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Lunch in Oakland.

June 12th, 2001

Dr. Who
We have a public television station here hidden in the upper reaches of the UHF spectrum, channel 54, that I stumbled over last evening in the middle of a Dr. Who episode. I don't know how many people other than serious geeks know about the redoubtable Who, but I believe I first ran across him in an episode in the 50's on a New York television station, a New York public television station, no doubt, a horrible little black and white episode with primitive special effects and plot lines that seem to have come straight from the id of a repressed 12 year old British turd who grew to sell Dr. Who to the BBC, mostly because no other television network in its right mind would touch it, and even then only because he was Lord Bumberton's son, a well connected big hitter in the British establishment.

Two things about the Doctor:

First, it is a work of quirky genius.

Second, whoever wrote it, was plumbing the depths of a serious mental disorder. Watching it seemed to plug me directly into the writer's mind in a disturbing way that had nothing to do with the plot, if you could say it had a plot, but directly into what seemed to be the tribulations and neuroses of, yes, the writer, but also into the British establishment culture itself at its most virulent and strident, and, just by watching the god damned thing, I was becoming infected. It made me as mad for that moment as the writer who wrote it.

I've always had this unspoken creepy feeling about Dr. Who, but last night, watching those scenes from three different episodes (all with different actors playing the Doctor), taught me something more: That whatever I was seeing that seemed so disturbing was not just a vision of the mind of the writer, but, rather, whatever it was that drove the writer to create Dr. Who in the first place, whatever it was in his life, his socialization, so to speak, that fomented the idea of the Doctor and thrust him into existence. Dr. Who itself acting as a light to illuminate and give form to the wretchedly repressive circumstances of the writer who spawned him.

Now, this is tricky, but understand I'm projecting here. I say it gave me a glance into the depths SF Carnaval parade. of the British culture that created the writer, but, of course, other than being a member of Britain and Twisted and having had an old friend once who fled Warwickshire and spent a small part of her life hiding out with me in San Francisco, I know nothing of British culture, establishment or otherwise, which, for most Americans, me included, consists of Lewis Carroll, Sherlock Holmes and the Beatles. The Beatles came later. And yes, I know they weren't born aristocrats until they'd made their first hundred million pounds (after tax) and, yes, I believe only one of them has been knighted. Still, for whatever reason, when I think of social constrictions, when I think of emotions held in check and impossibly rigid conventions, I think of Merry Olde England. Not C. Diem, of course, although, possibly, Nicholas E. Grinder. He says he votes Laurel and Hardy Liberal, but you know, deep down, he's got an establishment thing for Alice, ...and Wonderland.

I went on with this at greater length. The British mind set I think of when I read le Carré or Deighton or Doyle or Kipling, for that matter, is a projection of my own social environment when I was growing up in New York. Odd that a British science fiction series could elicit (somewhat unpleasant) memories of my own childhood, but I think my original thought that peering through the mind of a writer, a very good writer, can illuminate the culture from which he himself may come, a culture I myself have no experience with other than through its literature and friends, a kind of indirect illumination, one subconscious communication to another, transposing one culture onto another, has some basis in fact. It's just, you know, these journal entries need to be popped out in a few hours over an evening or two and subconscious communication is probably a broader subject than three hours will allow. So I stopped going on at greater length and ended it here.

The banner photograph was taken last week at a recent Dim Sum lunch with the whole work crew present. The fellow in the mask was a participant in the recent San Francisco Carnaval parade. The quote is attributed to an English professor at Ohio University.