Jah Jah Dub

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I’m a Celebrity – Update

Natalie’s major crime was in leaving before eviction, thus denying us the opportunity of seeing Liam Gallagher welcoming her back to “civilisation” – “Top one, love. I would have been shitting it, mate, shitting it.” Shame on you, Appleton. That aside, by the standards of the series, yesterday was an excellent episode. Janet was crotchety and Paul was disturbing - “I know something that she doesn’t, don’t I, my precious? We knows that I is a trained French chef, don’t we? Yes. Yes. She will know too, won’t she, precious? Then we will see. Then we will see.” Sheila was tediously competent at the challenge; Huggy displayed his usual casual misogyny. The star though, was Joe. Residing in the hitherto unexpectedly loveable space between Corporal Jones and Private Pike, his charm offensive gathers momentum. Somehow taking the emus for a walk managed to endear, not disgust. All this and the ever-reliable British public split up the show’s first couple. Goodbye, Nancy, your level-headed nature and endless cheer will not be missed.

Worse than reading The Da Vinci Code.

This was just delivered to me at work:

Let it be known that I am in the market for any memorabilia or campaign material from failed post-war presidential bids.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Hampstead Heath and Hairy Legs

Two tiny thoughts I’m nailing together despite their protests. I was up around Hampstead Heath on Saturday and thought, “wow, this isn’t like London at all.” But it is. Obviously. I am comparing real life with some idea of London I hold in my head. This conceptual metropolis - made up from films romantic and gritty, the West End, the City, Clapham, Brixton, Streatham Hill, various other districts – is incomplete and misleading. Uxbridge, Neasden, Dulwich, Theydon Bois are all “London” as much as is Peckham. This phenomenon of having problems with x for not being x enough happens all the time, of course. Hairy legs on women is considered unfeminine, although it is completely natural. Men who find unshaved women attractive are considered odd, suspect, and possibly homosexual, all for desiring the female rather than the feminine. The idea of “woman” exists separate to actual women instead of coming from them. But I’m not trying to impress by being right-on here. I know it’s obvious and common-place; it just struck me as a particularly glaring example.

I'm a Celebrity - Update

So there I am, limbering up to write how the show is actually improving due to starvation rations and the fantastic cruelty of the British public in continually nominating the impossibly fragile Appleton to face every challenge when I see this news. Nice one, Nat, I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Why I hate James Bond films:

You’re not really allowed to dislike James Bond. You can try taking a principled stance against the misogyny and racism, but you leave yourself wide-open to accusations of over-earnestness and that you really should just lighten up and enjoy it. So established is the view that these are peerless entertainments, any reservations are viewed as the moanings of a po-faced dullard. The problem is, what’s to enjoy?

By stealth this series has managed to establish a new genre, the “Bond Film”, which leaves it impervious to criticism – they can only be compared to each other. Thus shortcomings are paraded as characteristic features. Terrible characterisation? Feeble plots? Risible dialogue? Complete absence of dramatic tension? We’ve got ‘em all and more besides! Gather round, people, for your latest dollop of flavourless gruel!* Only when non-Bond-like to they rise to anything like mediocrity (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldeneye); at their most typical, they are terrible (Die Another Day is a strong candidate for the worst film ever made). Once they may have meant something, the sex and violence was daring. Forty years ago. Surely we don’t need them anymore?

Why do they appeal? This is a curious one. I can see why a small boy would aspire to the image: you get to kiss pretty ladies, shoot a bang-bang-gun and go to grown up places like casinos. But to an adult? He has no friends, no family, nothing to say… He is a collection of snobberies and an ageing letch. His solitude is not romantic, it is the solipsism of the adolescent. Glamour? Don’t think so. Yachts, Martinis, cigars, dinner jackets… This is as sophisticated as Simon Le Bon. And have you ever been to a casino?!

A quick word on the women. Sorry, “girls”. Telling, that one. Why some extremely good actresses have queued up to appear in these excuses is beyond me, as is the fantasy of some women to be like these ciphers. They have little purpose other than looking pretty and providing feed lines to Bond for his excruciating double-entendres.

- If you want smart-talking sexually-driven chat, why not aspire to Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday or Kathryn Hepburn in any number of intelligent comedies for adults?
- Because I also want my dress to be taken off with a magnet.
- Fair enough.

But what do you expect? It’s Bond! I expect not to be insulted. I expect an action film to be exciting – like Die Hard. I expect an escapist film to be entertaining – like Con Air. I expect stories to make sense within the universe described by the film – like The Rock. I do not expect to be insulted by a brazen contempt for the audience. What do *you* expect? Some gadgets, “exotic” locations and beautiful women? Watch one of the old ones then; at least they don’t have John Cleese continuing his relentless quest to piss away all the goodwill he managed to accrue from Monty Python and Fawlty Towers.

*Ummm… says Cubby Broccoli. I guess.

