Posted by: Mark Murphy | 20/01/2017

Conspiracy Theories Theory

I have a theory about conspiracy theories.

Every day we read novels and watch films and TV dramas where the ‘bad guys’ put together an incredibly complex plot to achieve their plans.

One ‘good guy’ starts to piece together the clues and sets off on a trail to pursue the ‘bad guys’, a trail that invariably leads him into conflict with the authorities, his friends and colleagues and, apparently, common sense.

After a series of tortuous twists and turns, false trails and apparent failure our ‘good guy’ finally tracks down and defeats the ‘bad guys’.

It is the staple of so many Hollywood thrillers and TV dramas, and the formula is so pervasive that it has shaped our view of the world.

And what these stories all possess is certainty.

Each chunk of the plot fits snugly to the next one and even the apparent false trails and wrong turns are all part of this neatly ordered universe.

So, when a significant real event takes place, it appears that many people choose to believe that it has been engineered from start to finish. Even with the most terrible events, the idea that it has a logical sequence creates a greater sense of comfort and security than the alternative, that it is totally beyond our control.

Some choose to call it God or fate. Others call it a conspiracy because the order and logic of a conspiracy is preferable to the idea of chaos, disorder and random events.

Added to this, the weight of peer pressure strengthens the conspiracy theory view of the world – that those who support conspiracy theories must have a greater insight into the workings of those in power and have access to knowledge and information that only the few, the ‘good guys’ can reach. And therefore, by default, those who deny conspiracy theories are either a) part of the conspiracy or b) naïve and trusting dupes of the organisation(s) that have generated the conspiracy.

And yet, like most of life, the event that is perceived to be the result of a conspiracy is often hugely complex. There are countless strands, sequences and apparently loose ends relying on so many steps and actions, many of them small and apparently insignificant that, even with a few minor changes, could easily lead to a different end result.

A study of history and science, the application of reason and rationality, show this to be the case.

The conspiracy theory then, like a belief in black magic, or voodoo, or lucky charms, is invariably the triumph of unreason, disguised as inevitable logic, over reason.

An afterthought to this blog.

Apparently, the world is controlled by a small, powerful elite.

Now, most folks believe that the internet evolved organically over a number of years and is therefore deemed to be ‘free’ from the influence of the major corporations and other organisations controlled by ‘the elite’. As a result, significant amounts of information (‘the truths they don’t want us to know’), in regard to conspiracy theories can be found on the internet, precisely because it is ‘free’ from the influence of the major corporations and other organisations controlled by ‘the elite’.

And yet, given the power and dominance of ‘the elite’, it would make sense that they were either behind the invention of the internet, or took control of it at an early stage. In which case, all the ‘truths’ about conspiracies found on the internet would either be untruths that are promulgated by ‘the elite’ and their minions or ‘the elite’ don’t actually control the internet at all; in which case they ain’t so powerful after all.

Or I’ve just been brainwashed by that funny noise coming from the microwave.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 29/12/2016

from ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy

“They were not friends, Comrade Pillai and Inspector Thomas Mathew … They were both men whom childhood had abandoned without a trace. Men without curiousity. Without doubt. Both in their own way truly, terrifyingly adult. They looked out at the world and never wondered how it worked, because they knew. They worked it. They were mechanics who serviced different parts of the same machine”.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 14/12/2016

Night in the City

I don’t get out into the city for nights out as much as I’d like, but when I do I could just sit and watch all evening. I love the buzz and the noise and the music and the flow and the constant tumult of it; the bold, sassy sexiness of the women; the jaunty, cocky swaggering men, (the fact that it can turn into something else with just a word or a gesture only adds to its edginess) and the gorgeousness of so many people (because, for sure, folks in general are better looking than they were 30 or 40 years ago).

However much we may love the rugged beauty of the fells, or the wild desolation of the moors or the epic grandeur of the sea, there is an equal attraction in the sheer exuberance and thrill of the city at night.

These different worlds reflect the polar opposites of our sensibilities; like the quiet stillness of contentment and the vertiginous thrill and danger of a grand passion.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 01/12/2016

A Writer’s Journey #1

I was around the age of 15 when I decided my vocation was to be a writer.

Being young and impressionable I presumed this consisted mainly of sitting in smoke-filled bars and drinking until the early hours of the morning, ideally in Paris, while debating the meaning of life with a like-minded group of earnest (and beautiful) young people. In wider society I would be an outsider of course, and poverty stricken but happy; living, in short, the bohemian life.

My reading of these years – Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Virginia Woolf, biographies of fin de siècle painters and writers, films of the same or similar – all served to reinforce this rose tinted view of how my life would take shape.

And in my later years, about the age I am now in fact, I would be living in a cottage in the country; my status secure, my legacy to future generations established, content with my achievements and quite possibly writing my memoirs.

Ah, such a lovely vision; and I would never wish to take it away from my younger self.

But graduating from my History of Art degree then launching myself into the waiting world was like stepping off a kerb and falling flat on my face. Which is pretty much what I did.

I didn’t help myself of course because to be a writer the first thing you have to do is, well, write. Daydreaming about it is all well and good but it doesn’t get the words on the page, or really exercise the creative faculties. I gave myself all sorts of excuses of course. And then, with a young family, I had real excuses like the simple, inescapable fact of earning a living, helping with the kids and the chores, decorating, renovating and repairs (and boy, did I do a lot of that!)

Now I’m at the stage where I thought I’d be sitting on my laurels I’m actually just getting up a head of steam. But I’ve found this writing lark isn’t how I imagined it. In fact, there’s little in the way of bohemianism about it; more like going ten rounds in a boxing ring. Except where, to quote the Chumbawumba song, ‘I get knocked down, I get back up again’, in my case it feels more like ‘I get up, I get knocked back down again’.

