Thursday, December 30, 2010
From what I could see in the film Elton lives surrounded by more delicate, expensive, sharp edged and potentially hurtful objets than you'd be likely to find outside of Harrod's furniture department. He has so many precious photographs in his Atlanta place that he needs a full time curator to take care of them. When he goes on holiday he takes a tennis pro with him. He is accompanied everywhere by a wardrobe capacious enough to offer three separate drawers devoted to sunglasses.
The introduction of a mewling infant into this temple of self is going to be interesting at the very least. Elton is one of the world's great record collectors. We must assume he has a copy of the Loudon Wainwright song "Be Careful There's A Baby In The House" and has taken its last verse to heart:
"Be careful there's a baby in the house,
And a baby is better than smart
It can waddle through all the stuff you do
Never mind your big head start"
Friday, December 24, 2010
Nobody caters like that any more, do they? I've just done our booze audit. We've got champagne, fizz, white, red and beer. Anyone who isn't happy with that can, quite frankly, whistle. Funny how while we've been growing fussier about food we've become less fussy about drink.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Age is the dawning anticipation of consequences. At the age of 18 you're too focussed on the pleasure to think about the consequences. At my age you think of the consequences before you think of the pleasure. The minute you think about the consequences you leave, a decision you very rarely regret. If you're worried that you might not be able to exercise your judgement when the time comes then you order a cab to arrive at an appointed time. If you're paying for it yourself you take it.
You never regret it.
Monday, December 20, 2010
The death of Brian Hanrahan was announced this morning. Hanrahan was one of those BBC lifers whose quiet professionalism built the corporation’s reputation. He is best known for having said “I counted them all out and I counted them back again” as the Harriers left the aircraft carrier during the Falklands War. I know him as the bloke who lived round the corner from me. We used to take the same bus occasionally. I often thought about engaging him in conversation but you don't, do you? Don’t exactly know what I would have said. Now he’s dead at 61.
Condolences to the families of both.
Friday, December 17, 2010
The excited reception they’ve been given by their fans, many of them now in their forties, reminds me of the way that 60s heroes like Eric Clapton and Neil Young became far more popular in their middle age, when they were past it, than they were in the first flush of their creativity. When Neil Young was writing “After The Gold Rush” he would have been lucky to sell out Hammersmith Odeon. When he was putting out “Fork In The Road” he was headlining Glastonbury.
This is because the market gets bigger all the time and you can’t achieve mega-fame if you’re only appealing to one generation. Time means your original constituency is joined by later generations of heritage kids, the people who weren’t on board first time round and the people who want to see you because you’ve finally achieved legend status. Add in the fact that a middle-aged audience has more money to spend and less entertainment options and you’ve got the reason why Suede ended up at the O2 and acts like Take That sail blithely on into middle age.
But there’s another factor. It’s not just the scale of the reception. It’s also the fervour of the reception. No crowd is quite as passionate as a middle-aged crowd celebrating what used to be before it’s too late.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It strikes me that these days it's as anachronistic to describe yourself as a militant non-reader of a particular title as it is to call yourself a reader of another one. Being a reader of a newspaper in the old fashioned sense implied buying a newspaper at the station on the way to work and then reading it in public in such a way that it advertised something of your social status or world view.
Now that the newspapers have done us the enormous favour of giving away all their content for free we have no need to announce ourselves as a reader of one or another. Instead we go merrily clicking over the wide savannah of the internet oblivious to the jurisdictions we may be crossing. There's strong evidence to suggest that the Daily Mail website became the most popular site in Britain because it is patronised equally by people who would describe themselves as "readers" as "non-readers". What both groups have in common is they read it.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
When it comes to individual contributors the golden rule is that the busiest people are always the first to file their copy. The promptest will deliver the night before the work is due. The tardiest will get in touch before the end of the deadline day and try to negotiate a postponement. You’re almost embarrassed to talk to them because they’re not ashamed to ask.
The very best people are never ill, elsewhere or detained on family business. If they are they don’t tell you about it. They know that when you say Friday you mean it. They don’t see it as a starting point for negotiation.