Has London gone on holiday? Very quiet this morning.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Forthcoming posts (or ones that will probably never happen now that I've signposted them):

1) Why I hate the Tate Modern.
2) Why I hate the Notting Hill Carnival.
3) Why I hate James Bond.


Friday, November 26, 2004

I'm a Celebrity - Update

Forgot to do this earlier. It's getting better but has a long way to go. (And Nat, if you need to do something, just do it. Or don't do it. Messing around and procrastinating aren't going to win the camp any stars.) I'll be missing the next few episodes, so you'll have to watch it yourself.

Come on! Let's go!

Surely there must be some takers for this.

This is a truly terrible article.

A quick summary of Steele's points, why not try finding as many inconsistencies as you can:

- Ukraine is a divided country.

- The protesters are from the West. Therefore they do not speak for the whole country. Should be quiet for the sake of stability.

- *Some* of the protesters are chanting songs from the second world war. The years of WW2 were anti-semitic. Uh-huh... Some people at Stop the War marches are dressed like suicide bombers, doesn't mean everyone feels the same way.

- Yushchenko served under Kuchma, a bad man, and some of his backers are brutal industrialists. He is therefore bad and no hero, may as well stick with what they have.

Although he might be better, not much will change. And hey! he would have falsified the results too! So that's alright then.

Other post-Soviet countries have also falsified their results. Again, that's ok then.
No protest at these inconsistencies, so presumably no one has a right to now.

Mention of evil "Western Money" being used. No mention of "good Russian" interference.

If democracy is used in US interests then it is a bad thing.

Russian interest is benign and understandable, "Western" is imperialist.

The US is continuing its Cold War policy of trying to aquire allies. This is not what Russia is doing. For some reason.

The EU should keep out of it, or at most urge compromise. Ok, not our problem, stick with the status quo.

The EU should promise membership and promote Eastern enlargement. And this won't encircle Russia or threaten it? (NB surely threatens Russia's "ambitions or interests". Troops are hardly massing on the border.)

The Ukraine is a unified country, apparently, and a European one at that. So it is Western and not Russian then. And a majority can speak for the country, can it?

The above can only be understood in terms of Cold War balance of power realpolitick, and this writer is - if forced to choose - for Russian rather than US interests. Any outcome which America would smile on is to be avoided.

Fucking Guardian.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Really wishing that the KCSU yearbook 2000 was online.

If you're lucky I'll write more about T.T. tomorrow. To be honest I don't know if anyone still reads this. Hello? Hello?! I may just email it out to my three regular commentators*.

* Peter, Kelvin, Martin.

New addition to the "Quite good once you know" file:

Along with "See Emily Play" by Pink Floyd and that one by Status Quo* we can add "Silver Machine" by Hawkwind. All I knew of Hawkwind was from Mark Radcliffe's terrible, clumsy "Showbusiness: The Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Nobody" and that some version of them played the Isle of Man during the TT races every year. This didn't endear me to them; the only other groups who deigned to visit Ellan Vanin during my residence being P.J. and Duncan and Mansun. I realise now, of course, that those were two good reasons why I should have paid attention a long while ago.

* Comment here with, "Which one? "In the Army Now"? "Down Down"? They did nothing but tunes!

Is it unforgivable to try and transcend friends reunited by sketching out a wikipedia entry for myself?

Watching I'm a Celebrity, I suddenly realised that I'd seen Paul Burrell and Natalie Appleton in actual real life. They were guests on Johnny Vaughn Tonight, the first programme shown on BBC 3. Yes, grandchildren, I was there.

Just heard an advert for the Best of Kings (approximate link here). Assumed they'd been talking about me.

Every time I'm in mixed company and a girl with dyed hair gets talking about her natural colour, the comment is always the same:

"My hair is actually like Alistair's... Mousy."

Thanks girls, nice to know that anyone unfortunate enough to share my colouring changes it as soon as possible.

I stand by the latest update, although this sounds like one of the best ever bushtucker trials.

I’m a Celebrity – Update

I must confess (“…I’ve been hanging round your old address…”) I didn’t watch it last night. However, if news reports are to be believed then I only have bad things to say. What was once a pure and beautiful thing has been destroyed. Continuity and stand-offishness from the makers gave the show its greatness, its stranded on a desert island feel. Once you start indulging producers’ whims and pulling stunts like the dropping in of new camp mates, the illusion is destroyed: they are once more on television, they are there to compete and are expecting gimmicks. It’s 14.55 on Thursday the 25th of November and I’m proclaiming the show clinically dead, the only uncertainty is how long before they turn off the life support. Any new series must overhaul the format. A troop of c-listers dragging a ship through South America? I’d buy that for a dollar.

UPDATE: I may modify my stance. With Emma B. on the way, this series could be a great, no-rules, anarchic piece of craziness - the kind of thing that Channel 5 does so well (The Farm, Back to Reality). But if so then it must be the final run.

