Monday, 12 November 2012

BBC – something rotten in the state of Britain

I’ve never been a fan of the BBC.

In recent decades it’s been good at comedy, I’ll grant that, but pisspoor at most other things that broadcasters are supposed to do.

Now its demons – which I’ve been pointing out for years – are showcasing themselves in a most unedifying public spectacle.

Let me name those demons: arrogance; a misplaced sense of superiority; corporate self-love; sloppy journalism; greedy pigs of news executives; and the sickly deference shown to the Beeb’s mediocre pool of “talent” - i.e. “stars” such as Jimmy Savile.

And while some among the BBC staff are good people, many display the sort of hate-filled Liberal-Fascist tendencies that are indefensible and increasingly beyond parody.

All the same, I want the BBC to survive its current difficulties and emerge from them stronger, slimmer, not so bureaucratic, and more in tune with the public it claims to serve.

What a MASSIVE culture shift that’s going to take!

If I were the new DG I would start with a cull of all BBC employees caught reading The Guardian. That should clear out 90 per cent of the editorial staff.

PS As for the current media coverage, who gives a damn about the career difficulties of overpaid state-regulated broadcasting managers?

What really matters is the evil done to vulnerable people by paedophiles.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hail, the Queen of the Street!

I do hope Julie Goodyear isn’t voted off Celebrity Big Brother. Without her the show would not be worth watching.

I fear she may be voted off, however, not least because most of the people who ring the Channel 5 phone lines are … well … young and a bit thick.

Sorry if that seems cruel, but the type of people who regard the rapper MC Harvey and the US actor ‘The Situation’ as celebrities - or even remotely interesting – must be dim.

The Situation is a former underwear model who was in the axed and very crap reality show Jersey Shore. Yes, he’s that tacky, folks.

Julie Goodyear, however, is a tough old bird who really does have a genuinely strong personality – a megastar of Coronation Street as the brassy barmaid Bet Lynch with her famous catchphrase, “What can I do for you, cock?”

Julie is from the rough-as-rats Lancashire town of Heywood. And as I’m from the equally rough-as-rats Lancashire town of Wigan, I know what I’m talking about.

I once met Julie, as it happens, when she was starring in some camp nonsense of a stage show in York, and I was a columnist for the Hull Daily Mail. I think it was in 2002, somewhere around that time.

She was due to appear in the same show in Hull a few weeks later, hence I was sent to interview here for my weekly Out To Lunch column – which had a cult following in the city’s evening paper.

It was my duty in those days to take a celeb out to lunch at a restaurant each week and ask them a few questions while getting sloshed on expenses (me getting sloshed, usually, not the guests; they knew they had to stay sober and on their mettle).

Naturally, I researched each interviewee first, and among the cuttings on La Goodyear was an interview she’d done with a Fleet St columnist who had written that our Julie had “more facial hair than all of The Dubliners together”. Miaow!

Julie does have a bit of a face fuzz problem, as it happens, but it would be ungallant of me to dwell on that.  

Anyway, during my interview with her, she didn’t want any lunch. It was all done in the theatre dressing room, with the actress (and she is, actually, quite a good actress) smoking from her trademark cigarette holder and giving arch replies to my questions.

One question – and it is, unfortunately, one that provincial journalists are expected to ask of a star about to visit their local patch – was: “So are you looking forward to coming to Hull, Julie?”

Hmmmm... She chose not to reply verbally; she merely gave me a horrified look. Time spent in Hull ….definitly NOT something anyone in their right mind would look forward to. That was the meaning of her look.

I was tempted to say, at that point, “Oh, come on Julie. Hull’s not THAT bad. I find it easy enough to endure if I keep myself topped up with booze” but I thought better of it.

Anyway, Julie’s an old pro, so she gave me some decent catty and camp quotes for the interview. I remember the paper ran it as a spread (across two pages) with the strapline ‘The King of Hull meets the Queen of the Street’.

I should explain that, at the time, I was billed as the ‘King of Hull’ for my critiques of the city and its incompetent Labour rulers in the column, which appeared in the paper three nights each week. Happy days.

