Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Forgive me if this thought seems a little paranoid. All right, extremely paranoid. But it's one in the morning and I just switched off Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the 1978 horror movie starring Donald Sutherland. It's one of those films which isn't all that scary to watch (well okay, the dog with the human face made me jump) but gets scary later, in your head. Its creepy ideas get under your skin and take you over.

The really nasty bit began for me when I switched the TV off and began thinking about my life in terms of the movie's three main themes:

1. We can never be sure whether someone has become 'the other'.

2. It's easy to be taken over and become the host for some parasitical meme, virus, or extraterrestrial spore.

3. A clever parasite turns its resisting victim into a zombie-like ambassador, henceforth devoted to reproducing and multiplying the virus.

In the light of these themes, the benign events of my day began to take on more sinister undertones.

I'm Having A Pod Day

I spent the day in a recording studio in Soho, laying down analog synth parts for my 'Kahimi Goes Prog' album. (Analog? Bless you, there's a lot of it going round this time of year...) I was visited by an American called Landis and found myself lapsing into uncharacteristic American diction as I told him how I'd tried, a couple of years ago, to get a US Visa. 'Ah,' he might well have said, 'you want to become one of us. Good... very good.'

At about 7pm Kahimi Karie arrived from Paris with her managers, Fumiko and Oka. As if to prove my loyalty, I took my taskmasters to a Japanese-style restaurant. Yo Sushi is in fact a high-concept British restaurant. But, like me, it has been taken over by the idea of Japan (only the idea: you won't find drinks trolley robots, rotating disco lights, or cute sci-fi delivery scooters in any actual Tokyo diners).

Sushi For The Spymaster

I seem to have become a carrier for the virus of Japanese culture, without quite knowing why. Am I already, deep down, one of them? Is my Scottish body -- occupied, duplicated, and discarded -- now lying somewhere like a snakeskin, leaving a Japanified zombie to walk the earth, trying to convert others to the cause? And if so, what was my reward (apart, that is, from the four thousand pound royalty cheque I received this morning from Global Rights Inc, Tokyo)?

Have Japanese girls inveigled their way into my sexual psychology over the past ten years in order to take my sperm and make more Japanes(ish) people in the world? Are they trying to put Japanese genes into spindly Scottish bodies the better to disguise them?

In fact, is my obsession with sex in general just a bunch of alien spores, sperm, or DNA having the last laugh, warping my life to its own nefarious purpose (no doubt the survival of some Neanderthal alpha male and his wretched line of hairy sadists)?

Are Pocket Monsters and Kinder Eggs the vehicles for insidious new bids for world domination?

Prog Zombie

And what about the music I'm making? I believe I've arrived at my current ironic Prog Rock style by some whim, but isn't it closer to the truth to say that I have simply been taken over by the Prog virus recently noted ravaging Hoxton and my friend Douglas's club The Sprawl (shit, I wondered why I was sneezing that night...)?

Like the dying extraterrestrial civilisation in 'Body Snatchers', Planet Prog needed fresh blood. So it infected a young rock writer called Paul Stump, and his book, 'The Music's All That Matters', infected me. Whereas once I was totally immune to Prog, now I find my recording sessions taken over by this dead music back from the grave, with its elaborate chord sequences, its pretentious fantasy themes. What's happening? Why am I doing it, and what is my reward?

(One possible answer to this question could be summed up in what we'll call Momus' Third Law Of Memodynamics: those most vulnerable to meme infection are also those most effective in spreading memes. And while catching memes entails the risk of a loss of individuality, spreading them successfully to others can empower you enormously. You become part of an army, a secret society. If you have a product to sell, you sell more. It becomes easier to reproduce. You get laid.)

Invasion Of The Wrinkles

But there's still that staple horror theme, the fuzzy boundary between 'me' and 'the other'. Have I become one of them? One of who? Well, for instance, an old person. In my twenties I used to think anyone past thirty was 'one of them', but in my thirties I've tended to set the dividing line at forty. No doubt in my forties I'll be saying 'you're young till you're 50', and so on. But isn't it possible that I've crossed that line already? That I am already one of them, and just don't know it?

And if I am already an oldie, maybe I'm using my deceptively youthful appearance to waylay and mislead young people under my influence. Take, a newsgroup where, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, people are talking about 'Momus' (this evangelical golem, this self-replicating dibbuk that, little by little, poor Nick Currie became). In front of our very eyes these people are becoming 'us'.

Actually, it's not so bad being 'one of us'. After all, there is no neutral ground in all this. Look at the Body Snatchers film. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams are on the run from the zombies and eventually both succumb. But if they had survived and escaped, it's obvious from the big eyes they've been making at each other throughout that they would have settled down into a rather humdrum hetero reproductive unit, devoting the rest of their lives to the successful fusion of their DNA. Just another form of possession, really, and a much less interesting one than the snatchers' world, with its amazing solidarity, its sense of mission, and its dogs with human faces.


So welcome. You know you want this. Come, there's nothing to be afraid of. Just fall asleep, when you wake you'll be... different. New, transformed, better. It won't hurt at all.

DON'T FALL ASLEEP! For Christ's sake, hang onto your individuality! Can't you see they're trying to kill you, trying to take you over for their own ends? Take speed, drink coffee, don't fall asleep! Don't become 'them'!

The scary thing is, not only did today prove me to be a Japanified Prog Rock Zombie, it ended with me becoming host to the most infectious meme of all: the Body Snatchers meme. And now I've passed it on to you. You're going to think about your own life as a series of viruses and memes now, aren't you?

Welcome. Don't fight it. You're one of us now.

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