I am disgusted with myself. This lunchtime I sat in a café reading about post-structuralism. And I was wearing a polo neck, for fuck’s sake. Trying to differentiate myself from the flotsam and jetsam which clogged up King’s bar, I excused my behaviour on the grounds that it was knowing, and that I was executing a sophisticated parody of bourgeois pseudo-intellectuals: by being exactly the same, but with full awareness of the type. I even found myself thinking about play, word games and reflexivity and how they related to my behaviour. Thankfully a more sane part of me revolted and I stopped myself before – to use the well-worn and ignorant joke of the philistine anti-intellectual – I disappeared up my own simulacrum. I put my critical theory away and picked up Bleak House; as the winter nights draw in, my tastes drift to the Victorian novel.

As you can see from this post, the “author” is trying to claim any kudos available for his curiosity about different intellectual approaches whilst at the same time attempting to escape possible ridicule by maintaining a safe distance from them. Unfortunately his head cannot accommodate the “no nonsense man of the people” and “intellectual” hats together, perhaps surprising given its bloated size. Note too the faux-casual way he drops in that he is reading Bleak House; he is obviously inordinately proud of himself for being interested in an old book. Even then, he cannot say that he enjoys it, or that he is trying to stretch himself, but must use pastiche: as the winter nights draw in, my tastes drift to the Victorian novel. It is also instructive that in that last sentence he had to spell out that his tongue was in his cheek, so worried was he that he might be taken as pompous. Unfortunately he failed, and the words you are reading now are just making it worse and worse.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I'm a Celebrity - Update

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been sold a pup. Contemptuous television executives have no respect for us and have brought together the worst selection of contestants yet. Fully half of the group are making up the numbers, there is no potential for sexual tension and the producers haven't even had the decency to get them all pissed. This series has Big Brother 4 written all over it, and just the hope that there's a Big Brother 5 version of Celebrity on its way is keeping me in any way loyal.

Still Pasquale to win. If you care.

Having just watched my I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! DVD, I realise that TV will never be as good again.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I have signed-photos of two of these giants.

Hip in my office: someone's put on the Scissor Sisters album.

I'm a Celebrity - Update

A heroic performance in yesterday's bushtucker trial - Liam, you better give me such a hug when I get back! - will propel her to in amongst the favourites today. However, this position is unsustainable and she will find her equilibrium point, the 40th percentile, within the week.

Nothing else happened of note. My earlier analysis still stands.


Monday, November 22, 2004

I’m so bored of this Charles saga. Had anyone else said what he wrote in his memo, the din would have subsided long before now. Of course he’s a ridiculous old anachronism, but look at his words:

“Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far above their capabilities?"

Anything particularly controversial here? It’s hardly a ridiculous question, although he’s loading spud guns and handing them out to anyone who fancies a pop at him. But again, forget who he is. Is there nothing at all in his point? I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything recent about this phenomenon, but you can make a case: people are in more credit than ever before, and certainly one explanation is that there is a feeling that one deserves a certain lifestyle, regardless of income. Whether he’s right or not is a preposterous question. How would we know if he was? There’s not an answer book somewhere that we can check up with. Much more pertinent is, “is this a valid hypothesis?” I would suggest that it’s an argument that can be made with some foundation. Argue with it if you don’t agree with him: put some evidence up yourself. Of course you can’t though. What are you going to say, “I don’t think that people do think that they can do things they’re obviously unqualified for.” Okay. That’s that then.

"This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of a child-centred education system which tells people they can become pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability.”

Even if we accept his proposition, I think he misses a hand-hold here. I’m not sure that the education system has much to do with it, if there is a “me-now-all” culture then schools are easy to blame. But this was an internal memo, not a broadcast to the people: a few lapses of intellectual rigour may be forgiven. Equally stern standards should be applied to the columnists who ply their trade by laying into this easiest target of all, and furthermore for what he *is* not for what he *says*. If I could be bothered then I’d do it myself, but as I said at the top, I’m weary of this phoney controversy and tired of defending the jug-eared nincompoop.

But hey, why worry? We are all beautiful snowflakes, and we can be whatever we want to be. Can’t we? Can’t we?!

Popstar accountability watch

05/11/2003 - Cheryl Tweedy on racism and relationships:

"The worst thing for me at the time was being called a racist(...) The kind of guys I go for are mixed race."


"Love is in the air for Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy and footballer Ashley Cole."

We should never have doubted her.

What price Blair, Bonehead and Tony McCarroll?

- Haha! Bush could be called "Bonehead"! Do you see? Haha!
- Well done, you worthless flibbertigibbet.

Realised that I actually have some favourite films now, not just a carefully-picked selection of received opinions (Godfather II, Pulp Fiction etc...). In no particular order:

1) A Matter of Life and Death
2) Anatomy of a Murder
3) La Grande Illusion

All ragged and flawed and not an 18-certificate amongst them. My teenage-self would not be impressed ("How can you leave off Raging Bull? There's never been a finer film!" "Back in your box, pipsqueak."). Alternatively, I might have been awestruck. One or the other. Don't really care though, as has been irrefutably established, youngsters know dick.

