nation'.  Left-wingers such as Michael Parenti still assert that they are the real patriots for opposing America's wars in favour of social programs to benefit ordinary Americans.  This is a widespread strategy.  But it rings hollow.

We can't put the credit for the British Welfare State onto 'Britain' because it was a product of currents within the British polity (i.e. the labour movement, socialism, reformism, and yes even aspects of liberalism, etc) which had to fight long and bitter struggles against other groups in order to achieve any such gains.  (Now, of course, patriotic we'reallinthistogetherness is used to justfiy the wanton dismantling of these gains... which only goes to demonstrate that the patriotic idea is, at best, a tool that can be used by both sides... rather like a blunt instrument that can be snatched back and forth between mugger and muggee... except that the mugger brought it with him and knows how to use it.)

That the NHS happened is no reason to be proud of 'the nation', no more than one person's beauty is reason to praise the attractiveness of everyone on the bus... especially if a significant portion of the people on the bus are actively trying to disfigure the pretty one with knives.  (This is without pushing the analogy further by pointing out that 'beauty' is subjective, means different things to different people, and that praising it is by no means obviously a proper thing to do.  Apart from anything else, praising the beauty of strangers on buses would usually be tantamount to sexual harassment.  Something of the same combination of self-serving motives, arrogant presumption and abuse of privilege - all lurking beneath ostensible nobility - is usually to be found in patriotic waffle.  Even putting this aside, patriotism is an inherently dubious idea, not just because it relies upon a spurious lumping together of hugely disparate groups with hugely disparate interests, not just because it is bound up with the ideological hegemony of powerful interests, but also because it relies upon lazy assumptions that certain things are always positive, always worthy of public pride.)

As ever, we end up with the problem of 'we'.  Is there any word more abused in political discourse than 'we'?  It is abused by all sides, by David Cameron and Tony Benn.  'We' bomb Pakistan.  'We' created the Welfare State.  'We' had an empire.  'We' produced Shakespeare.  What obfuscatory nonsense this rests on.  A lot of those national liberation struggles I mentioned were waged against my very own 'damp little island'.  That this island has wildlife, literature, theatre culture and BBC sci-fi shows that I love, as well as an inspiring history of working class resistance, doesn't make it any less an imperial culture soaked in blood.  If we go along with the essentially patriotic idea of the island as a community, the idea that the material nature of the island creates a meaningful 'national identity' or something like that, then we end up with the dubious idea that, for instance, 'we' unleashed terror and torture against the Mau Mau rebellion. This is the flipside of saying that 'we' fought Hitler.  If the first isn't fair or true, neither is the second.

The only way to efface this is to simply not mention one side or the other.  In the interests of the patriotic mainstream, we never mention the Mau Mau.  This is the time-honoured and constant technique of capitalist media culture, 'The Empty Child' not-excepted: what cannot be said within the confines of mainstream ideological discourse must be passed over in silence... and because it always is  passed over in silence, it stays forever out of the hegemonic mainstream discourse, that discourse being composed of only those notions which can be spoken about without any awareness of breaching the 'common sense' consensus.  A self-perpetuating echo chamber which endures because it has, in many ways, won a kind of Darwinian battle of methods for containing discourse in capitalist societies, winning out over both extreme censorship and over genuine freedom of speech.

To breach this silence is to become political or 'controversial' (while the political valences of those things which *can* be said are not noticed... they simply become the ideological equivalent of wallpaper).  We forget the imperial crimes of Britain and leave it at saying 'we fought Hitler'... but again, the spurious 'we' does its work.  'We' fought Hitler. My grandad, Beaverbrook, Churchill, RAB Butler, Edward and Mrs Simpson... all in it together. It's obvious what's wrong with that, I'd hope. Large swathes of the British ruling class were sympathetic to the fascists as bulwarks against communism.  Unlike Churchill, my grandad ended up with shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life.  It might be objected that 'we' often means 'we the people'... but, as I said, we mustn't be deaf to the syllables.  Even the ones that pointedly aren't there. And even if we are  talking about 'the people'... who are they?  How do you get to be part of 'the people'.  Our latterday English narodniks indulge in this kind of vagueness at best; at worst they indulge in fascist sentimentalism.  The EDL talk about 'the people'.  There's nothing in the term to stop them.  As Walter Benjamin realised, cultural artefacts should be unusable by fascists if they are to be relied upon.

