They say that Britain and North America are two cultures divided by a common language
. English is the official language of both nations, although from what I have read on the Internet North America is falling under the influence of Spain
, a nation that seeks to impose its language on the people of New York
etc. In Europe, the Spanish language is restricted to Spain, which is itself not really part of Europe; in the sense that, although it is physically connected to the continental landmass
, it has long been a junior partner in the European process. People in the leading European nations value Spain for its beaches, its climate, and its low property prices. They do not value Spain for its people, not even as disposable manpower (that comes from Eastern Europe
). To the average Briton, outside the world of football, there are no famous living Spanish people. Antonio Banderas
is famous and Spanish and alive, but who in Britain can say with confidence that he is not Mexican? The answer is that British women can say with confidence that he is not Mexican, because women know a lot more about Antonio Banderas that I know about Antonio Banderas. This is because they are addicted to him.
Spain was once an imperial power. There was a time when Spain shaped the world, when it literally shaped the borders of the world. But that time is long gone. The twentieth century killed Spain's past. Like most European nations, Spain transitioned from monarchy to a form of democracy via a variation on fascist dictatorship. But Spain's period of dictatorship was relatively mild. It was never totalitarian and by the end of the Second World War it no longer had a fascistic component. General Franco kept Spain a neutral party during the war, and was one of a very few pre-war leaders to remain in power after the war had finished. He survived into the modern age, and died a year before I was born. He might possibly have owned a copy of KISS ALIVE, which was released a month or two before Franco died. The same cannot be said of Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini or Churchill or FDR and so forth. KISS ALIVE is the modern age. Is it coincidence that Franco, a relic of the past, passed as KISS ALIVE entered the world? Do you believe in coincidence? "There are no coincidences / but sometimes the pattern is more obvious."
The major event in Spain's twentieth century was the Spanish Civil War of Spain. It was a destructive and deeply romantic civil war that took place in Spain between Spanish people on the one side, and other Spanish people on the other, although both sides were augmented by people who were not Spanish. The Spanish Civil War still burns brightly in the hearts of idealists today. For several months it was the goal of the world's socialists and poets to die fighting for the Republican cause. All political idealists have the same goal, to fight and die heroically for an ideal, to send other people to die for an ideal, to kill people for an ideal, to perish on a landscape of burned flesh and broken bones so that the ideal world may become a reality, although it never does. Idealists cannot accept the complexities of the real world. They seek to simplify the world into their ideal. Mass death and piles of bones are simple.
It is the goal of all animals to survive and reproduce. Mankind is not like other animals, however, for men are never satisfied. Men are aware of their own mortality, of the long-term impossibility of physical survival. Most men come to realise that no amount of reason or pleading will stave off death. Even the strongest man succumbs to cancer. Villages are destroyed by fire. Civilisations are low by plague. The great and the small pass from the world. Women and children die, the helpless and the feeble die, the good and the bad.
Flesh rots unless it is tanned and used to make belts and boots. Primitive man placed his faith in monuments and statues as a means of immortality, but it cannot have taken long for primitive man to realise that the monuments would eventually become old and tarnished and broken. The next generation of primitive man must have puzzled over the monuments of the previous generation, and it was just a mental leap to imagine a future generation puzzling over the ruins of the present. One day the ape society will perish, too, and there would be a lone ape walking along a beach in search of his destiny, which will be a giant statue of a man in an ape suit with the face of television's Patrick McGoohan.
Nothing can survive. Not people, or monuments, or ideas. Whether passed on by oral tradition or written down, ideas will eventually become corrupted. Even if ideas remain, they will become irrelevant as the world moves on. The only way for ideas to remain and remain relevant is for the whole world to be brought to a halt. I do not believe that it is possible to bring living creatures to a halt, certainly not human beings. There is always random motion and progress, even if it is very slow. That is why I do not fear dictatorships or totalitarianism] of any political or religious hue. In the long run they will fade away or collapse. Anyone who talks of a thousand-year rule or eternal revolution is either a fool or a conman peddling fool's gold. With my thoughts and words I have defeated the worst tyrants. But I have also ruled out the possibility of eternal paradise. I have other topics, it is just that I dwell on this particular topic when I am bored.
