Tuesday, November 28, 2006

today : I declare "geef me eten!", and acquire a Polish soul-mate

For reasons that aren't at all sinister but are complicated to explain, I made a new friend this week. Megi is Polish but is actually from The Netherlands. The reason we became friends is that we both have Catch 22 pretty much at the top of our favourite books list (just as an aside I have noticed a move amongst young people to converge the words best and favourite in recent years. If I was a language maven it would annoy me...okay, it does annoy me...but because it makes one of these useful words that I find valuable redundant. But with a chin-stroking David Crystal-like detached interest I find this interesting. That kids will refer to something as my best football team or my best pop group or my best trainers says something about the idea of quality in the current cultural climate. Is this some kind of sign that notions of good and bad and best and worst as relative concepts has finally taken hold, not just amongst academics and cultural commentators but among everyone. Is it something to do with the 'MYwhatever' idea? The notion that what YOU choose and consume is the most important thing in the world, regardless of any previously agreed objective notions of quality).

Anyway, the odd thing is that Megi and I both agree on our favourite scene from our favourite book. In amongst all the wonderful detail, the unbearable death of Snowden, the comic death of Kid Sampson, the old Italian guy in the brothel, the chocloate covered cotton or Clevinger disappearing into a cloud, our favourite scene (also Robert X Cringley's, it seems) is when Major ________ DeCoverley breaks the loyalty oath frenzy by demanding "Gimme Eat!"

How cool is that?* That a Polish girl who's actually from in Holland who reads Catch 22 in what is, effectively, her third language (or if we treat English English and American English as different languages rather than variations on a single language - her FOURTH language), has a favourite scene in an 800 page novel that is same as mine. This was discovered by accident too. It wasn't one of those things where people just agree with each other to be more appealing.

This, basically supports my theory that people are simply not unique, and that the more we find out about genetics, the less unique we will become. In fact, I kind of think that geneticists might put the final kaibosh on the myth that as individuals we are unique and special once and for all, which in turn will have rather serious implications for Myspace, My Favourites, My Media Library and 'My best trainers'. I reccommend that someone copyright OurSpace as a brand name immediately for long term gain.

*there is also the issue, which we discussed, about how Europeans are frequently better at speaking and understanding English than the English. The English (Trevor Brooking, par example) are rubbish at other peoples' languages.

today's unsung cultural icon is...

(as voiced by the peerless Terry Scott)

Friday, November 24, 2006

today : I enter the murky world of international espionage

The last days and death of Alexander Litvinenko have been sad. Anyone dying is, really. But the media furore has been typical of lots of stories recently that have displayed similarities.

Earlier this week the assassination of Pierre Gemayel was reported as
'prominent critic of Syria assassinated'. The implication placed inside the headline being that it was the Syrians wot did it. That might well be the case, but I doubt the journalists and newsreader reporting this could provide evidence and sources to back up this assumption.

Similarly, Mr Litvinenko's condition was described as a definite case of poisoning by Thalium. I am reading between the lines here and thinking that Thalium poisoning is a traditional KGB way of offing people, and that someone, somewhere has either planted the story or made assumptions that almost immediately became the truth. It now turns out that it wasn't Thalium, but something else. And actually don't we have a coroner to decide the cause of death in this country? A connection was instantly made to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. In fact, it appears most of the information surrounding this case was provided by Litvinenko's friends, and eagerly gobbled up by the media, who palpably became excited to be reporting on what feels like a real life episode of Spooks or 24. The media became desperate to run with the story. Spies and shady assassinations are so glamorous ( and for some reason the Sushi bar connections adds something to this glamour. I am guessing it is a Sushi bar know well by journalists, making them feel closer to the story). All the while acting surprised that an ex-KGB officer has ended up dead. I always thought that possible death was something you signed up to when you joined a spy service.

But as yet there is no evidence that Litvinenko was killed by the FSB, neither is there hard evidence that Putin's cronies offed Anna Politkovskaya.

I am not saying that neither might not turn out to be true. But nobody questions the motives of figures such as Boris Berezovsky, another Russian exile, or former Chechen commander Akhmed Zakayev - who all seem reasonably high profile and plugged into the network of media that are reporting the story. Who is investigating their agenda? We know from watching TV and films that not everybody is as they seem. Murk can obfuscate both ways (and almost invariably does). I'm not saying these people are operating on a shady agenda, only wondering if this question has been asked.

24 hour news has created an instant tabloid approach to news reporting. Misbah Rana was kidnapped by her father to be forced into marriage until proved otherwise, MMR causes autism until proved otherwise, Litvinenko was killed by the FSB using Thalium until proved otherwise (Gregory House, of course, would have found out what it really was). In the old days such things were pursued by the Insight team or on TV the World in Action or Panorama team. These days Newsnight might task someone to unpick the murky threads of such a story and separate the real truths from the myths, assumptions, insider briefings and gossip. Weeks, months or sometimes years went by whilst committed and professional journalists found the meat and potatoes of a story and then wrote about it. 24 hour news is Turkey Twizzlers and instant mash by comparison.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

today : I've been expecting you...

Okay, It seems that there is a new James Bond film out. I know this for two reasons. Firstly I read a review. Secondly, every media outlet had been swamped with Bond TV shows, Bond articles, Bond documentaries, Bond countdown lists and even Bond news items (yes, that's news. even the BBC these days has a showbiz story on their main news bulletins. The world really has gone to hell in a handcart).

