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{Friday}

 
SIMPLY ALARMING

I am absolutely knocked-out drug-down in total love with "Ring The Alarm" the thunderous record - but what IS it with Beyonce and her strange robotic increasingly Bad Mime-like video "dancing-acting-signifyin'"? It seems to get worse with each new release. I know she's meant to be, like, "mad", like with her "man" in the song; but here she just looks, like, MAD, like somewhere there is a man in a white coat with a tranquilzer gun and a butterfly net and a clipboard with the name Beyonce on it.

And ... Basic Instinct references? Really? REALLY? Are you SURE that's the best you can do?



Eminem is surely WAY off-base with his silly silly Hannibal Lecter mask in his new video, too. I mean: talk about dated. (Don't these zillionaire RnB stars know you can buy new DVDs off the Interweb?)

Where are Beavis and Butthead when we need them?

________________

ADDENDUM 1

thanks to Blackmail Is My Life for the link/idea, BTW.

ADDENDUM 2

I'm sure it's only my Old Guy imagination, but at certain crucial parts of "Ring The Alarm" I could swear that Beyonce sings

"We gon' rock the P.F. Sloan!"

And if you don't know who P.F.Sloan is you're probably not a middle aged rock critic with an elephantine memory for trivia...

posted by Ian 12/08/2006 08:19:00 PM

(31) comments

{Thursday}

 
WHERE THE HEART IS {11}

Interesting piece on SLATE about new "reality" shows in the States, whose closing line - "Reality television is out to identify every perversity there is." - made concrete for me something that had been hovering around my enjoyment of Michelle and Andy's Big Day [see below]: it hardly needs saying, but everything that we now call "reality" (on) TV, could just as easily be called "Fantasy" or "Phantasy". And as usual, it's the sort of thing that middlebrow critics will refuse to engage with - or rather, will refuse to engage with today, but will doubtless be forced to catch up with somewhere down the line.

(Michelle and Andy is perplexing precisley because it doesnt appear to want to - or know how to - obey the rules of either 'fantasy' or 'reality' - in however many senses that latter word now carries. Its central plank is "every little girl's ultimate fantasy" - the sort of thing, it is proposeed to us, many or most women have been "planning inside their heads for years", i.e., a kind of OTT fairy tale wedding. But the whole show is like a slow and cruel and painstaking destruction or deconstruction of that very "dream". It shows two people trapped inside the demands of various parallel "real life" or "phantasy" or "fantasy" worlds (pop music, TV, celebrity marketing), whose every personal decision has to involve the thought that A CAMERA MIGHT BE WATCHING. Michelle (= "me...hell"?) even has to transfer her wedding from the lovely little pastoral church where she really wants it to take place, because of the demands of various camera teams and photographers. Her wedding vows have to be - literally, as it turns out - re staged. In short, it shows celebrity/pop, for most of us, would be a living, breathing, Bentham-ite HELL.)

In ARTFORUM, in his Top Ten Movies pick of the year, JOHN WATERS has this to say about JACKASS 2: "Playing on more than three thousand screens, Jackass 2 was the number-one-grossing movie in America on its opening weekend—and the male stars eat shit and drink horse semen for real. They’re nude a lot, too. If this isn’t cultural terrorism, I don’t know what is."

Almost inevitably, one of his other picks is SHORTBUS ... and if mainstream "reality TV", certain bits of mainstream cinema, and certain, shall we say, MURKIER (or, at least, badly lit) bits of the Internet currently have anything in common, it might be covered by this motto: you wanna see it, we'll show it to you.

People are posting the most explicit details of their (sex) lives online for others - anyone, everyone - to pick over. It's the opposite of 'pornography" per se, it's more like a distant relation to Warhol's Factory films, because it is instant, and un re touched, and features real boides in real sexual poses, taking place in real rooms with real decor.

It made me wonder if this isnt all some sort of reaction to SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. Sort of, get your revenge in first (?) If you can show the world your most intimate nook, cranny, or preferred 'bedtime' activity only a digital clck away - what's the big deal about an eye scan or CCTV in your favourite supermarket?

posted by Ian 12/07/2006 10:39:00 AM

(11) comments

{Wednesday}

 
WHERE THE HEART IS

There was almost too much to enjoy - almost feverishly so - in Michelle and Andy's Big Day [ITV2]. The very fact that this is on ITV TWO is a clue to how low down the strata of "celebrity" we are here, and how desperate (and, at times, desperately sad) the actors look.

Michelle is out of Liberty X (who I've always kind of liked), whereas her husband to be, Andy Scott-Lee, is, uh, "famous" (cough cough) for being the um... (writer's head goes blank... Rumblefish type clouds go whizzing by; tumbleweed skip down the empty empty street)... brother of Lisa Scott-Lee... who is "famous" for her hilariously awful "reality" show Totally Scott Lee (before that - it is SUCH a long time ago, now - I think she was in Steps or something)... and Andy also... er... came 19th on a Pop Idol three years ago or something.

The 'hook' here is that they are planning their wedding.

I have to say, I have never seen two people who looked less made for marriage (altho I'm not sure that Michelle's uber Control Freak tendencies make any long lasting marriage that much of a safe bet) - but that's not the point here, as the Vicar soon realised, and was the only person un-sleb enough to articulate, in an Emperor's New Clothes type way. The 'point' is that strange new twilight world of private-life-as-career. The 'point' here was selling photo spreads to OK! magazine, and carving out a Jordan-&-Peter type niche for themselves.

Another reason that this isn't on the main ITV channel at peak viewing time may have something to do with Geordie Girl Michelle's unforgettable catch phrases - which divide pretty equally between "foook off!" and "foook off Andy!" Andy has the look of a young mastodon who has just been told about the coming Ice Age.

The whole thing was, as I say, thoroughly, disgustingly enjoyable (with lots of inadvertant fly-on-the-wall value, as to exactly how such 'careers' are staged and run these days, what sums of money are involved, where it comes from and where it goes to, and, in short, how a whole new industry has grown up around such plankton level celebs. This is the true meaning, for me, of the phrase 'New Labour': this is the proletariat now, this is what they do).

It was only spoiled, for me, by the one ostensibly 'real' moment: Michelle has already told us - apropos of nothing - that she has a "heart problem"*... and "mustn't drink". We then see her drinking for Newcastle on her hen night. We then hear she has had a "blackout" and must have tests: it is SERIOUS. There follows lots of time spent in hospitals, lots of crying and emoting, etc ... although Andy remains strangely waxy and distant and uninvolved, as if not knowing quite how to play his role. (Or, better say - he looked a bit MORE waxy and distant and uninvolved than in the rest of the programme. A cynic might have too quickly concluded Andy's eye here was on the main chance, rather than Michelle's heart ... but then the cynics didnt see how he, uh, well, seemed actually to slowly but definitely recoil from Michelle when she broke down in tears at the heart specialists. Heart warming - really.)

It wasn't til hours later that it struck me: I didnt actually believe a second of this section; there was something about it just a bit ... off. (I mean, I'm not actually saying that the producers, worried that Michelle was shaping up to be the least sympathetic woman ever to appear in a reality show, actually "staged" - or blew up, needlessly dramatised, subtly obfuscated the real nature of what was actually only a drunken fainting fit at most - but ... well, YOU MIGHT WELL BE LEAD TO THINK THAT.

(A recap:
1. Apropos of nothing, Michelle tells us she has a "heart problem" and has been told she shouldn't drink.
2. We see Michelle necking Flaming Zombies as if her contract depended on it.
3. Ridiculously overplayed section in which inconclusive tests lead all to contemplate the awfulness of Michelle having to go down the aisle with a newly installed pacemaker peeping out over her dress strap.
4. Oh - no! Nothing wrong! Just stress! No heart problems!
And thus we have a bit of weepy humanity, in the midst of a programme that otherwise captures Michelle as unrelentingly controlling, moody, shrewish, publicity obsessed, and whatever the absolute diametric opposite of "luvvy duvvy" is. I mean - I myself am one of the least tactile people in the world. And I thought Michelle had 'empathy' problems.)

My mind flashed back to the ur-template for all these shows, really: THE OSBOURNES. And how if you slowed down the credits to that show you would catch various credits for "Script supervisors" and "story arc ideas team" and such like ...

It's saying something when the only two people here who seemed to have their heads screwed on, and gave decent advice, and who recognisably belonged to the human race, were the female vicar, and the head guy from the G.A.Y. club-night.

When a female Church of England vicar, and a hedonistic gay guy have more in common than everyone else you have surrounded yourself with in the name of long term 'career advice' - well, as Michelle might put it, O - FOOK - NO.

______________
*{'Yes-' - most viewers were thinking - 'she hasn't GOT one ..'

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 02:48:00 PM
(5) comments
 
EVER GET THE FEELING YOU’VE BEEN REPEATED?

A decently enough put together PUNK documentary the other night on ITV 4. All the usual suspects: chirpy voiceover by Robert Elms, measured & intelligent enthusiasm from Jon Savage, quotes from various Upstarts, Shams, Damned etc

It was nice to (literally) see who has worn well and who hasn’t; who looks as if they have been on drugs for 25 years and who looks like they have found another passion in life that makes them glow.

Good that due attention was played to New York.

Nice that Mark P was allowed a yarn.

And so on.

But still and all, such programmes make me restless in my very soul. Because the very thing they are supposed to reflect – the life changing spirit of Punk – is notably absent…

Now, that spirit, as so many of the participants were at pains to point out, does not necessarily have anything to do with music, or the length of your career as judged by conventional muse-biz tenets. (Perhaps because if it did … too many of those concerned would look as if Punk actually changed nothing. Mates fall out over money or image or “musical differences”. Mates go broke and stage disturbing and chilly and farcical and shaming and fat trouser’d ‘comeback’ tours. Or, same teetering mates pal up with other junkies and riff-raff together albums of wanly awful rock n sludge that only the French could ever hold to their evil hearts.)

Perhaps the most wonderful thing is when the original 1-2-3-4! legacies remain untouched, perfect in some abrupt and clamorous distillation. The Slits, or The Raincoats for example. (Is this a coincidence, or no coincidence at all – that the women are sensible enough to sense and to say no? That the girls here look like the smart long suffering Marge n Lisas to the fat bellied dim headed Homer n Barts?)

