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|Thursday, March 19th, 2009|
|Wednesday, February 18th, 2009|
Some excellent stuff of late on the More 4 / BBC 4 / BBC 2 type channels; Pinter, Ballard (the superlative "Home", which I hope anybody caught who missed it the first time), 'The History Man'. On Film 4, the Tolpuddle Martyrs epic, "Comrades", by Bill Douglas... which I previously had in an off-air copy from probably the early '90s; this looks vastly superior. A shame I am missing the likes of Noel's HQ - in the sense of 'know thine enemy', although YouTube has sufficed to give us an appalling sample of the madman and his delusions of dictatordom - lavished in thunderous applause from a crowd with union flags prominently brandished.
And on top of this, I receive Granada's "7 Up" series in the post yesterday; not before time that Network got this released, but will be well worth waiting for.
Ballard - picked up the Audio-Book version of "Millennium People" for £1 (eight-CD unabridged set) in Sunderland public library's 'for sale' section. Look forward to listening to that; have been reading the likes of 'Venus Smiles' recently (incredibly, penned 52 years ago!), alongside Franz Kafka, Luke Haines and Thomas Hardy (some pre-echoing of Dennis Potter preoccupations, in UTGT).
|Saturday, January 31st, 2009|
|'Where do we go from here...?'
Albert Elms' 'Regression' fades into Lady GaGa's 'Just Dance' (ft. Akon and Colby O'Donis). The uneasy stillness in that beautiful '60s vibraphone and Proustian flute dissolving into waves of Euro-techno electro... And the 'Poker Face' is all Roisin (tac)tics - finally somebody taking this sort of music into the high end of the charts. 'The day ends unremarkably
The way days end'
Some better things are happening; all are in agreement that the bankers are 'shameful', and a U.S. President has voiced that sentiment. Guantanamo to be closed, extraordinary rendition and other such practices to be reviewed. All the more important that this time is grasped for a progressive consensus; it could be done if Cruddas could somehow challenge and defeat Brown for the Labour leadership. As the New Statesman argues, a Liberal-Labour progressive coalition would be desirable; but it cannot happen with Brown at the helm, a man who refuses to admit his catastrophic error in making Labour party of The City of London, rather than party of the people.
|'Darling your voice is like the Home Service...'
Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009)
John Martyn (1948-2009)
John Mortimer (1923-2009)
Bill Frindall (1939-2009)
Tony Hart (1925-2009)
So much gone with them. And then one reads a fine article like this, compounding the elegiac mood:http://www.newstatesman.com/philosophy/2009/01/british-oxford-bohemian
Prescences kindly and burning by turns; "The Prisoner" re-landscaping my mind like Pinter. Mortimer's Rumpole (yes, it did recline into the cosy, but watch the Play for Today and the first series and observe something intriguingly in tune with and not afraid to criticise its heroic sham of a hero...) and his life as sardonically crusading liberal - making a major contribution to the end of Mary Whitehouse's Britain and for freedom of expression. Tony Hart a ghost by the time of my television viewing, yet the ghost of a gentleness that wouldn't go away for a while. Old 'Bearders' a droll prescence in TMS, one of the few programmes still resonant of the supplanted Old England; as far away from today's branded, contaminated clatrap, he knew his field. It may not be a stretch to stress the chap's influence on my self; 1993 and cricket mad, encouraged by parents and teachers; musing over Frindall's intricately handwritten scorecards, reprinted in books loaned from Sunderland public library - then still in the old museum building. Once an urbane anorak, always one, or at least one hopes! John Martyn, 'Couldn't Love You More'. 'Small World'. A loveliness solemn, earthy and expansive as the elements.
|Thursday, January 15th, 2009|
|Can it get much better than...?
Deltron 3030, '3030'
Ladytron, 'He Took Her to a Movie'
Roisin Murphy, 'Sunshine'
Camera Obscura, 'Super Trouper'
Broadcast, 'Black Cat'
Paul McCartney, 'Ram On' (kicking off the greatest three-song sequence on any of his albums)
Winifred Lawson, George Baker & Company, 'I Have a Song to Sing, O!'
The Postal Service, 'Nothing Better'
Barbara Morgenstern (with Robert Wyatt), 'Camouflage'
Robert Wyatt, 'To Carla, Marsha and Caroline (for making everything beautifuller)'
NRG, ' I Need Your Lovin' (Real Hardcore Mix)' - such sublimity in that sample, and how all is arranged around it.
|Saturday, January 3rd, 2009|
|2009: a year of the techno?