Lateness is clearly a state of mind, though what exactly it denotes is not easy to explain. There’s certainly an element of arrogance about it. The late contributor always assumes that other people’s promptness has made their own lateness less of a problem. It also seems to show a terrible lack of confidence. It’s like bands who spend years in the studio. That’s because they like making records but can’t bear finishing them. When they finish them they know they will be judged. They don’t like that one little bit.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Last night I took a number of trains into the West End, which is doubly busy in the pre-Christmas period. On one train were four American university students, presumably over here as part of their course. They talked quietly and their demeanor was, if anything, faintly apologetic. It struck me that I hadn't heard a noisy American in London in ages. You can attribute that to the reduced amount of tourism from that part of the world and the fact that the last ten years have made Americans acutely aware that their nationality can make them a target, but it's certainly happened.
On the other hand, while the visiting Americans have got quieter and more polite an increasing number of Brits seem incapable of recognising that not everyone who's sharing the public space with them wants to hear everything they have to say and consequently talk louder and, though they probably don't realise it, more aggressively than ever. And in most cases they have pitifully little to shout about.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I was reminded of this when looking at Project, the all bells and whistles iPad magazine from Virgin Media. Jeff Bridges, the "cover star", moves, for instance and every "page" has buttons and panels which scroll or expand or plunge you into a gallery or otherwise animate the experience. It has so much functionality that it needs a "spread" to explain it all. Like the other ambitious iPad magazines I've tried so far, it's so full of functionality that you can't access its primary function, which is to be something you can read. The very reasons that advertisers find this new medium attractive, the chance that you will brush your finger on a button and find yourself watching a TV ad, are the same reasons I never go back to these apps.
On the other hand I can easily see the appeal of those apps, such as The Economist, the Daily Telegraph or New York Times, that simply take the publication's material and arrange it for the screen. As a means of accessing a magazine that you already have a relationship with, they seem to do that job pretty well and the publishers are either making them available for free or providing free access to subscribers. I'm sure there are iPad developers who would call their policy timid and would criticise the publishers for not taking advantage of the manifold possibilities of the medium. Well, they would, wouldn't they?
I fear at the moment we're in the psychedelic stage of iPad magazine development, where the digital equivalents of stereo panning, extreme reverb, phasing and backwards tapes are being used to distract attention from the fact that in the end it's all about the tunes.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The interview set-up was in a small office with a door that led into a larger outer office. The previous interviewee had been filmed in a different room in the same building. Obviously I couldn't be shot in the same place in the same way because TV grammar being what it is the viewer would have concluded I was in some way associated with the previous speaker.
To move even the simplest camera, sound recording equipment and lights from one room and set it up in another never takes less than an hour. The cameraman finally got me lined up. These were the early shots in a documentary for a proper TV channel and so they had to decide on a style. I was leaning forward. They liked that and so they composed the shot that allowed me to do that. The background was the outer office, carefully lit and artfully unfocussed so that it apparently looked like nowhere in particular. They spent a lot of time looking through the lens at the things behind me.
If you'd been doing the interview for any other medium the very first thing you would have done is shut the door to ensure that you weren't disturbed and the interviewee was not in any way inhibited by the thought of being overheard. But TV abhors a wooden door, particularly when it can have an arty blur. So the door remained open and the production assistant was sent into the outer office to shush anyone whose work might be picked up by the microphone.
There were lots of similar faffing around. When they had me lined up they decided it might be better to have the questions coming from off-camera left rather than right. So they moved everything - sofa, camera, microphone, me - and tried it from that angle. Then they worried about a straight line somewhere in the distance. Then they worried about whether you could see the lights properly. Finally we started.
The time spent filming was maybe a fifth of the time spent faffing. This delay wasn't because the people were in any way incompetent. It's just that TV is one long faff. It has to be. One of the most curious aspects was that later in the interview the cameraman kept jerking the lens away from me, as if he was having trouble with the tripod. I wasn't sure whether to keep talking or not. It turns out he was just providing some of that jerky quality that they now put into interviews to give the impression of looseness.
Over the years my slight exposure to TV has left me wondering how anybody could have the patience to do it for a living. More profoundly it's also left me with the firm conviction that nothing that you see on television "just happened". TV is more planned than Bach. If anything had "just happened" the camera would undoubtedly have been looking the other way. And they would have done it again, this time with better lighting.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
He died five years ago. A fan made this for remembrance.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
It won't be perfect.