Anyway, back to Celeb Big Brother. I think Goodyear's been the star of it – with her two-faced moaning, that episode of genuine kindness with a sobbing Martin Kemp, and for her constant use of “F**k off” and “Piss off”.

Also, I think the show deserves a big pat on the back for its positive promotion of SMOKING!

Virtually, all the BB residents smoke. Good! Two fingers to the many health fascists in Government and the medical profession who are trying to stamp out smoking altogether.

Smoking has many positive aspects – it boosts social inclusion and relieves stress, for example.

No-one is pretending that smoking is actually healthy, of course, but the ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants and workplaces is most definitely evil – an act of tyranny.

After all, what is the point of being healthy, if you are not free?

If I remember, I will put my money where my big gob is – and vote for Julie to stay in the BB house.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Arrgghh! She’s got Sean Bean eyes

The Accused (BBC1 Tue 14 August) was a drama that will be long remembered – and not just because it featured manly Sean Bean dressed up as a woman.

It told the adventures of a gay man (Bean) who is a rather unglamorous teacher of poetry by day and a gaudy transvestite by night.

It was generally well written by Liverpool’s Jimmy McGovern, apart from one or two scenes towards the end, which I’ll come to later.

I'm pleased that mainstream British TV can still do socially-engaged drama such as this example in The Accused anthology series.

This offering was about many things that people today (more people than we realise) find hard – gender identity, loneliness, sexuality (rarely a straightforward matter, as it goes), and workplace alienation (very common indeed, in my opinion).

The drama was brilliantly cast. Sean Bean's a great actor. Some silly people might say he was “brave” to take on this role. I’m not going to say that, obviously, because there is nothing brave about being an actor. They get paid for dressing up and pretending to be other people – bravery doesn’t come into it.

But I do think Bean did a lot of powerfully subtle acting as transvestite Tracie, who picks up men in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of way among the vulgar bars of central Manchester.

The humanity of the character’s situation was put across well by Bean, and, of course, by the writer Jimmy McGovern, who knows a thing or two about being an outsider and struggling with life.

The drama was only an hour long, so the story had to be swiftly told. Basically, our Tracie gets into a relationship with a married man who is secretly gay, and maybe also hating himself for being gay.

Stephen Graham was well cast as married man Tony, whose wife finds out he’s been having sex with Tracie. Tony then knifes his wife to death. Mercifully that isn’t shown; merely the bloody aftermath.

The story is inter-laced with an unfolding court case where Tracie is accused of being an accessory to the murder. And, for me, the court case sections were less than successfully handled by McGovern.

Tracie gets off the murder rap because she appears in court in drag with false nails, high stilettos etc. How, she demands of the jury, could she have had anything to do with the body in the boot of the car when she was dressed like that?

The jury buy it. They are right to, of course, because Tracie is innocent of any murderous intentions or actions, but it hardly seems a procedurally accurate or likely court scene.

At this point McGovern makes another mistake. He has Tracie stand up in court and say that Tony – also on a murder rap – is refusing to exonerate her because he is afraid that doing so would mark him out as a “nonce” in prison, and therefore bring him harsh treatment.

For me, the word “nonce” was the wrong one to use here. I think in prison terms, and generally, “nonce” is better understood and much more widely used to describe the sexual abusers of children – not men who occasionally have sex with very grown up gay transvestites.

Apart from those criticisms, I enjoyed this. McGovern managed to give us all food for thought about how hard it is to be human, to be governed by passions that aren’t rational.

I also liked the modern poetry of some of the script, and the fact that former teacher McGovern also took a satirical swipe at fuddy-duddy old-style poetry.

I would have liked to have seen a little more moral purpose in the script overall – for example a hint about the folly of always pleasing the self and following one’s carnal desires without thinking through the consequences for other people.

But you can’t have everything in an hour of drama.