It is the big divide in music; those that insist all has to entirely guitar - or more reductively - four piece band-based.
I would have few quibbles with mainstream music if the guitars being deployed were up to the standard of Lindsey Buckingham or Vini Reilly; or taken in Canadian or Scandinavian directions. But too often playing a guitar profficiently is seen as a lucrative end in itself.
The end goal must be to get people dancing and thinking and connecting with one another, in equal measure. Electronics cannot but play a part in this process.
I have perceived a subtle change over the last five years, towards the techno and away from the technophobe, in general tastes (and the very rare specific night where I have been out in anything resembling a 'club' environment). New spaces, manifestos and mindsets are of course necessary for such an emancipatory goal, but I sense there is more chance than there was five years ago; complacency is not as rampant as it was. One feels the musical mood moving much more towards 1991-2 - if not 1988-9. We could do with an injection of the Detriot - a Grandmaster Eno combination - of bassline, hip-hop and what I will term in typically partial fashion as Northern Music (electro and indie from Scandinavian and Canadian sources - sadly too few North-eastern! Barring The Week That Was, Rachel Unthank and the Warm Digits - krautrock inspired hypnotic grooves, seen recently supporting Barbara Morgenstern).
|Thursday, January 1st, 2009|
|Happy new year
Well, farewell to a curio of a year - movement certainly made, but all in flux.
Ordinary people are facing the consequences of neo-liberal capitalism as never before, but there is no clarion call for socialist politics to take things forward. Perhaps not surprising, as politics and engagement themselves have been purged from the collective culture - in the mire of the previous decade's debting excess.
I feel rather more control of my own destiny at the end of this year than last, but nothing is decisive as of yet; 2008 was a hard year, work-wise, but certainly a worthwhile one. I know where I need to go to and will attempt to hasten that progress in the next weeks.
|Tuesday, December 30th, 2008|
|Works read in the last two months or so
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
Philip Pullman, The Northern Lights
Jeremy Seabrook, Unemployment (not finished yet; particularly interesting parts on Sunderland in the early '80s)
H G Wells, The Time Machine
H G Wells, The Invisible Man
Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Oscar Wilde, 'The Fisherman and His Soul'
Angus Wilson, Such Darling Dodos
Angus Wilson, The Wrong Set & Such Darling Dodos
I only seem to be reading stuff from writers, though am now moving onto Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree
as the first stage in a Wessex season, to include John Cowper Powys and Christopher Priest (and any others anyone can suggest...?).
"Decline and Fall" is uproarious, acidic and plays with the mock-epic. A real attack on its time (and all social types and institutions) and clearly the work of a brilliant misanthrope. I'm definitely going to read more EW, as well as "A Bed of Flowers", the Auberon Waugh novel I obtained some time back, which may feed into the GB75 scenario.
Recent documentary cast some interesting light on a rather interesting show. Atkinson came across rather well, perhaps because he has limited his public appearances. It is just a shame that he went on to pander to a pretty low common denominator with most of his film and tv roles since "Bl'adder".
Whilst the first series clearly has its weaknesses (an ill-defined central performance), it avoids some of the telegraphed smugness which overcame some of the third and fourth series, and has wonderfully wintry location filming up in Alnwick. A place I may well visit soon.
The second series is possibly the best overall, comedically and overall. The fourth has two fine episodes - the Speckled Jim and final ones - but is all too predictably reliant on Fry and Laurie to carry it. Blackadder himself has become a bit stale. The second is more of a true ensemble piece and all felt they had something to prove (including Elton, later so complacent). They were definitely correct to highlight Miranda Richardson's performance as the key - odd enunciations and all.
Perhaps the main thing that came out was how much more I liked Curtis than Elton; e.g. the intricately literary farce of the Dictionary episode being entirely down to him, with Elton smugly talking of just wanting 'knog gags' or some such. For all the fabled 'motor-mouth''s pontificating, he is a reactionary figure in our culture; as Blairite as they come.
Whereas... however cringe-worthy much of Curtis' other work has been (though at least it is aimed at a female audience rather than the sniggering male teenager), he did put that anti-Iraq war moment into "Love, Actually". Not perhaps the most cutting attack on Blair, but one of the more unexpected.
|The joys of Wikipedia
The handiwork of a good few hours' research - which frankly showed how limitless a resource the internet can be. I put this together whilst re-reading some of the plays in Rowell's edition and listening to Gilbert & Sullivan - inspired also by the Wilde I've read of late. I discovered rather a lot about Bristol University in course, as you will see, as well as a critical link to Harold Pinter.