Somebody will be late. Something will burn. A child will refuse to eat something. There won't be enough chairs to accommodate boyfriends, girlfriends and whoever else turns up. At some stage it will strike you that everybody's talking over everyone else and you've drunk too much red wine. Somebody will turn off your precious playlist of Sunday lunch music.
At that precise point, if you'll take my advice, you'll stop, breathe, listen and savour the moment. Because that moment, right there, is what it's all about. It never gets any better than that.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We had an interesting discussion in the office yesterday about the word "slapper". Somebody had used it in a feature about footballers and their marriage difficulties. It said that since the Sunday newspapers started paying out to anyone who could produce a story about having slept with a footballer, "every slapper from Newcastle to Newquay knew that they could get rich".
Eyebrows were raised about the use of that particular term. Couldn't it be replaced with something more decorous such as "gold digger" or "floozy"? Well, no. Slapper means a woman who will sleep with lots of men. There is no male equivalent because the idea is deeply ingrained in our culture that most men will, if given the chance, sleep with lots of women. You can't tweak that prejudice out of existence.
The etymology of "slapper" is unclear. It's not in my 1991 Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It doesn't appear in the usual American Dictionaries on-line. In Jonathon Green's Dictionary of Slang it's traced back, possibly to "schlepper" which might mean a slovenly person or one who paints her face. For me it's always evoked the sound of Chaucerian flesh on flesh. Although Green has it down as "a promiscuous woman", which seems about right to me, he also thinks it might mean "prostitute". I'm not convinced about that. As Mark Ellen pointed out, "prostitute" suggests the calculation of a professional and is increasingly replaced by the almost approving "sex worker".
Somebody further objected that "slapper" could be taken to denote class. I'm not so sure. I think it's a term that can be applied as freely in the smart wine bars of Chelsea as it might be in Wetherspoons. Then somebody said that by referring to Newcastle we might be conjuring up a vision of Viz's Fat Slags in the Bigg Market. Of course, since slappers are sprinkled among the population without any particular regional bias, that must say more about our prejudice about Newcastle than the writer's supposed prejudice against the place or its inhabitants.
And so on. In the end it was decided to leave it alone because we know what slapper means and it is the perfect noun for this context. We might not like to feel that we're the kind of people who would use the term, of course, but that's our problem.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I think it's the songs.
I've got a strong suspicion that there's no tune in this song. There's a lot of very musical work in there but not a tune you could hum to yourself. The lyrics are difficult to catch, particularly at the beginning. There are no great pop songs that don't have good opening lines. Further into the song the stress doesn't seem to fall where it should. The hook line is "no painkillers make it go away", to which the casual ear wonders why there's such a long "no" and the pedant wonders "make what go away?" It continues. "If I tried to over-dose it wouldn't bring no change," which is a really strange line in that it neither echoes everyday speech nor helps the tune along.
To prove to myself that this is not just an old scrote's prejudice against the new generation, I do like Amy Lavere's record Anchors and Anvils, which came out last year. She's a similar age and background. She has a song called "Killing Him Didn't Make The Love Go Away", inspired by something a woman said after she'd killed her husband. I love this song because it explains something to you and it's all about the performance not the production. After one listen you come away knowing what has happened and how the woman feels. After two listens it has imposed its pattern on you, you're anticipating the chord change on "he said he'd give her the sun and the moon/now all she's got is this eight by eight room" and the cheap poetry of the title is embedded in your memory.
Pop music changes regularly. If you listen to a lot of it you retune your ear to adapt to those changes. It's only occasionally you find yourself wondering if everybody's out of step but you, whether everybody else has settled for songs that are well-made when they really ought to be stopping you in your tracks,
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Friday, November 05, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
It wasn't the same when I got home. The three women in my life looked at me and said "Oh my God!" This wasn't said in a good way. Later on that evening they were still tutting at me. Their central objection was that it was too short. Obviously there's a remedy for that.
Now clearly if the shoe had been on the other foot and I had reacted in anything like the same way when they came back from the hairdressers I would expect to be accused of everything from sexism through rudeness to mental cruelty.
I'm not looking for any sympathy but I do think it indicates how Dad is the only member of the contemporary family that the other members no longer think they have to be careful with. Everybody else is surrounded by an eggshell area to which they are entitled by virtue of having given birth (which is serious) or being a teenager (which is a passing condition) or having a hangover (which is fleeting).