And I do hope Sean Bean will reprise this role, perhaps by working poolside at in the ITV comedy series Benidorm. He would certainly give Time Healy a run for his money as the least likely transvestite in the whole of Europe.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Don't talk AT me, please. This is not a soap opera.

Why do so many people these days, upon meeting you, strike up what they imagine to be a conversation - i.e. the non-stop story of their lives, an emptying of their thoughts, littered with random opinions and details of how their various sexual relationships went wrong (never their fault, of course).

And it's all usually delivered with no pauses for interjections.

If you do manage to get a word in edgeways it goes straight over their heads and they carry on with their "me, me me" narrative. BORING!

Can we perhaps blame TV soap operas for the dumbing down, the loss of eloquence, among British people?

In EastEnders, for instance, one often finds characters spouting their dreary escapades as if they are important revelations of the eternal verities.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Lighting up our territory - thanks Danny Boyle!

The opening ceremony of the Olympics has rightly snatched patriotism away from those who've never understood what it truly involves.

The little-Englanders, the Tory pipsqueak tendency (note: not all Tories), the feeble-minded royalists, the culturally insecure, the racists and the fascists who were never really going to understand Danny Boyle's masterpiece.

And make no mistake, this was a masterpiece - a great work of art, passion and humour. It lit up a stadium in celebration of our territory, our history, our people.

The ceremony will be talked about for a long time to come. Its legacy is already working to unite the people of our country; and already changing, for the better, the view of us held by people across the globe.

And, paradoxically, the ceremony was all the more precious for the fact that it was organised to celebrate something as overblown, corrupt and stupid as the Olympics movement.

Now, there were a few elements of the opening bash that I didn't like much. Seb Coe's ridiculous speech (more about that later); international liberal bores from Central Casting carrying the Olympic flag (honorable exceptions being Muhammad Ali and Doreen Lawrence); the pompous swearing of oaths; the announcements in French; and the anti-doping cant.

But I don't wish to carp. I intend to be positive about something that was a glorious triumph.

So, let's consider that opening ceremony...

It was visually stunning - the rising of those massive industrial chimneys, the cycling doves, the forging of the Olympic rings, the lighting of the cauldron, the fireworks, the beauty of London itself, the giant Voldemort and Marry Poppinses ...

It was aurally exciting. The Jam's 'Going Underground' really got me going, and what a glorious showcase of British pop followed. Hey Jude? Well I don't like it much, but it is great emotional glue for the British, especially when sung by Macca (even though, sadly, his voice is weakened now).

It was deeply spiritual. As someone who has sung along to Abide with Me at Wembley at several Challenge Cup finals, I valued its prominent inclusion at the Olympics. It's a Christian song, of course, and so very suitable for an event which celebrated and narrated Britain's remarkable story - given the enormous role Christianity has played in building culture and morality across our land. Well, where do you think that morality came from? It didn't float down the rivers on punnets of strawberries!

It was multicultural. Hooray! It's about time we got everybody in the mix. What's so hard to understand? What matters is NOT the colour of a person's skin or their faith or their cultural differences; what matters, what bestows dignity, is the simple fact of being HUMAN. All humans are intrinsically worthy of respect and dignity - which is why racism is so vile and / or stupid.

It was patriotic. Yes, Danny Boyle proved he understands what patriotism is about. It's about the people and what is dear to their hearts - like the NHS, music, the countryside etc. No doubt Danny was having a dig at the Government with the NHS tableau, but David Cameron and Boris Johnson are both intelligent guys. They are not going to let that bother them.They recognise Boyle's northern English genius.

But enough of the glorious opening ceremony. What about the games themselves? Oh dear God! This is where I strongly disagree with the synthetic and bland cheering that goes on relentlessly (particularly on the BBC) as people strive to run faster, jump higher and do things stronger than others.

It is not good for a person to obsess about sport and push themselves to physical extremes. It is not a good way to build a proper, rounded human personality. This problem is getting worse. Sports training techniques are becoming ever more extreme and, frankly, weird.

The whole industry of sports training and sports development is wrong. It is psychologically damaging for many. There is no point being a brilliant athlete on the park if, as soon as you open your mouth to speak, you demonstrate that you are staggeringly thick.

