Saturday, 27 May 2017

DMZ Book 12: The Five Nations of New York (#67-72)

"I owe, I just OWE, for all the shit that happened." - Matty Roth

So we come to the end of the series I have spent the last two months covering.  A series devoted to the city of New York, Manhattan, a Demilitarised Zone between two forces in a second US Civil War.  Our main protagonist, a journalist called Matty Roth has been given the task of covering the end of the war as the U.S, bouyed by world opinion fully on their side after a nuclear blast, (blamed on the the governor of New York but initiated by the U.S.) and with their soldiers now recalled from overseas, pushed their way through the DMZ taking on and defeating The Free States army as they go. When Matty was given evidence of the U.S. army's dirty doings regarding the nuclear explosion he covered up the story to allow the war in Manhattan to end as soon as possible, while rejecting a full pardon for war crimes he felt crippingly guilty over.  We return to the DMZ one last time to see how Matty's last two weeks play out there, bringing to an end six years of working as a freelancer there chronicling the lives of those living in a constant warzone.  And we also get an epilogue issue set fifteen years later to bring things to a final close.  So without further ado, lets make our final visit to the DMZ courtesy of creators writer Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli.

It begins with a view of the New York skyline, Matty says over it that he lied, gave up his friends and soul, cheated and blackmailed, "I'll never be able to make up for all the damage I caused".  We then cut to a street party as DMZ citizens and U.S. soldiers mingle and a happy Zee about to kiss him saying "yeah, but you helped end the war.  It's a start".
Zee at work.
We then hear a broadcast from what was Radio Free DMZ, although officially the DMZ no longer exists.  She tells people to listen for the helicopters, not here to kill them but bringing medical aid. Zee is now officially leading the Red Cross in the city, "free to enter and help, no longer bound by ceasefire disagreements and no fly zones".

Radio Free DMZ: "Zee's been doing what she does for ten years with little help from anyone.  Now she has a fleet of Chinooks at her beck and call. Rock on Zee. You deserve it"

The report then goes on to us all checkpoints will be opened as a weaposns amnesty is being held today.   The incentive for handing over their guns is money and a "golden ticket in the housing lotteries".  Peace in the DMZ, "all we gotta do is put the peices back together again. So where's Matty Roth?"

Matty is being made up for a TV interview which the U.S. commander is being very hostile towards.  He says he'd have "flattened the fucking city, paved it over and left it". It would have been a reminder of what stupid, extremist ideology had cost the nation. 

U.S. Commander: "Instead we offer a blanket amnesty to enemy combatants and terrorists and you get a goddamn award.  Like you ever did a mother-fucking thing to help anyone other than yourself".

The interview is being held on a stage in the Flat Iron building in front of the world press.   The interviewer starts by asking by if he thinks peace in the DMZ is possible because of how conflicts in the Middle-East and Asia have left places unstable.   Matty says only the military leaders on both sides think the country is broken, "I don't get that from regular people. I think they're ready to embrace peace".

Matty says people should be prepared for some redrawing of the map.  The place feels more tribal to Matty now. Parco had a vision of an independant New York which terrified the Federal Government, "but I think it's an idea they might have to get used to."  The interviewer starts to ask him about the goal being a unified country, as Matty says that had always seemed the problem, there is an explosion that scatters the journalists bringing the interview to an end.
Not everyone accepts peace.
Meanwhile Radio Free DMZ tells us there was no public hearing on who got the reconstruction contract.  It went to a company called XET who are in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of Trustwell, "there's only about four or five shell companies seperating the two."  They flew in from Dubai, re-painted, re-branded made to look like a "wholesome, all-American company ready to do good for a United America."

Later Matty arrives at his new flat, Matty thinks to himself that peace is in the air, there'll still be bombings and violence as the diehards are rooted out, but everyone is ready to get back to life as normal, especially the New York City real estate industry.   Inside sits Zee surrounded by boxes full of Matty's five years worth of notes.  She saved it just before the bomb, "not that you deserved that".  He agrees he didn't, still doesn't.  She says one day he might.

She tells him he has the one outsider view of the DMZ and now has a second chance of not fucking that up, "if you want all of us to forever be labelled terrorists and traitors, by all means, toss it all away. Again."  He says he gets it.  She leaves saying she hated him for a while, but while he was running around carrying a gun she realised his heart wasn't in it and he'd come around again one day.

He goes through his notes thinking about all the things he covered, including five volumes on Parco Delgado, "the only public voice that guy will ever have again".  As he starts sorting his notes out he gets a call from his dad saying he's under incredible pressure.  Matty asks him to just "defer it for two weeks". His dad says he can do that but afterwards they're talking "full cooperation".  Matty says he just needs two weeks, "after that, it won't matter".
Matty's final project.
We then cut to another Radio Free DMZ report on the offical end to the war.  In a New York stadium a private signing of an armistice is taking place between the U.S. President and the FSA leader recognisable as "Townes" from Matty's meeting with him covered in issue #50. The report fades in an out as we see the two men sit and sign it.  They shake hands and we see Matty leave his apartment to begin his tour round "the Five Nations of New York."

He thinks to himself that he's spending his last two weeks in New York City in a tiny car on assignment for Liberty News, Zee is coming with him. He finds himself noting peacekeepers in a place where peace is actually happening.  Zee says that they're still soldiers with guns, but when Matty says people hate the United Nations she responds that people should be happy "the world sees enough left in this country worth trying to preserve".

They arrive at a church to speak with a representative of "The First Nation".  The man represents the lower Manhattan communities, the old financial district and Battery Park neighbourhoods.  Zee accuses him and a bunch of people like him of having carved up lower Manhattan for themselves, no one elected them and they are making huge real estate claims, he's a "fucking parasite.  Some kind of post-war slumlord in training".
Meeting the "First Nation".
The man insists that what they are doing is legal, the original owners are gone.  They pay the back taxes, "put in  a little sweat equity... we're doing the city a favour!"  Zee tells Matty that this rich guy and his ex-Wall Street buddies are going to control half of lower Manhattan, "and you and your media friends want to label them the 'First Nation'"  The man tells them to get the fuck out of his church.