I don’t really know – but it might be nice to speculate.

And that is just my point – that this programme, and these programmes, never did, never do. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone involved that simply burping ”punk” back up as a lump of lumpy sinewy grisly “History” – and bickering about who was the first to rip a t shirt or rip an acetate, etc – is about the most UN punk thing you could do. There was an uneasy sense here of who was absent – and what their reason might be; and so likewise, for those who “agreed” to be interviewed. Not to put too fine a point on it, about 2/3 of the talking heads (not Talking Heads) here looked like they might not have much else to do. But were in some way or another still “haunted” by some kind of rock n roll role playing or diabolism or addiction or habit or phrase it how you will. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe ending up in far flung pubs playing a rock n role version of the old guys who used to play Dixieland jazz or Elvis-altar type rockingannarollin (and spare tyre hidin') is OK, is even healthy, as some kind of “culture” in which the participants are at least involved, doing it rather than merely consuming it. Although again, I’m not sure, and would – just once – like to hear the toss, so to speak, argued in one of these programmes, rather than just having a parade of now balding thickening unhealthily complexioned 48 year olds repeating the wisdom/banality that still comforts them through long cold nights of life measurement and crisis: “I’d like to think I still AM a punk…” “... that the spirit of Joe 'n' The Clash still DOES flow through me veins…” yadda yadda yeah, gabba gabba bleary blah, that sort of thing.

It would be nice to have a history of “punk” theory maybe, an AFTER to go with the BEFORE of (roughly) Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces, say.

Or some new perspective.

It occurred to me last night, for instance, that the real “winner” as it were, in terms of subversion and infiltration of the “mainstream”, massively, and imaginatively, and preposterously, and gloriously, and globally… well, take three iconoclasts:

John Lydon
Malcolm McLaren
Vivienne Westwood.

Now, who would YOU say has had the most interesting, the most enlivened, the least predictable career? Who has stuck utterly to her guns? Who hasn’t scrabbled around at the bottom of certain barrels and gone back on her words and sold shoddy half-limp rip-offs of the original mythos?

(The “her”, as they say, isn’t generic, ha ha ha. Ever get the feeling you’ve been pleated?)

Over the years I’ve read so many chummy all-mates-together profiles of McLaren – always written by smitten bloke writers, who duly trot out almost identical anecdotes and characterisations. (A bit like a rock version of Hunter S Thompson, only a bit more Wildean and twinkly, East End not Old West.)
Malcolm is a great night out.
Malcolm is a great yarner. (Yeah: yarn, that is what Malcolm has always sold. Never mind the accuracy, relish the wit ...)
Malcolm could sell ping-pong balls to Bangkok!
Malcolm – o lucky shameless twinkly wicked man! – loves to run out on cheques at restaurants! Which is, you know, just SO punk, man! (Er, can I just say: no it isn’t, it really isn’t at all?)
Malcolm is so well dressed, and even in a muddle Malcolm is the eternal imp and optimist faun and revisionist fun.
Malcolm is the Unreliable Narrator personified.
O, what a great night we had, my new pal Malcolm and me!
And so, blearily, on, blarney upon blarney, shtick leavening shtick, on into the early hours of ... the still empty dawn.*
And I have no doubt all this is true.
But what does it mean to most of us?

The same thing happens with Bono, doesn't it? Otherwise sane and critical male writers of a certain age go off to interview U2 (i.e., Bono) and for some reason their brain turns to mush – because he's so much more intelligent and charming and never stops and full of ideas and so much empathy and yadda yadda. Well, yeah, great. And so are loads of people you or I might know. But … your point is? I tried listening in to various bits of U2 live on C4 and environs at the weekend. I just DO NOT GET IT – U2 in terms of the actual music/sonics. I do not, and never have, and I suspect never will get it. It sounds like the dullest thing on earth to me. And Christ only knows how much more dull they’d be if they'd never had Eno!
(Not to mention the 3 trillion dollars worth of graphics and design and techno techno techno that constitutes their ever more ridiculous stage shows … er, isn’t that a bit of a King Kong carbon footprint you leave there every time you tour Bono?)
Anyhoo…
Where was I?
O yeah, being all punk drunk and iconoclastic – yeah yeah.

It was better than average, this programme.

Fred Vermorel mentioned the Situationists**, albeit only passingly.

B.P. Fallon mentioned Ian Dury (and how much the whippersnapper Lydon had imbibed from Kilburn and The High Roads gigs, allegedly.)

Someone mentioned Bernie Rhodes (how come… so little is known about him, still, now?)

Ari Up (with a v. fetching Gorgon 'do) and Viv put in vivid appearances, chalk and cheese, although both obviously full of singular and hard won and arduously maintained kinds of 'health' or life force or Eros)

Vivienne got more archive gab time than Malcolm.
(I LOVE the footage of her dancing at that early - St Martin's? - Pistols gig: she looks SO unaffectedly so unselfconsiously happy!)

And then it came to a bit of awkward end (just like in real life?).

Plenty of the interviewees said – 'Yeah, OK, the Man and the Man's monolithic seducing Biz clumped down hard on things the minute they started to look inspirational and insurrectionary and so on ... but the real point was DIY, that you could do it yourself, didn't need to wait for approval or money, that whatever your throw of the dice, be it fashion or music or writing, just go ahead, don't need to learn just do it,' etc.

Which doesn't explain why so many floundered once their record company life support was taken away.

Mark P was still smarting, nearly 30 years on, about The Clash signing to CBS, which he seemed to feel, still, was the Day the Music died, and who's to say he isn't right, in his own way, or little world, or personal dialectic?

And at just such a point as this, wouldn't it be nice to have - instead of the usual footage of ham-fisted Clash smash, maybe a blast of Evan Parker or Derek Bailey, contemporaneous, inspirational and Indie and unsigned and signature free and signature frenzy'd in *their* own way... ? I mean, even a bit of archive of The Fall or ATV wouldn’t go amiss, such things do exist I presume; or also contemporaneous movies, politics, you know, Fassbinder, RAF, the beginnings of Terror, the Mohawk of St Travis, whatever, a bit of contextual (h)air.

Billy Bragg, of all people, was the only one here to at least HINT at certain fault lines and contradictions, such as one of the ones that always got me: to wit, The Clash, I’M SO BORED WIV THE YOU-S-AY, but the minute they turn the corner out of sight of a Camden rehearsal studio or West way reggae shop, they go more American than America, they SWOOON into James Dean and Elvis and Bickle poses and all cockabillet-doux and ICONIC, yes, ICONIC, in the truest (and at the time, I thought, most pathetic) way, as if posing were the first the last the only grasp you had on culture, and it is suddenly all Cadillac fins and monochrome quiffs and oh my yes all those so “iconic” Penny Smith shots, and all those 19 page features by Salewicz and Morley and Bangs and Murray, in fact, I think I may have been the only NME writer who didn’t re-write Thomas Wolfe on the endless American road wiv the lads, instead, I got sent shit in the mail by disgruntled fans when I belched “The Clash are a dying myth,” whatever the hell I meant by that...

Rather, in hindsight, The Clash were definitely DYING INTO MYTH, yes, and making of their falling out & falling asunder a great American myth in 19 essential poses: I fought (rather than thought) the Law and the Imaginary won …

And the same thing with the Pistols, it was the American (m)id-West and its dance of huge empty desert-filled loss and ridiculous stunt gigs pulled by McLaren that betrayed the Pistols up on a plate to the hungry slavering pain-beast of rock n roll a rama lama swan song.

The gates were then open for the LEAST subversive elements to be taken up and flogged to death. The sad canonization of Sid e.g., as Pope of … well, sumfink. Something less than merely mischievous, unfortunately, and more like pure limping burned-out monomaniacal death drive.

Maybe Sid became an unfortunate template – just as Siouxsie and Slits were magnificent and enduring templates that changed the way young women looked at and to and out of themselves and dressed and the momentous way they did their makeup and thought about the stage as a Pandora's Box rather than a Pan's People cage, somewhere to start a ruckus from rather than silently go-go to, a place to reflect upon themselves rather than have other peoples misconceptions beamed back at them to the point of blinding no return –

Maybe Sid became the worst youth icon ever. E.g., I can't really remember, can you, seeing YOUNG beggars on the streets of London before Sid. Can’t remember ever seeing people still in their all-to-live-for teens who so apathetically limply EMBRACED complete self-abnegation as a way of “life” (or slow death, exit, real and true and shattering “alienation”).

Someone glib here (ah, yes, it was Alan McGee) told a silly anecdote about Captain Sensible falling over like a plank, bass in hand, and how this was wonderful; how it (and this was his precise word) showed such wonderful “nihilism”.
But that isn’t nihilism - it’s panto.

Nihilism is dying slowly because you can't think of a reason to live, or a way to live with even half a toe in the mainstream, and your heart like a sail full of some wind or other, even if it's a black wind, a blue and sidereal wind, but some kind of air in your sails each morning. Those who put on leather jacket and chains and slogans like a squaddie's uniform, like some kind of Tenants Extra and downers fuelled ‘national service’ duty, WAS that really rock n roll, or isn’t it rather everything punk or rock n roll or call it what you will was supposed to be against? Wasn’t the NO in No Future and the _____ in Blank Generation supposed to prompt some kind of ornery affirmation?

'Do it yourself' was an invitation to do something, not yourself in.

The subsequent history of an 'iconic' band like The Ramones, say, was not a happy one, in – it seems – any way whatsoever: they didn’t even remain friends. Heroin and greed and stupid ‘loyalty’ to rock as code decimated those who couldn’t see rock n roll as much more than a stylistic and (‘anti’) social straitjacket, arty-ficial lung, a crutch or prop.

Maybe it’s better when things firework and disappear, than when they hang around forever.
E.g. – Riot Grrrl here-and-gone is a zillion times better than Courtney Love's fourteenth 'exclusive' interview this month.
A few DIY 7 inches better than a whole lotta box sets and Mojo 50 greatest lists and so on.

I don’t know for sure.
But like I say – just for once, it would be nice to hear some of this explored – history as contradiction, dance of step and not, this that and antithesis, small and big… rather than a lumpy pudding, pressed into a homogeneity it was never meant to countenance.

