Thursday, 15 January 2015

A storm like a party

Full title: Storm
Author: Tim Minchin
Genre: Graphic novel
Attributes: 112 pages, hardcover
Publisher: Orion (2014)
Between 0 and 1Zero (i.e. borrowed from local library)

Storm, a mix of radically-worded histrionics (gotta call them that, since they’re such a show) and cleverly manipulated drawings (suggestive as hell, capable of carrying the story along at full speed), is a high-quality comics book, and one to bear the name with pride, especially as the offspring of a slightly older, similarly popular animation short film. At the centre of it stands Tim Minchin at his usual, happy to go against things called, by a wrong name, ‘spiritual.’

To make a short story shorter, here’s the essence of the gist of the nub: London top-floor flat. Group of friends. Drinking party. Enter beautiful yet seemingly simple (in the mind) extra guest. Name’s Storm. You’ve guessed it – she’s the umbilicus of the book, so keep an eye on her. The narrator (Tim Minchin-looking, crazy-haired, blond, suspicious, sceptical, impossible-to-restrain) takes aim at the girl-from-nowhere (a narrative type – you’ve guessed it again), who’s been regurgitating clichés all night. So slowly, slowly, the girl is pushed into a corner and beaten the crap out of – in a metaphorical way, of course, because there’s no physical violence in the book, only the violent blow of the wind of discontent. As a consequence, she’s no longer the umbilicus, because the Tim Minchin-looking narrator has become it. End of story.
On a different level, though, there’s the anti-crap philosophy the narrator (like we didn’t know who he was!) mixes with the event like you mix butter with toast.
“Look, Storm, sorry, I don’t mean to bore ya’
but there’s no such thing as an aura
reading auras is like reading minds
or tea leaves or star signs or meridian lines.
These people aren’t plying a skill,
they’re either lying or mentally ill.
Same goes for people who claim they can hear God’s demands
or spiritual healers who think they’ve got magical hands.”
Just to make a note here, quickly, of the fact that it’s sort of interesting for a nonbeliever to spell the word God with a capital G. But that’s a minor thing. I won’t dwell on it. There’s bigger fish to fry. Bigger because, right as it is in most of its arguments, the book leaves some things unattended to.
Read Storm to the end (which isn’t very far away from its beginning), and you’ll discover that it’s nothing but a rant. Played and organized according to the best rules of rants: take the piss out of someone, demolish them, rock the boat of their words, fuck the Pope, fuck Deepak Chopra, fuck everything that’s conventionally destined to be fucked in this second decade of the third millennium, and at the end of it all you’ve got what you knew you were going to get all the way. You’ve got a list of thoroughly discarded myths, you’ve ploughed the field of disbelieving, you’ve trenched the hell out of everything that sounded sooo last century, sooo last decade, sooo yesterday.
Minchin is a clever guy. He’s got the talent, he’s got his special way with words:
“I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
in the blinding headlights of a vacuous crap.”
He is also a showman. He is also a celebrity. Which means, he runs on fan power; he is idolized by many. He is worshiped, adulated, adored by individuals trapped in his own headlights. So there.
It’s not that his revolutionary demeanour might be the cause of some problem here. At the end of the day anyone would be perfectly entitled, like Minchin, to go nuts when it comes to bigots, to the conventionally-clever, to the cliché-vomiting individuals who take everything down with a good glass of wine and a bite from a pink-salmoned canapé. But there’s one more thought to have a go at before zipping it all up. There’s one reality Minchin appears to ignore with flare: that of radicalism being itself a matter of fashion. Multi-award-winning radicalism, which stands crassly misrepresented, if I'm permitted the word. Misrepresented as in try to take away the multi-award-winning part (don’t see it, don’t touch it, don’t make a fuss about it) and see what happens. See how many hits your rant is getting now. We, the Unfollowed, the poorly befriended, the seldomly Liked, understand this well. We know it's not exactly the message that travels along but the face. We also know that radicalism is not the right word when you're not exactly the only one ranting about the topic. To be radical you need to be somewhat - how should I put it - unique. Id est, not a celebrity. The truly radical are always hated. Even when they think they're loved.
Plus let me say this. It’s so easy to cook up a revolt, to let the water boil over, to sprawl about the wings of scepticism, when you live in a time and space, but mostly under a regime that doesn't behead you for it.

Not sure if Minchin knows, but there’s a point where brandishing the flag of freedom is injurious to those who can’t afford it. Anything from the Inquisition, to the religious states, to racial fundamentalism, to North Korea, to terrorism, is predicated on this kind of intolerance in which many of the so-called revolutionaries of the Western world would think twice, at least, before even opening their mouth.
A rant at a drinking party is good. For a party. But drenching your spirit in spirits? There are many who would find this simple task impossible. I'm talking about those who live in the warehouses of ideology, in their concentration camps, where even the idea of having a party is radical enough to warrant their fear of being arrested, interrogated, etc.
The issues raised by Tim Minchin sound okay to a Westerner's ears. Not to all of them, but to many. Every era has its demons and its angels, some to be cut open and revealed in their full deceitfulness, others to be hailed and sung as hymns in the churches of the new-believers.
But one must have something else in the back of one's mind when it comes to drinking-party revelations. From Plato onwards (oh, wait a minute – is that what Minchin was trying to emulate?), we've certainly figured that drinking, thinking and speaking seem wonderful together. Yes, but. While they increase desire, they also diminish performance. In other words, they blow up big fireworks but do it as a form of entertainment. Whereas, let's face it, there's nothing funny in being a radical, sometimes not even when you're a stand-up comedian. Let us not forget the slogan of the French: Every revolution devours its children. That, at least, should ring some serious bells. Especially in the minds of the famous.