June 8th, 2005



There's a bit of a discussion going on about panels. If you've not ever been to one, a panel is basically where four or five authors/experts sit round and discussion a topic, while taking comments from the audience. Joe Scalzi has his take on how to keep a panel interesting, which is with the fist and wild_irises suggests the open palm. However, the most interesting take I think belongs to nihilistic_kid who says "it only works on the basis of [you] not having a personal stake in the discussion."

I am not, by any means, an expert on panels. I don't really like panels from an audience member standpoint, since I find that most artists/whatever are simply performing in safe mode, where they work hard at being audience friendly and family safe and keep their opinions to themselves (and in my limited experience of panelists who aren't like that, they're so full of shit and stupidity that you just want to crawl into the bar). However, in my experience of being on panels, which I don't mind from a performance point of view, the panels that have been absolute ratshit are the ones where the moderator had a stake in what was being said. Where the moderator, ultimately, became a member of the panel.

So I reckon the third opinion is pretty solid.

Shatner is the New Black.

As I begin typing this, the androgynous lead of Placebo is singing the lyrics things are not what they seem but I assure you, the heading of this post is no lie: William Shatner is the New Black.

I don't know when this happened, but apparently it was recently. I'm a mix of being a bit young and a bit uncaring to know and get caught up in the Shatner of the Star Trek years, so I haven't spent much time with whatever happened there. I'm vaguely aware of his Get A Life line--though it may indeed be something different--and the agonising horror of having had to listen to him speak Trek dialogue in whatever Trek film is the one with the whales. I don't know why, but whenever I ended up in front of the box as during High School and one of the Star Trek films was on, it was always the one that had Leonard Nimoy swimming in some vaguely animal erotic moment with a whale or three. I'd always wait for the moment when Nimoy would be eaten and the whales would orgasm in response, but I guess that was cut for the TV or in the director's cut or something cause I didn't see it. Still, all up, I never much got caught up in Early Shatner (though I guess you'd call that film Mid-Shatner--well, I wasn't caught up in that, either).

I am, however, finding myself caught up in Late Shatner. The Shatner in his 70's is proving himself to be fascinating. The first release of this was the album, Has Been, made with Ben Folds, but proving to be funny and honest and more raw that countless albums released by musicians in their teens and up to forties who pumping out whatever dry echo of tragedy that their easy lives have allowed them to come into contact with. It's hard to listen to a song about the loss of love these days and feel a thing, but when Shatner gives that haunting whispered performance in 'What Have You Done', there's no doubting the pain it in. It's real. And when it comes to doing covers you can groove along to and have that post modern mix of retro kitsch and cool, I don't think you can find a better example than the Shatner and Jo Jackson cover of Pulp's 'Common People'.

And last night, I caught the first episode of Boston Legal, a show that appears to be about good looking, rich lawyers who supposedly give a damn about the little people. Just writing that makes me want to puke, really, and I would if it wasn't for Shatner and a pudgy faced James Spader, bringing some ugliness to the show, and basically running around and being gleefully bad. Hiring hookers to seduce opposing clients and photograph them snorting cocaine of said hooker's breasts and then using those photographs for blackmail was Spader's crowning moment of the episode, but it's Shatner's portrayal of the living legend Denny Crane, nearing the end of his run and knowing that a legend can't fade away, and wanting to go out in a big, flashy way that is the show. You find yourself hoping that Shatner and Crane get to go out together in one big explosive way, perhaps in a orgy of beautiful actors and dynamite, but who could say.

I can't express to you how out of place Shatner and Spader are in Boston Legal, but since they're the centre of the show, you end up thinking that all the plastic pretty people around them are, in fact, out of place. You could replace every single actor on the show with naked mannequins and you'd have, firstly, a more interesting cast, but still the same attraction, which is that Shatner and Spader being bad.
  • Current Music
    William Shatner - Common People