And you're thick because you've allowed winning at physical feats to dominate your life and to distort your formation as a human being.

The important things in life are not, in the main, anything to do with winning. Deep down, most people realise this. The important stuff has to do with losing, mainly. We learn a lot from losing. It makes us grow in wisdom.

And the life-affirming aspects of living are much more closely connected to art, poetry, heroism, philosophy, love, science, creating things, healing and caring etc (as the opening ceremony rightly showed) than they are to sport.

And when, in his opening speech at the ceremony, Seb Coe said "in every Olympic sport there is all that matters in life" my heart sank. If he believes that, he is stupid, but I don't think he is stupid. Maybe he's misguided. Or maybe too easily influenced by all the politicking, PR bull***t and capitalist sponsorship that the Olympic movement is all about these days.

Yes! Yes! The Olympics are mainly about politicking by the fat cats of the 'Olympic family' (quick, pass the sick bag!), dreary public relations twaddle, corruption (a huge record of corruption) and doping abuse (another very big problem).

But, as I've intimated, one brilliant thing has come out of these London Olympics - the opening ceremony that might yet change the world. Thank you, Danny Boyle.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

This ghastly blizzard of digital infotainment crap

Sometimes it is clich̩s such as Stop the World РI Want to Get Off that best capture the zeitgeist.

In the turmoil of the 1960s, even as a small child, I realised there was something profound in that phrase, which was oft-uttered back then.

The phrase retained some popular currency down through the decades, though not because of any great fondness for the show, which is a piece of cheesy sentimental claptrap – as is most musical theatre output, in my view.

The show is about a man dissatisfied with his life, seeking solace in the arms of various women. He’s searching for something better than he has, only to realise, eventually, that it’s the love of his wife that matters. Talk about conceptual mediocrity …

But, now, when I’m in my mid-50s, and the world rushes by in a blizzard of trashy images and infotainment crap, I realise that Stop the World – I Want to Get Off is a neat way of summarising how so many humans feel about living today. We are fatigued by the relentlessness and increasing infantilism and narcissism of digital communications.

I remember the moment, a couple of years ago, when the phrase re-injected itself into my consciousness with renewed vigour for the modern age.

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, I thought as I handled newswire copy about Lady Gaga dressing up in strips of meat to make a point about human rights, apparently.

She was parading around draped in offal at the MTV awards in LA.

“If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and fight for our rights pretty soon, we are going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones,” she cooed. “And I am not a piece of meat.”

Er, yes love, all right, you’ve made your point, now move along, you’re beginning to stink the place out.

As a craft-trained newspaper journalist, I feel the news has gone weird, with celebrity crap everywhere, thick tarts (men and women) on and off football fields, and telly programmes designed for morons.

We’re heading to Hades in a Ferrari.

When I first started in newspapers, there was a typewriter and an ashtray on every desk, a bollocking editor in every newsroom, union posters on the walls. If the masters upset us hacks, there’d be an immediate mandatory disruptive meeting on the company premises.

It was real. We journalists were in control of the information back then in the 1980s and for much of the 90s.

We were professionals, trained to block out bullshit. We weren’t amateurs like most people now in the digital age. That’s what the web is in essence – publishing for amateurs; all the bonkers bloggers, the posters of emotional diarrhoea on Facebook, and all those tits-in-trance on Twitter.

We real hacks were battle-scarred from all the death knocks we went out on. You don’t know what a tough job is until you’ve stared into the eyes of a mum whose sons have been killed in a road traffic accident on the mean streets of … Colchester, Hackney, Hull and Stirling in my case, plus a few other places.

And we were thumped and spat at by the wrong-doers occasionally, threatened by the powerful and wealthy, but we didn’t care. We got to the truth and told it.

Now, look at the newspapers, full of TV-related trash and public relations drivel.