Not Dad. Dad is, as Bruce Springsteen pointed out last week, furniture. Dad is the only person in the world whose clothes you can criticise, whose head you can pat, whose gut you can prod without the slightest chance of any come-back at all. But those people should watch out. Because I've got a blog now.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
I expect all Obama's media admirers, who gushed over his election as if it were a hinge moment for civilisation, to melt away the minute he has to do what people in government have to do, make some unpalatable choices. I expect many of the voters to have the attention spans of mayflies. But this sudden disappearance of so many of the people who were professionally connected to him is further proof that no wing of politics has a monopoly of the basic human virtues. I used to know a grizzled old press baron who when asked what he considered the most important virtue would bark "Loyalty" . At the time I thought he was overrating it. I don't any more.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I explained it was a device such as you might use for poking the fire but if you connected it to the gas mains and applied a match to it flames would shoot out of holes in the side. Then you pushed it under the fuel on the fire until it got a glow going. That's a gas poker, I said.
He gulped and handed me a safety leaflet.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Clarence was a miner's son. In 1936 he became Head Boy of the grammar school. He got a scholarship to Oxford. He married in 1939, the same year he enlisted as a private in the Royal Artillery. During the war he served on convoy protection duty. He was torpedoed twice. On the second occasion he survived two weeks in a lifeboat before rescue. By the end of the war he had made Captain. When he was demobbed he trained as a teacher and entered the profession. He retired in 1980 as the Headmaster of a school near Barnsley. He had six children and liked to read the classics in the original Latin and Greek.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
What interests me is the direct, specific approach. Every day I go through my inbox and delete about a hundred PR emails unread. The PRs who send them probably don't care because what they're really bothered about is being able to tell the client that they've informed me and a few thousand others. Job done. Invoice in post. The only ones I read are those that have subject lines of particular interest to me or appear to be clearly aimed at me alone. By sending this kind of email Marianna Palka has acquired the most valuable currency in The Attention Economy. She's got someone to stop and think about her for half an hour. Shame (for her) it has to be me.
This is not unprecedented. I've had a few approaches recently from PRs saying that this or that artist is a big fan of the Word Podcast and would love to be on it. Frankly, I don't believe them because if the artists were that bothered they would get in touch themselves. That way we might believe them. Why, in this day and age, would you send any kind of message through an intermediary?
Anyway, if you are a hack and she sounds like your kind of story, Marianna's clearly an exceptional cove. She was born in Scotland, moved to New York to act at the age of 17, she's already written, directed and starred in her first feature film and she's not yet 30. Best of luck to her.
It's made by his personal friend Hannah Rothschild, the sister of financier Nathaniel, in whose company Mandelson made his controversial visit to the yacht of Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, where he also bumped into Baronet's son George Osborne. All these guys must have been bantering with each other for years now, at smart parties as well as at despatch boxes. One can only be thankful that they met Deripaska because that must have been the only time that year that they'd had dinner with anyone who'd worked on a building site.
The film promises to illustrate what a narrow gene pool our top politicians are drawn from nowadays. I don't think the makers will notice but we will. As politics becomes more and more about TV it favours people who are above all things polished. During the Labour leadership election, which was contested between candidates who had all been to Oxbridge, institutions which are world class at polish, I couldn't help but wonder if David or Ed Miliband would ever have found their way to Doncaster or South Shields if they hadn't had them lined up as safe seats. Bet they're the only people from Primrose Hill to make regular visits.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I have my Baby Boomer membership card and therefore I feel the need to respond.
I came from a direct grant grammar school which every year sent a handful of boys to Oxbridge. Although this was a selective school not everyone went on to higher education, not by any means. These were the days of 13% going on to take a degree. Some left at 15 (you could do that in those days) to work as office boys or to take an apprenticeship. And this wasn't a simple economic calculation. It depended on their inclination, prospects and temperament. I knew miner's sons who stayed on and went to university. I knew kids from well-off families who got out the second they could. I went away and came to London. I did a four year B.Ed course which finished in 1972.
While I was studying my tution and board was paid. I had £40 a term for everything else (bolstered by what I managed to save from unpleasant manual labour done during the vacations). I went to the pub where I drank mild because it was cheaper. I hardly ever went into London because I couldn't afford it. The pictures maybe once a month. Clubbing obviously wasn't invented, nor were premium lagers, clothes with logos on them and designer drugs. I didn't know what a cab was. At the end of term I would go to the end of the M1 and hitchhike home.