What, no Wolfowitz?

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 4 - Early Analysis

At first glance it looks like a reasonably strong showing. This series will be neither a washout nor a classic - about as good as the last one. Potential for romance is nil, but there is broad scope for conflict. Contestants, one by one:

1) Brian

Family tragedy will keep his challenge alive longer than it deserves. He has no charm or charisma and will probably be the third to leave.

2) Fran

A true unknown. His no-nonsense attitude and courage in the face of Wichiti grubs will elevate him to mid-table obscurity.

3) "Huggy"

As with "Miss World" and "Mr Gay UK" in The Games, he's apparently not allowed his real name. Takes himself extremely seriously and will be involved in lots of pointless clashes. All in all: very good for business. I trust the British Public to keep him in, vote for him to do challenges and then eject him when it starts getting serious.

4) Janet

Pursuing a dangerous strategy. Is hoping her straight-talking will carry favour with the public. It might work, but she's overplaying it so far.

5) Joe

A definite top 3. My tip to win.

6) Nancy

The surprise package of the show, think Linda Barker in Series 2. Maternal, capable, good humoured. Doesn't have a high enough profile to win it, but could make the final 3.

7) Natalie

Fantastic. Her complete inability to deal with anything thus far guarantees her a few bush-tucker trials. So far seems to be exhibiting symptoms of narcotic withdrawal - argh! A tree!

8) Paul

Paul, Paul, Paul... Oh dear. Is clearly hoping for a Hewitt-style reinvention. However, he has none of Hewitt's dubious charm, although apparently he has a wife (Marty - did they just say Paul's *wife*?). Expect a trial soon, something which could give him a platform to build on. It won't though. Public distaste for his character ensures an early exit.

9) Shelia

Strong, fights her corner, will pick up some support but doesn't have championship form. I predict she'll be among the final 6.

10) Sophie

Just another boring coke-head. She's doing nothing and going nowhere. She'll be fourth out unless she can convince people there's more to her. Unfortunately for her, there isn't.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

I assume that everyone's voting for G-4 on X-Factor... Very well then.

Of course I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Now! on ITV2. For the uninitiated, it showcases the best double act I've ever seen: Mark Durden-Smith and Tara Palmer Tomkinson.

I'm a celeb... back and on track. Pasquale, Street-Porter and Another will be top three. Fargas will make things interesting. Harvey is, predictably, the filth.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Those Safari Suits are cut down again. And they only have them in my size.

It's an end of season clearance. Is that necessary? Can't they just stick them under the stairs? On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be caught wearing an outdated safari suit. "Look at him! His suit is so 2004. He looks ridiculous!"

Hey! Remember that thing about Prince Charles?

No. Not this thing:

The other thing that everyone was speculating about a while back.

Popstar accountability watch

Friday April 19, 2002: Avril on Britney Spears

"I mean, the way she dresses — would you walk around the street in a fuckin' bra?" she asks rhetorically. "I'm not trying to dis anyone, but with me, the clothes I wear onstage are the clothes I would wear to school or go shopping. I'm not gonna go up onstage and dress different. Britney Spears goes up onstage and dresses like a showgirl. She's not being herself up there because she's dancing like a ho. Is she ho? She says she's a virgin. Y'know, it's just not clicking. She's doing one thing and saying another thing, y'know? It's definitely not what I'm going to do."

October 31, 2004


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Well that was quite fun, helped along enourmously by the three hour lunch. All in all, and as Tim would say: capital.

I'm going to be out of the office today being introduced to more secret rites of capitalism - smokey rooms, members of the proletariat as foot-stools, dressing up in dresses and singing songs - that kind of thing I'd imagine.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I'm a Celebrity... line up. At first glance, uninspiring... However, Janet Street Porter, Joe Pasquale and Brian Harvey seems promising, and the replacement of Emma B. with Antonio Fargas could be the making of it.

Does it say something about record-collector-types that Greatest Ever lists are so much more prevalent in music than film? You could probably guess almost half of the top twenty in any (non-Cornish) best albums of all time countdowns: a canon is being established to oppress non-believers. Citizen Kane aside, film lists are much more fluid; and anyone's choice of "favourite" is cheerfully respected.

Interesting article about Spanish identity through the prism of footballing allegiance. There is nothing immutable or “natural” in countries as they happen to now exist, something which is easily forgotten when living on an island with obvious boundaries. As Rosenthal says in La Grande Illusion* when Marechal asks him if that really is Switzerland over there, it doesn’t look any different: “the border is man-made and invisible, nature doesn’t give a damn.”

* Watched this again last night. Imperfectly structured, at least to modern eyes, it is more full of ideas and wisdom than a loaded-palate of Full Metal Jackets. Made in 1937, just ten years after the Jazz Singer, you wonder how many more war films were really needed. I think I will persist in my affectation that it is My Favourite Film.

