|THE PILL BOX|
A CATALOG OF CULTURE & BARBARITY
somewhere i have a long email exchange with r*b white ex of the bfi abt smiley-stuff -- books and TV -- which took place during the last re-showing i guess... i will see if i can dig it out, if it has not got eaten up by time's cybermoth
he was obsessed with the "male culture" dimension of it, a lost world he slightly regretted possibly (he is a bit over-attracted to a spectatorish vibe!): but he is a good sounding-board on aspects of imperial and post-imperial all-maleness in english society (it was one reason why he was a good editor for "if....")
i very much like the "but they're ALL idiots" reading -- not least cz i think le carre is a bit of an idiot also (having read ALL his books except possibly some very recent ones): apart from two or three, they are INCREDIBLY patchy
here is my off-the-cuff explanation why eg SPOOKS has no resonance -- it's because its representation of the omnipresent computer-interface is not just shallow, but totally bogus
"memory has been instrumentalised" -- this is the UTOPIA of computer systems, but unbelievably far from the reality; the computers in serieses like spooks are no better than MAGICAL BOXES w/o ORGANS; the compacted human activity which went into their construction and organisation never enteres the story [unlike cap-R Real Life, as anyone who's spent anytime on-line in the last ten years knows: IT-life is ALL ABOUT the return of the instrumentally repressed!! the revenge of human error!!]
[also the current reality of "security orgs" seems to be a proliferation of willed-reality bunker bureaucracies battling largely with one another over funding territory and technique as sedimented ideology -- and further than EVER from a monolithic systematised overview of the outside world]
(the nightmare of a society of panoptical oversight by THE MAN is -- i've said this before -- the sign of a secret IMPERIALIST NOSTALGIA on the part of paranoiacs: the hope that at least SOMEONE knows what's going on and is in charge)
two quotes from CASINO ROYALE are also apposite, re the life of a spy:
"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning" (=the opening lines)
and (p.13, and my favourite line in the book)
“… Bond undressed and took a cold shower. Then he lit his 70th cigarette of the day… ”
I agree re the computers thing. It shoul simplify and instumentalise everything but has if anything the opposite effect (or 'affect'?) - a universe of unconnected ropes, frayed twines leading nowhere. We had a leak in our ceiling a couple of weeks ago - in the 'old days' some estate manager who knew all the buildings inside out woudl have taken one look at it and gone 'Ah, right,that means ... X.' and fixed it. it took a week and a half, 3 dozen phone calls (each time we called back no one had a record of the previous call, so we had to repeat the entire narrative from beginning again) and at one point someone at the other end of the line in God knows where actually admitted to us: "... we have two new computer systems and THEY DONT TALK TO ONE ANOTHER." I dont need to itemise the number of Govt and police (and secret service?) cock ups over the past 10, 15 years in similar persepctive. (No to mention all the hushed up hackings, which are apochryphally LEGION.) We had 15 different phone centre operatives, two different plumbers (not "plumbers" a la Watergate, i mean: actual plumbers), a security man and THE FIRE BRIGADE. We nearly had the police called in at one exasperated and exasperating point. (And thru all of this, I dont think we actually spoke to an actual representative of our Housing Assoc ONCE. All pragmatics - as well as responsibility - had been "farmed out".) If this is all for a small leak in a bedroom ceiling - you can just imagine how Social Services and Social Worker scandals slowly arise.
Plus, of course - re the rise of Muslim Fundamentalism etc, there is no point in Mi5, MI6, the CIA and Homeland Security having the best info processing systems in the universe - if they have no info to process, or no way of verifying its veracity.
The 'old' Smiley world wasnt a "wilderneess of mirrors" (who actually said that?), it was a COMFORT ZONE of mirrors, for the paired Opposite But Same of the USSR and USA/UK. There was no chance of anything truly "surprising", but that it would occur within the realm of an already decided Expected.
Re: Le Carre.
I've only ever read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - which I thought was better than the film. (This could partly be because I *never* liked Burton.) I'd like to read Tinker Tailor in original Le Carre form, but am worried it might now be a let down. Here is one instance where TV making something MORE ambivalent might be to its advantage.
Maybe a more profitable comparison might not be SPOOKS, but 24. (Although I cant quite believe there are still people out there watching its increasingly ridiculous flatulent performance .... !? I always thought it was a ONE shot ONE series thing, strictly. It seems to have turned into ane cho of Iraq - should have been In and OUT, job done; now seems never ending, unmoored from any verifiable "reality"...
wilderness of mirrors = from eliot's gerontion, as quoted by (of course) james jesus angleton
tinker tailor and smiley's people are both pretty good -- not quite as bleak as "in from the cold"; both have lovely vivid minor characters
(re memory: connie -- beryl reid in the TV -- whose entire role is to be the HUMAN CROSS-REFERENCING SYSTEM... she is emotional, alcoholic, an empath and old-fashioned county-set lesb -- cf the TWO LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN for the ur-type -- hence cast out of the system for all the above sins against modernisation)
didnt Reid first play version of this in KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE? (which i remember as bizarre gothic film, but one of those bizarre gothic 60s films which are better remembered/imagined than actually sat through...?