Years ago, journalists used to talk about the SFW factor. SFW – a test we applied to all potential stories. SFW. So F***ing What? Years ago, most stories that ran would pass that test. But on the day of my writing this a national newspaper breathlessly reports that Jodie Marsh is considering ‘going gay’ because she can’t find love with a man. SFW!

Elsewhere there is much commentary about Jessie J being bisexual. Again, SFW!. It just means that girls don’t fancy her either. (OK I nicked that line from Frankie Boyle.)

The news was real back in my prime as a hack, and newspapers were best at providing it. Generation after generation within the same families had gone out day after day to buy their evening newspaper. That’s how much they valued it.

Imagine if people had to pay to listen to local radio! What a massive turn-off there would be. It’s the same for websites. Very few websites can sustain a paywall. It’s because they’re not loved in the way that newspapers used to be. They don’t have soul, in the way newspapers used to have soul – and proper columnists and colour-writers who’d come up through print journalism rather than being cherry-picked fluff-heads off the telly.

The media. I still work in it, and I have seen it expand massively in quantity and decline hugely in quality simultaneously.

This is not all sour grapes from an auld curmudgeon. There’s a serious point. The explosion in web and mobile phone-based communications is causing human relationships to fragment and weaken, and that's encouraging superficial thinking, stupidity and social isolation. Soon the iPhone is to get an APP for loneliness, I hear.

We've created a world of far too much communication without considering the consequences. No wonder we feel jaded. Stop the World – I Want to Get Off.

What we are gradually losing in the printed word is something resembling truth and beauty, achieved through proper, professional fact-checking and editing. And that is much more valuable than what we're gaining – instant publishing open to virtually all – even the barely literate and the staggeringly thick.

In terms of images and sound (music, film, and spoken word) the digital revolution has led to a terrible dumbing down and coarsening. Ever more startling presentation does not necessarily mean better. That much is clear, at least to me.

As a hack, I’m not just worried about the future of newspapers. I think local radio is dying too.

I’ve been experimenting with my car radio, picking up Heart FM, a programme sponsored by Birds Eye Potato Waffles and hosted by the inane drivel specialist Toby Anstis, who used to be on children's telly. Toby's voice … the adverts for stupid social engineering projects by ‘the government of the Welsh Assembly’ … the crap music. It’s torture beyond endurance.-

And from the BBC my local Radio Merseyside is just as bad. It’s become a glorious self-parody. The “flagship” breakfast show goes like this …

“And just before we have another go at guessing this week’s mystery giggler, here’s travel news from Laura Wannabe…”

“Thanks Snelly. We’re getting reports of major delays … in Greasby where NHS Wirral have been digging a big hole for their unused Quit Smoking press releases. More details as we get them. And if you know something, give us a call, if it’s safe and legal to do so. Laura Wannabe, BBC Radio Merseyside Travel! Now back to Snelly.”

Oh no. Now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve mentioned smoking, and the smoking ban. Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. I love smoking, and I think it was an act of neo-fascist violence by the State to ban smoking in workplaces – particularly in pubs and restaurants. For me it has ruined pubs and restaurants.

The publicly funded anti-smoking campaigns in the UK are truly sinister in their attempts to rewrite cultural history and force people to stop taking part in a long-established social pleasure.

Not since the Nazis ruled Germany has there been such a determined attempt to stigmatise smoking.

The Nazi anti-tobacco campaign included: banning smoking in trams, buses and city trains, promoting health education, limiting cigarette rations, organising medical lectures for soldiers, and raising the tobacco tax.

The Nazi authorities also imposed restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking in public spaces, and regulated restaurants and coffeehouses.

But Hitler's henchmen never went as far as the last Labour Government did here – helped by its cronies in councils, schools and the NHS.

The Nazis never managed to ban smoking totally inside virtually all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants.

No-one points out the undoubted health benefits of smoking, Yes, that's right - the health benefits!

Smoking is the best reliever of stress we have. And stress is a killer. By their campaign of pressuring and persecuting smokers, our modern-day health Nazis have added to the stress of millions of good people.