It happens often. Especially on TV. I am okay with those 'on the set with' promo shows, interviews at the premiere and a little kerfuffle (even using the Bond theme as an excuse to post a photo of the devastating Eva Green on your blog, see above). What annoys me is that TV schedulers seem to think that because a Bond film (or The Davinci Code or some other film) appears in the cinema, we are all desperate to watch a 2 hour documentary on Bond theme songs, keen to watch Thunderball for the nine-hundredth time, itching to observe discussions of Dalton vs Connery vs Moore vs Brosnan and generally be so utterly swamped with Bond themed programming that having a tea party with some visitors from the KGB seems like a pleasant option.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

today : I know what time it is

Whoever it is who decides these things has decided to replace the voice of the speaking clock. They ran an open competition and people volunteered and auditioned for this unpaid but rather quaint and unique position in Britain's cultural life and history.

I can't say I've followed the competition colsely, but if you watch the TV and listen to the radio you can't quite avoid it. And, of course the woman who won has a plummy middle class received pronounciation kind of voice. It's okay, but the in-charge people have totally missed a trick by playing it ultra-safe.

Here was an opportunity to make a statement. My own thought was that they should have had lots of speaking clock people. Out of 18,000 people who volunteered, surely there must have ben 12, or 52 or 365 who could have done the job perfectly well? The fact remains that this chosen 'voice of authority' is a conservative choice.

Britons have a range of spectacular and fascinating accents amongst them. Replacing the speaking clock was an opportunity to reflect the country as a whole. I suggest that 52, or 365 different people with a range of accents, rotating over the days and weeks, would have been a more interesting, radical and reflective choice.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Today : I am still waiting for lift-off


Oh dear, I am still waiting for studio 60 to start happening and yet again I was disappointed. Nothing happened. Last weeks episode was a rerun of the West Wing story about the guy who wrote to Roosevelt in 1937. This weeks was basically a re-run of those intermittent (and mainly interminable two-part) fish-out-of-water episodes of the West Wing, specifically the ones where Josh, Toby and Donna get stuck in the country and get all annoyed about how goddam slow everything is and their Blackberrys (or is it Blackberries?) won't gte a signal. Or the one where Josh and Toby go to bail out the judge on his antiquing trip and, shock horror, argue about missing an exit, playiong out the roles of husband and wife in the car. Or any one of the ones where people sit on planes and chat a lot.

Studio 60 added to these well worn themes : long periods of silence where people said nothing, slo-o-o-o-w panning shots that I guess were designed to show us the slo-o-o-o-wness of life in the country and John Goodman reprising his more intelligent than he appears speaker of the house persona. Annoying slo-ow RyCoodery slide guitar denoting the slow-ow RyCooderiness of the country. Characters flitted in and out of short scenes that added up to nothing in particular and just when a scene featuring nutso Jordan and her attractive kookiness sparked my interest, we were moved on to another shot of someone not talking, not being kooky, or not being anything really. And I can't remember a single memorable line, even the unmemorably memorable ones.

Perhaps the problem is me. Perhaps another story about - fercrissakes! - blasphemy or the press jumping on those neatly polarised American views about gay marriage say nothing to me about my-y life - living as I do in a country where the most mainstream of our entertainment has blasphemy, swearing, sexual innuendo and also just plain sex aplenty, as well as our real life having gay marriage. Aaron Sorkin should come over here and do his writing. He'd have no problems crticising the government, writing explicit pan-sexual love-scenes and making his characters swear and cuss as much as he likes. In fact on British TV, thankfully, all the above are more or less compulsory.

Yet again I go back to the fact that making a comedy is a world away from running the, well, the world. What is Studio 60 saying apart from the fact that the glamorous and highly paid world of TV is such damned hard, stressful and demanding work? It's all those audiences and advertisers and legal folk. They are just so annoying. Whine!

Because as we know, it is this stress and daily grind that inspires rich young entertainment executives, writers and perfomers to shovel industrial amounts of cocaine up their noses, and not the fact that they have more money than brain cells and can't find anything else to do for fun than follow the crowd.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

today : I remember a forgotten man

This news has kind of slipped by unnoticed. In fact, when the story started to emerge a few days ago it said a lot that the journalists reporting it didn't attach the rider to it - that the conviction of Stefan Kiszko for the murder of Lesley Molseed was a shameful example of the system framing someone based on stereotypes. Perhaps they didn't even remember. Stefan Kiszko was disabled, suffering from XYY syndrome, a condition that can lead to developmental difficulties. Basically the prosecuting authorities found a man-child type - an unsocialised, problematic individual who seemed like he might be the kind to commit such a crime. And then they fitted him up.
I remember the day Kiszko got out. He was interviewed on TV saying that he would like to resume a normal life and perhaps get married. Prison had led him to suffer mental health issues and he never receieved an apology from the police or the autorities. He died aged 41, 18 months after his release. The official report on how the miscarriage occurred was never published.

Because this story was local to me and was perhaps covered more extensively than throughout the rest of the country the pathetic image of Kiszko and his mother upon his release has stayed with me. I thought about him when I myself was maliciously accused of a crime earlier this year. Luckily, despite the best efforts of the police, they couldn't build a case against me because there was no evidence (I must add the crime I was accused of was totally minor compared to Kiszko's). However, I still thought of him whilst a copper was telling lies to my face about evidence he said he had and treating me like a piece of crap.

I hope that this time the real killer of Lesley Molseed has been found and will be brought to justice. I can't imagine the police would arrest and charge someone without a pretty cast iron case already in place. I also hope that the authorities remember how, collectively, they destroyed the life of an innocent man in order to be seen to get a result.

this weeks scary and unhinged person AND crackers pop person is...

Genesis P. Orridge

today : I look into my crystal ball

I have revised my opinion of what will happen in the midterms tomorrow. Fact is, we need to learn from history. And history dictates that recently The Republicans (especially Bush & Rove pictured above) have a strange habit of winning elections that they just don't look like winning. I am suspicious. Perhaps they won't get the kicking that they deserve.