And maybe instead of ending on lumpy affable Mani (Angelic Upstarts not upstart Roses) and shamelessly hammy Pursey (always the air, somehow, of a misplaced youth-club activities co-ordinator) and so on, we might have – a few strands of the weeds and thistles that grew, Throbbing Gristle, Daniel at Mute, genuien independence taht DID endure, all the things that have had a long and genuinely subversive effect …

All that isn’t so easily compressed into slogan and icon.
Yeah?
All that wasn't no future, and became this (and that and the other) future.


_______________
* {there was also jsut a squeak here, from Rat Scabies I think, about how The Damned were ripped off (at an early stage, on an early stage) by McLaren - and how disillusioned they were by this. And this is actually a constant refrain among people who have had dealings with McLaren - how he waltzes out leaving huge phone bills unpaid, rent upaid, royalties unpaid (which Lydon had to go to court to get, remember). It's one thing to rip off conglomerates - but when it is a pathology, a sneaky steal-and-run tic that you pull even on closes friends ... it feels a little less 'subversive', no?

**{21st Century joke: my Spellcheck blanked there, on 'Situationists', and suggested ... "Seditionists"! 'Ignore All Seditionaires?'}

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 11:29:00 AM
(11) comments
 
THE BOGUS MAN (a slight return)

focussed
his mind
on something
he cared about
BUT
...

I don't really know what THIS is all about, but the little I have read ... oh dear.

How you get from "hauntology" to great long lists of things with the word "ghost" in them is a process beyond my ken. It seems a stripe of literalism worse even than that long-ago vogue for post-Psycho "Freudianism" in which every time someone picked up a pen or pencil the critic immediately speculated that they wanted to draw a picture of themselves fucking their Mother. I.e., it was a pretty good way to advertise to the world JUST HOW MUCH OF FREUD YOU HADN'T READ.

I'm not saying Simon hasn't read very much Derrida* (if any, recently) (how could he, when he is so busy tracking down every last instance of the word "ghost" abroad in secondary media); but there's not much here that would lead anyone to think he has. This isn't me being snotty or snooty. But I have to say it does strike me as a bit irreverent - not to say rather rude, actually - to first borrow, then promote (in the old street sense of that term, like "boost") the word, in a scarifyingly extensive way, then complain that it doesn’t mean what you want it to mean, and is therefore a bit constrictive.

Likewise, it seems a bit muddle-headed to borrow a very specific Derridean notion whose reverberations would seem to work against any totalising encyclopaedics; but to then go ahead and produce great long bloody lists, as though YOU and YOU alone, could work ahead of everyone else to EXHAUST the word/notion; but then, in the very same gesture (just as a discreet "after word", mind) then draw down a veil on it at the same time, with a heavy sigh, saying - 'Well, all this GHOST stuff is OK but it's a bit restrictive and at the same time a bit vague... ', when in fact you were the only person who thought it was about GHOSTS to bloody begin with!

It's not about "haunting" music made by bands with the word "Ghost" in the title - it's about ONTOLOGY. That was always the point.

The only time I can remember bringing this up before was in 2003, I think, when I used the word in a Pill Box piece about Ian MacDonald; as far as I recall, I said that as much as I respected some of his pieces, (and this applies, also, to Greil Marcus, who I also respect but am made uneasy by), it was all riddled a bit with this urge to GROUND everything in certain notions of the "true" or "authentic" or "national spirit", or "spirit of 68" or "real music made by real people", etc, etc; and then I said surely there must be less heavy bottomed, more flexible, more playful more hauntological ways to write about music. And to me, it was always about the writing, rather than the music.

Because if you just reduce it - "hauntology" - to a synonym for "haunting" music then you're already way off course. And if you start to say - here is Music X, which reminds me of Childhood Y, and so is about a straight feedback system of nostalgia - well, I would say you are also already lost, and have missed the point. It would be more apropos to find a piece of music from THEN that seemed to be haunted by NOW, maybe. I.e, that utterly messed with our usual notions of time and reception.

ONE of the points about Derrida is that he started with a set of writings - Marx/Engels - that most of us would think the LEAST 'ghost' like or spectral in the world. A great big whomping sturdy logical rational-project ton-of-treacle encyclopaedics type set of writing, grounded, oh so grounded, in politics and "real" conditions and "real" history. And from there - whether you agree with Derrida's "method" or not - from there he draws out an apparently slender thread, a mere echo, and says, No, at work here is an alterity, an unlikely ghost-logic, un-grounded, following a strange ungraspable logic of its own - a haunt-logic...

I think also of Benjamin's Arcades here, too, perhaps inevitably, as to some extent the 'parallel' but uncanny instance or example. (OK, OK - I know that's not a very Derridean notion; but I'm writing this with my eyes barely open.) Benjamin takes something supposedly trivial and superficial - in classic Marxist terms - something brittle and shiny and mirror-image, and hears every sort of note in the world inside its strange dated echo chamber. Do you see? It's a logics of the hidden, of the non-obvious, of the inessential, the note just below hearing ... It might be a forgotten piece of music that DOESN’T have the word ghost in it, and what it was haunted by would be some FUTURE.

That was always Derrida’s keynote: haunted by a scarcely imaginable future, by all the time yet to come, that could never be reckoned, never sewn up. And I think, speaking only for myself now, that was why the death of Jhon Balance got to me so; because I thought that certain things in Coil gestured toward scarcely imaginable futures, that weren’t just to do with music, or collecting music, or labelling music, but were to with the most tender, and the most terrifying aspects of being alive, and how we relate to one another, or miss one another completely. (It’s also probably one of the reason I’ve found it almost impossible to write about the whole Coil/Jhon thing in any conventional way since his death. So many of Coil’s "records" now seem haunted by an event somewhere in the aether of the future – and do we now decide that that event and J's death were one and the same thing? What kind of event IS music, then, that it might anticipate such things, even "live" them in advance? What kind of "living" (on) IS music?)

And surely a great lumbering encyclopaedics is the least h**nt*l*gic*l project in the world?
Which is what S. does here: he rolls out a great stultifying A-Z ... and then has the cheek to finish the A-Z with an afterword that says - haven't we overdone this a bit? Well - YOU have, sonny Jim! is the obvious rejoinder here.
(The same thing happened with 'deconstruction' didn't it? It became common usage before most people even had a clue what it really invovled. It became part of the time-range of fashionable deployments - oh, that was LAST week's/season's/year's thing: coats with the seams on the outside, or records with the word "Ghost" in them. The same thing: deconstuction must mean what it sounds like; just as "hauntology" must mean something "haunting". Whereas some of us are still trying to fathom the basic repercussions of 'deconstruction' properly understood. Which is not to say that there can't be traffic between the Academy and the popular mainstream - Christ, that would make me le plus grand hypocrite, ha ha! - but let's maintain SOME standards, people.)

If I was a bit more dimestore-shrink I would call it a bit controlling - in this one gesture it looks like S. wants to get the credit for being the person who staked out "hauntology" (with great long "definitive" pieces), but also (thank god, everyone sighs) the person who ended it when it started to get a bit boring, what with all these idiots doing great long "definitive" pieces and stoopid long lists of things with "ghost" in them, who obviously don't have a CLUE what Derrida's original thing was all about AT ALL!

Instead of, how we might find an interesting way to transfer the site-specific notion of "hauntology" to writing ANEW and UNSURE about music, instead of writing about music in one of the same old ways, which - well, which leaves you no way out but (T)HIS way in (to slightly rephrase an old Lacanian saw) ...

_______________________
*{ - or for that matter, listened to much Coil (seeing as these are the two things that get suspiciously offhand comments, almost as if he resentss them for spoiling his Napoleonic forward march to Definitive Statement). If I were to do a full-blown depth analysis of S's piece, I might pick just the one line, say the one in which he damns Coil as against BoC (I thought he meant Blue Oyster Cult at first, which certainly dates me!), i.e., Boards of Canada - because the latter, apparently, have the 'real' the 'true' 'childlike' capacity or musical tones/parameters of "reverie' or something or other; so then I might look for other occasions when S. had relied upon similar tropes to definitively NAIL some piece or other, notions of the Oceanic, or kindliness or God popping up in unlikely places, 'child-like' wonder, so on, so forth, and see if this was a logic that had operated in his text for quite a while, an unconscious assumption, almost without his knowing it, maybe a scene where he is the child with the most marbles, or the most records, as tho quantity was a big-warm-coat defence against some doubts about quality or something, as tho, if you could only HEAR EVERYTHNG IN ADVANCE, then no one could gainsay your opinions when you make and break epochs and epoches, codify micro genres, round up Best Ofs and all the rest ...

_______________

ADDENDUM

I wrote the above literally first thing when I woke up this morning - and later, I was worried in case I'd gone a bit OTT or been a bit too bitchy rather than objectively and rigorously 'theoretical'. I do apologise if it's a bit rough n ready, but looking at it again I think it's an honest and credible reaction, and so I let its rhetoric stand ...

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 09:05:00 AM

(5) comments

{Sunday}

 
THE GREAT ICON CON (contd)

I started to watch The Culture Show last night – partly just to see through to the grim end their “Greatest Living Icon, British (G.L.I.B.) quest; but I had to turn the sound down before long because it was aggravating me SO much.

I'm sure it's not actually Laura Levene's fault, cos she's just reading a script written by some clueless coked-up trustafarian 21 year old whose parents dinner party with someone in the BBC hierarchy (“handbags have always been ICONIC!” indeed); but this new jokey jokey ‘don't worry we'll make culture silly and un threatening and flirty for you’ tone is REALLY starting to get my iconic faux-Rauschenberg goat. I'm sure who ever is behind it thinks it's ever so "market penetrative" – ‘We want to get that part of the A/B female demographic that wouldn’t normally interact with a multi strand culture mode...’ - but it's really just a different, and MORE patronising, form of Reith-ism. As in: Come here little plebs, and drink at the culture trough. It has items on POP STARS and HANDBAGS – so you won’t be frightened by all the strange words like “symphony” and “ literature” … BAH!