Millions die unnecessarily because of the efforts of public health zealots – including all those employed to wage war on smokers by local councils.
I’ve no doubt that many more people will now suffer fatal strokes and heart attacks while under stress because they have been coerced into giving up smoking.

Also a massive problem for our country is obesity. People who are pressured into quitting smoking start snacking on crisps and cakes as a replacement for ciggie breaks. The result – more fat, unhealthy people.
Not that this is primarily a health issue – it's a freedom issue, and that’s more important. There is little point being healthy if you have your freedom taken away.

Stop the world. I want to get off, but not just yet, eh?

Time for a bifter break first…

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubileeve the hype of this knees-up for our Queen?

I felt a painful dichotomy as I watched the Jubilee celebrations, mainly on Sky News.

First, I was proud that that London’s river pageant and the big concert at Buck House were so visually stunning. They provided a powerful showcase for our country that was beamed around the world.

But I also regarded as thoroughly naff the sight of so many adults waving plastic union flags and jumping up and down like excited children. OK, that’s just me. I’m a patriot, but emphatically not a flag-waver.

I thought events on the river proceeded well, and the fact that the Brits didn’t let a bit of cold, rainy weather dampen their spirits was endearing.

I thought the Queen was wise not to sit on the barge’s big red throne as she sailed past all the adoring hoi-polloi. That she and the Duke of Edinburgh stood for the length of the journey added dignity to the proceedings.

And I’m not surprised that the tone of the TV coverage was fawning and banal. It always is for royal events. Sky News covered events better than the BBC, but not much better.

Of course, Sky usually manages to provide better news coverage than the BBC – despite much smaller resources. And the Sky reporters and presenters are much more likeable (perhaps except for Eamonn Holmes) than the grinning ninnies who shovel up politically correct news for the Beeb.

I’m in two minds about the jubilee concert . Yes, it was stunning visually but some of the turns were unappealing – Robbie Williams prancing about the stage like a tit, for instance, and Cliff Richard, looking like mutton dressed as mutton, and doing that embarrassing song which features snatches of the Lord’s Prayer. I love the Lord’s Prayer - but it’s sick and wrong to sample it for a cheesy pop song.

Then there was Paul McCartney, croaking his way through his old hits, just about holding the tunes. Cheryl Cole’s performance, I missed, but I was mightily displeased to see that skanky piece standing right near the Queen on the stage at the end of the gig.

Rob Brydon was funny doing the links, and so was Lee Mack. Lenny Henry wasn’t at all funny (he never is, for my money) and Miranda Hart fell spectacularly flat (it was a big gig, love; you need to rehearse, get your timings right).

It was amusing to see all the stuffed shirts in the royal box trying to dance like “ordinary people”. Think embarrassing dads and uncles at wedding reception discos.

Overall, perhaps it’s only the thinking, cool Brits (such as me!) who will have noticed all the aural and cultural naffness. For most people the jubilee was a chance to have a party and put on a grand show. In that respect, job done!

What mattered was that the celebrations were visually stunning and they went off without a hitch. The Queen, God bless her, has a natural dignity which was allowed to shine through.

London itself was also a star. The city is looking ever more glamorous. I am tempted to move back there.

All the spectacle was captured by TV and gratefully consumed by networks and viewers around the world, which will have boosted our country’s reputation (also good).

And overall it occurs to me that the whole shebang may have encouraged a growing love for the blessed territory we call Britain. At a time when Scottish nationalists are trying to damage the unity of our country, I think the jubilee celebrations will have reminded some Scots of the value of staying in the Great British Family.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Say no to the televised 'Evil Games'

I will support any legal disruption of the London Olympic Games that I hear about – such as the trade union Unite’s recently announced intentions.

But my reasons are nothing to do with the undoubted economic hardships many of us – not just trade unions – are facing.

No. I object because the Olympic Games – with their foul record of corruption, drug abuse, nationalism, physical narcissism, PR whoring and capitalist sponsorship – are evil.