I'm not complaining. I had a great time. I didn't work particularly hard. I loved it all and learned a lot. When I left I walked straight into a job on the recommendation of a lecturer (one of many examples of my not realising how lucky I was) where my pay was £1,500. A year. That's with a degree and London weighting.
It goes without saying that £1,500 went a lot further then than it does now. But it couldn't buy, for instance, a holiday. I did without holidays until my late twenties. When the NME wanted to send me to Hamburg for one night (you can't imagine how thrilled I was) I didn't have a passport. We got married when I was twenty-nine. On my stag night six of us went to a pub in Islington and had five pints. Our wedding was paid for by parents. It was lavish for the era. There were fifty guests. Our honeymoon was three nights in France.
Today's twentysomethings have grown used to mobile phones, Sky subscriptions, cabs, clubbing, an occasional trip to a fancy restaurant, stag weekends, Hollywood weddings and multiple holidays. In 1979 this would have been an unimaginably luxurious life. I don't think we even knew the word lifestyle. I don't begrudge them any of it. I understand only too well about debts and employment and house buying. I don't resent what I didn't have. What I do resent, what every older generation always resents, is being told we had it easy by somebody who wasn't there.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 08, 2010
If you're less adventurous you could put your magazine on a platform like Zinio, which provides a PDF-like facsimile of your pages and has an interface that allows you to "turn" the pages. But even this costs money. Above all this is less about technology than behaviour. I don't feel in my water that people will inevitably use their iPads to read complete magazines on. At the moment they're using magazines to try out their iPads with, which is not the same thing at all.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
It was clever, accomplished, edgy, humorous and exactly the kind of thing we have come to expect from two of TV's most popular comic actors. Unfortunately, it wasn't funny. I know funny. Funny makes you laugh. Funny has surprise on its side. Funny is - correct me if I'm wrong - the only thing that actually matters in comedy. It's like tunes in pop music. If you've got a tune you can do anything. If you haven't got a tune there's nothing you can do.
Maybe there's not enough funny to go round any more. Makes sense in a way. You've got all those channels that are looking for funny. Funny can't be an infinite resource. You've got the movies immediately signing up anyone who so much as raises a smile on TV. Then they're writing books that promise more funny. Then there's the internet. And adverts. And Twitter. And then there may be the fact that they've told all their jokes. There was Victoria Wood the other week complaining about the fact that nobody at the BBC seemed to care about her stuff anymore. But then, as people pointed out, her last big TV spectacular wasn't actually funny.
Look, I remember Morecambe and Wise. They were funny for about 20% of the time. The rest of the time they were merely comical. Seems to me we've got too much that's comical and not enough that's funny.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
If anything terrible happened you would be legally responsible. I can’t help thinking that I would be to some extent morally responsible for not making a scene and insisting that you keep her at your side.
But what’s more likely is that nothing terrible will happen. But at some stage it will nearly happen. If that puts the fear of God into you then it can only mean that you have never contemplated the possibility. And if you’ve never contemplated the possibility, what kind of parent are you?
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saw An Education.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The sight of this pursuit seemed like the classic illustration of modern law enforcement: disproportionate effort being expended to no great effect. I can't imagine they caught him. It seems particularly timely this week. Everybody who depends on public money is making their pre-emptive strike to protect themselves against spending cuts. Today it's the police saying that if they get cut back then anti social behaviour will get worse.
Not sure if it's entirely a good idea to say this because people might point out that over the last twenty years, when we've been mainly governed by lawyers and policy wonks, we've been making new things illegal at a staggering rate and increasing police numbers along with them but our streets don't feel significantly safer. The other night I took a short cut through Somers Town, the area round the back of Euston station where some of Dickens's most deprived characters lodged. Clearly I don't expect it to be like St John's Wood but I was staggered by how threatening it felt, largely because of the number of attack dogs that were tugging their owners (male, female, old, young) around the area on the end of chains. Some of these creatures had clearly been in fights. They had all been picked for their terrorising qualities. I can't imagine how terrifying it must be to raise children around such animals.