On this subject... I flat-out disbelieve that 'national culture' entails respect for diversity, given the sustained assaults upon diversity that are utterly mainstream in British culture.  We're always hearing about how 'British values' (presumably what is meant are not those values which permit Britain to bomb the shit out of civillians in the Middle East) are under threat from multiculturalism, Islam, etc.  On the ground, some people cling to fictions like 'British fair play' as a way of expressing tolerance and democracy, but at least as often (far more often, I suspect) such notions are employed by xenophobes, ressentimental Tories, Dailymailistas, and those fascist sentimentalists already mentioned). I don't even think that the aggregation 'national culture' is actually possible.  Such aggregations are highly selective ideological fictions.  But even if it were true, it leaves us with the problem of respect for diversity *outside* the artificially/ideologically-constructed idea of 'the nation'. This is especially problematic when the nation being talked about/celebrated is also an empire, or a former empire, or run by 'humanitarian interventionists'.


Of course, in the mainstream, all this isn't even a blip. In the near-constant drip-drip-drip of popular culture, Britain is a collective hero (a crusty John Bull, flawed and old-fashioned, but coming-out-swinging for freedom) fighting evil German imperialism. Our own imperialism is effaced, eternally.  In this context, the true history of the British ruling class' role in tolerating fascism, comforting fascism, enabling fascism, and finally fighting fascism only when their own imperial hegemony was threatened, must be left out because it strays out of the mainstream 'common sense' and into the 'political' or 'controversial'.  And so we end up with the Doctor praising the damp little island.  Somebody pass me a sick bag.

Another favourite example of mine is in Agatha Christie's Poirot , in an adaptation of 'The Clocks'.  Poirot is confronted by a German spy motivated by appeaser-sympathies who sneers at "weak, liberal England".  Poirot angrily retorts that "weak, liberal England" gave him a home when the Germans overran Belgium during the First World War.  What isn't mentioned, amidst all this moving drama about standing up to tyranny, is the teensy-weensy little business of Belgium's utterly murderous and racist imperial domination of the Congo, which King Leopold initiated in order to compete with the imperialism of other European powers such as Britain, and which was immensely profitable because of trade with Britain, amongst other countries.

'We' all know about German imperialism... well, about bits of it.  As has been said elsewhere, the real problem with German imperialism (the problem that makes it exceptionally memorable) is that they tried standard European methods of violent colonial landgrabbing, repression and racial mass-murder in mainland Europe rather than in Africa... after all, nobody in mainstream media-culture remembers the Kaiser's genocide of the Hereros and Namaquas in Namibia.  'We' also remember German imperialism for another reason: it is the imperialism that excuses, effaces, blots out our own.  The writer of the Poirot episode knew that Nazi Germany was bad, and that Britain 'stood against it'.  He knew Poirot was the hero, and so had to give voice to these uncontroversial notions.  He probably didn't know much about the Belgian Congo, about Mark Twain's King Leopold's Soliloquy , about Tintin in the Congo... after all, we don't get morality plays about how dreadful Belgian imperialism was rammed down our throats in constant TV/film dramas.  Nothing in it to make 'us' brits feel good about 'our' heroism. 

This is not, by itself, a huge problem within the confines of a TV show... and, indeed, The Empty Child is probably Moffat's best work precisely because it manages a certain scepticism towards the idea of an untroubled national community, albeit mediating its issues with this notion through the free-floating conduit of sexual repression. The last refuge of the scoundrel, however, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth when it makes its appearance in a quite good piece of work like 'Empty Child'.

We might ask why it was possible to do a WWII Who story in 1989 that did not embrace the concepts of patriotism or 'the nation' uncritically, but it no longer seemed possible in 2005. The degeneration of our 'national' political discourse since 1989 surely has a fair bit to do with it.  Maybe Moffat shouldn't shoulder all the blame.  Thanks be to many, but perhaps especially to Blair.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Third Way

There is, in some quarters, an assumption about alternatives.  There is fannish continuity obsession on the one hand and, on the other hand, there is 'the real story' which tends to be to do with families and relationships.  To an extent, this is a straw man... but it sometimes exists, implicitly, even where it is abjured.  And it's a false dichotomy.

There is a Third Way: the investigation of the relationship between the political implications of monster wars and the lives of ordinary people.

This is a Third Way that the classic series hardly ever engaged with.  In its own more ass-covery, fig-leafy way, this is something that the new series hardly ever engages with either.

Whereas the classic series concentrated on the monstrous, and then later upon the fan view of the monstrous, the new series tends to concentrate upon interpersonal relationships with monstrosity as a pretty backdrop.

The difference is that the classic series' logic was pragmatic (i.e. we are making a show about monsters) whereas the new series' logic is openly ideological (i.e. human family and romantic relationships are THE REAL STORY).  If you doubt that this is ideological, look at how it has been iterated again and again.  Look at 'The Empty Child', at 'Father's Day', at 'School Reunion', at 'Army of Ghosts / Doomsday', at 'Closing Time', at 'Night Terrors'.