My poem, below, shows how I feel about this issue …


‘Citius, Altius, Fortius.’ *
It’s really most unfortunate
when athletic masturbation
reaches its biennial climax
and fools at full-tilt seek
spurious sporting windmills.

Each man and woman
and in-betweeny
wants to be seen here.
It’s what they’re all about –
moving ‘swifter, higher, stronger’
than the next man or woman
or hermaphrodite chancer
or drug-raddled body enhancer.

It’s the arena of small ambition
that reduces the human condition
to physical exhibition.
The phrase ‘disgusting displays’
was tailor-made
for these Olympian days.

Tarnished gold
is the tarts’ grubby target,
above all else,
above all else.
more desperate than ever.

Come on! COME on!
Peel of the Lycra suits.
The drugs don’t work.
They just make it worse.

Too late! Too late!
They have to take part.
If they didn’t they’d fall apart -
so poor and incomplete
has been their human formation.

They’re corrupted,
like the Olympics itself,
by being about
winning instead of the
important stuff of life,
which is mainly about losing.

On the podium they stand,
grinning like go-getters,
facile pace-setters.
Some people cheer.
Some wave the bunting
of freedom-crushing states
as athletes are rewarded
with the motherland’s
rancid anthem.

And nothing now can redeem
a movement professing to be noble,
while doing what the ignoble
always do – by crushing the
humanity, humility,
poetry and eloquence
right out of people.

‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Latin for Swifter, Higher, Stronger)
Is the fascistic motto of the Olympics.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Seriously crap – the Brit Awards

Even if I was still a hip young gunslinger, rather than the rancid old fart I’ve become, I’d still say the Brit Awards (ITV1) was seriously crap.

The presenter was James Corden. Why? He is neither comfortable with nor capable of hosting a live TV event. Having said that, British telly has a strong tradition of using inarticulate dorks to front high profile shows. Dermot O’Leary anyone? No, thought not …

And what about the ‘artists’? Well, clearly most women singers long ago realised that pop music has used up all its good melodies. So they’ve settled instead for prancing around in their knickers and pouting at the cameras. To hell with the music!

And Rihanna, after your lumbering raunchfest of an overlong set, don’t bother ringing me, pet. I’m not impressed. What a mess your dancers made with all that paint! It was all so … underwhelming.

How different, and much better, women singers were years ago, when they didn’t dress like sex industry workers, when they could sing really well, and when they had decent songs. Think Dusty Springfield, folks. Class.

Adele, from what little I’ve heard of her stuff, can sing, but her public persona, and her voice when speaking is awful. Seriously, her voice is so common and stoopid-sounding. And that American-style hair ... does she wear it like that for a bet?

Thankfully, Adele wasn’t allowed to say much at the end of the show when she picked up her Best Album award. She was ungraciously cut off by the oaf Corden. Then, as if to confirm her status as being as common as muck, she gave a one-fingered salute to TV execs. They deserved it, but even so as a gesture it lacked charm.

Just before that, George Michael gave an incoherent, mumbling talk. He should have been the one ushered off stage.

Sadly, there was no attempt to censor the sententious Damon Albarn . He was allowed to crap on and on and on in his oxygen-stealing acceptance speech for Blur’s Outstanding Contribution To Music award.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to endure Blur performing, looking way too old and middle class for the role, doing their hits of yesteryear, which I – and anyone with any musical credibility – never liked anyway!

Albarn pranced about like a teenager, wearing what appeared to be Tesco Poohead branded jeans, his voice as strained as a useless teacher struggling to establish control of an unruly classroom.

Almost inevitably, this very white and pretentious band did a song featuring a black gospel-style choir. What a f***ing cliché!

And the nail in the show's coffin was the clip of Louie Spence dancing like a tit. As if the viewer hadn't suffered enough!

This dross was presumably shown around the world, bringing derision to our once admired national culture.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Noel Fielding’s indulgently unfunny show

Well might Channel 4 desperately need street hoardings pasted up everywhere to promote Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy.

Left to its own devices the show is unlikely to get many viewers because (a) it’s on Channel 4 (now perceived as a distinctly “uncool” station) and (b) it is pretentious art house rubbish.