And if I hadn’t already turned it down I would have when that ridiculous 'defend your icon' face off began. So, this is it, is it: Morrissey, David Attenborough and Paul MacCartney. H Jesus fucking Christ. Kate Bush, Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood all relegated to nowhere land for THIS? Somewhere there is some WANKER with a complete set of MOJO and 'Q' magazines - who has complete DVD sets of all his favourite COMEDIES (he can 'do' the Ricky Gervais dance from The Office) and he has a mate who got him tickets for that recent Noel Gallagher acoustic set and it was "blindin', yeah, he's still got it, yuh," and HE BLOCK VOTED here, didn’t he?

Macca, Attenborough and Mozzer: ‘culture’ as cocoa and slippers.
Exciting icons of the … 60s, 70s and 80s respectively.

The difference between the last series of TCS and this one is staggering.
The last series was pretty OK, above average intelligent on things like architecture and classical music and even a couple of nods in a vaguely 'WIRE' type direction. (It had a great piece on Terry Riley, for instance.) But now some trendy dolt of a producer has obviously been brought in to get the "young" "Saturday night" "demographic" (curse that word/notion) and so therefore only does items on stuff that is already in that demo's "comfort zone" ...as, last night: Rickey Gervais, handbags, Faithless. This is 'culture' as in ‘gun culture’ or 'ladette culture' or 'mall culture' ... i.e. the same grimly dumbed-down pass-notes version of "semiology" that is prevalent all over media land. (And thus why ‘icon’ is everywhere like crab grass. It makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about, without having to do anything more than name a couple of 70s footballers and a porn star or two. I.e., nothing you couldn’t have done watching TV, really.)

Last night's adult-panto and handbag pieces had already been done in The Guardian (and the Gervais/Pilkington thing was just an advert for their Guardian podcast) - which, is there anything more desperate than being later on the scene than the Guardian? (It’s like the researcher was off sick so they just picked up that day’s Grauniad.)

The same thing has happened with G2 since the redesign - there seems to be some kind of INCH PANIC, that means text is split up into smaller and smaller Q&A or boxed off or IDIOTS GUIDE TO type sections and at least FOUR gossipy "personality" COLUMNS every day which will spit weary sarcastic venom at how vapid and trivial it is that all the other newspapers have been covering Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and Britney ... whilst, of course, also covering Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and Britney.

The handbag piece (by the egregious Zina Bendybus-Wimoweh) was perhaps the pits. Not because I think fashion doesn’t deserve decent coverage - I think it NEEDS more and better coverage. But this wasn’t it. This was desperation, on a story that is already weeks if not months old. And what IS it doing here? Something to do with "remit" or "demographic". Get in Laura Levene - as opposed to an older, more specialised presenter with a background in, well, arts and culture. Set the programme in a COCKTAIL BAR. (Don’t ask WHY: just do it.) And switch from doing intelligent pieces on slightly more marginal or 'difficult' areas to ... handbags and "icons".

I have to say, I think this ridiculous "Greatest Living Icon" thing has been the most pointless waste of BBC time and resources I've seen for a long time. It seems to concretize the trendified fear-of-thinking attitude at work here, involving an apparently 'democratic' 'viewer participation’ element, that, under a microscope is revealed to be mere sub-focus-group salad dressing. And that is essentially MEANINGLESS. 'Greatest Living Icon.' Meaning what? What do Morrissey, Paul MacCartney and David Attenborough have in common, anyway? (Apart from all being, when you get down to it, part of a comfort-inducing past rather than any unpredictable or frightening or mystifying future?) Nothing. It's not about 'culture', and about taking viewers to new places in culture - it's about COMFINESS. About staying in and pandering to a perceived demographic's COMFORT ZONE. Icon is a real New Labour style weasel word - that can mean everything/anything in any context whilst at base, really, meaning NOTHING WHATSOEVER. Certainly nothing that might "offend" or confuse one perceived "demographic" group or other.

Although a stray comment from Laura Levene (I think, I had the sound half down by this exasperated point) was the only indication here that maybe they were a bit unsettled at TCS by JUST how conservative their viewers choice was – the top 3 “living” icons all white, all male, all middle aged or older. Which means that either there is an even bigger disjunction between who they WISH was watching the show and the age of the people who really ARE; or their supposedly trendy Observer Music Monthly-reading cocktail-drinking "demographic" are as hidebound and blinkered as some old Punch-reading Home Counties ex-Colonial from the 1920s...

I suppose any popular "icon" has to be inoffenseive to some extent if it's going to appeal 'across the board, demographic wise'. But Macca is only really here because Lennon is dead (and he's getting some strange twisted sympathy vote as against the misogynistic tabloid's favourite Female Hate Figure of the moment); and a few years ago, Morrissey was KAPUT wasn't he, a joke figure rather than an icon.

And David Attenborough - well, it's like voting for your Gran, really, isn’t it?
I mean – no offence, he makes great progs n’all, but in what sense is it ‘culture’ in the sense that Schoenberg or Scorsese or Pat Califia, say, are? It’s more ‘culture’ in the sense of red phone boxes and World Cup 66 and … well, Morrissey’s quiff and Macca’s thumb. It’s got nothing to do with culture as inroad or departure, and everything to do with HOLDING ON to some kind of passing and un-difficult Britishness. And I’m not necessarily knocking either Attenborough or anyone’s notion of comforting Britishness – it’s just all such a lumpy doughy hodge-podge and always will be if you stick to EMPTY inoffensive terms like ‘Icon’ which don’t mean anything to anyone when it comes down to it.

It is SO quiescent. It's like DONT EVER UPSET ANYONE EVER. And so the Qs that Levene asks guests - she might as well still be on a Saturday morning The Chart Show. Faithless unplugged? WHY? For god's sake WHY? Because they are so obscure and need the coverage? Because their new record isn’t a live album greatest hits sets - it's a strange new daring departure? No - because IT WON’T OFFEND ANYONE. A little bit dance, a little bit multicultural, a little bit real musicians playing real music ... Christ, it's worse - more contained, more fearful, more limited - than The Old Grey Whistle Test ever was. It REALLY is.

Just keep on filling the space, and never, never ever, ever, even think of asking the question of any subject, "but is this really worth doing?" and "if so, why?"

posted by Ian 12/03/2006 07:01:00 AM
(16) comments
 
... and MURKIER ...?

Woke up this morning, no blog: where the Pillbox should have been was just a WHITE OUT.

It was the Russians, I tells ya! They POISONED MY BLOG!

posted by Ian 12/03/2006 06:33:00 AM

(1) comments

{Saturday}

 

MURKIER AND MURKIER



I don't know how trustworthy or unbiased THESE TWO posts on the Litvinenko/Gaidar poisonings are, but along with links arising from this latest Rigorous Intuition post, and a previous one, it certainly does give pause for thought and leads to follow.

It does seem odd, or way too much of a 'coincidence', at the very least, that the whole story of this NEW EXTRADITION TREATY between Russia and the United Kingdom HAS been downplayed, or sidelined, and not mentioned in any of the mainstream reports on Litvinenko's death and Gaidar's "unnatural ... illness". I sure didn't know about the treaty, did you?

ADDENDUM
I just read the latest Conspiracy Theory: apparently Putin-controlled newspapers in Russia are claiming that "British PR men ordered the sacrifice of Litvinenko to make a noise." They name their prime suspect for the killing as ... Thatcherite golden boy and PR wizard (Sir) Tim Bell (in league with oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky)!!!
Another theory forwarded by the same Putin-friendly publications is that, in fact, Litvinenko KILLED HIMSELF for the same Putin-defaming reason! (I remember with fondness, now, a conspiracy site SPOOF I read once that presented convincing evidence that JFK SHOT HIMSELF ...)

posted by Ian 12/02/2006 01:37:00 PM
(2) comments
 

ECHO AND NARCISSUS AT ONE AND THE SAME TIME



Calling all hauntology fans ...

If you've never actually seen Ken McMullen's Ghost Dance, here, thanks to the portal of wood's lot, are some intermediate links to YouTube excerpts featuring Derrida free-associating on Freud, phantoms, telecomunication(s), and everything under the black sun ...

"Vivre les phantoms!"

+ a seperate link to a clip I hadn't seen before:
Derrida mirror staged;

and an interesting interview with Ken McMullen himself - if, like me, you wondered what he had been up to. (I also interviewed McMullen once, about 15 or 16 years ago, and he was lovely, not at all 'avant garde' dry or dubious, a very articulate, generous and charming man ...)

posted by Ian 12/02/2006 12:59:00 PM

(3) comments

{Friday}

 
PULL HARDER

As someone who sat stony-faced and vaguely disapproving* through the entire two series of Nighty Night, I'm not a viewer you can make laugh simply by saying the unsayable or doing the shouldn't-do-able.

But I have to say: I haven't laughed more at anything ALL YEAR**, than at Karl's moustache-related suicide attempt in PULLING [BBC3] last night. Funnier than the entire two last series of Curb Your Enthusiasm put together - if by funny, of course, you mean something that makes you howl with laughter, rather than grimace with a vague, wishy washy "respect"***.

If I detect a 'theme', it's to do with a lurking and hurting and messy Real under a certain have-it-all notion of swinging-drinking-shagging ladette life. If I forsee a problem, it's the possibility that EVERY SINGLE character is potentially so annoying - including mere incidental characters - it might become a bit airless by, I dunno, episode 5 say. But at the same time you don't want a perversely "nice" huggy this-is-a-moral "change" to interrupt things, either.

Still, to make me laugh as much as they have this far is going some.
_______________
*{Not in any "moral" way, you understand: I just thought it was incredibly LAZY.

**{ and yet, I just Googled it, to try and get an interview with the creators or a few pix to use - and NOTHING. A big fat nothing. (O sure - you can probably download the week after next's episode onto the dashboard of your electric car - but I'm talking about FUSS. How come Lead Balloon gets all the groundswell huzzah and this doesn't? (Could it all be a bit Victorian? That drunken single women, like the drug taking 'working classes' of Ideal, aren't quite as culturally presentable as the well-off middle class white guy act of Lead Balloon? Just saying, like, guv'nor...)