I am hoping to start contributing more in earnest to this excellent venture; a few years ago created the Robb Wilton entry, but did little since.
|Red tape eh, Edmonds...!?
Our current state has, I think, rather more to do with the erosion of society and positive functions of the state, than it does to supposed council and government burreaucracy; to successive government's blind faith in, and blank cheques to, business and the finance sector in particular (driving short term 'gain' at the expense of morals or long-term stability).
You're not going to create a world of Pooters, let alone a world of Postgates and Pinters, by destroying the public sector. 
As with so many little englanders and Tories, railing absurdly against 'Bonkers Britain!' the blind spot is the failure to attack consumerism, the love of money. These snipers are shamed e'en by established Church figures - hardly from progressive institutions, or traditions - who have attacked the greed of modern life.
 Small Films came to an arrangement with the BBC. Pinter's first play, "The Room" was hosted by a forward-thinking University Drama dept.
|Thoughts inspired by Charlie Brooker's show...
I have been rather impressed by his BBC4 shows of late - he is coming into focus as a thoughtful as well as scathing critic of our culture and of Conservatism. His subdued, heartfelt words about Oliver Postgate at the end of the show following his death were some of the most pertinent made. And in the last of the series, Brooker's absolute horror at *this*, which I had (perhaps thankfully) not known existed before seeing the bizarre clips: http://sky1.sky.com/noels-hq-is-back
Some friends I was conversing with at the wedding I was at yesterday had not heard of it; Sky One is entirely a backwater, and long may it remain so. Edmonds' rants against the license fee appear the moanings of a bitter, small-minded little man; his exile from the BBC is to be applauded and savoured. It is this sort of world-view that ought to make those of us in the civilised world support the BBC.
Yesterday, I couldn't argue with points made that the BBC is not what it was (add to this the effective censoring of Westwood's show, as mentioned by Robin), and indeed agree that much of the excellent stuff is on BBC4, relegated from wider public view. I argued that Brooker's show should be on BBC2 in a prominent slot - as it surely would have been 15 years ago. The point also came that Radio 1 is more ghettoised than it was - with any shows which dared to mix genres or build an unusual audience jettisoned: i.e. no Peel, no inventive scheduling which you used to have to some extent in the '90s.
But the standard of news and radio is still there, and the BBC provides a *space* for future improvements in our television and culture. Without it we may not have a chance. What would take its place, but a lethal cocktail of US imports (and not the good ones - of which there are many), 'Moylesy' and Noel's HQ...?
I am very skeptical about the view that we do not need a licence fee and that quality would maintain itself - or improve - without public ownership (the stake that we all have in it). This point is at the core of my practical disagreement with left-wing anarchist principles; unfortunately, Britain could not be run entirely along the lines of Wikipedia, Resonance FM or the Star and Shadow Cinema. The wrong people have too tight a grip on our culture at present to enable this sort of diverse, communal democracy. Positive, enabling direction from the state is essential; the current economy is making this obvious. Arts subsidy is better coming from the state, or delegated local arts bodies, than from rich private patrons. *Enriching* services for *all* need to provided, and to improve: the NHS, the BBC should be seen as exemplars - imperfect, yes. But with the potential to change things.
I will never be a state = always right person, of course. There are innumerable cases of Pinter's Few states are anywhere near perfect, but I would prefer a post-WW2 Swedish model of statist democracy to current-day British governance, of course. One looks at the cultural riches of British broadcasting 1960-90 and has to say we were doing it right then. I am for the state to point people in the right direction - and to *give them a chance*, not to subsidise inactivity. A chance to be involved in society - the arts, charitable works, public works. What must be avoided are the mistakes of welfarism; allowing an underclass to become dependent on the state (of course, they were betrayed by capital too) without contributing anything of any worth to society. The post-war left has acted alongside Thatcherism in this case to turn large sections of the working-class into hateful caricatures. Class mobility or indeed 'meritocracy' are both at a halt in Britain today; you can predict people's jobs or lack of jobs from which schools they went to, or from their parents' education.
I am not, however, for any form of Purnellian reforms - an idiotic Gradgrindian 'you must work!' ethos wholly at odds with the facts of globalised capitalism which dictates the job market. My reforms would be radical with a distinctly red element. Less emphasis on work for work's sake, more on work for a purpose. An environmental 'Green Deal' would be a good start, and would have to be EU/Obama-led.