They leave and Zee takes Matty down some stairs in an abandoned building, inside is a doctor called Oscar who has been running  a full scale surgical unit and has saved hundreds of people over the years.  He used to have colleagues, but they went outside, Oscar hasn't been outside since the Indian Point blew up. He says he's not sure he's ready for the end of the war, but Zee says she'll send the Red Cross over when he's ready.  Later Matty bumps into a man who tells him, "the quickest way to spark seperatist violence in the city is to start calling some of us 'first', others 'second' and so on."  Matty gets back in the car and tells Zee:

Matty: "I don't know if I'm seeing the beginnings of a new war, or just a bunch of burnt-out people who don't know how to imagine anything else."

Zee: "Well... you got two weeks to figure that out, don't you?"

Sometime after that we see Matty in his flat surrounded by boxes storing his notes as he seals them up.  It's being sent overnight express to France, to his mum to be precise.  The man collecting it says it's going to cost a tonne because of what is involved getting commercial carriers in and out of JFK.  He asks Matty if his mum pissed him off, Matty reflects "it's nothing she didn't ask for."

The next chapter starts with a man on one of the bridges tossing some bricks of explosives onto the train tracks.  Then he sits hugging the detonator and phones Matty saying he can question and make notes on them all he likes, "but you will never understand us".  He hangs up and when Matty hits redial, the bombs explode and take out a chunk of the bridge with him.
Wilson, much missed.
We then cut to Chinatown, the Second Nation, and a massive crowd of people.  They are all there for in rememberence of Wilson.  They meet the woman who was Wilson's lover.  She says Matty was friends with Wilson, Matty tries to qualify saying he wasn't sure they had a true friendship, but she says Matty isn't listening, "you truly were one of the few who got through his barriers... he spoke of you often.  He missed you.  I just thought you should know".  And she disappears back into the crowd.  Zee asks if Matty has ever stopped to process his loss?

Matty: "I still can't believe he's gone. But I'm also right.  He and I used each other, but he stuck his neck out for me way more than I did, and I never once thanked him for his help.  There must be ten thousand people out here today.  Why do I deserve to mourn him?"

Later Matty and Zee are sitting talking with a very drunk Lau, Wilson's second-in-command. Lau says life was easy for him under Wilson, he just did what he needed to do to make Wilson happy, "all I wanted was to work for Wilson".  How is he supposed to replace him?  They leave the bar and Lau answers the question of what the future is for Chinatown with the bleak "a lot of dead future leaders I bet."  He wobbles off saying they are the largest ethnic minority in the city, with strong ties, territory and identity but they "never get anywhere until someone can step up and fill that man's shoes."

Next they drive to what's left of Central Park after it was levelled by the U.S.  "Parktown" is the territory north of 50th Street and includes the Park, the Third Nation.   It's a blank canvas now and Jamal is in charge of recreating it.  Excitedly Jamal tells them they have a deal with a Canadian company to replace the top ten inches of soil to deal with the toxins from the ordinance and nuclear device.  Parktown is peaceful now, the Ghosts were "instigators" says Jamal then points out a hobo close by saying "speaking of which, here comes an old friend of yours."
Soames... didn't make it.
The crazy guy is Soames, who's lost it completely.  He keeps screaming about them being there being "against the rules!"  He doesn't recognize Matty and yells at him to "fuck off" then wanders away mumbling about the rules. Back in the car Zee tells Matty if he keeps holding things in he'll end up like that.  Matty says it was his fault he ended up like that, he set everything in motion stumbling about in the early days and now this is the end result.  And now he's going to tell her what is going to happen to him in one week's time...

...We start the next chapter with Matty having dropped a bombshell on Zee that we still don't know.  She looks at him sympathetically and says to him, "what must be going through your head right now?"  Matty says that's a good question, "I guess you'll have to read the book to find out".   They drive to the Empire State Building, which makes Zee nervous as that is where the Death Cult we spent some time with in Book 8. Matty says it's OK, he's been invited.

They take the elevator up, the building never dropped off the grid, and Matty explains that the cult was made up of First Responders, "kinda like you".  Zee is unsympathetic saying that they were nothing like her and she doesn't care what they did for a living way back then.  Matty admits he doesn't know what to expect when they reach the top, which turns out to be one man in an otherwise empty room.

Matty asks the man what happened to the others, he's told "Who knows? They left. Absorbed, killed, took off.  Living right around the corner... we don't really keep in touch." He says he's staying here until someone tells him to go.  Matty isn't telling him to go, or judge him.  It was the cult who brought down the chopper with him in that first stranded him in the DMZ.

Matty: "You should go outside, man. Not just peer out your sealed windows.  The war's over, the city's changing.  You belong to a different era".

The man says is it a new era for murderers?  Matty asks if he is a murderer?  The man says "no,. I'm a victim.  Isn't that what we all are?"  Matty tells him to go outside and vanish or own up and join society.  "Man up and face reality" he says.  The man angrily says, "oh like you, Mr. atomic bomb?"  Matty just says "Yeah.  Just like me."
Matty reaches out to the Death Cult.
We join Matty and Zee a bit later, the car having broken down.  While they wait for their tow to arrive, Matty asks her how she kept her shit together all this time?

Zee: "I haven't tried too hard, Matty. That's how.  And why that's you fell in with Parco and did everything you did. You tried to hard... to fix it, control it, to make it win... You rolled in here and almost from day one you tried so fucking hard to do right and fix this and understand that and put everything in a box with a label on it so you can show it to people."

Matty protests that it was his job.  She says he gave himself over and over and here they are many years later and does she need to explain the city to him again?  She just tried to treat it well and not do anything to hurt it.  Matty thinks for a minute then says he's not sure he understands that.