In 1991 we had the Dangerous Dogs act, which no doubt cost a fortune from some budget somewhere. Since then we seem to have, if anything, more dangerous dogs. Is that right? I've long been a believer that governments generally manage to achieve the opposite of what they set out to do. If there was a reliable relationship between money spent and result achieved, then the amount spent on "combating anti-social behaviour" would have ensured that the local delinquents would all be lacing daisies in each other's hair by now.
Surely riding bikes down pavements belongs alongside keeping dangerous dogs in confined spaces and using your phone while driving a car in the category of behaviour that might be best addressed by some massive public awareness campaign on the scale of the AIDS campaign of the past to put over one simple, resounding message - stop behaving like a tit.
Slogan could do with some work, obviously.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Some people need a Personal Trainer. I think I need a Reading Manager.
And how do you get started without making a big deal of it? How can you just slip into reading something without being haunted by those same inner voices that used to haunt first dates (a long time ago), the ones that clearly say "this isn't going to work out." I always have to handle the changeover from one book to another carefully for fear I lose the knack for reading. I can remember periods of my life when I hardly read books at all and I worry about them returning.
A Reading Manager might be a good idea. A cross between a friend and a teacher. Somebody who is always a few steps ahead and is in a position to provide reassurance when things aren't going well and a clip round the ear when I'm starting to drift. I may advertise. Watch the press.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
However I've justified my purchase on the basis of it being touted as The Future Of Magazines. For the last year crystal ball gazers have promised that the iPad's large screen and fabulous display would mean it can finally equal the visual impact that magazine editors hold so dear.
I've downloaded a few, ranging from customised edition apps like Wired and Popular Science to "page-turning" facsimiles such as you can get for Wallpaper or Esquire. Only time will tell whether these will outlive the novelty stage.
However I'm already wondering whether pictures on the iPad will ever have the same impact as they have in a glossy magazine. This is partly because if you get the pictures big enough then you have to cheat on the grammar of the traditional magazine by drastically reducing the number of words on the spread. It's also because the pictures are behind glass rather than under your fingers. Once we're looking at a screen we expect to be able to choose what we want to see big, not have it dictated to us by an editor.
It could be that what the iPad does best is provide another means of navigating material on the web through traditional news readers and very clever things like Flipboard. Which would be no help to anyone.
Still. Early days.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Starting a blog is an odd thing. There's a curious early period when there clearly isn't anyone reading it and you feel as if you're miming a pop song in front of the bedroom mirror and you're terrified your mother will burst in. Then a few people drop in, presumably drawn there by the fact that they know you. Either that or the desultory nature of the contents.
Because I spend my working life doing things which have to fit into certain slots, it's the very amateurishness (in its literal sense) of blogging that appeals to me. In the real world nobody is going to ask me to write about sport or the way people behave on public transport so in the blog it goes. Like I say at the top the blog is for "stuff that won't go anywhere else".
But then you start to notice that some things are more popular than others. They attract more traffic and more comments. Then the temptation is to do more of those posts and less of the other kind, to try to anticipate what people might like. You get the same thing with Twitter. Somebody with a lot of followers re-tweets something you've written and the next thing you know you've woken up to fifty new followers. This is nice but then you wonder, what are these new people expecting? I've got a terrible feeling that I'm not going to provide whatever it is that they want.
It's at this point you have to say you don't care what people want – not that they know what they want anyway - and write a completely self-indulgent post like this one. Feels better somehow.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
True enough. It is none of our business. But then somebody said that he had no interest in what Rooney did when he wasn't playing football. That's not true. We are very interested. That interest may be unworthy and impossible to justify but it's there just the same.
Part of this may be a desire to see the rich and famous brought low. I wonder if it's also fuelled by the fact that in our atomised way of life we spend less of our time gossiping about neighbours, family members and work colleagues, as earlier generations might have done, and more time cackling over the misfortunes of those we will never meet and somehow assume are beyond hurt. We're not going to stop, of course, because gossip is in our bones. As the old movie line goes, "if you can't think of anything nice to say about someone, come sit by me."
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
It's not like that today. These 16 and 17 year-olds sat there and lapped it all up with barely a blush. This chimes with my experience of the Kids Of Today. They're a lot more difficult to embarrass than my generation were. Or maybe they're just embarrassed by different things.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Unless Morrissey is more familiar with zoological taxonomy than I'm giving him credit for he may have started that sentence gaily accelerating towards saying that the Chinese were "sub-human" before a self-censoring synapse intervened and persuaded him to say "sub species" instead. As he said it there must have been a Homer Simpson thought bubble above his head admitting "I don't have a clue what this term means - why didn't I just say they were horrible to animals?".