I also remember a 9/10 year old I.P. saying to parents "sister GEORGE?! thats a FUNNY name for a girl..." and parents t hee-ing and snort snorting to themselves, so theyd obviously seen it... i thin it had that rep at the time - something "risky/risque" you went to see, a la Sid James & mate & wives at start of Carry On Camping, or (even better) the Steptoe & Sun episode that makes sweet mention of "I Am Curious: Yellow"...
haha i recall cath carroll writing a snarky review of sister george viz that it "for the FIRST TIME told the TRUTH abt what women did in bed together viz DRINK EACH OTHER'S BATHWATER???"
Ha... maybe one day there will be an episode of MIDSOMER MURDERS, and at the end John Nettles will find out it was *actually* the quiet anti-social anarchist hunt sab COMPUTER wot did it...
might as well get CC's gag right: "for the FIRST TIME a film told the TRUTH abt what women did in bed together viz SMOKE CIGARS and DRINK EACH OTHER'S BATHWATER???"
it would make an awesome episode of ROSEMARY AND THYME (even more unwatchable that 24 in my experience)
tho it did inspire cause me and my friend tokyo rosemary to spend a happy evening inventing FORTHCOMING odd couple COP DUOS
I just read the COP DUO list.
"Piss and Vinegar' is brilliant.
I'd watch it!
...He said, like this was some mark of taste and discimination. From the man who sat and watched THREE STRAIGHT HOURS of "Punk'd" on saturday, a programme he doesnt even like (in fact, more, edging towards actively HATES...
I *actually* watched one episode TWICE in one day! (Altho, it was the one where Simon Cowell gets Punk'd, which kind of explains & excuses it, altho in my opinion he wasnt punk'd NEARLY enuff.
I think I got hook'd on the figure of Kutcher - his between-prank bits. He's obviously a pretty smart (and actually quite funny) (and enormously 'ambitious' in straight cut-throat Hollywood terms) dude. But you could see the mouse peeps of paranoia start to register in his eyes at one point - or so it seemed to me; this grotesque set-up where Britney Spears is trying to 'get in with' Kutcher and be one of the boys, and they turn the tables on Kutchers producer and best friend, in what i thought was acutally a really unpleasant - and unpleasantly protracted - scene.
8 out of 10 punkees seem internally seething and NOT AT ALL amused in any way shape or form but put on a just about happy face for the camera, tho more in rictus than true laughter. Some skateboard guy - he'd gotten a call from the (fake) police about his son (but he didnt know what or why). Now THAT is NOT funny - you could tell the guy was freaked.
Thers something early to mid Howard Hughes about the whole thing. (Prakishness, new technology, obsession with both 'control' and Hollywood politics, rank, hierarchy, just how far you can push same... and i dont doubt that in 15, 20 years Kutcher will be the next Warren Beatty or s/t, the undeclared 'King of Hollywood', a *real* power broker. (The Kutcher-Moore liason has served them both *so* well; talk about a boardroom fuck.) (I wonder what HHughes feelings were about fake boobs? Hmmm...)
(I hope such a grand sounding conclusion - and attendant speculations - doesnt come off like me trying to justify the shameful waste of 3 or 4 hours of my life... It does?
BTW - did anyone catch the Simon Cowell Desert Island Discs? I think it tells you a lot about what is wrong with POP IDOL at its heart.
(I mean - fair dues, there are CLASSY records here, records I personally love, too, - but he is SO stuck, so time warped, its like pre Simon Dee, its like a 1963 Hugh Hefner bachelor pad pile of records...) Viz
1. Mack the Knife
Performer Bobby Darin
2. This Guy's in Love with You
Performer Herb Alpert
Performer Charles Aznavour
4. Unchained Melody
Performer The Righteous Brothers
5. Danke Schoen
Performer Wayne Newton
6. If You're Not the One
Performer Daniel Bedingfield
7. Summer Wind
Performer Frank Sinatra
8. Mr Bojangles
Performer Sammy Davis Jr
Daniel Bedingfield (!) is his sole concession to post modernity, to POP as such. Which tells us a lot. (He's actually schizo-phonic: camp-Morose !!!?) I mean - WAYNE NEWTON!?
I dont think any of this is even 'jokey' (as might be claimed of his book - Hollywood Wives - and his special object: a mirror oh ha ha HA.)