***{Is comedy going through a pre-Punk 1970s jazz-rock concept album type phase? In which we all respect the "technique" and whoa!-beyond-imaginative "whackiness" but .. just want an opening chord that makes us jump in the air? Well, Karl's blue face (and moustache) (and attendant boner) were that chord for me. (That would make all those ENDLESS interchangeable news/statistics/celeb "quiz" shows the equivalent of the chummy 1970s solo album with loads of coked-out guest mates.) ((And probably makes the incredibly clever-but-SO-BLOODY-WHAT Green Wing the Tales of Topographic Oceans of this particular cul-de-sac.)

posted by Ian 12/01/2006 07:39:00 AM

(17) comments

{Thursday}

 
IT BRINGS ON MANY CHANGES...

I like it when people write elegantly and thoughtfully about old TV programmes a lot of cultural tzars would consider beneath consideration*; and THIS post by American blogger Lance Manion about the TV version of M.A.S.H. certainly qualifies. It's also worth following the links to the blog of Ken Levine, who co-wrote the M.A.S.H. episode under review, and a lot more besides ...

___________
*{ the piece I wrote in the early Eighties about The Rockford Files is still one of my own personal all-time best-loved pieces I did for the NME.

posted by Ian 11/30/2006 03:24:00 PM
(0) comments
 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Ys funny, no?



Even though he seems to be generally pro Joanna Newsom, I can't resist the chance to pass on this fantastic para from Sasha Frere-Jones writing in the online New Yorker:

"Her voice is an acquired taste: a wobbly mezzo-soprano that leaps into falsetto and breaks in a woody squeak. At first, she sounded to me like Lucille Ball reciting Edmund Spenser. She brought to mind a college student I knew who wore suspenders to show that she would not countenance this debased modern world."

And no, I still don't "get" Ys.

posted by Ian 11/30/2006 01:28:00 PM

(7) comments

{Wednesday}

 

POP(e) MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE!




Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I discuss ... 'Beard and Trembling'.
________________________


... I just can't get this Kierkegaard thing out of my head, now; and so, snaking around the overgrown garden of the Interweb, I found a few interesting bits n bobs.

FIRST off, a world renowned Kierkegaard expert considers Soren's take on Islam.

"Did Kierkegaard offer anything on Muhammad and Islam? Hong predicts there won't be much. Osama, if you're reading this, now's the time to turn the page. Kierkegaard, it so happens, refers directly to Muhammad or Muhammadinism multiple times. Some passages are innocuous, as when he writes, "Like Muhammad's tomb, my soul hovers between two magnets." Others suggest a more judgmental stand."

SECOND, an extract from Introduction to Christianity, authored by a pre-Pope Ratzinger in 1967, in which the then Cardinal uses a citation from Kierkegaard to illustrate the difficulties faced by any modern day Christian trying to communicate with the young bredren dem:


"According to the story," he wrote, "a travelling circus in Denmark had caught fire. The manager sent [the] clown, who was already dressed and made-up for the performance, into the neighboring village to fetch help, especially as there was a danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and engulf the village itself. So, the clown hurried into the village and requested the inhabitants `come as quickly as possible' and help put the fire out.

"But the villagers took the clown's shouts simply for an excellent piece of advertising, meant to attract as many people as possible to the performance; they applauded the clown and laughed till they cried. The clown felt more like weeping than laughing; he tried in vain to get people to be serious, to make clear to them he was speaking in bitter earnest, that there really WAS a fire! His supplications only increased the laughter; people thought he was playing his part splendidly -- until finally the fire DID engulf the village, and both circus and village were burned to the ground."

And that, said Father Ratzinger, almost 40 years ago, is the "theologian's position today . . . the appearance of a clown trying in vain to make people listen to his message!
"

Mmmmmhhhm.
Still completely in the dark about the message on that damn placard, tho.

posted by Ian 11/29/2006 11:02:00 PM
(2) comments
 
DID YOU SEE?

I was watcing NEWS 24 yesterday, specifically about the Pope "visiting", as they say, Turkey (as if it were the most natural thing in the world, like popping into Waitrose for some cat litter), where all these Muslims "turned out to protest" his "visit" (ditto, altho of course they NEVER seem to raise a squeak when some bunch of fellow Muslims sits down and plans and then enacts the decapitation of fifty other Muslims inside a holy Mosque in Basra or some equally pious act, car bombing the limbs off Iraqi women and children being rated somewhere down the scale as against a few really bad sub-New Yorker cartoons) (I mean, I don't want to sound like a Daily Mail editorial, but it does rather lessen the impact of protesting about some footnote in theological debate from the 15th century), but anyway, blah blah, just as if to prove that this isn't some angrily reflexive "grass roots" movement (i.e., that most Muslims if they give a hoot what dessicated authors the Pope is quoting this month it's not that much of a hoot, and that this whole thing is the media-savvy middle class Muslim wing), the "demo" that the BBC filmed the "spokesman" from the Turkish "Muslim community" at (altho you only ever see the first couple of rows, don't you, you never seem to get an overhead establishing shot, say, which might actually give some genuine idea of how big - or rather, small - the demo actually is), the first thing you saw was this beautifully written and constructed placard (it looked as if it had been bloody PROOF READ, you know what I'm saying, as opposed to most genuine protest placards, which have that bit at the end where the writing goes a bit scrunched up as you run out of space) which featured the following:

YOU SPIT ON TOMB OF JESUS
(S. Kierkegaard)

Now, there was much to ponder here.
Of course, the immediate thought was, wow, previous placards I've seen they couldnt spell DICK CHENEY, or SATAN, never mind KIERKEGAARD, what are the odds on that, I don't know these days that I could spell his name right with a gun, so to speak, against my head (I couldnt remember my own telephone number last week when I had to fill out an offical form), that must be the most literate protestor in the world. But I also like the disjunction between the top and bottom lines, somewhat as if someone had sworn, 'Oh, BOLLOCKS!', and some prissy smart aleck friend had added, parenthetically, "You know, 'bollocks' is an old Anglo Saxon word, meaning ..." I mean, did Kierkegaard really say that? It is a long time since I read him, but that REALLY doesnt seem his style somehow, or what I remember of it. Or is it, rather, a hasty summation of a position he once took?

Most of all, tho, you've GOT to like those brackets; although I think it's a shame there wasn't space to get "Soren" on there - it's such a lovely, seldom heard any more, euphonious name. It would have been so easy just to go with YOU SPIT ON JESUS TOMB. (But that quote's niggling at me now. That really doesn't look like Kierkegaard's style. In fact, all round, it makes less and less sense. Does Jesus have a tomb? Is it a figurative tomb then? Is this some point anent Catholicism and its beginnings? (I know Rastas, too, really arent keen, are they, re the Vatican.) Is Kierkegaard big among Muslim theology students in general or just in Turkey?

There was actually another placard, something about Jesus not being the main dude "we" "Christians" big him up as, but merely one more prophet of what's his name, uh, Mohammed, is that it? (My theology, like my algebra, is pretty rusty, and tends to the literalist stumble; you know, I just have such trouble picturing things that don't exist as such, I'm a bit Homer Simpson about it all; it's like, if you want to explain Poincare to me, you'd better line up some different sized chunks of cheeesecake, you know? Altho I would say that two thirds of the unnecessary trouble and bloodshed and hatred in the world seems to stem fromn folks who can't tell - or refuse to concede - the difference between religious text as allegory and religious text as supposed literal truth...)

I do rather like the idea of theology conducted as a street rumble, tho', I have to say; even if it does seem rather hypocritical and alarming and not strictly necessary, all this media huff and puff, satellite links, feeds, digital uploads and so forth, whole camera crews from every nation on earth being picked up in people carriers and sped to airports and then flying around the globe, and then back, in a rush, uploads, downfeeds, all in all increasing their carbon footprints to the size of King Kong, just to "report on" an event that wouldn't take place if they weren't there, in which two lots of stubborn theological throwbacks quote centuries old subtle distinctions about imminence and embodiment at one another. Yeah?

"His soul is rotten," the protestor added, thoughtfully, to Brian Hanrahan.
Geez, now that's personal.
(Although I have to say, this new Pope, something about his face, and its apparently permanent expression of vague distaste, any time I see it I do think of an airless room, somehow, a room that hasnt been opened up to people and laughter and debate for ages now, and has this over scrubbed, slightly mildewy smell...*)


(What if the media just ignored the whole damn for-their-benefit-anyway business of staged protests?

(Although there is actually a real story somewhere here, which is probably that the Church is genuinely worried that the despairing Third World poor which is still its main consumer base, might go over to Islam, in the same way they were tempted by Marxism/Liberation Theology in the 70s... now, that's a story I'd be interested in hearing about; just as the main question any decent BBC reporter ought to have asked here was, who exactly organised this fancy shmancy "protest"... and the two obviously arent unrelated, as every faked-up Muslim street "protest" is actually in the nature of a branding exercise, you know, look, WE CARE, WE REALLY DO... even if what they care about is humorless theological nicety over actual flesh and blood life, especially if that flesh and blood is female, but still, I quibble, we all know that it's only a "minority" that constitutes a humorlessly efficient machine for producing a great big sky high pile of the corpses of martyrs... and that the "Muslim community" is in reality, well, pretty Terry and June when it comes down to it, you know, you couldn't tell most Muslims from a fat Cabinet Minister, yeah, theyre JUST LIKE US... they scratch and fart, and miss Church, and spend Sunday shopping at Argos instead, in fact I dont know what they believe, or why theyre making such a fuss about it, in fact, isnt Tony Blair himself one, him and his black robe wearing wife, they baptise their children with fresh espresso and think muggers should have their ears cut off on the spot don't they? (I'm confused. What's a Lutheran, again?)

Yes, Lisa, they're just like us.
Except that they still read Soren Kierkegaard.
And can quote him**.
Scary.


Still, whoever put that placard together, you brightened up my day.

____________

*{Talking of humorless Catholics, the other big WHAT THE FUCK moment of the TV week, channel flipping I came across Madonna Live in Concert the other night, and she seemed to be being crucified on a big green neon cross, with great Biblical messages being flashed up behind her. "You're - fucking - kidding - me," I murmured to myself. I used to like Madonna; I really did. What the hell happened? Is she the most humorless non-bearded person in the world now, or what?