One of the goals of all idealists is the elimination of competing ideas and ideals. Within one's own society this is achieved with censorship, intimidation, and murder. When rival societies meet the result is propaganda and war. Books can be rewritten and republished, whereas complex moral and political philosophies come once in a blue moon, and only then to the gifted or well-read. How is it possible to destroy an idea? With a bonfire of books, or a bonfire of people? Books can be reprinted, and so can people; people's can be reprinted with ideas from books. Ideas spread like a virus. Where do ideas come from? How can ideas be prevented from re-emerging? How many people would have to die, in order to eliminate an idea? Forever? Is anything ever forgotten? I suppose we cannot tell, for if an idea is forgotten there is no-one to remember that it ever existed.
If there is a good thing in the world it is inevitable that forces will seek to destroy that thing. It is always the case. When I am confronted by a good thing I soon wonder how it could be destroyed. Because other people will be wondering the same thing, and they will act upon their conclusions. It is worse to pervert and idea than to destroy it. A perverted idea occupies the space of a good idea, and prevents its rebirth. There comes a point when the virus so dominates the host that the host becomes a carrier. It takes courage to destroy that which was once good, but is now a source of evil. I work in a hospital and I am occasionally party to this dilemma. At what point does an organ or a limb cease to be a friend, and instead become a enemy, a lethal enemy? How can a man trust anything, when his own body rebels against him? When his own body tries to kill him?
But I digress. Spain does not concern me. I have never been there. Today I would like to talk to you about The Brak Show. I realise that by doing so I am trying to sell coals to Newcastle. You probably know more about The Brak Show than I do. You are American and you can relate to the show, whereas I am British and it is alien to me. It is one of several American television programmes that has had no cultural impact in the UK. Perhaps it has been broadcast on The Cartoon Network over here, I do not know. But if I was to dress up as Brak and parade around London I would pass unnoticed by everyone except for American tourists. A lot of American television programmes do not make it across the Atlantic, or do so in muted form. The classic examples are Saturday Night Live and the Late Show with David Letterman, both of which have been broadcast in the UK with a certain amount of media fanfare, both of which have so far failed to penetrate the nation's husk. Satellite and cable television did not become mainstream in the UK until the end of the 1990s, and as a consequence MTV did not have an impact on the record-buying public of the 1980s. The record-buying pubic. There are several million homes in Britain today that can only receive five television channels, and some can only receive four. and MTV is not one of them.
Nonetheless, thanks to internet file-sharing software I can experience The Brak Show, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and NewsRadio, and WKRP in Cincinnati, and the Ben Stiller Show, and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman: Attorney and many others that remain obscure in Britain. And Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which I have already mentioned. Janeane Garofalo is obscure in Britain. The Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan, (insert American teen star here), the victors of American Idol, these people mean nothing down the Dog and Duck. William Hung. I only know of these things because I am on the Internet. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was not broadcast in the UK, or if it was broadcast it was not a success. Barney Miller means nothing in the UK. I do not know who decides which American shows to broadcast in the UK. I am familiar with The Munsters, The Beverley Hillbillies, The Flintstones, and Phil Silvers, because they were all broadcast when I was young. The Invaders, that's another one. I am familiar with that. And Star Trek - the one with Mr Spock - and the Star Trek that was boring, and the other Star Trek that was boring and dimly-lit, and the other Star Trek that had a woman, and the other Star Trek that wasn't very Star Trek.
It is odd. British people of my age are generally familiar with the great canon of American animated classics from the 1960s and 1970s - Scooby-Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Top Cat, Battle of the Planets, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, Ulysses 31, each a classic slice of 100% apple pie mum and dad Americana. But the mass of American animated programmes of the 1980s and 1990s flopped or were never broadcast, with the latter-day exception of South Park, and to a lesser extent the Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo. The Transformers cartoon was shown during the 1980s in the middle of breakfast television, and only briefly. I only became aware of an Action Force cartoon (this was Britain's rebranding of GI Joe) by hearsay.