Cantankerous old goat that he is, I do have some time for Luis Aragonés. But his latest comments invite a response:

I know who are the racists. I remember the colonies. I have a lot of black friends and I have fed black people at my table, in my house. They have explained to me that the English were after them in the colonies.

Hmmm… Let’s pass over the fact that this is completely incoherent (After them? What are you talking about?), it may have been badly translated. More pertinent is the established consensus that Britain must take the rap for all European imperialism. Everyone was at it, Britain just happened to be the best. However, it seems as if we are the only nationality which can admit to the less than proud moments of our history. And Luis, you’re on dangerous ground if you’re holding people today accountable for the actions of their ancestors: Spanish record in South America? Franco?

Update: Sid Lowe has some interesting stuff about the affair here.

Yet more proof of Laurie's superiority over Fry.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Why this map - and the idea of a polarised America - is misleading is interestingly detailed here.

Thanks to Marty for the tip-off.

Addendum to previous post.

Covent Garden is the most Mickey Mouse station, and area, in London.


A clear distinction can be made within the supposedly unified London Underground system. On the one hand, the proper grown-up routes: on the other, the noddy trains. The Northern Line and the Victoria Line are full of sober people who deal with matters of great import. The Waterloo and City, the Central, Jubilee and East London lines also demand respect. But the Metropolitan and the Hammersmith and City Lines are frequented by clowns and buffoons, day-trippers and out-patients. Perhaps surprisingly, that great 80’s vision of the future of mass-transport, that Epcot monorail the DLR must be treated with due deference. The Bakerloo and the Piccadilly I summarily dismiss as essentially frivolous.

No serious person has ever taken the Circle Line.

Of course my new t-shirt.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Of course no comments.

Confused, rambling, will probably be subject to extensive revision or deletion.

Grief is about what you lose: you are sorry for what you don’t have anymore. The person who dies is fine, they don’t know that they’re no longer around; the sadness exists in those who knew the deceased, those who will do the missing. Losing someone who is important to you is horrific; you get over it, in that you can function and still have happiness in your life, but you have to adjust to a new world. We can’t respond adequately to other people’s tragedies. It is impossible to empathise with all the bereaved, all the time. If we could absorb the significance and importance of every death we heard about in the news then we would be unable to function. Ten Dead in rail crash. What?! The memories of ten people have been obliterated; the hopes and concerns of each have vanished forever. All leave behind people who will be devastated by their loss. So we can’t deal with it; recognising the humanity behind each news story is too much to bear. We say we’re sorry, we pretend to ourselves that we feel sad about it and get on with other things. And this isn’t callous; it’s the only way that anything gets done. We can’t feel each other’s pain, and what a relief that is. Imagine if we could: it would be incapacitating. You know where this is going, don’t you? All roads lead to Dirt McGirt.

The reaction in my house to the news of O.D.B.’s death got me thinking. There was an initial surprise (“No fucking way!”), then not-so-much-of-a-shock-actually, followed by a succession of O.D.B. stories that we laughed our way through. No glum faces, no fake sincerity or hypocritical concern for those he left behind; just an excuse to celebrate the crazy fool. If you think about it for even a second, then of course it’s sad. There will be people close to the man born Russell Jones who will today be facing a seemingly unending darkness. But it’s not my tragedy. It’s not going to affect me in any way. His rap on the Neptunes album was quite good, but you know, I wasn’t holding out for a world-shattering solo-project. The only justified emotion is a hope that those in his wake will fare better: a concern for those still alive. All this is by way of saying that our reaction to the death of famous people is interesting. If someone is old and not working anymore then why do we pretend to be affected? They’re not going to entertain us with any new work. If they’re young, then we miss the entertainments foregone, not the individual. In some way grief is a privilege, and unless we have a personal relationship with the deceased we have no right to mawkishness or to sympathy for our loss.

No caption required


Sunday, November 14, 2004

At least John Peel had a good innings.


Friday, November 12, 2004

You may have noticed the beginnings of my selling-out. There are now some adverts at the bottom of the page; when I can work out how to neatly put them somewhere else, I will. Why not click on them?! Any money I receive I can plough into booze and books, which will in turn provide anecdote and frustrating comment.

I just saw an old cove sporting a bowler hat. I love working in Wodehouse-world.

Despite wearing Paul Wolfowitz t-shirts, I'm not an apologist for America; it's just that writing things that I know everyone already agrees with is pointless. I share most of the concerns of the left - children, the poor, little animals - but all that stuff goes without saying and would be a boring way to spend my day. Where was I? Oh yes: if all you know of Hitchens is his pro-intervention stance, check this out.

"But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near."

I fell as I climbed into the shower today. An unwelcome reminder that I'm not getting any younger.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

The best newsagent in London not a shop at all, but a kiosk in Green Park tube station. Although pricey - you'd expect that - the two guys who run it are friendly without going over the top, and efficient without seeming like they're trying to move you on - even when they give you your change as you hand over the money.