She says he knows, but she gives him credit for trying, "you tried everything you could think of to figure this place out, and you haven't stopped yet."  Matty admits that when things end and it's what you want it doesn't always feel good.  Then he asks her if she'll stay in the city.  She says she will for a while, but she expects she soon won't be welcome, "a holdover from darker times."  She's put in a request to find her family, she doesn't think she'll stick around to see what the city is going to turn into, "a part of my heart will always belong here, you know? But the soul moves on."
Life after the DMZ for Zee.
We then hear Matty's thoughts as he tells us that the fourth and fifth Nations of New York are called Midtown East and West.   They are the smallest and lack a single leadership, but they do have a voice made up of business leaders, community reps, politicians and media types. He then thinks back to the start of his time in the DMZ where he followed a weak lead and stumbled across the Central Park Ghosts. 

One of the men was mortally wounded and handed Matty the keys to an apartment in Stuy-Town.  He lived there for a few years, he took care of the place and did his best then.

Matty: "I moved out and lost the keys sometime after that. Will that man's family be returning to the city now?  Will they be looking for their son, hoping to find him living in that gorgeous apartment?"

Finally Matty's time in the DMZ is up.  He sits with Zee one last time, then Zee tells him that what happens next will be written, talked and analysed for years to come, he can't control that, "you just listen to yourself. You do that, I'll support you all the way."
Matty finally faces the music.
They then hold hands and step outside to be greeted by soldiers, men in dark suits and a crowd of people.  One of men steps forward and arrests Matty for "crimes against humanity".  Matty embraces Zee then as he is led to the car someone in the crowd asks what they got him for?

Matty: "For everything, man. They got me for all of it.  Long live the DMZ!"

A news report covering his arrest says that he is expected to face military trial in the next day or two.  As he was once a fixture in the ever-changing political landscape of the DM, his arrest represents the true end of an era, "as the city shakes off the shackles of the past and looks to the future, hopeful for better times ahead."

We then cut to the start of the trial, with people protesting outside and soldiers and the media in position inside inside the Supreme Courthouse.   After the beginning formalities, we are told that Matty intends to plead guilty to all charges.  Has he changed his mind?

Matty: "No, sir.  As per an earlier deal brokered by my father here, I willingly submitted to arrest and incarceration. I never had any intention on fighting the charges."

So all that is left to do is the detailing of the charges and for him to enter his plea after each one for the record.  Following that they will move on to the sentencing.  As each charge is read, Matty flashes back to what each one represents to him.
In the light of the other charges, this one's sorta petty.
First he is charged with theft of government materiel and money issued to him by Liberty News and its distribution amongst insurgents, terrorists and other enemies of the United States.  Matty thinks about Zee and Wilson checking out his gear then makes his plea. "Guilty".

Then he is charged with collusion with the Free States of America several times, and got the celebrated journalist Viktor Ferguson killed through his reckless and treasonous actions.  Matty remembers Viktor being shot by the U.S. army and standing contemplating the corpse with the FSA Commander.  "Guilty".

He is then charged with multiple terrorist acts in pursuit of a story exposing the criminal activities of Trustwell.  This was not a Liberty News assignment and during it he aided known killers and committed treason, which resulted in the murder of the U.N. Secretary General and several members of his staff.  Matty remembers Amina, as they go on to concede that he did get the terror cell disbanded the related loss of life is impossible to justify.  "Guilty".

They move on to Parco Delgado.  That because of him a nuclear bomb was used in an attack on the Indian Point nuclear station doing "staggering, staggering, the damage you have done not only to this country, but to the moral and patriotic foundation it was built on". Matty says nothing, even when one of them asks if he is "ashamed of yourself."

The man reading the charges says he wants to make the timeline clear.  Matty cut a deal with Chinatown gangster Wilson to use a portion of his stolen wealth, to buy the device from the so-called Ghosts of Central Park, the transaction overseen by the Free States and he passed the device on to Parco in return for his own armed personal guard which he employed with impunity for several weeks until the bomb was detonated.  Matty remembers the beating he got which lead to him to order his squad to kill what ended up being fourteen innocent civilians. "Guilty."
Well when you put it like that...
That brings this part of the hearing to an end.  Matty is thanked for his cooperation, they will resume in one hour for sentencing.   Matty's dad says it was half bullshit and half twisted around, Matty didn't have to cop to all of it. Alone in his cell, Matty thinks:

Matty: "I can't be the part who busted Trustwell, or the guy that told  Steven's story, or the guy that helped end the war... without also being the guy that sold Parco that nuke or who caused the death of those innocent civilians.  The two go hand in hand."

He thinks that they lied and they know he knows the President ordered that nuke strike on Indian Point, but he'll play along because of the deal he made.  Six years of of his life and "I lived the hell out of it."

Then he returns to the courtroom for sentencing.  He is sentenced to death as a war criminal, Matty looks pained for a moment.  Then he is told that it has been brought to their attention that thanks to some very highly placed sources and his efforts in the recent weeks to promote the cause of ceasefire and eventual peace, his sentence has been reduced to "life in prison without parole, to commence immediately".
His dad hugs him, his mum is in tears and changed into an orange jumpsuit he is led into a prison transport vehicle which he is the only prisoner in.  They start to drive, and Matty asks which route they are taking.  When he's told, he asks them if they could take a specific route.  The driver agrees and his guard asks him if he is taking one last look at the city?

Matty: "Yeah. Drive slow."
And the future begins at the end.
Yes. The End.  No wait, there is an epilogue sent fifteen years later which has no speech in it.  It follows an older Zee Hernandez, now back to her normal hair colour as she tours the rebuilt New York City.  She is reading a book by the still imprisoned Matty called "Wartime" so the only voice we "hear" is Matty's.

We start at the "Ground Zero Fields" a place during the DMZ that all factions considered hotly symbolic and refused "to relinquish control, ownership, entitlement, or sorrow, take your pick."