The Brak Show is a very loose spin-off from an earlier programme called Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, which was a chat show. In contrast, The Brak Show is a sitcom, and apart from two of the main characters and some of the voice actors it is its own show. No knowledge of Space Ghost: C2C is required in order for the viewer to appreciate The Brak Show. No knowledge of American culture is required in order for the viewer to appreciate The Brak Show, and in this respect it is a perfect candidate for transatlantic success. Perhaps Britain's programme planners assumed that a spin-off of Space Ghost: Etc would require an in-depth knowledge of mid-1990s b-list American celebrities on the part of the audience. I must add at this point that Space Ghost cartoon is doubly unknown to British people, in the sense that the original 1960s Space Ghost cartoon was never broadcast or, if it was, it passed me by. Jonny Quest means nothing in Britain. Josie & the Pussycats means nothing. The Wacky Races, on the other hand, was very popular. Yogi Bear is familiar to British people of my age and cultural background. Huckleberry Hound is not. At this point I worry that I am actually writing about myself (which would be boring) rather than a segment of British culture (which would be interesting). However, self-doubt does not stop the people who appear on television to talk and talk about their lives, and in newspapers, as if their lives were my life, and it will not stop me reversing the process onto you. I much not fear. I must not doubt. Doubt is the mud-spreader, the slow death that stains the lips, etc.
I find Brak's mother bewitchingly attractive. She was voiced in the early episodes by a lady called Marsha Crenshaw. Later episodes featured a different and inferior lady whose name I do not recall. The show is said to have "Jumped the Shark" at this point. I have downloaded a representative smattering of the show's episodes, and it seems to me that the quality was always very variable. Whereas Space Ghost: C2C could sail along on its odd style and engaging characters, The Brak Show was much more conventional and invited comparison with big-budget, multi-writer sitcoms such as Friends and Seinfeld and Cheers, which was unfortunate for The Brak Show because the writing was weak.
The show is no longer made. I wanted to like it, and I found the characters to be engaging. But the plots were dull, and the scripts were often too contrived or involved laughing at the deaths of animals, which does not appeal to me. Brak's father comes out with mixed metaphors and extended similes that lack the artificial naturalness that such comedy requires. The plots were straightforward and lacked depth, partly perhaps because the episodes were only ten minutes long.
But Brak himself was likeable. Like a pot-smoking Californian surfing girl, but he was not a girl. It was his mother that attracted me, not Brak himself. One of things that differentiates British and American sitcoms is that the main characters in American sitcoms are likeable, whereas those in British sitcoms are not. Brak was juvenile, trivial, shallow, stupid and had an annoying voice, but he was likeable. The same character in a British equivalent would be an unpleasant little bastard with no redeeming features. Perhaps this is an attempt to deal with the cyclical nature of sitcoms, whereby the main characters are trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape. Progress and promotion are impossible, and ambitious main characters are doomed to continual failure, disappointment and misery. Who wants their friends to fail? Apart from myself?
The characters in American sitcoms often seem happy with their lot in life, whereas there is an entire swathe of British sitcoms in which the main characters try to succeed but fail repeatedly. Perhaps the archetype is Tony Hancock, or Harold Steptoe, but the same basic character trait exists in Basil Fawlty, Alan Partridge, and insert more examples here. Is it better to be a success, and to want for nothing - as is the case for most Americans - or is it better to be a failure, and want for success? And fail? Perhaps there is a fundamental difference between the outlook of British and American people. American sitcom stars are already successful and have trivial problems. British sitcom stars try hard to escape their desperation and failure but they always fail. In the former case progress is undesirable and perhaps inconceivable. In the latter case, it is impossible. And yet American society emphasises success. There is much I do not know.
Of the spidoes I have seen - sorry, I meant to type "episodes" - or did I mean to type "spiders", subconsciously? What is my body telling me?