The way it looks at the moment, what with the Jesus complex and the grim matter of her obeisance to those Kabbalah Lite rip-off artists (and listen, I know a little bit about the fer-real Kabbalah, and you only have to take a look at these grifters with their £5 bottles of "holy water" and red strings - and where the fuck did that come from anyway? I've been reading about Kabbalah for 15 years and I've yet to come across any reference to sporting red string around your wrist, yea, verily, so that the other celebrities, they know you are trendy too - like I say, one look at them and that scene from The Jerk comes to mind, "This is shit, OK? And THIS is shinola..." "Shit. [PAUSE.] Shinola.")

I cannot but feel that if she persists in this Saint Madonna delusion, obsessing about "spirituality" and hanging out with dodgy redemption franchisers, lying up ahead is some awful Donna Summer type Moment in which Madonna makes some dodgy comment about homosexuality - some 'It's OK as long as you don't actually do the deed, which is an abomination' type comment, you know - and thereby loses 98.9% of her remaining audience.


**{Allegedly.

______________


The other main "news" story of the past 10 days, of course, was the serious matter of giving acres of free - and criticism free - publicity to the new James Bond. It's now become such an accepted practice that it needs an all-channels onslaught like this for you to realise just how much certain sections of most news broadcasts are little more than "advertorials".

My favourite part was the determinedly lo-brow Channel 5 interviewer, who kept wanting to talk to Daniel Craig about - well, about his COCK essentialy (e.g., a scene in which he emerges from the water in some tight lo-cut Speedos), and he has this exasperated look on his face like, 'I thought I was asked on Question Time to talk about Kierkegaard GOD DAMN IT'. Daniel, mate: lighten up. It's not Visconti.

I havent seen the new Bond yet, so I won't comment. But one thing did occur to me. How bad do things have to get before they sack the people responsible for the Bond theme songs? I mean - when the MOST memorable (and that, not very) Bond song in recent memory is Duran Duran, in the 80s, with - uh, "View To A Kill" was it? - things are pretty bad.
(And I only remember that because the video had clips of a then 83 year old Roger Moore doing battle with Grace Jones - doing her one default "acting" expression of Stroppy Amazon Glare - up and down the Eiffel Tower.)

The current Bond theme song, uh... I think it's Joe Cocker or somebody isn't it?
Or the bloke from The Commitments. Or that fat Italian bloke who used to duet with Paul Young in the 80s. Anyhoo, what's in a name, or the fact that you havent had a hit for 14 years. It's someone hairy and sweaty, in a vest, and with a soulful Vietnamese tattoo, with a voice like a football supporter snorting coke through a mouthful of meat pie. This = Authentic Masculine Emotion. Apparently.

_____________

BEST NEW COMEDY GOES TO....

BBC3's Pulling.
The first two episodes were fantastic.
I remebered what it was to actually LAUGH - out loud, consistently, over and over again (as per Phoenix Nights, or Father Ted) - at a comedy, as opposed to sitting there with a tight little grin on your face, thinking 'O gosh, this is clever, gosh, this is SO clever...' but not actually laughing, ever, not even once, at most a dry chuckle only one vocal register up from clearing one's throat. (As per Tittybangbang, Lead Balloon, That Mitchell & Webb Look, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Nighty Night, Catherine Tate, and other programmes I can't even call to mind only a few days after I saw them.)

posted by Ian 11/29/2006 05:35:00 AM
(8) comments
 
THE TRAGI COMIC PERILS OF LAZYDAY CHANNEL HOPPING

Been clicking over to BBC NEWS 24 a lot the last 48 hours because of the MID TERMS.
So, a few minutes ago I did just that only to find that the little tickertape thing for Breaking News was all about (snore zzzzzz yesterday's man, who cares) GAZZA ARRESTED - Paul Gascgoine detained by police for ABH - so I channel hopped to pop video land, where we find BEYONCE and SUGABABES have gone beyond irony and humour and postmodern quotation into plain old dumbd down dress it up how you may actual stockings and suspenders strip club peek a boo SOFT PORN... click back to NEWS 24 a moment later...

JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY! GAZZA VIOLENCE: 18 CIVILIANS KILLED. Waaaaah!? That's a bit more than ABH!

Oh. Hang on. Right. GAZA. Oh, OK.

posted by Ian 11/08/2006 10:21:00 AM
(1) comments
 
NONE MORE TRIVIAL


very conufsing yesterday turn on the TV NEWS and it's all this stuff about a Muslim guy named BAROT (pronounced, near as fine line damn it, BORAT i.e.) over in AMERICA and his Trigger Happy TV footage where he leans his camera over to make the Twin Towers collapse and makes this silly Lil Kid noise like "kuh-powww"

but this is how trivial i am, what i could not get out of my head for the rest of the day (and still, now, obviously) was the 'surveillance' footage he took of WALL ST, and unremarked by anyone in the middle of spick span upper caste Wall St is this one empty SHOPPING TROLLEY... now, I know Manhattan, and i REALLY do not remember there being any supermarkets in that area; I guess a HomeLess Person could have left it there, but there was NOTHING in it, could they just have sold their empty tins and bottles they collected then? what - on WALL STREET!!!??
Seriously, I spent hours thinking about this.

Also, on TMF an astonishingly dull video for Amy Winehouse's REHAB, where she looks more like a DRAG ARTISTE than ever before (doesnt she have any girlfriends who one tipsy night might say, seriously girl, whats with the eye shadow?) but what kept nagging me was her voice, me thinking, this sounds SO familiar, like earlier this year when every trendy new band seemed to remind me of THE MEMBERS or THE RUTS or someone like that, then I finally got it, Amy Winehouse, Rehab, uh ... anyone here remember CARMEL?
Ick.

I said it was trivial.
(I do have better thoughts than these but i've been too busy to write them up.)

STILL can't get into Joanna Newsom.

Finally heard the new BOB DYLAN and was VERY disappointed, comapred to the last two. WAY too much of the "way down by the lazy river" croonery on this one for my taste.
People seem to have reviewed it entirely by rote.


I've been sent a copy of Da Capo's BEST MUSIC WRITING 2006 - about which I can't say too much because I'm doing a working-hat-on review of it for someone...

But there were pieces in there that actually made me WANT TO HEAR, NOW!, stuff by EARTH and KEVIN BLECHDOM and even (even!) MERZBOW (even! because even tho I KNOW i won't like it or find it as interesting as the writer does*). Which made me reflect on how I've read continuously about some of this stuff for the past few years and never ONCE had that feeling... all the Da Capo pieces didnt assume that awful dry snotty insider-knowledge FANBOY tone that WE ALL ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF AND HOW GREAT IT IS AND WE ALL ALREADY HAVE 34 CD-R release ONLY COPIES OF IT.
The MISS AMP piece on Kevin Blechdom I thought was especially great: it was filled with LIFE and HUMOUR and SEX and SILLINESS but still managed to make some rilly serious points without making a big clanging deal of it.

_________________________
*{this isnt just laziness or personal aesthetic antipathy; I DO actually have a whole worked out theoretical position about why I dont think this stuff works, a priori, or at least, certanly, why I dont think its higher claims do... which I should LINK to Mark's latest piece over at Freaky Trigger about Modernism (which itself contains pertinent echoes of a piece I've always wanted to write provisionally entitled WHY ARE THERE NO SCRUFFY ARCHITECTS?) (or, IF ARCHITECTS HAD THEIR WAY THERE'D BE NOWHERE LEFT TO GET LOST AND DERIVE THROUGH...) (because, BTW, one of the things I've been doing the past two weeks in an attempt not to spent each and EVERY day watching ROCKFORD FILES re runs is actually going on long two hour strolls around North London in the diamond Autumnn light...)
_________________________


Nice to see SOUTHERN COMFORT again (it was pertinent as a VIETNAM allegory, it may be pertinent again, especially if you caught any of the recent stuff in the News where US Generals were saying, well, we didnt know ANYTHING about Iraqi society or mores or structure going in so we just had to GOOGLE it, bascially, and trust to dumb luck...) and BATLE OF ALGIERS (well...), and some recent ALMODOVAR on the TV; but my favourite film from the past two weeks had VIN DIESEL in**.
I know: I know.

_________________________

**{ Pitch Black? Pitch Dark? Lots of stuff about light and darkness and wandering blind and eyeless through an alien desert, anyway, and (this is JUST pre 2001) it had futuristic (non symbolic, non weighted) MUSLIM characters in (could they DO that these days?) and some pretty cool Nietzschean stuffa bout GOD, and, I thought, some kind of thematic subplot out of DANTE. (No: really.) Well - scared the shit out of me, anyway. And I mean that literally - at one or two points i DID actually JUMP out of my seat or cringe away wth hands over my eyes. (Only later did i reflect and realise that, by contemporary standards, it actually had very little explicit gore or violence in it. It was a lot sharper than that - lean and economical in the best modernist B movie way and a great corrective to the post MATRIX tendency to Epic sprawl and overload. And believe me - I dont scare easy. I watch loads of 'controversial' and putatively 'scary' stuff but how often do I actually blanche? Just about NEVER. Ditto comedy: I realised this week that I spend hours with a tight little smile on my face watching post-Gervais post-Larry David 'clever' comedy and THINKING 'Oh, this is smart and adult and funny' - but NEVER ACTUALLY LAUGHING. (The only thing in the last two weeks that actually made me genuinely unexpectedly spray-chocolate-milk-through-teeth LAUGH OUT LOUD... was an old rerun of an ancient RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY episode. Is this just me getting old?

posted by Ian 11/08/2006 09:15:00 AM

(19) comments

{Friday}

 
Busy at the moment, so just a few days run-down of trivia.

+ + +

I was channel surfing the other night when I heard an advert start

"WHICH Russian icon...?"

It turned out to be a bottle of Smirnoff.
(I have to say I think "Russian" is pushing it, frankly.)

I channel flipped and heard a BBC4 announcer say "...with iconic images from 50 years ago..." and we were back in Hungary 1956.

Maybe the oddest use of the word, tho, was yesterday in the ghastly new re-designed Guardian G2. Here's Martin Parr on one of his own photographs: it's a close up of a cup of tea. That's it, that's all there is in the shot: one cup of tea. And now hear him discuss this shot "[...] I think this is the most successful. It has the teacup, the gingham, every icon and cliché you could imagine about a cup of tea."
But it's a cup of tea. On a checked tablecloth. How many "icons" can there BE in such a simple shot?