You look at tht list and think: Bob Dylan could have turned up with full band and done Like A Rolling Stone [or: substitute song/performer of your choice] and he would have said: Useless. Cant sing. Too moody. Take those silly glasses off and go home and think about what youre *really* good at ...
It sure looks like he doesnt even have enough of a popular culture remit to grok the humor of that old infamous Kit kat ad.(Cant sing, cant play, cant dance - you'll go FAR!.') Its a lsit that betrays such a Daily Mail idea of what 'adult' is, a darkly shallow dream of how silly trashy pop music might see sense one day, and finally 'grow up' ...
didn't cowell say recently somewhere that pop would never again reach the sunny uplands of the RATPACK? which y'know, whatever floats yr boat, but it does cast a weird reflection on what the official gatekeepers think they're meant to be doing!!
popstarz as a format utterly fascinated me as it seemed for a while SO WIDE OPEN to be gamed by a canny mclaren type, plus some boy or girlie or group even w.with good overthrow-the-cheeseboard gumption --- make the set-up the subject; the show becomes yr own haha ROCK OPERA of possibility and failure (i mean the way SWINDLE or HERE MY DEAR is an opera of its production)
sadly the x factor largely marks the shutting down and boxing off of this potentially explosive format i think -- it is too big not to be highly policed and pre-judged off-screen -- tho i remain interested in the fact of the gatekeeper moving so clearly into the spotlight and becoming themselves the "issue" (and in fact the content)
there was hint of what i'm getting at when kym marsh confronted nigel thingy on popstarz abt her weight -- and brilliantly gamed the public response to get him to back down (ie opened up the "rules" to work in her favour)
similarly a smart post-dylan post-mclaren rocker could -- this wz my claim -- turn the spectacle of clash of aesthetics into the reason to be watching the show; make aesthetics the core of competition (so that even if they LOSE they win) -- bcz the basic assumptions of the format have gotten put into hazard
and to be honest i read it as a TOTAL lack of creative intelligence and ambition on the part of the massed representatives of this culture that no one stepped up -- an old skool post-punker like martin fry or billie mackenzie would have got my point in a second; or the POP GROUP (ok yes i know the pop group wd never have got it)
Yes, and they so obviously have NOTHING TO LOSE, given that 9/10 "winners" (and runners up) end up NOWHERE, or only one rung further up the scampi & chips/cruise ship ladder. (Scampi and chips dates me : what would be the proper equivalent today? Any suggestions? Bacardi Breezer n ...what?)
But i suspect that if anyone did "rebel" (evensimply to the extent of refusing the CRAP M.O.R songs they are GIVEN to sing and picking something outside the Cowell remit) - it would just be edited out. Too much money now riding on it all now to let the REAL Oz like mechanics be glimpsed. (I.e. - cross reference to other COMMENTS box and questions of ECONOMICS as invisibly & pwoerfully determinant...?)
HA HA HA! In the style of The Hits video channel gimmick '6 degrees of seperation' - how to get from George Smiley to Simon Cowell in one afternoon! (Thesis: media as new 'intelligence' world. TOP SECRET no longer applies to Russian agents but to pics of Tom Cruise's baby! A kind of 'wilderness of mirrors' paranoia certainly at the heart of both Kutcher and Cowell, surely, indeed... Discuss.
Talking of talent show TV - has anyone caught LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU [weekdays, BBC2 of all places, 4.30] ? Now, as should be obvious by now, I have a pretty high non embarrassment factor as far as bad tv goes - but this is something esle again, so godawful, cringe making, unbelievably cack handed... it's like something from daytime ITV local tv, circa 1973. I mean - it's saying something when *I* can't watch a tv show, because my standards are practically non existent...
'x-factor' is desgined for maximum laffs now; there's a late-'big brother' freakshow thing too, but last weekend had this enormous build-up to this regulation-goth girl, with the 'i am too indie for this but my mum made me do it' -- and she goes into the room and starts singing... "oh i wish i was a punk-rocker with flowers in my hair...". whoever edits it deserves a medal.
With his brutal manipulation of TV and the pop charts, his philistinism, his reactionary nostalgia, and his contempt for the 'masses'; Cowell is the Goebbells of pop.
Like Goebbells, he may appear evil to rivals, but his influence wil be far-reaching. Pop impresarios will be taking notes on Cowell's 'synergy' methods. When Cowell faces his (surely imminent) 'gotterdammerung'; his influence on media manipulation will be far-reaching.
Hype about 'network' websites breaking music neglects to mention that these acts will mainly be as transient as the shite Cowell throws up. The Arctic Monkeys are so over now they've won the Mercury Music prize! Kiss of death for any promising act...
paris hilton is hitler, simon cowell is goebbels... it's a fine thing that there are no actual dictators in the world. oh, no, hang on...