Warning - Contains Football

Already the carping has begun. Despite the Premiership being more competitive than in recent years - at least there are now three teams who could win it, not just two, or even one - that's apparently not fair as there's money behind Chelsea. Never mind that Blackburn bought the title in 1995; that was romantic, an old man bankrolling his dream. Never mind too that every big club has thrown money around all over the place in a bid for success. Once Chelsea have some sensible management to go with their millions then it's not fair. Under Ranieri they were fun, but were never actually going to win anything: the Manchester-Arsenal duopoly was safe so that's alright then. Which route to success would be acceptable? A rag-bag of old professionals and youth-teamers from somewhere unfashionable, Ipswich perhaps, going on an incredible run playing attractive football and guided by an wise, straight-talking, flat-cap-wearing traditional football man and sprinklings of, I don't know, magic or something. If we can't have that then we'll just take Man U and Arsenal then thanks. Some sense is talked here. Splashing money around will not win any team a title; it's about good management having support and resources.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Almost two views on America

(1) There is a tendency in Britain to think of the Anglo-American relationship as like that of George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men - “I didn’t mean to hurt the Iraqis, George! I was just tryin' to pet 'em a little.” – a blundering brute kept in check by a smaller, wily, more streetwise friend. The reality is less flattering. The British attitude (and perhaps the European, though I don’t feel qualified to speak for them) is more like that of an ageing parent, jealously carping about a more vigorous, errant offspring. This wayward son is damned whatever. Too clever by half – Harvard, MIT, MOMA – and just plain stupid: redneck, patriotic, terrible television. Held to a different standard than other nations, our son either mopes in isolation or should learn to mind his own business; so unlike those other nice boys, China, Russia and India. Even plucky old France, the lippy neighbourhood scrapper, could teach our kid a thing or two. He’s fallen in with a bad crowd, you see: the Neoconservatives, the Christian Right, the philistines and the postmodernists. We don’t like it. Why can't he be more like us? We complain about his escapades and the way he throws his weight around; to be honest, he secretly reminds us of ourselves when we were young. The problem is not even so much what he does do, but what he’s able to do – just because he feels like it. Still though, we call him if we fall over and can’t get out of the bath. He never comes in time though, the ungrateful little bastard, gave him our best years we did.

(2) If I could be bothered then I would extend the following analogy further. However, cultural studies and alternative readings are not really my thing. Nevertheless, I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch. Instead of a portrait of modern day America, early Sopranos episodes can be interpreted as a metaphor for America’s place within the world*. Tony represents the USA as it is today: powerful if unsure of its role, it lives by a code of its own, thinking that this it superior to the hypocrisies of official law. Trying to balance the various elements of its family and keep everyone happy it becomes frustrated and may lash out. Tony’s mother is, to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, “Old Europe”. Consumed with jealousy and self-hatred, frustrations are taken out on the son and its own faults and malevolent tendencies ignored. The UK is Carmela, content to enjoy the riches that Tony provides, but reserving the right to feel occasional pangs of guilt and to scold every now and then.

Take it or leave it.

* From an American perspective.

Much better on the radio than on television:

1) Danny Baker
2) Mark Lamarr
3) Jonathan Ross
4) Robert Elms
5) Chris Morris

Dire on both:

Mark Lawson.

Although I have heard whispers that Dead Ringers was good before its transfer to BBC2, I can't quite believe it:

1) It's a Radio comedy.
2) They're impressionists, the worst type of funny-makers.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Apologies to Kelvin...

So I'm watching Q.I. on UKTVG2. The teams are Jo Brand(1) and Alan Davies(2) vs Howard Goodall(3) and Danny Baker(4). If you don't know which one I'm supporting then you shouldn't be here.*

(1) No matter how much your right-on nature wants to find her funny, she really isn't.
(2) Amiable enough. I guess.
(3) Composer of the theme to 2.4 Children!
(4) Radio genius!


Monday, November 08, 2004

You know the people who do Dead Ringers? They get paid for that.

Extraordinary. The New Guy and Slap Her She's French are both on Sky at the same time. Thankfully a difficult decision was avoided by my having rented both from Blockbuster when they first came out.

Trailer for later post:

America is Tony Soprano; Europe his mother; the UK Carmela.

You know, I'm not going to bother doing this tonight. The post isn't actually about the Sopranos, but the analogy sprung to mind and I haven't been able to fully exorcise it.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

So I’m watching The Fight on BBC 2 tonight, and I’m looking at Jake LaMotta - punch-drunk, tiny-handed like a wrinkled T-Rex, slurring and wearing a Stetson - and I’m thinking, how sad: boxing is inhumane and barbaric. Look at him, what a tragedy. Then I thought: this man has fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times; has had thousands cheering him on in Madison Square Garden; is wearing a Stetson as an old man; has a poster of Raging Bull behind him, a film describing his career; took part in the 1953 FBI hearings on corruption in boxing... And I thought, “what a brilliant life. What the fuck have *you* done?”