(Surely the point of most "iconic" images so-called, is to have ONE central obvious "iconic" thing? )

Talking of ICONS, I realised I'd never actually consulted David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary on De Palma. And you know what? HE loves SCARFACE and hates everything else De Palma has done, too!

Another instance of PILL BOX against-the-grain taste being vindicated seems to come in the little news item I just read, which reports that THE FARRELLY BROTHERS are thinking of buying up the rights to a current British comedy series in order to transfer it to US TV. And - joy of joys! - it's not one of BBC2's massively over-rated boutique comedies, but the massively UNDER rated I'M WITH STUPID.

(+ Caught a repeat of IDEAL the other night; still think this was approaching genius a lot of the time.)

(+ + Final - I promise - niggle about EXTRAS.
Why on earth would Robert De Niro take a meeting with someone whose sole known work is a stinker of an antiquated old school wig and catchphrase s(h)it com?
I just think this betrays Merchant/Gervais contempt for the audience - o, just fling it all out at them, they won’t notice the joins. Any excuse to get De Niro in - doesn’t matter that it has ZERO logic.
I remain totally emperors-new-clothes mystified that it got such good reviews.)

_________________


Tried watching HEAVEN CAN WAIT last night, which I had never actually seen (or particularly wanted to see, I have to say) before. Astonishing. How can SUCH a smart savvy man as Warren Beatty make SUCH an awful film? It doesn’t just falter or occasionally hiccup - it fails on every level. It's one of the unfunniest comedies I've ever seen. He even somehow contrives to make Julie Christie look unattractive and Charles Grodin appear clunkingly unfunny - which, well, that is some unique directorial juju.

(Altho, come to think on it, this just reminds me of what someone said about DICK TRACY: what a "coincidence" it was that Beatty has chosen that plot, where everyone else has to be made up to look grotesque and ugly, leaving Beatty as the sole handsome, charming man...)

And then you start to think... on any film where he's had COMPLETE unfettered unopposed input and 'creative control' ... Heaven Can Wait, Ishtar, Dick Tracy, Love Story ... OK, I will grant you REDS doesn’t quite belong on that list of shame. But would YOU want to sit through it again? (Take Jack Nicholson's ten-minute-turn as Eugene O Neill out of it, and you’ve got pure soufflé, Marxism via Mills & Boon.)*

Maybe the myth concerning the 'icon' Warren Beatty (Machiavelli in the boardroom, Casanova in the bedroom) is more interesting than the sappy reality. If he has an 'aesthetic', and those films betray it, it would appear to be the aesthetic of a rich, ossified Park Avenue dowager, who was 65 in 1964.

____________


Talking of ossified - MADONNA on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Is it just me - or isn’t Madonna really REALLY starting to look like a bad DRAG ACT version of herself? When Baudrillard said WE ARE ALL TRANSSEXUALS NOW, is this what he meant?

_____________


HEAVEN CAN WAIT: ADDENDUM

Just found this great quote in Biskind's EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS:

"Indeed, there is a scene in the movie in which Warren and Julie are walking through the rose gardens of a grand estate. He is wearing a stylish leather jacket, and she has a haircut she hated, the one she sneeringly called her "dolly girl" hairdo. In the film, romantic music is swelling up on the soundtrack, drowning out their conversation, wherein what Christie was [actually] saying, in her clipped British accent: "I can't believe you're still making these fucking dumb movies when, I mean, there are people all over Europe making fabulous films, about real things, FASSBINDER, and so on, and you're still doing this shit," and then she'd smile at him as if she had honey on her tongue."

BEATTY ADDENDUM TWO

*{ OK - I forgot about BULWORTH, large parts of which I enjoyed enormously. And I do have a personal soft spot for BUGSY, but I don't think that quite qualifies as wholly Beatty's own film. (In fact, you might argue that it is only because Toback smuggled some ugly messy ID into the script, and Beatty didnt direct himself, that it turned out to be the after-a-fashion success it is...

BEATTY: THE FINAL WORD?

Maybe Cher inadvertantly bagged it with a capsule review that was actually about his much fantasised over sexual skills, but could stand for too much of his screen work, too:

'Beatty was rarely faithful to the babes he bedded, but his sexual skills got mixed reviews. He had a one-night stand with a 16-year-old Cher while he was dating Natalie Wood. "What a disappointment!" she later recalled. "Not that he wasn't technically good, [but] I didn't feel anything."'

I still think SHAMPOO is one of the best American films ever made, tho; and I can watch and re watch THE PARALLAX VIEW until the 'extraordinary rendition' planes come home...

posted by Ian 10/27/2006 10:17:00 AM

(17) comments

{Tuesday}

 
NAKED GUFF: THE FINAL INSULT.


o, DAMN and BLAST Film4 to an eternity of unending merde and approbation.
Or something. I'm - yeah, you know, apopo... - inarticulate with rage.

Just noticed.
Tonight they've got a film I've desperately wanted to RE-view for ages - Rivette's hauntillogical CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING ("The most innovative film since Citizen Kane" - David Thomson*). Film4 have scheduled this masterpiece of the ages at 12.20 am**; this for a film that runs to more than 3 hours***. While the prime time slots are taken up with ... The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (indeed, indeeeeed); and then BLACKBALL. What is Blackball, I hear you say? No, I didnt have a clue what it was, either. Blackball is a sunk-without trace Mel Smith 'comedy' with the obnoxious and inexplicably pleased-with-himself Paul Kaye. Even CHANNEL 4's own website gives it a scathing review - as see HERE; whilst the BBC review says: "there is, literally, not a single unexpected element to the story [...] another undemanding, join-the-dots comedy which stands a fair chance of commercial success with a beery Friday night crowd who find saying tosser the funniest thing since farting in public."

I just don't understand anything about this scrappy, all-over-the-place, please-absolutely-no-one programming: I really don't.

(Couldnt they at least have put THE NAKED GUN on at 5.10 and moved Ray's strange, unforgettable JOHNNY GUITAR up to make a vague double-bill with CELINE AND JULIE?
I mean - I'm not a snob. I find the NAKED GUN films funny (in an undemanding, lazy afternoon kind of way); but - really, what the HELL are they doing on a specialist (as it were) FILM channel? They have ZERO interest as 'films', per se - and that's not snobbisme, that's just brass tack facts.
And as for the notion that showing something like Blackball(s) is somehow 'supporting' the (ha ha) British Film Industry - o, do behave. NOT showing it would do our reputation more of a favour.

CELINE AND JULIE isn't some grim stereotypical 'sub titled' angst fest. It's light, and seductive, and thrillingly unpredictable. And (as far as I can remember), I would think that in its own 'haunted house' way, it would probably transfer to the small screen really well.


________________

*Still, after that recent Nicole Kidman book, I'm really not sure about old DT(s).


**{Not quite as bad as putting La Belle et Le Bete on at 2.15 in the a.m., (in favour of the eight fucking thousandth showing of the hugely overrated THE FULL MONTY) as they did on Sunday, but still.


***{ and I speak as someone who sat through the full uncut version of Rivette's L'Amour Fou [at the old Scala, WAY back when it sat in Charlotte Street...].

posted by Ian 10/24/2006 11:29:00 AM

(21) comments

{Monday}

 
FAN...TASMAGORIA

... really good stuff HERE; and I'm not just saying this because my homegrrrl name drops the Pill Box, or is acute on the holey Greil:

" [...] I've been finding The Shape Of Things to Come a real slog, to be honest - I'm skimming over large chunks of it. The chapter on Twin Peaks (the chapter where Marcus drops riot-grrrl into the picture, incidentally) is pure guff - I don't get it at all. Maybe the problem begins from the title of the book onwards: it seems that with this new stuff, the motivation in Marcus's writing is to close down rather than open up interpretation. He wants to take these fleeting, flimsy pop-cultural moments and hew them into granite; turn his ghosts into monuments, and then herd everybody into the public square to turn around and face those monuments. See, see? - but I don't see at all."

The post goes on to take in SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY and the dream/day-dreaming photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron, which is uncanny, as I'd just been reading about the same in Marina Warner's latest, PHANTASMAGORIA {Spirit Visions, Metaphors & Media into the 21st Century}, a book I heartily recommend...

Coming to Warner's text - and an advance copy of the dizzying new Nick Tosches, KING OF THE JEWS {The Arnold Rothstein Story} - just confirmed what I already knew re Marcus - it's not, it's never enough simply to pick the "right" subjects, or merely deploy the "right" terms (e.g., "weird", "ghosts", "haunted", etc) - which is to miss the point altogether I think if we're talking Hauntology... it should be the aggravated place you write from, it should inhabit the signals you send... it is the doubt that pocks and scars your writing's style ... or, just because Marcus says somethng is "weird" (or, rather, Weird), doesn't make anything he says haunting... especially when he keeps trying to drag everything back to an origin, to GROUND it, in a presumed, an unquestioned, an a priori AMERICAN logos ...

... what it is, what it is... should be a real ontological jolt, something that displaces or displeases you, opens up a caesura, an aporia, a lacuna (or lacana?), a gap or gape in where you think you are, where you think you think from, where you think thinking goes or what it does, how you think it summons, who you think speaks when "you yourself" speak... it is not, it is not in any way, but it especially is not an acess or gateway into list making, or History as summons, itinerary, COMMONALITY. It should make you think (knock) thrice, before ever doing anything like that ever again. Words should feel soiled, spoiled, unmanageable, OFF ... which is why I start to feel un-easy about Hauntology so-called as a hobby-hors(), i-2-3, tick this off, tick this off...

... the point about Derrida and the coining of Hauntology is that it is spillage or outbreak from a rigorous combing of Marx and the very precise way in which certain words or notions HAUNT the Marxist project {{ perhaps without the author's sure knowledge or clear intent... which is why CALLING Hauntology or Ghost syntax INTO your own project - as CAPITALISATION, as something you confidently bank or capitalise on or invest in - may, very properly, disqualify you before you even begin to speak of it. Derrida's echo-point would rather be that it SPEAKS BEFORE YOU, with that strange logic of the spectre or un-dead, which is to say, time (as tongue) twisted, something which is supposedly 'dead' and 'gone' (in temporal, logical terms) can still be waiting UP AHEAD, lying in wait, putting your call through or blocking access, directing the flow or stoppage of "your" speaks-to-me thought before it even commences to sing ... it should make you think twice about the phrase "my voice"... it is not an invoice ... it is an off-white body standing before you in backlit abeyance, saying nothing but speaking All... that no matter (immaterially) what you say, you get this noisesome, queasy feeling that it is merely a TEXT or VOICE MAIL sent on from who knows when, old news from elsewhere ... some faraway near ...