Well, this is a 'pop' site, no?
Didn't you ever cover similies or metaphors in school HKM? Or do you take everything literally?
cowell's personal legacy will be negligeable -- the format shifts simply aren't driven or controlled by him; they're a product of vertical and horizontal media integration, and the territorial struggles of the different media being integrated; also (as HKM says) they've already shifted towards a "laugh at the losers" mode, which -- while still potentially gameable by "undergrounders" -- becomes just such a dreary proposition for anyone with much competent ambition for mainstream light entertainment
one of the reasons i think this shift into the limelight of a certain kind of geatekeeper is interesting is because -- long-term -- i think, by placing THEM at the public's whim, it strips them of the power they had in the shadows (it simply shines too ruthless a light on the "mystique of judgement"; it's not a critique even, just an overexposure -- which means cowell has to find the chops to game public boredom with his shtick, and turn the backlash into a haha flucht nach vorn) (= "leap into the future"), or be humiliated by growing disinterest
he is no jonathan king -- neither as sinister nor as gifted
part of the problem for "the x factor" is that -- from c.1955-85 -- the "people who ran pop" knew that they DIDN'T have a bead on "how pop worked" (ie "what the rising public would like"): so they bounced their instincts and old-skool vaudeville or broadway or las vegas supperclub ear off of the running poll of the charts, and were sort of willing to acknowledge that "SOUNDS LIKE HORRIBLE NOISE to me" maybe meant that [whatever] was GOOD to the rock massive
ie "everything we know is wrong" was for several decades a kind of leisure-industry rule-of-thumb -- which allowed the roll-over of successive generations of rock etc, and the (often frutiful) confusion of planned obsolescence and "teenage revolution"
but you can't replicate that kind of tension retrospectively -- cowell et al are physically too YOUNG to have any natural sense of the pre-rock settlement
and someone like king -- who understands it much better -- can't be deployed as an on-screen representative of the "Drama of the Judge", bcz he so publicly embodies the predatory subjectivity that "everyone knows" is so much factor in this wing of the business (the "casting couch" meme predates hollywood --- you can find it in balzac and dumas)
(haha guess where i first came across the phrase "flucht nach vorn"? in SMILEY'S PEOPLE!!)
i didn't see enough of BB this year to know if it had actually jumped the shark but one of its great weapons is that big brother is a reified figure of judgement who STAYS ENTIRELY IN THE SHADOWS -- this allows endemol to turn fuck-ups into brilliant coups de theatre; precisely bcz we never see the moment of doubt pass across BB's face
the great untold story of endemol is the story of the teams of live-stream editors converting an unreal mass of supertedious material into "stories" IN REAL TIME
(haha this is ANOTHER thing the wire should cover -- it is an AWESOME AVANT GARDE TRIUMPH hiding in plain sight)
Hard to be a pedant when you have written such a pleasurable and interesting piece, but you cannot, must not, should not, say "..are sat around", in any circumstances. They either are sitting or were sitting or they sat down.
This is the old "I was sat" malarky which has permeated the media and hence everyday parlance to an astonishingly annoying extent: even people who know their grammar perfectly well are slipping into this Yorshire-ism while reporting from the bombed out towns and villages of Lebanon.
Here in Norfolk we have the "I weren't". This is dialect. And so is the " I were sat" business. It has no relation to good grammar: it is simple the speech of a region. There is no excuse for people who were not born into these ways of speaking to use any of them in writing.
Anonymous you are wrong, I think
The following is not ungrammatical:
"He sat us down." It means that he -- a teacher, let's say -- required we sit down, how and when.
"We were sat down by him" = the (clumsy) restatement of the first sentence in passive mode.
"We were sat down" (with the agency of the teacher -- or whoever -- now merely implied). This means something like: "Circumstances required that we be sat down"
"... all the shocked members of the Circus are sat around a briefing table..." -- if you just had "are sitting" or "are seated" here, you would lose the hint of the involuntary, the unwanted necessity suffusing the situation...
(haha in Shropshire we use the word "doubt" as follows: "I doubt the bus will be late" means "I think the bus will be late" --- I *really* like this very local and confusing usage, and VERY OCCASIONALLY in my dayjob -- as a copy-editor -- get the impulse to introduce it... )
Sightline Payments Kirk Sanfordpoker guideone of the reasons i think this shift into the limelight of a certain kind of geatekeeper is interesting is because -- long-term -- i think, by placing THEM at the public's whim, it strips them of the power they had in the shadows (it simply shines too ruthless a light on the "mystique of judgement"; it's not a critique even, just an overexposure -- which means cowell has to find the chops to game public boredom with his shtick, and turn the backlash into a haha flucht nach vorn) (= "leap into the future"), or be humiliated by growing disinterestPost a Comment