Why does he do it? Most of us have never known the erotic thrill of being invited to say anything we like into a tape recorder. Just imagine that feeling. It's powerful medicine. For an egomaniac like Morrissey it's a reason for living. And for a personality like him, who only knows what he thinks when he hears himself saying it, it's a permanent invitation to get himself into trouble.
The Guardian prints the whole interview and then editorialises about how shocking it is, so they get to have it both ways. The twitterati will huff and they will puff. Funny how "Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells" seems to have so quickly given way to "Appalled of Stoke Newington".
World turns. Chinese wonder who this Morrissey is.
Friday, September 03, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Magazines tend to be a female dominated medium. Working on or near women's magazines provides you with ample opportunity to talk airily about things that are a closed book to most men and the experience leaves you with views where most men don't have views. It also makes you more comfortable with nuances and to appreciate the wide disparity between what people say and what they mean.
I don't say this to get on the right side of women. There's quite enough inter-gender toadying going on. But I do it to have more fun. I have discovered that I prefer the company of women, if that doesn't sound like Jonathan Ross.
I get on fine with male friends but I tend to regard them as being above and beyond their category. About twenty years ago I was discussing middle-aged men as a taste group with a colleague who was also a middle-aged man. They're hopeless, he said, because unless you're talking about the subject in which they're the world's foremost expert they're not interested.
I said this was a bit harsh. Experience has taught me that he was only a bit harsh.
Monday, August 30, 2010
This ritual, which introduces into the carefree world of pop picking a formality more usually associated with registering a death, is the most absurd thing I've heard of in the increasingly ludicrous and security-obsessed world of pre-release reviewing. I won't tell you the name of the artist in this case lest it should embarrass my friend, who's only trying to earn a living. It ought to embarrass the newspaper, who are prepared to give space to a review based on so glancing an encounter with the record. It probably won't embarrass the record company who are one of those who have worked themselves into such a state of hyper-tension about piracy and pre-release leakage that they prefer to send journalists links to password-protected streams rather than CDs.
Personally, I'm too old and set in my ways to play along. If I have to listen to a record under those conditions I'd really rather not hear it at all and, if they've got any sense, they won't want me to because I'm likely to take out my anger at the process on the poor bloody record. One thing is certain. Whether you're sitting in a meeting room under the gaze of a PR or tethered to your computer auditing a stream, anything much less conducive to the proper spirit in which pop music should be enjoyed would be difficult to imagine. It encourages the rush to judgement which usually comes up with the wrong answer.
Of course, record companies don't care whether critics are wrong about their records provided they're favourably wrong. They know that the first past the post review system forces critics to come up with an opinion before they have one. They hope that based on a hack's often premature opinion people may buy the record. This all conspires to deceive the public. Reviewers trying to justify their continued employment tend to have crisp, quotable opinions when what they really think could better be summed up in a Gallic shrug.
Time was you bought the record and got to know it afterwards. If you'd bought it on the basis of some review and it didn't seem to live up to the claims - I bought Patto's Roll 'em Smoke 'em on the basis of a review that called it "the missing link between Abbey Road and the Mahavishnu Orchestra" and I still haven't forgiven the bastard who wrote those words even though it's 38 years ago - then you persuaded yourself that you liked it. This created a tradition of self-deception which ran like a silver thread through the collective memory of the rock cognoscenti.
We don't have to do it anymore. Now we can get to know records over time and decide if we want to stream them, download them or even buy them on the basis of how we feel. There's no rush. The records aren't going anywhere. The record companies should calm down and so should the papers. There are no verdicts. Just opinions. If they're interesting opinions we'll still have them next week.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
This large piece of hardboard is a reminder of just how important record sleeve art once was. This was put in the window of the old HMV shop in Oxford Street in 1973 to mark the release of "Burnin'", the second Island album by Bob Marley and The Wailers. My old friend and colleague Steve Wright rescued it when the display period was over and it took pride of place in various hippified pads in north London. It used to look down on Saturday nights as we returned from the pub to sit round smoking and listening to the new John Martyn album. Anyway Steve moved to Australia and ten years ago when he died a friend and I had the job of sorting out the stuff he'd left in Holloway. We found the Wailers hardboard and, rather than see it on a skip, I took it home. It did stints in the office and at university halls of residence. It has holes in the corner where a cord has been threaded to hang it from a picture rail. It's still in one piece after nearly forty years. Son wants to keep it and is therefore going to get it framed, which seems the most sensible way to ensure its survival. Odd the things that survive.