Matty: "Those residents of New York during the war... the survivors of the DMZ.  Do they see a city transformed.  Or a never-ending string of old papered over with the most superficial veneer of 'The New'? Does every walk through the city cause them pain? Or, I hope a feeling of pride... to have known it when it was still so vital, when it clung to life despite it all?"

He then goes on to remember Delancy and Bowery being the first place he crashed-landed the first night in the city. Zee says that was where it was which was good enough for him, he went back weeks later and there was no trace, the site had been bombed, picked clean and tidied up by the locals.  Only Zee remembers, "which counts for a lot".

Zee tours a bustling New York City.
She sits in a restaurant in Chinatown as Matty says his biggest regret was not saying a proper goodbye to Zee, "maybe it's best, the way it went down.  But I would liked, at least, to apologise one last time.  Because for the life of me I can't remember if I ever did."  We then get three pages of photos of Matty, Zee, Kelly, Wilson and a Parco rally.

Matty then moves on to the subject of Wilson, of all the people he wrote about, it's Wilson he's asked about the most.  it took him a while to figure it out but he finally realised:

Matty: "Out of all these sorts of famous faces, these DMZ personalities... all these people long since dead... Wilson was the only true martyr of the bunch."

He says that's a loaded word, but Wilson gave his life for something he believed in and that resonates with people.  We see a small brass plaque dedicated to him, "Wilson.  Ghost protector. Grandfather. Saint of Mott Street.  You will live forever"  Candles and offerings of rice buns have been left by it as Matty pays tribute to "my old friend Wilson".

Zee gets on the subway and Matty goes on and says that there are many such memorials, small, tasteful and many very private.  "The war could not have been more public, more offensive or vulgar in how it was portrayed.  It's not how anyone wants to remember it".  Yet sometimes people don't get a choice how they mourn, sometimes you can't afford to let anyone forget or "even sweep it under the mental carpet". 
An affecting memorial.
And we see the Day 204 massacre memorial, each body represented by an outline on the pavement.  Zee stops for a moment and sits with her head in her hands.

Matty tells us that the intention of the book is not to makes money, but he's raised a "tidy sum" for Zee's non-profit organisation. 

Matty: "I've long since decided against any sort against any sort of legal appeals or parole attempts, so I have no expenses to speak of.  I will not earn a dime from this volume".

He goes on to say that the money he earned from Liberty News went largely unspent and what was got paid back.  There is talk that Liberty News own the material in the book but they have left it be.

Zee reaches Central Park, now a green a flourishing place again. Matty says he is often asked if he has another book in him.  He doesn't.  He says he may not be guilty of all the charges against him, but he's guilty of enough of them. "My time as a citizen and a participating human being in society is over".

Matty: "My life has ceased to have positive value.  My contribution to the world ended the day I shipped the manuscript for this book off to my mother.  So there will be no other books from me. What you hold in your hands is... I believe... the total sum of the purpose of my life."

Zee leaves the book on a bench in Central Park and wanders off through the bushes as Matty's final thoughts play out.  It ends with a simple plea that if Matty's words have inspired the reader at all then they should visit New York City.
Farewell Matty and Zee.
People should see the amazing metropolis it has been reborn as.  But as this person walks the streets, they should squint and try and see past the steel and glass to the city it once was, the city he descibes in the book:

Matty "... and once you have it fixed in your mind... don't ever let it go.  It belongs to all of you too."

And that's it, the end of DMZ.  And I may have spent my typing of the final issue inelegantly blubbering. What we have here is a emotionally satisfying and draining wrap up of one of the best treatments of the effects of war upon a trapped and suffering populace who nevertheless survived and sometimes thrived and lived and died and generally got on with life while this outsider journalist bounced his way from incident to incident always trying to fix what could not be fixed.  Until he found a way, and all it cost him was his freedom and gained him the noteriety of going down in history as one of America's greatest war criminals.  And it's just the way he wanted it too. I did wonder if some deus ex machina would "save" Matty from his fate and I'd have lost respect for Brian Wood if he had done. But he didn't, Matty's last two weeks play out with him in a sort serene mood, knowing what's to come, now just clearing up loose ends and spending as much of it as possible with Zee.  Zee his moral compass, the woman who never lost it even after a decade of war, the one person heavily featured in the series to walk away still alive, sane and free.  It's anger-inducing to see the things Matty is railroaded for, but there was enough truth to the things he felt guilty for that he felt he had to pay with his life if necessary.  And it's tear-inducing because Matty has been a lot of things during this series, half the time I wasn't even sure if I liked him all that much.  But seeing himself filled which such self loathing that he couldn't accept the freedom he was offered and even arranged for Parco is actually quite upsetting.  And fifteen years later he still has no interest in clearing his name or even walking free one day.  And in the end the peace he brokered lasted.  New York was reborn, a place of steel and glass, of memorials both public and private.  People still remember the DMZ, the city and its people endured. We don't know what happened to the rest of the country, but that doesn't matter because it was always a series about one city, chosen to represent all the things that happen in warzones in our real world.  And I couldn't sign off on this series without complimenting the art, Riccardo Burchielli's beautiful and gritty work gave everyone in the DMZ character.  Fill-in and guest artists were also of a very high standard and helped flesh out a fascinating supporting cast too.  All-in-all DC's Vertigo imprint remains one that has given us many excellent series and expect to see more of them covered here in the future.  That really is the end of DMZ now.  See you in the comments.


  1. Wow, that was great. Again, it's going to take a little while to process. But in the interim I'll just say how much this final episode reminds me of Vonnegutt's "Mother Night". You read it? It's the source of that quote "We are who we pretend to be". And that seems eminently applicable here.

    *spoilers for mother night*

    As you may know it's about a guy who makes propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis. In actuality he's working for the Allies, but obviously that's a secret. The book is meant to be written as he awaits trial and possible execution in Israel as a war criminal. In the end the US provide a letter with proof he was working for them. However he remembers back to a conversation at the end of the war where his Nazi boss tells him he always knew he was a spy, but it didn't matter. He was doing such a good job pretending to be a Nazi propagandist that he might as well have been a real one so they left him in place. So he doesn't show the court the letter and pleads guilty anyway.