Still, if I’m honest, I’d rather be here and dusting myself down after getting up for the umpteenth time than have given up on my aspirations thirty years ago and simply be reflecting on what could have been.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 21/06/2016

Shifting Perspectives

Things of Darkness – 13th – 14th July: Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Have you ever been driving in your car or sitting on a bus and listening to music then suddenly felt as if you are somehow outside of the world, observing it at a distance, and that everything, even the most mundane things, are somehow very strange and distant yet very beautiful?

Or have you ever lay down on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, looking up, until your perspective changes so that it feels like you’re looking down and the ceiling at the top of the stairs is now the floor at the bottom and, where it goes round the corner, it now leads to a strange and unknown place.

Or have you ever looked closely, and for a long time, at a tree or a flower, or the sea, or a mountain, or a rock? Looked so intently that, after a time, everything around seems to fade into a blur and the object that is the focus of your attention becomes a whole world, existing separately, distinct from its surroundings.

That is my idea of being out of kilter.

That is how I want a play, or a poem, or a painting or piece of sculpture to affect me.

So here are a few things that have helped to nudge my perspective a little; Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Nadja by Andre Breton, pretty much anything by the Surrealists, Goya’s Caprichos (and most notably ‘The Sleep of Reason’), Angela Carter’s books and short stories, The Wizard of Oz (the original film of course), the strange and intriguing work of local artist Teresa Wilson (visit her website), Last Year at Marienbad, the poetry of Rimbaud, Blood Wedding by Lorca, the Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, anything by Borges, choral works by obscure or unknown renaissance composers, old and derelict houses in the countryside, that rare and elusive moment between sleeping and waking when we are lucid but not wholly rational and feel as if we are, momentarily, suspended between two worlds.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 07/06/2016


Things of Darkness – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester: 13th – 14th July 2016 (part of GM Fringe)

How does a story begin?

For me, invariably, it starts with a picture in my head. Even if the picture is accompanied by an idea, it is the image, first and foremost, that pesters until I begin to search for the answers as to who or what it is, what it means, what it wants.

And that is how Things of Darkness began to take shape. An image of a strange creature unfurling slowly from the ceiling or the wall of a room like an animal that has been cooped up for a long time.

And in that room a young man sits and waits.

I tried not to think about it too much, I just let it float at the back of my mind. Occasionally I jotted down an idea.

Then, at some point, as I tried to focus on this creature, she began to take shape in my imagination and I wondered ‘well, what if she was a faery?’ Not the type you may find in a Disney version of a Hans Christian Anderson story but more like those of myth or older folk tales, that were mysterious, uncanny, threatening even.

And the young man – who was he? In traditional fairy tales such as The Tinder Box a soldier returning from the war is a central character. So why not do the same for a modern tale? Two apparent opposites. Lost for different reasons. Looking for something. And then, in tales of the uncanny what of doppelgangers, strange coincidences, things that are familiar yet unknown?

As soon as I asked these questions the ideas intrigued and fascinated me. I had already read books by Marina Warner on fairy tales and ideas of metamorphosis. So I re-visited her work and this led me to other writings on the subject. This in turn opened out into ideas around boundaries and thresholds, then Jung, Freud’s article on the Uncanny, the work of the Surrealists, the tales of Hoffmann, Julia Kristeva on abjection and her writings on the concept of ‘the other’, Borges, ideas of magic in different cultures.

Just as I had done with my reading so, when I started writing, I allowed my mind to wander and make its own connections. Taking a cue from the Surrealists approach to creativity I switched off my internal censor (sometimes you have to fight it) and allowed the story to find itself, apparently random connections were made and as I explored further I realised some of the links were through ideas and language rather than any form of naturalistic narrative.

The tale has had many drafts since then; things have been changed, honed and tightened up but it has, I hope, retained the spirit that was there when that image first drifted into my head.

For me, any creative work should be the start of a conversation, not the end, whether that conversation is with yourself, your lover, your neighbour, a hundred other people or many more.

I hope that Things of Darkness, in its own small way, is the seed for many conversations.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 04/08/2015

The Bit Player

There is a point at which the invented narrative we weave around our lives is overtaken by reality and we see, with chilling clarity, that we are not the hero, not even the tragic hero, of these stories, but simply a bit player in someone else’s story.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 14/04/2015

If we lived …

… in a perfect world ….. how would we know it was perfect?

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 12/04/2015

Building an edifice against insignificance

We are all strangers to each other and, if only at a subconscious level, acutely aware of our own isolation as we ‘strut and sweat our hour upon the stage’.

Now, more than ever in this age of democratised mass media where anyone, often without any notable talent or attribute, can achieve notoriety, if not fame, we can each play out in public the dramas of our life or watch those of others unfolding before us; and it is through this process we attempt to build an edifice against the fear of our own insignificance, believing, ultimately, that by sharing these scraps of our experience with others we are somehow granted a kind of immortality.

Posted by: Mark Murphy | 18/03/2015

TV will surely eat itself

Okay … I’m listening to a conversation amongst colleagues at work so let me make sure I understand this … in the TV programme Gogglebox (which shows people watching TV in their house) it transpires that one of the people in this programme has become a bit of a celebrity because … well, because he’s in a TV programme that shows people watching TV; as a result of his celebrity status he’s now in Big Brother which is a TV programme in which the public watch people sitting round in a house … so theoretically at some point the people in Gogglebox could be filmed in their house watching themselves in Big Brother, where they’re sitting in a house, and for which they were chosen because they have become ‘celebrities’ through the original TV programme in which they’re sitting in a house watching TV. For f**k’s sake!

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