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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
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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

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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!

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

posted by Ian 11/29/2006 11:02:00 PM
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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:

(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**.

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.



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.



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
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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...


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

posted by Ian 11/08/2006 10:21:00 AM
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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?

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

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