    That really resonanates here and I'm seeing this story through that lens.

    It's like that 'intent isn't magic' idea. Now I don't wholly subscribe to that (otherwise attempted murder wouldn't be a crime) but whatever matty's motives he did carry out a lot of dodgy actions. Now I can think of both legal and moral defences for most of them. But at the end of the day I agree with his analysis as to his own culpability.

    And that's why this was a great end to the story. It was so "grown up". No Hollywood happy ending but at the same time no going out in a blaze of glory. A boring legal hearing and a prison sentence is both dull and unglamorous. But ironically it's the anti-climactic end that makes for such a satisfying climax. It was the perfect ending.

  2. Oh FFS, my stupid browser ate my long comment. I'm to knackered to retype it all, but I will say I also liked how it ended with a trial and a peace that we get to see lasted as New York rose again from the ashes of the DMZ. I also liked when rereading it that Matty is constantly assumed to have been a Karma Houdini by others, but of course he really isn't even though he could have been. As you say, a grown-up ending from a series that never patronised or talked down to the readers with easy solutions. I'll miss it.

  3. Argh, that's so annoying. That's why I took to typing up my comments and then cutting and pasting them.

    Still cogitating my thoughts. But it's a lovely balmy evening here and I'm very chilled. Just checking a cv for another friend. She's up for a job with 'everyday feminism'. Heh, look at me, being asked my thoughts on that. I'll be wearing one of those 'this is what a feminist looks like' shirts. Although as another friend puts it "or just wear a ski mask". She shares my scepticism about self proclaimed male feminists. Its a great cv though.

    As to the story, one minor bit of satisfaction is you know I've always thought Matty was a bit of a twat and Wilson was the real hero. I like that that's reflected in the outcome. Both narratively and by the residents of the DMZ themselves. No karma houdini and no forgotten fallen. Everyone gets their just deserts, but in a way that doesn't fee forced or cheesy.

    More thoughts to follow.

    In unrelated news, just had a fun encounter. Walking to the shop when this cat comes over. Seems very friendly so we get into all the rubbing and tickling thing. All goes well til I go near his tail. Then it's a sudden *chomp*. Fucking hard too. But anyway turns out (as suspected) he's one of my neighbours. She's always taking in rescue cats. Turns out when she got him someone had put tape all round his tail. Poor thing. Anyway, did some more tickling to show no hard feelings (staying well away from his back end of course). Now he's taken to following me everywhere. He was just sat on my doorstep til my neighbour called him in for supper. He is growing on me, he's cute but psychotic. Like all the best people.

  4. I don't know why Chromium has a sudden hunger for my comments, but now I have opened a notepad file on my desktop and am following your idea.

    Also, d'awww about the cat. Biff can be a bit funny about the base of his tail. He doesn't mind if you run your hand along in when doing the full body stroke. But when he is sat down you touch it at your peril. He's outside most of the day due to the weather zealously guarding "his" yard. It's funny when cats follow you. My mum lives at the bottom end of a very loooooooong cul de sac and every other home has a cat. And of course you have to stop and stroke each one, that's the law. On a good day you can have about four or five following you :D

    Yeah Matty was a twat, but I shed tears for him. What he did in the end was pretty noble. I find self-destructiveness as a trait fascinating because it speaks to some very dark periods I went through before I got on my current treatment regime. The fact that he sees his life as worthless now his book is written and the story of the DMZ is told just fills me with great sadness. Still we can see the regenerated New York as his other legacy and that's cause for positive thoughts.

  5. I once took sassy and my neighbours dog for a walk and along the way picked up another four. When I got home I had to drive them all back to their respective homes. Mind you did that babysitting too. Dropped the original horde back where they were staying. Then noticed an extra one. "Who the fuck are you?" Apparently the kids vaguely knew him. I'm sure that would have satisfied the police when I was nicked for kidnapping. Luckily he knew his mum's phone number.

    But now you've given me more to ponder with the psychological aspects. I'll defer to your expertise. But it is fascinating to ponder. You know I feel what's psychology and what's personality is often arbitrary. So I just felt Matty fit nicely on a spectrum of ordinary personalities. But I'd never considered there may have been other factors at play. I'm still thinking of him as typical bourgeois faux revolutionary who got excited by the opportunity to have a cause. But maybe there's more to it. Hmm, something to digest.

  6. I don't really have expertise just experience. And that type of extreme self-annihilation is definitely born out of profound self loathing. He literally makes himself an un-person, he takes all the sins of the DMZ on his shoulders and provides its guilt riddled fall guy. Zee herself touches on it when she asks of he's ever just stopped to process his losses. Well when he finally did, he really didn't like what he saw and we got the outcome with him in prison for life. And content with that.

  7. You're last sentence reminded me of something. After a mercifully short time of brain wracking it's the end of the US version of Oldboy. Like Mother Night, it's another example of people judging themselves. I know it's an old idea "the guilty man runs where non persueth" but it's an interesting way to end something. Mind you, my favourite take on that is in red dwarf. Both the Inquisitor episode and the Justice one "this was Liverpool, we went scrumping for cars".

    It's funny though that you see Matty as essentially volunteering to be the child in Omelas. You're probably right. He may well be being genuinely noble. But I still interpret him in a narcissistic way. "he was self important enough before, now he thinks he's Jesus" vibe. Hmm curious. Wonder why we have such different interpretations. Probably says something about ourselves. That's a bit scary. I hope my views aren't formed though projection!

  8. I love Red Dwarf. I have an ancient T-shirt with The Inquisitor on in.

    I did wonder if Matty's sacrifice could be interpreted as him nailing himself to the cross, but I think the ramifications for him were so big (death or life in prison) that I think he really meant it selflessly. Maybe the only selfless thing he ever did. He essentially died, his body is all that's left walking around. Maybe I'm projecting too lol, but it's a sign of a great and flawed character that there can be such differing interpretations.