A psychedelic mess of live action and animation, Mr Fielding’s latest offering makes the classic mistake of believing that startling presentation is a satisfactory substitute for talent. It isn’t, and particularly it is no substitute for quality writing.

Again and again British TV chiefs make the mistake of thinking that telly is mainly a visual medium and that the writing doesn’t really matter as long as you chuck in a few smutty phrases to keep the audience tittering.

Noel Fielding is playing to his strengths with this show – he is striking to look at (if somewhat gender-ambiguous) and he has good eyes.

So you’ll notice he does a lot of acting with his eyes – as do the other people involved. It’s predictable and it’s not clever enough to carry the show.

The result is a less than riveting comedy, and one which has very few of the philosophical overtones that really great comedy has in spades.

Only once did a recent episode make me laugh, when a minor and desperate character pleaded: “I’ve been to college”. Looking back, I’m not sure why I laughed, but I did, so a tiny bit of credit where it is due.

OK, a basic lesson for the clueless wallies who commission network TV comedy in Britain … it’s all about the writing!

Not nearly enough attention is paid to writing in British shows. We could learn a lot from the Americans in this respect. American TV takes writers seriously and invests in great script talent.

As far as animation goes, you can be as surreal and Fancy Dan as you like with it, but if the writing is as pisspoor as it is on this Noel Fielding outing – then it’s not going to have any cultural impact or resonance.

The reason Family Guy – an American cartoon with quite strong British cultural references – is such a monster hit is that the writing is fantastically strong, and so are the voices, aurally. The animation element, by contrast, is really quite basic.

But like I say, the visual on TV isn’t actually that important. What matters is writing of quality, and the great ideas that usually go hand in hand with it.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Gay footballers – love that dare not speak its name

It's hard to make anything stand out media-wise these days – so diverse are all the publishing platforms and digital variations ...

So banal are most people’s takes on popular culture ...

We're all awash with information, and flooded with images too. Constantly we are being invited to download, follow or share things.

Quite frankly, half the time I can’t be arsed.

But there are still some nuggets of quality on TV which deserve praise, and which are profoundly counter-cultural and commanding of our attention.

Last night I watched one such example - Britain’s Gay Footballers on BBC3 (which, incidentally, is by far the best of the digital channels).

The programme tried to get to the truth of why no professional footballer in Britain is ‘out’ publicly as a homosexual. Some are ‘out’ in a restricted way, in that they’ll bring their same sex partners to social functions attended by team-mates, but don't feel they can tell fans or the wider world that they are gay. Or so this programme intimated ...

This quandary is an interesting one. After all, homosexuality is quite rightly nowadays considered not a problem by most decent-minded people. I have some gay friends, and to be honest their sexual orientation is irrelevant to me. I like them because they are good, kind, funny people, as indeed are most of my straight friends.

What really matters in this world, and what's always deserving of respect, regardless of any other factors, is human life in all its glorious diversity.

I appreciated this documentary, which was carried out with graceful determination by Amal Fashanu, niece of footballer Justin Fashanu, who came out publicly in 1990, leading to all sorts of criticism and rifts within the Fashanu family. Tragically Justin hanged himself in 1998.

There was and still is a great deal of evasion about gay sexuality in football, and the programme tackled it in a dignified manner. For that matter, the family rifts about Justin Fashanu were also handled well.

And most impressive perhaps were the comments by the game’s former bad boy, now turned Twitter philosopher, Joey Barton. He told Amal about his own gay uncle, and said: “For a lot of years he was in turmoil and was resenting himself for the fact that he had these feelings.

"I was like, ‘I love you for you – not for the fact that you are straight or bisexual or all different manner of things. I love you because you’re you.’” Quite so.

Barton also slammed “archaic” bosses in the game who are frightened of homosexuality.

Well said, Joey. Hope your comments prick some consciences and do some good. I won’t be holding my breath though.

Well done to Amal Fashanu and all connected with Britain's Gay Footballers. You tackled this subject superbly.