Saturday, November 06, 2004

I love the Financial Times. There's an advert today reading, "Heliport for Sale". Offers in excess of £500,000 please, no time-wasters.

By the way, that link I put up the other day? The one I said was worth checking out to see if it works? The one you should right click on and open in a new window? You know, this one. Well, it does work, it just takes ages. Like 15 minutes or something.

Tried to post this stuff yesterday but couldn't...

How did I spend my evening? Why, at the UK premiere of I Heart Huckabees, of course. Breaking it down:

1) Dress code was black tie. Having won the tickets the previous evening and not been warned, Marty and I were in work clothes. For me, this means trainers.
2) We walked down the red carpet.
3) I distinctly heard a call of, “Who are you?”
4) We repeatedly moved on from hanging around the entrance near Anthony Minghella trying to mob with celebrities.
5) We were given a free ice cream on the way in.
6) Hayseeds that we are, we then asked for another free one from the next usher.
7) They gave everyone a free t-shirt and bottle of water.
8) A loud-mouthed man behind us was talking about Keith Richards like he knew him or something. This buffoon was also writing a book about the Tour de France. From a “rock and roll perspective”, apparently.
9) Some dude played the Wurlitzer. Was cool.
10) As the film closed the London Film Festival there was an award ceremony first.
11) It was a bit like a school prize giving, although it was still nice to be somewhere where a woman in a fancy frock says, “Let’s take a look at a clip”.
12) The arrival of the director and composer showed just how much the event had been crying out for some Americans. They do these things properly.
13) The film was entertaining enough. Not as clever or interesting as it thought it was, but what is? The lack of challenging work in the mainstream (or avant-garde, actually. Let’s be honest) means that if a film (or play or book or CD or a “happening”) has any ambition (normally this ambition is to look good) then it is hailed as extraordinary. This wasn’t.
14) Mark Wahlberg was excellent. Best supporting actor Oscar, I think.
15) We didn’t see any famouses. Apart from Anthony Minghella. And Derek Malcolm. He used to be the Guardian film critic. I think he writes for someone else now, possibly the Evening Standard.


Friday, November 05, 2004

Do you think the sub-editor who chose this headline actually read the article?


Thursday, November 04, 2004

My favourite word this week is "gubernatorial", a delightful Americanism.

"Americanism", incidentally, is one of my least favourite words: not for the meaning, the concept is marvelous, but for its lack of euphony.

Bit more depressed about it today. Working it through…

An Election Special P.S.

If we’re going to have democracy then we have to live with the consequences: sometimes there are going to be winning candidates we don’t like. But the people have spoken and the people want Bush. Therefore it’s a good result, better than 2000 when the electoral college (and the Supreme Court and a brother in Florida and blah blah blah) delivered the presidency to George W*. So Bush and Republican subterfuge was not the problem; the Democrats lost the argument. Making sure people vote is not a good thing because they might tick Democrat (only one in ten young people bothered turning up - lazy fuckers**), it is a good thing because more voices are heard: in this case, the Christian Right and they have as much of a right to determine policy as Latinos on minimum wage.

The Left have to learn the lessons and move on. It’s not dead – as long as there is inequality there will be people who fight against it – but it needs a clear sense of what it is for and not define itself through what it is against. There’s little mystery why voters preferred Bush. Kerry did not stand for anything, he was just Notbush (City Limits…). And that’s inadequate. The record of the last four years left the White House there for the taking, but the Democrats played safe and chose someone who wouldn’t offend anyone. Unfortunately he couldn’t inspire either. When you’re in the booth and your choice is “same as before” or “hmmm… something different, not sure what….” then it’s hardly surprising that many people weren’t willing to chance it on an unknown. The Left needs to organise, take a look at itself, and then try and persuade people why it has the best ideas. And then in four years time there’s a new election without an incumbent to try and displace. And hopefully, no Karl Rove either.

* NB Interesting to see that Democrat hopes (and mine) were pinned on Kerry taking Ohio when it was clear that he had lost the popular vote. Would a Kerry presidency in these circumstances have been legitimate? Would the illegitimacy of the previous administration justify a fair’s fair Democrat one?

** I’m not sure how much this is down to apathy and how much it’s a simple trusting to elders to make the big calls. Britney Spears: “Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.” It might come from a culture of obedience, working hard and keeping your mouth shut.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry's formally conceded.

I'd have prefered it if Bush had lost, but there you go. The world hasn't ended, the problems we all face remain the same, time to move on and try and tackle them.

There ends the election special.

Football matches would be much improved if the penalty shoot out was abandoned. If the score was tied at full time a vertical spinning wheel should be brought onto the pitch. On this wheel would be printed various activities: paper-scissors-stone; unihoc; British bulldog; quick cricket. The wheel would be spun and a challenge selected. Each team would have to appoint a representative(s) who would compete against the other. The Euro 2004 Quarter final could have been settled by Frank Lampard and Louis Figo having a game of backgammon.