  9. "He expunges the worthless"

    "We're smegged"

    There were some amazingly deep ideas in RD. Proper metaphysical it were at times.

    You ever seen 'conspiracy'? The film about the Wanasee Conference. Anyway there's a nice little side theme in there about being consumed by anger and hate, and what happens when that's suddenly taken away from you.

    I think you're onto something about Matty now just being a hollow shell. I'm also thinking something about how he's really now the book.

  10. One of my prize possessions is a copy of the first Red Dwarf book signed by Grant Naylor. Ever read the book and its sequel? Excellent fleshing out of concepts in the first few series and genuinely built character too. And also funny and well written. I'll draw a veil over the two different sequels that made up the third volume as each were written individually. I also liked how they kept Kryten as the meek and mild original model, made for interesting comparisons to the more competent TV version.

    I think you're correct that Matty only lives via the book now. Unlike him that can still do good in the world rasing money not for him but for Zee's non profit company.

  11. I've read the RD books many times. Weirdly they have quite an emotional effect on me. I first read them just as I'd broken up with someone. Some of the descriptions of Dave's feelings, especially the "everything he now did was *without* Kochanski..." really hit a nerve. Strangely that made the books more enjoyable in a painful way. What I loved about the first two series was the bleakness of their situation. When it was basically waiting for Godot in space. Those lonely vigils in that observation booth. You really felt they were alone in the universe. And that's the mood that resonated throughout the books too. They really suited my state of mind at the time. And even when I read them years later there was still that association.

    It's funny how influential the series has been. JJ Abrahams says the red shirt guy who parachutes to his death in star trek is meant to be Kill-Crazy, the gung-ho Canary bloke. One of the funniest things in the commentaries is how everyone who worked on the series went on to massively successful careers, except them.

    "Whatever happened to Karen the make-up girl?"

    "She works in Hollywood now, got an Oscar for titanic" sort of thing.

    I did like the last series, seemed to get back on track with all the elements that made the original so good. Mind you, it'll be hard to ever come up with something as funny as "or we could just use the teleporter".

    You'll know red dwarf recycled the nostromo set and with Mac McDonald being in aliens, in my head JMC is a subsidiary of weyland yutani.

    But Matty and the book. Reminds me of James Joyce and Ulyseses. His goal was to have people arguing about it for centuries so he'd effectively be immortal.

  12. Just got in from Manchester after seeing Erasure last night. Amazing show. I can see where you are coming from with emotional resonances, when they sang "Blue Savannah" I burst into tears. Such a big girls blouse. Sister Freya blubbed when they did "Sometimes" which was a hit from the year she was born. We used to sit together watching the videos and live shows I had on tape when she was a kid, so it wasn't just me being wet. Very rowdy audience of mainly women, all singing along. Really enjoyed it, the venue was the Manchester Albert Hall so you could actually see them. Place was rammed packed too.

  13. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm singing along with you in my head. They do have some great songs. I sort of see Erasure as like the parallel universe Depeche Mode; in the reality where they didn't get into heroin. Of course love DP. But Erasure are a bit more 'fun', they're perfect pop music. And when that's done right, as it is here, it's a wonderful genre.

    Good also to see Manchester not being cowed. It's a minor niggle in the whole scheme of things but one reason the Ariana thing is really bugging myself and some of my mates is it was an attack on live music. You've just experienced how amazing an experience that is. Now there's a generation of kids who might be put off that, and will lose out on what's one of the most elating experiences going. Ah well, there's a host of gigs coming up, including the Ariana benefit, so hopefully that will get people back on the horse.

    Oh, and don't know if I told you this but I noticed my new cat friend has a fang missing. After checking it wasn't lodged in me, I asked my neighbour if he'd been in a fight.

    "No, he just ran into a wall."

    He's growing on me.

  14. Yeah it was a great feeling, just this thing that brought everyone together, a shared experience. We were sat outside the pub next door waiting for the last two of a our group (we ended as seven women and one man, pretty much the ratio of the audience lol) and the queue broke into an impromptu rendition of "Stop". It was grin inducing. They are perfect pop and it's a great injustice that they only had one number one and that was the ABBA covers. They didn't perform them, why should they? They have more than enough to fill two hours, and the new stuff they sprinkled through the show has actually got me interested in getting a hold of their new album. I wonder how my sister is feeling today. She was pretty drunk by the end of the show and planned on getting drunkerer. Me and mum had to get home, it was way past our bedtimes. I don't think young people will be cowed about going to see live music, they're more resilient than we tend to remember being. And Manchester was doing good, there was the marathon on Sunday too and I went for a wander round town and people were out grimly enjoying they cloudy and cool weather :D

    Your cat friend sounds cool. Biff has one fang half gone, no idea how. He doesn't fight so maybe he broke it on some nasty chicken bone he found or something. He lets me check his teeth and ears regularly. Those can turn into nasty things if something goes wrong. He is funny. Hates having his bum touched but happy to let me fiddle around with his head for ages.

  15. You're making me all nostalgic now. Two of our favourite venues are the old Town and Country Club and the Astoria. They've both got pubs next door and we'd always end up hanging there before gigs. Then old friends we hadn't seen for a while would turn up. We'd end up gassing and miss the actual gig.

    I had a regular roadie thing at the Astoria. On Saturdays they'd have gigs. Then we'd have an hour to load out before it turned into a gay disco (imaginatively titled "GAY"). We'd have a few beers afterwards. I think that's why I have a thing for Man Parish songs and of course the 'unce, unce, unce..." genre.