________________

... speaking of which, I woke up a few mornings ago with this odd bit of sung doggerel jumping in my head, which I immedately scribbled down:

"I have a brother back in the BRONX

and an entire memory of VIENNA
..."

Huh?

From WHOSE mouth exactly, to "my" text...?

___________________


... oh, also recommended, this few years old, but ever so timely "opinion" piece from ALAIN BADIOU on the QUESTION OF THE VEIL. {I've been struggling through a new collection of Badiou's Theoretical Writings [Continuum Impacts Pbk], but Jeez, it's tough work. Although how much of that is down to my ingrained antipathy to MATH, I'm not yet sure ...

posted by Ian 10/23/2006 09:26:00 AM

(3) comments

{Wednesday}

 
BANDA ON THE RUN

From this post of MarK's on FAMILY VALUES (and the War on Terror); to my remarks below on the decimated, unstable Family presented in PRIME SUSPECT, to ...

... well, surely to some kind of head-scratching meditation on the ridiculously over-blown "media circus" attending MADONNA's current Family arrangements (or, 'geo-politics as playing at Grown Ups') over the past few days.

BBC News 24 cut yesterday to a reporter standing outside Madonna's Mayfair home.
The next five minutes was a roll-call of News-24 cliches: "nothing to report, I'm afraid...", "nobody really knows...", "nobody seems 100% sure...", "part of the problem is, nobody knows the precise facts..."

At one point the reporter used the phrase "Right at the top of the agenda is the question..." Right at the top of WHAT?!

All the things that are going on in Iraq (60-100 killed EVERY DAY), in Darfur, in China, in North Korea, all the executions, all the rapes, all the un-ending torture, all the stage-managed internecine strife, and we see our media professionals stampede, like a slavering mindless pack, around this one displaced* kid ... crying foul in the 'interests' of the little innocent (as if he were a kidnapped babe from Grimm's), at the same time staging an unrelenting, claustrophobic and then high-speed ambush around him.

I'm not saying the story doesn't have resonance, isn't interesting on a number of levels, but is it really LEAD story material? The fate of - well, WHAT, exactly, WHO, exactly, hangs in the balance here?

(Havent we been here before, in some sense? With Madonna using the exotic pull of the Other as - very exactly - local colour to spice up her soundbyte narrative? From the Black Christ of 'Like A Prayer' to the Krumping/Clowning dancers of 'Hung Up', with all the lesbians, urban jumpers and break dancers, Vougers, hotel corridor S&M-ers, inbetween, she has always "adopted" the Other as some kind of strobe-lit supplement to the remorseless drive of her world domination...

And the question 'Why African? Why now?' - might produce some not especially pleasant answers, I suspect.

__________________

*{Celebrity as refugee camp? Maybe Madonna and Angelina could start an alternative United Nations? God knows the old one has been asleep on the job for decades now...)

posted by Ian 10/18/2006 11:22:00 AM
(7) comments
 
Well, I think there's no doubt who won in the Returning Heavyweights face-off - Cracker absolutely trounced by Prime Suspect. The hollowness, the laziness of Cracker's conceit (Fitz out of the way, lecturing in Australia for x years) was summed up by that asinine line McGovern gave Fitz - "Australia: land of skin cancer and Skippy!" - which was just unworthy of everyone involved, including us, the audience, but most of all the character.* There were SO many holes in it all - in the time-stood-still quality of things - which Prime Suspect, I just realised, solved in a really cunning way.

The opening 5 minutes of Prime Suspect (which I already praised below) is so gripping that you almost don’t notice the smart double flip the makers have pulled: Tennyson as (self) drugged/poisoned Sleeping Beauty/Snow White. It's there in the mortifying suddenness of her morning-after awakening on the couch - and then that 'Where am I? Where did the time go? What did I do in it?' feel which works both for terminal alcoholism, and for a character who's been off our screens for X years. (Her living room, her home, are void of any conventional 'character' prompts, any signifying touches, even the barest Ikea nod. This 'set' - the set of a Memory without any memories - could be a Beckett phantom, come to howl out the comedown longeurs after a decade of TV full of Chick Lit-shaped perky singles and stroppy but coping single mums and wisecracking divorcees.** This isn't a living room - it's a space in which someone barely survives. Prime Suspect, Final Act: Survival of the Un-Fittest ...)

You get more of it soon, when Tennyson starts to notice what almost feels like a Zombie Army of teenagers through her car window; the implied feel is - 'Where on EARTH did they, did this all come from?'
What societal 'repressed' is this our Return on?

Cracker had NO such sub textual currents - or, if it ever did, McGovern wouldn’t let them lie (I said: wouldn’t let them lie!) and promoted them to big old banners he hit us all over the head with: SLICK AMERICANS THEY BAD; GROUCHY SCOT HE GOOD. Although at the end of it, you might be excused for feeling that it was not really any clearer what McGovern was getting at, or why he had dragged 9/11 in. Something about it felt faked - worse than faked, as if WAR was the thematic Viagra McGovern needed to get it up, in order to write the expected scene-to-scene Cracker stuff. (Compare Prime Suspect's awesomely, devastatingly pin-drop opening minutes with the hopelessly naff MTV scrunch n cut of Cracker's, which was a cacophony of Newsreel quotation, signifying nothing.)

There was only one Cracker scene that nearly worked - a domestic late night scene between Fitz and his wife, discussing impotence, declaring (or fudging) their love. And even that felt wrong, ultimately, if you thought about it - i.e., not only did it feel like a vital conversation they would have had years before; but they were lolling around half dressed, as if comfortably at home, which they weren't. I know this sounds like I'm picking at small beer stuff - but it's a matter of establishing and maintaining a believable tone. And McGovern seemed more interested in bawling out Blair/Bush, than in making the human drama turn over and spark.

There were loads more scenes in Cracker that didn’t work, or felt off, for similar reason(s): McGovern seemingly hadn’t taken any account of PASSING TIME.
A scene in the back of a police car where Fitz gets all ASBO excited about chasing a common or gearden junkie: 'Wooo! This is more like it! This is real life! Bollocks to Australia,' etc. But you looked at Coltrane's much, much older face - and much heavier frame - and the words felt wrong. You got no sense whatsoever of what had been going through his head, or on in his life (inner or outer) for the past 7 [?] years. (Midlife years which are crucial in male terms.) McGovern wasn’t interested. He wanted to get to the propaganda stuff about Evil Yanks ... as if his audience hadn’t digested any world events, since the last time Saint Jimmy had lectured us on same. (Seriously, that is how it felt.)

+ + + +

The other thing that has struck me since, thinking about Prime Suspect - is fathers. You could say the whole thing played to the key of MISSING FATHERS. Missing, in all sorts of senses. (Missing, as in lacking, e.g.; but in many other ways.) Played, or prayed ... or preyed. Fathers here are dying, or wounded, or missing in action. Befuddled, excluded, un-needed, perplexed. They are all suspect, as well as suspects. All failing, or putting on a brave face.

The most touching details - and this is good writing, J McGovern - are also always the smallest, the most prosaic; like the victim's father, needing to go off and just sit in his car, alone, with a can of beer. (If this is true, which we don’t actually know yet. But it *felt* true.)

The repressed that this is a return on - some of it, of course, is that forever fudged-around matter of Absent Fathers. (Where do they all GO?) At the heart of the story - altho not overstressed by the makers - is the local Community centre, full of unparented kids... who are both too 'old' for their age, and nakedly unprotected. They can operate the new technology of communication, but are impossible to read. (They are constantly texting each other, but display little psycho-logical sub-text. Or, none that makes much sense to the shell-shocked adults, at any rate.)

+ + + +

PRIME SUSPECT was born in the era when Mrs Thatcher was headmistress - and there was a woman who NEVER wanted to be anyone's Mummy***. It ends in an era where Blair wants to be everybody's Good Dad (or good Catholic Father.****), and tell us all - strictly for our own good, you know - what to do, what not to do, how our children should behave, how they should be raised, what they should eat, what time they should be in at night...

One big happy family.

This latest, and last, eschatological Prime Suspect affixes the insomniac, the 'missing', the necessary QUESTION MARK to that phrase. It haunts the empty coridors and rainy heaths and out of the way estates of its 'plot', like night-terror sweat, like hangover shakes.

You'll have to wake up - soon.


_____________

* Never mind that Australia is a fascinating country, full of many of the same problems as the UK (the tension between second generation Émigré conservatism, and sudden, clamorous Global Change, e.g.), what, don't they HAVE crime over there? (Likewise, have the Manchester police not found a replacement for Fitz in all this time? Is he the only profiler in Britain?) And you would have thought, frankly, that the 'fuck it - let's have another drink' culture of Oz would have held many attractions for Fitz. (I know it did me, on my brief visit in 2000.) Or maybe, like his creator, Fitz needs a shot of rainy, grainy psychosis to get his speculative blood circulating...? As if a bustling, well-lit place couldn't ever, in McGovern's scheme of things, be half as "authentic" somehow...


** {a.k.a The Curse of Caroline Quentin.


*** {Except, fatally, Mark's; but that's another post.
See: THATCHER'S FORTUNES {The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher} by Mark Hollingsworth & Paul Halloran [Mainstream Pbk].


**** {You'd think this might be far more fertile ground for McGovern, maybe: a Catholic priest, say, who is torn in two with doubt because of all he sees being done in the name of Religion - by Bush (fundamentalist Christian), by Blair (Catholic), by Islam. But that might be more ambiguous, and there would be fewer guns. Under his Holier/Prolier than thou act, McGovern is beset by a whole load of ethical shdows, you ask me ...

posted by Ian 10/18/2006 10:13:00 AM

(13) comments
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