Neither view is supportable but the former has at least the virtue of non-didacticism.  It's a contrast to the aggressive apoliticism of so much of the new series, even when the new series dresses itself in the clothes of political engagement.

There is, fascinatingly, a similarity to the simplistic view of Blair as a villain.  It is the difference between a wishy-washy reformist liberal/leftyishism ("Blair has betrayed Labour") and a faux-pragmatic panglossian acceptance ("he's achieved modest things that were, realistically, all he could do"). 

There is a Third Way that is invisible to those leftists who complain either that he did what he could or that he didn't do enough, precisely because it is based on the political relationship between personality and wider monstrosity. 

That, weirdly, is why the more RTD moved into an engagement with the problems of New Labour, the more he moved into an acceptance of its premises.  By the time of the uber-cynicism of 'The Sound of Drums' etc, he'd accepted that people are, essentially, horrible and Blair/Saxon is probably about what they deserve.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Nerd Evidence

Canon and continuity are not the point.  Why not go ahead without precedents?  After all, a foolish hobgoblin is the consistency of someone with a dictionary of quotations.

All the same...

No, I don't kip

Godfrey Bloom, UKIP member of the European Parliament (there's a dialectical proposition if ever I heard one), has said how unhappy he is about so much foreign aid going to "Bongo Bongo Land".

He has subsequently expressed regret over the remark.  As always, with the British, the crime is in getting caught.

Godfrey Bloom, MEP (UKIP): racist pillock

But he shouldn't regret saying "Bongo Bongo Land".  He really shouldn't.  That was at least honest, even if it did sound like the kind of thing Richie from Bottom used to say.  It was a sincere little window into the real heart of UKIP's tweedy fascism.

What Bloom should regret is being a fucking racist pillock.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Way We Live Now

Capaldi.  Wow.  I'd have put money on it being some new variation on the Tenant/Smith entity.  A young relative unknown with male model looks (one reason Moffat says he hired Smith is that he looked like someone who got photographed wearing pants for a living).  I admit, I'm astonished.  Capaldi is a genuinely great choice (if only I could believe he's likely to get decent scripts to work with).

Of course, the Doctor is STILL not a woman or a person of colour... but I'm not 'disappointed' because I never expected that to happen.  Either written by Moffat would've been likely to end up as a blood-curdling, shaming disaster.  As one bizarre online comment has it, Moffat's idea of a woman Doctor wouldn't have pleased "internet anti-equality feminists" (whatever the bloody hell an 'anti-equality feminist' might be).

So it's probably just as well that Moffat has - completely out of left-field - cast an older, male, white Scotsman. 

On the subject of online comment...  Facebook and Twitter are now plastered in remarks and memes in which fans sneer at all the (supposedly) weepy young fangirls who're unimpressed with Capaldi because he's not young and hot.

There's a bit of me that sympathises with the derision, if I'm honest. These young whippersnappers are annoying (largely because they're young and happy and I'm neither)... but the comment on this has immediately become venomously contemptuous and sneeringly sexist.  Because the focus is clearly on the silly, hormonal young wimmenz.


Yeah, 'cos that's just what the Fourth Doctor symbolises: sneering at young women.

There's also a YouTube video doing the rounds of a young woman, possibly a teenager (I can't tell anymore; anyone under thirty looks like a foetus to me nowadays) reacting unhappily to the announcement that the new Doc will be an older, craggy fella.  Take a look at the comments below it.  I shouldn't need to quote them.  They're all too predictable.

As I say: misogynistic society + internet anonymity = ugly honesty.

Apart from anything else, this is rank hypocrisy. Just imagine the tantrums from the legions of sad, middle-aged fanboys if the new companion were an older, craggy actress rather than some perky young ingenue that they'd like to daydream about tupping.

Still, that's sexism for you. The sense of entitlement on the part of the privileged is so ingrained that it isn't even noticed, and any challenge to it as perceived as persecution or silliness.

On a related issue (well, it's the same issue really), it seems Moffat took the opportunity of the Capaldi announcement to sneer at the idea of a woman Doctor.  He says, sarcastically, that he wants a man to play the Queen.

Well doesn't that just say it all?

Firstly, Moff, why do you always, instinctively run to establishment authority figures?  You creep.


Of course, that's not even the point.  Indeed, Moffat's glib deflection is a paradigmatic example of entitled fanboy tactical point-missing.  But we'll let it pass.  I'm not here going to rehearse, yet again, the same rhetorical questions about why an alien who changes his entire body periodically can't spend some time having a fanny instead of a willy.

Oh dear, look, I just rehearsed it.


The real point here is that the Doctor is a cultural marker who punches well above his weight.  And he is currently an exclusionary marker masquerading as an inclusive one. Still, as I say, that's the norm... and any challenge to it is perceived as persecution or silliness.