In this way, versatility would be rewarded.

International football would be much improved if all teams had to play in costumes depicting their national stereotype. Not only would it raise the profile of some countries - people would have some image to associate with Latvia, Estonia, Portugal - it would make chanced-upon games immediately identifiable.

"Who's playing?"
"Well... Judging by the alpaca ponchos and lederhosen on display, I'd have to say Peru and Germany."

An expansion on an earlier post:

"...all who seek influence should be excluded from wielding it..."

I strongly believe this. Who would strive to govern? The corrupt, the over-ambitious mediocrities, the self-proclaimed messiahs, the busy-bodies and the dullards. The only good leader is the reluctant one, so George Bush Jnr might not be such a bad choice. The drive to power came from his father: George was too busy firing shotguns into the air from the back of pick-ups. I prefer representative democracy to a political caste, and Bush is more representative of - I hate to use this word - ordinary Americans than Kerry. Personally I'd like to see a legislature selected at random like jury service. Anyone who tried to push themselves forward would be automatically struck off the list.

The principle carries further, I think. A lot of comedians are insecure show-offs, and not particularly funny. Journalists are people who tried and tried to become journalists, not necessarily the best writers. "Achievement" is too often the preserve of the vainglorious. Test 'em young and appoint jobs according to talent, I say.

The 1800 election was contested by John Adams, the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Thomas Jefferson, the President of the American Philosophical Society. We get the politicians we deserve. But there was slavery back then, so you know...

"Ooh, but it's like slavery now, this economic inequality! Isn't it just as bad to be a slave to capital and have to whore yourself to The Man just to buy stuff you don't need but that you're told you need by the fascist state and the advertising industry?"

"No. No it's not. Stop being a moron."

There will be some who will proclaim this (probable) result a disaster, the end of the world. Three points:

1) The Republicans have had four years in the White House and haven't been able to precipitate the Day of Judgment so far.

2) Presidents in their second term are usually more timid than they were in their first.

3) Whatever sixthformers may have you believe, politicians you may not have voted for can still achieve "good" things. Policies and their consequences are much more important than who implemented them. This seems to confuse a lot of "artists" - hello Harold Pinter - and "intellectuals" (I'll be the judge of that!) who seem unable to deal with any ambiguity or complexity and prefer to explain the world in terms of "good" and "evil", cowboys with white or black hats and monolithic evil empires.*

*Did you see what I did there?

So... Bush then? Here is one reason why this might be a good thing: as all who seek influence should be excluded from wielding it, his lack of ambition to be president counts in his favour compared to the self-serving John Kerry.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Ooh, I do like a nice Braeburn.

This guy's a fucking moron and his article* is prejudiced, ugly and factually inaccurate. If I could be bothered I'd pick it apart line by line. Fortunately for you, I'm not bothered.

* Yes, I know it's "Comment", not "news".

By the way, to clear up any confusion, I would pick Kerry were I an American. Not much to vote for, I'll admit, but that's the way I'd go. I can also admit my decision probably comes down to a Republicans-bad, Democrats-good dichotomy that has existed in my mind since the '80s. As a boy I thought that Dukakis was excellent. Seems that was just me.

Prediction time

May as well have a pop at it, no one seems to have much of an idea about what’s going to happen so my guess is as good as any. Various pointers are for Kerry - he’s the taller candidate, the Washington Redskins have lost their last home game prior to the election – but in a close race the incumbent tends to be favoured. So, here we go… Kerry will take Florida comfortably, Bush will win Ohio and retain the presidency. If the result is disputed and it goes to the courts, the Republicans will have it. Obviously.

The most important US election ever! Really? Is it? More important than Nixon-Humphrey in ’68? It probably means more than Ford-Carter, but more than Reagan-Mondale in ’84? I don’t know really, I’m no American politics scholar, hence my non-citation of any examples from before the Second World War. What I do know, is that for such a major bout, the Democrats have selected their worst candidate in a generation.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Right, this may not work, but it's worth a try. Right click and open this in a new window. If it works, boy it's good.

Is it just me or does Bush come out of this rather well?

Now that's what I call cornish.

Compilation I'm putting together in my head:

1) Rocketman - William Shatner (Recorded live at a 1978 Science Fiction convention)
2) The Lambeth Walk - Django Reinhart and Stefan Grappelli
3) Tiny Dancer - Elton John
4) Crying in the Discoteque - Alcazar
5) The Good Life - Tony Bennett
6) You're Still on my Mind - George Jones
7) Babooshka - Kate Bush
8) I've been to a marvellous party - Noel Coward
9) Love is Strong - Rolling Stones (from the 1994 album, "Voodoo Lounge")
10) Surrey with a Fringe on Top - Cast of Olklahoma
11) Theme from S-Express - S-Express

This list will be subject to constant revision. If anyone would like a copy, then hey! I'll burn you one. I may even do a lovely front cover of my face.

Is there any style of humourous writing more wearying than mock-epic?


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