While making a half-hearted attempt to tidy up in my work room at home I came across this copy of The Beatles' "Hello Goodbye" from 1967. The B-side is "I Am The Walrus". That's another reminder of this group's uniqueness; no other act before or since has scattered its jewels so freely. Anyway, the Miner's make-up ad which was printed on the bag, as it was on most of the Beatles classic singles, attests to the fact that brand tie-ins on pop records have been going on for a long time and aren't some post-Simon Cowell abomination.
I used to get the bus to school. When we came home we passed Shaw Cross Pit just as the miners were coming off shift. They'd been in the pit baths but they still had coal dust round their eyes. I can remember wondering if there was a direct relationship between the eyeliner applied by girls prior to going out and the black outline that remained on the miners' eyes all the time and whether the make-up manufacturers had deliberately named themselves after the miners. I never voiced this thought at the time. Can't believe I'm doing it now.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The first gay magazine that I remember was "Jeremy". This caused enormous excitement forty years ago among the college friends I had who took interest in such things, but had yet to officially decide they were gay. Before that they used to buy "Films And Filming", a magazine that combined learned features about distinguished lighting cameramen with yay-high pictures of film actors like Terence Stamp, Bjorn Andresen, Malcolm McDowell and (as is the case here) Sean Connery in torrid states of undress. The magazine was obviously run by a gay publisher or someone who had worked out you would sell a lot more copies of your Eisenstein retrospective if you wrapped it in a picture of David Hemmings dressed as a gladiator. I found this old copy in the office today and it made me very nostalgic for the days when you could be apparently publishing one thing while actually publishing another.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
There may well be good reasons for appointing an Englishman. There is not one good reason for announcing this is what you intend to do at some point in the future. Where does it get you? It means that you can't have a conversation with any candidate from another country. It means that the three English managers who could claim to be qualified for the job know that they've got the whip hand in any negotiations. And what are you going to do if Fabio Capello wins the European Championship? Why in the name of all that's holy would any organisation show their hand in this fashion?
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It makes great radio drama because most of it involves characters who choose their words with surgical care. Hearing great actors like Simon Russell Beale, Brian Cox and Eleanor Bron delivering lines like "a nation's secret services are the only real expression of its sub-conscious" or "between us we'd make one good man" is a rare treat. The plots are easier to follow than in the TV adaptations or the original books because on radio they have to be. Every now and then there's a "doof-oof-ratatat" interlude indicating that somebody has been shot trying to escape. A voice quickly and plausibly tells us who it was.
We haven't finished it yet. The thought that we might do so makes the prospect of driving to Glasgow in a couple of weeks time a bit less of a chore.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Ever since I can remember I've envied the people who were still on the beach long after the rest of us had made whatever concession we needed to make to getting ready for dinner. I can remember looking out of the window of hotel dining rooms and seeing a handful of kids still out there playing, the whole beach to themselves. How did they do that? How could their parents be so relaxed?
I've concluded it's an attitude of mind. The people who are still on the beach at nine o'clock aren't worried, like most of us, about making their leisure fit the dictates of a clock. They're not terrified that Junior will never go to sleep if he doesn't get fed by a certain time. They're not haunted by the fear that they will arrive at the restaurant too early or too late. They're not suffering the agonies of the rest of us by trying to make everything perfect. They're built for holidays in a way that most of us, sadly, aren't.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Today I'm recovering from our gig at the Site Corot last night. Held in an unused auberge in a lovely spot near a river, next to some old glove factories, it took five meetings and three months to organize. Many people showed up, having been told we were either a) a "rhythm and blues" group or b) country music. They stayed for about three songs and the rest of the set we played to our usual ten friends and the few assorted French people too polite to desert us. But the river made a nice sound and we still remembered how to play.
The dread and anticipation, the inevitable misrepresentation, the evening that peters out before it is meant to, the embarrassed silences, the battering taken by the confidence: sounds like nothing so much as a blind date.