    Chart success is a curious thing. You might be surprised how many hugely successful artists never actually had a number one. (Vienna was kept off the top spot by Shadapp a ya face, fair enough). It's all very arbitrary. Also there used to be a lot of rigging going on. It's clamped down a bit now, but there were some good scams. Some where a bit obvious. Shops could only buy records they wanted if they also took an equal number of records that the company was trying to plug. It was also common to give record shop owners better slips. The record company would bet on a particular record reaching number one. So it was in the record shop's best interests to make sure it did. It's funny which bands were involved. Bucks Fizz actually got banned from the charts for a bit because they kept getting caught.

    But yeah, live music is so exhilarating. Such happy, visceral, memories from my youth. And also getting those old silk screen printed posters as souvenirs. Remember those? Always pink or green on black. Gawd, I had such a collection of those. That's probably why I ran away with the circus as it were and did the roadie thing.

  16. Oh I know a lot of acts that deserved to never had number ones. Radiohead and Pulp being two of my fave bands who didn't. I remember being gutted that the Pet Shop Boys (my all time fave band) didn't get number one with Go West because of "Boom Shake The Room" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.

    I did wonder how I'd cope with the concert. I used to go to clubs a lot as in my late teens-early twenties but after my psychotic break in 1998 I developed acute social phobia, finding crowds and noise rather unbearable. Still having watched a lot of live comedy in recent years and been OK I thought I was ready for live music and Erasure the perfect band for it. Probably helped I had my mum and sister there though.

    I did work backstage at a theatre as you know for six years and we had quite a bit of live rock music, including Led Zeppelin so I used to hang around with roadies quite a bit. They were always fun to hear stories from like your good self.

    You've prodded a remembrance of Bucks Fizz being chart banned, wow hadn't thought about that for ages. Fixing the charts always reminds me of one of the Comic Strip Presents "Bad News" episodes where they try and buy loads of copies of their new single from one shop.

  17. Heh, loved Bad News, the British Spinal Tap. The shop thing isn't as daft as it sounds though. In the pre Internet era the charts were complied by looking at paper returns from selected 'chart return shops'. That was meant to be confidential, but record companies would obtain lists of which they were so they could be specifically targeted. It wasn't that clear cut as to what was and wasn't allowed. There were people called 'pluggers' who's job it was to pester radio stations into giving particular songs airplay on the radio and promotions in shops. Even today the Brits is regarded more as a record industry promotional thing than an actual recognition of talent.

    Your theater experience does of course qualify you into the roadie fraternity. Unless of course you're in BECTU, they hated us.

    You're comments about crowds get all sorts of things going in my mind. I know it's nor the same thing and I don't want to undermine your experiences. I do have a weird relationship with crowds (I nearly said 'lots of people', but that of course could have a different implication.) I don't mind crowds in the general sense but London does produce interesting feelings in me. Im simultaneously excited but overwhelmed at the thought of how many people live there. Like when I arrive at night, everyone of those lights in the tower blocks represents a person or even a whole family. And at night I used to think of all the millions of stories just going on within a few miles of me. Millionaire celebrities getting ready to go out and drug deals in the kitchens of tiny council flats. And everything in between. If I'm in a hurry I fly to London and back, but I do enjoy driving and there's like a growing feeling of 'escape' and growing calm as I get nearer and nearer Cornwall. I have an interesting relationship with London. She's like an old girlfriend who I used to have adventures with. We've both moved on now but it's nice to get together to rekindle some of the old times ever now and then. But then it's equally nice to return home and say 'see you next time'. Hmm, you've triggered all sorts of thoughts now (not in a bad way, just mulling)

    Ah Pulp. May have told you this. In t'olden days there was a thing in Bradford called the 1 in 12 club (some statistic about dole fiddling, you know what the 80s were like). They had bands on. One night other were some Sheffield band called pulp. There were about a dozen people in the audience in some pub basement. Now this sounds like one of those stories about seeing the pistols at the 100 club or Manchester Trades. Unfortunately it was a bit less seminal than that. Everyone in the audience did *not* form a band that went on to become famous. In fact we just watched some talentless skinny wastrels with growing indifference and boredom. They shuffled off stage to a smattering of polite clapping (that could easily have been mistaken for sarcasm). Then they came back on for a very unsolicited encore. They did a song called Maureen. And we went wild. It was brilliant. We yelled and cheered. "More, more!" the crowd screamed (all 12 or so of us). At which point the effete skinny front man just stuck up 2 fingers and told us to fuck off. Ah happy days. You know that I next met pulp after jarvis got nicked at the Brits. It's a funny old world. But now I want to see if that Maureen song is on the Internet. Cheers for the inspiration!

  18. Yey, I hadn't imagined it...

  19. An honourary roadier, cool. Of course I we weren't allowed in anything like a union. Us part-timers got terribly exploited lol. I didn't mind, like I said before it was optional work for me for cash to splash on videos and vinyl.

    Seeing Pulp back in the day does sound pretty cool. There breakthrough album "His n'Hers" is my favourite though I know they struggled for about a decade before it made it big. And to go from a small club to Glastonbury is always impressive more so when success wasn't overnight.

    I do sort of understand where you are coming from re: crowds. I used to feel the same about Manchester, especially when I was still living in Buxton. Of course the irony is I was living there when I had my major break and never visited the city centre at all for the rest of my time there. I actually do better now when I come in from Macc to see the family now and wander into the centre to shop. Having a media player helps a lot. I'm much happier in a town now though. It might be smaller but to me it's less claustrophobic.

  20. Oh nothing honorary about it; if you've ever humped a flight case you're in. Bonus points if you carry them one hand whilst smoking a spliff.

    I have to be careful waxing about old bands. Don't want it to get into hipster 'i saw them before they were cool' nonsense. It is funny though when you remember when you first saw some bands. Saw red hot chili peppers as a support act. It was them we'd gone to see though. My friend Robin had put me on to them. She'd known them as a jimi hendrix cover band and they genuinely were superb. It was great though that they were able to transition into their own material but still keep that vibe.