 Though 'know thine enemy' is an important maxim to bear in mind, always. Brooker's show is an excellent way to become acquainted with the utter ghastliness of much of today's television - with the man's scabrous mediation making the excerpts bearable, even funny in a gallows fashion.
|Friday, December 26th, 2008|
|Harold Pinter (1930-2008)
Another giant gone, and another life fully lived, the work done, the influence felt - if not always expressed - in the culture. The man occupies a curious space in English culture; London Jewish, and non-Oxbridge, simultaneously a devout cricket fan and a serious left-wing polemicist...
From "A Slight Ache" to "One for the Road"; from "The Caretaker" to "Old Times", a great theatre and radio playwright... who also made the transition to cinema: the Losey trilogy.
Along with Beckett in that crucial 2000-2 period, he re-shaped my world.
|Tuesday, December 9th, 2008|
|Saturday, December 6th, 2008|
|Been listening to...
, all albumsSome great stuff, a mixture of the gothic, house and electro-pop - a seductive European pop.Lindsey Buckingham
, all solo albums'Trouble'. 'I'll Tell You Now'. 'Play in the Rain'. 'Bang the Drum'. 'Surrender the Rain'. 'Say We'll Meet Again'. 'Not Too Late'. 'Under the Skin'. 'Juniper'. 'Time Precious Time'. 'Did You Miss Me'. 'Treason'. That would be a quite a 12-track compilation i reckon.DJ Undecided
mixes, June 2008 in particular - the section culminating in TRC's 'Burga Style 2'. Contrasts; the sublime and the forlorn, ready to soundtrack any images of teenage derilection and crushed dreams in the 'Broken Britain' of '08.The Streets
, 'Weak Become Heroes'A reflective, epic counterpoint to the TRC, with that piano taking the focus of the spinetingling synth in the above.Moody Boys
, Acid Rappin' (45rpm vinyl)Able to listen to this as I've recently got a Vinyl turntable / mp3 converter (enabling me to start listening to and curating some of my dad's vinyl, from Brecht to Betjeman to 'Under Milk Wood' to music hall to 78s - more on, anon). Bought this from the excellent alt.Vinyl shop near the Morden Tower and Chinatown in Newcastle. It is particularly the flipside, and 'Acid Heaven' specifically, which gets me. A sublime techno groove, soundtracking an untappable ascent.
all albums...Per se, the lot! I am loving her music all the more since seeing her irrepressible performance at the 'third best venue in the world', the Star and Shadow Cinema, just a few weeks ago. But if I have to pick one quickly let's go for something new; from BM: 'Deine Geschichte'... Insidious, prepared elektronik rhythms kicking in; megalithic piano chords tumbling from the keyboard and filling the room. A typically life-affirming melancholy miniature of electro-pop.Kanye West
, "808s and Heartbreaks"Excellent... an intriguing take on Junior Boys / Cody Chestnutt acreage; melancholy electronics, vocoder and mournful ambience. None more so than the opener, 'Say You Will'; a sublimely simple rhythm, and Pet Shop Boys-level proscenium arches of synthonia...
'Paranoid' is a pointillist Prince, truly evoking some of the finer spirit of the eighties; this provide further shining ballast to the pairing of T.I.'s 'Swagga Like Us' and M.I.A.'s 'Paper Planes'
|Sunday, November 9th, 2008|
Playing: the superb "BBC Radiophonic Workshop: A Retrospective" CD - including vintage Delaware from Malcolm Clarke ('BBC 2 Serial'), so much sublime Delia D. ('Science and Health' for example....) and a beautifully remastered suite from 'The Changes'. That sitar... that opening "Prisoner" style drum rattle... marimba et al, Wonderful music.
MIA - particularly 'Paper Planes'
|Wednesday, November 5th, 2008|
I hope soon to be able to say that my prediction was correct; that McCain's choice of Palin (combined evidently with the economic situation) ended his hopes...
Can America dare to thoroughly reject the Right? Surely now.
|Thursday, September 18th, 2008|
1. The economic crisis
Should be seen as an inevitable result of neo-liberalism and Thatcherism taken to its logical extremes by Blair & Brown; Canary Wharf and meaningless, hypothetical money and speculations thereupon valourised as the way forward above any other.
In Capitalism, every boom will have its bust, and the perhaps the longer and more impregnable seeming the boom, the greater the bill - or rather the human cost - upon bust.