    Funny how some bands don't make it though. I tour managed a band called Loud (terrible name) and everybody in the music business thought they were the next Queen or U2. And they honestly were that good. But after the initial excitement it just fizzled. No-ones quite sure why to this day. Just shows how arbitrary it all is. Sometimes play their stuff to people who don't know them. It's usually 'wow, this is brilliant, when's it being released?'

    Heh, reminds me of how every now and then aircraft enthusiasts would rave about seeing some 'next generation' super modern aeroplane parked up at an airbase, and it would turn out to be the old 1960s Victor bomber. (It still is a really cool design though).

  21. Curious as to your opinion

  22. Ah nostalgia. This reminds me very much of the first time I saw the chilis. Even down to the socks.

  23. I have never smoked anything, never done any drugs that I didn't get in a bag from the pharmacy. Hell this year will be the twenty-fifth since I stopped drinking!

    After last night I do sort of regret not seeing more live music, the only other one I saw was Chumbawamba at a free festival in Plymouth in 1995. Sister no.1 went to Glastonbury several times in the 1990s whereas I was going through my mainly hardcore electronic music phase so I preferred nightclubs. Sister no.2 still regularly does Glastonbury, she is going this year with her boyf and some friends. I was always too fastidious about toilets for that ever to appeal lol.

    That music was interesting. Not quite my cup of tea when it comes to guitar based music, I tend to prefer punkier stuff, the Manics "Holy Bible" album and Nirvana's "In Utero" are my idea of rock music. Still I can see why it's odd they weren't more popular, catchy songs and a good singer. Some people's time never comes it seems. Currently I am exploring Norwegian Death Metal after hearing some used to great effect on an otherwise somewhat run-of-the-mill horror flick called "Sinister". I like to think I know good rock though, I have a game called "Brutal Legend" where you play a roadie transported to a fantasy land where metal makes up the fabric of the varing cultures. It has Ozzy, Lemmy and Rob Halford all playing parts and you get to drive around the land listening to rock from a variety of genres on your radio. Fun stuff.

  24. When we meet up I'll try and drag Julia out for some old times Manchester flashbacks. She's well into live music. She started out as Ents Secretary at uni, and she still promotes bands today. Happy memories of nipping over to 061 land back in the day. Saw quite a few bands at the Ritzy (the place with the bouncy dancefloor, wonder if it's still there).

    With you on the festival toilets thing. When I used to work them we'd either book into a nearby hotel or at least have the relatively civilised backstage area. One of my mates always smokes a bit of smack at festivals. Not that he's particularly into it. Just that it shuts down your digestive system for a few days.

    You might enjoy checking out a label called Napalm Records. They have a pretty eclectic stable of acts. Really quirky. Norwegian death metal reminds me of that comic strip. Where Norman Tebbit says "It's not Satanists. Well nobody I know anyway" in regard to some church burnings. Ooh, now which one was that? You're the comics guru, can you remember?

    Oh, and you must seek out the lemmy interview about rob Halford. So funny.

  25. Nice. I pretty much only pubbed and clubbed in the Village because I had a gaggle of gay and gay friendly pals who were always up for it. The Paradise Factory on a Friday night had women only in The Loft. Cool experience dancing in a room full of women. I actually branched out more when I went and lived in Bristol for a couple of years doing my MA. There is a very eclectic music scene there, my favourite was a club night called "World of Cheese" which played easy listening. It was mainly full of ironic proto-hipsters but I genuinely like Easy listening so I always had fun grooving away.

    I'll check out that label, I'm always up for adding new stuff to my media player which still works after a decade of solid use. It's got a couple of thousand tracks on it, although there is ten years of The News Quiz on there too because I am not always wanting to listen to music when I am out and about.

  26. Oh I'll tell you now in case I forget, I'm doing a Brit comics month in June, but it won't be a full month as I am going to house-sit for mum while she's away at some point for a week (Biff comes too, him and her cats get on fine now) and stupid Google ID won't let me log into the blog to upload new posts. Anyway, I think I deserve a holiday after getting DMZ done on schedule. But I'll probably spend the week writing up Sword of Sorrows which I think is going to run to three posts now.

  27. I love the news quiz, but you know what a Sandi Toksvig fanboy I am. I can't decide whether she'd be better as Dr Who or the Master. I like the idea of a villain who'd be "terribly sorry about this" as she brought around the end of the world. But Missy would be quite a hard act to top (don't know if you've seen her, might be after you stopped watching). Sandi is great at that seemingly flustered but really totally together thing.

    You deserve a break. That must have been a hell of a slog. I've just done a bit of plugging for old school Brit comics on Mammoth so I'm looking forward to parochial month. I'll try to keep my innate snobbery to a minimum. I'm very excited about swords though as you know. But scalped has got me intrigued too. In the almost words of bananarama, cool summer.

  28. Missy I haven't seen, I stopped watching after the Nixon two-parter. I will return to give it a go post-Moffat. I just can't get past the fact the showrunner will be the man who wrote a woman in a cyber bikini punching a pteredon.

    I'm trying to motivate myself to get my next post done for tommorrow but it's so bloody hot I am having my energy sapped. I'll have it done by the end of the week anyway, it's Halo Jones Book 3 so I don't want to half-arse it.

  29. "a woman in a cyber bikini punching a pteredon."

    There's no part of that sentence I don't like.

    Missy is wonderful. Michelle Gomez is just a superb actress. Never seen her in anything before. But then again I don't have a telly. This was a genuinely spine tingling moment:

    But Halo Jones!!! You take your time. She deserves your full attention. I always fancied myself as Luis Cannibal. Being murdered by a girl after sex is on my top 10 ways to go list.

  30. Chris Chibnall probably treats that first season of "Torchwood" as a Never Live It Down period. That and him going on daytime telly in the mid eighties and abusing Pip N'Jane Baker for not making Doctor Who as "edgy" and "gritty" and "horrortastic" enough.

    Actually I'd quite like to go out being murdered by two girls after sex, fnar fnar. It's on my bucket list.

  31. We could set up a really fun alternative to Dignitas. We'd coin it in!