We have allowed industry and maunfacture to decline - unlike many other countries. Britain has believed the pipe dream that services and high finance can drive growth in perpetuity. Long term, we are in a terrible state, judged from a capitalist economic standpoint; from socialist and environmentalist perspectives, we have to make the break and soon.
2. US Elections
Ever more evident that Obama should - and must - win, if the US is to have any chance of regaining some standing. His judgement in selecting Biden should - and I think will - be seen as sound in comparison to McCain's desperate bid to shore up the 'core vote' in selecting the pitbull Palin. McCain's true ignorance of the economy came through in his recent quote, which he predictably tried to backtrack on later. He is in thrall to an absolutist version of neo-liberalism, being very much of the libertarian tradition of Barry Goldwater (whose political base was also Arizona). Obama at least seems to have grasped how the paradigm is shifting; people are seeing through the smoke-and-mirrors of 'Super Capital', grasping how it has betrayed and misled them. Obama grasps this, and is promising more of an FDR tactic of intervention.
3. British politics, considered in relation to the above points
I am not sure that even Nick Clegg quite grasps this, in his libertarian talk about people taking charge - his speech overlapped far too readily with Cameron's nebulous 'businesses and voluntary groups'.
People have found that big business and big capital simply cannot be trusted to be responsible when left to their own devices
. The regulatory framework is either non-existent or easily co-opted and bought off by the allure of 'The City'. Small businesses are hardly in a fit state to lead a renaissance in providing for welfare, health or education; it is utterly fatuous to say they could and should step in.
The state can and should act to protect people from the untamed virus that is modern capitalism. What we need is a positive new definition of public service; less time-serving and more altruism. An enabling state
Clegg was fairly good on making a green economy a centrepoint, but he doesn't for me have the wisdom of a Vincent Cable; I fail to see the shape of Clegg's Britain, whereas I might with Cable, or even Campbell...
He distances himself from The City, but seems to view the crisis in capitalism as temporary, able to be corrected 'if only people acted responsibly', to characterise his view.
Labour can only recover if they build support in the country - and they will only do this by changing course, in the way advocated by McDonnell and Cruddas.
|Thursday, September 11th, 2008|
|The feeling that somebody has got there first and done it infinitely better than you could...
... came over me when reading J.G. Ballard's visceral and epochal re-imagining-of-the-present short-story, Theatre of War (1977). This is a masterly work that is presumably under-appreciated and seldom cited because of the unfashionable nature of the short-story format and the absurd relegation of Ballard from critical attention, due to the limited predilections of the literary elite in this country (disdaining anybody who has gone within walking distance of science fiction, let alone perhaps one feted for his role in the progressive New Wave of said genre in the 1950s and 60s).
JGB structures the narrative in the form of a World in Action documentary on a contemporaneous British civil war (easy to extrapolate from the reality of '70s Britain as the author says in his opening note), with corrosive scenes, commentators, interviewees and illicit Swedish documentary footage of life within the resistance.
Quite literally there is pop at gunpoint at one point; the imported music part of the decadent city life - the US-inspired 'war economy' serving as motor for the British economy, with young workers and skilled trades having been lost to the resistance. London is indeed a black-market haven; alongside other major cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester, a rare stronghold for the US-backed puppet government. London as Las Vegas, with a British Dollar the currency. The population in these areas almost exclusively over forty, the only young people on this side are in the depleted ranks of the British army and prostitutes and such servicing the 'needs' of US troops in the city.
Whilst the resistance is young, full of defectors from the skilled professions (working and middle-class), yet contains fascinating contradictions: an adherence to the Union Jack (and the pound) within Communistic kibbutz living arrangements. The mountains of Wales, Scotland and the North are particular strongholds, yet also most of the countryside in the South. Cookham is intriguingly selected by Ballard as key territory, the villagers 'neutral', yet clearly not soundly behind the government.
Any attempt at myself developing the British civil war theme will certainly be coloured by this story; required reading for anyone interested in GB75, British history and television in that decade, historical what-ifs or even a cracking good yarn presented in televisual terms...
The World in Action form used brings a journalistic immediacy entirely fitting to the events described; in this and the fourteen other JGB short-stories I have read, he has deployed a range of forms and addresses (from the surviving fragment index from a lost biography in The Index - daring one to try and piece together the life - to television listings reflecting a society in A Guide to Virtual Death, to the first-person macabre of The Recognition; indeed to the sardonically austere prose delineating the inexorable regarding time travel and its exploitation in The Greatest Television Show on Earth).