Tuesday, November 25, 2008

today : divs of the week

If you are going to institute an occasional award for Div of the Week, then who better to start with than these three drooling bozos who flew their private jets from places like Detroit to Washington DC, in order to claim that their companies needed a government bail-out.

I am wondering if there is a correlation between this monumental stupidity and the fact that these corporations have been heading down the toilet for many a year, continuing to promote their shoddily made, unreliable, hideous looking, gas munching products, whilst the rest of the world stealthily began living in the 21st Century.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

today : I watch daytime TV

Having been bedridden and/or housebound (due to recovering from an operation) for the last three months I have had little to do but watch TV- something that I do normally but not in such huge amounts.

Daytime TV is mainly extremely boring to the point of making you feel like you are actually in a coma. Part of this effect is the sheer repetition. Houses, antiques, people arguing, DNA tests, lie-detector tests. Houses, houses antiques, people arguing, DNA tests, lie-detector tests. Houses, houses, antiques, people arguing, DNA tests, lie-detector tests. Houses, houses, antiques, people arguing, DNA tests, lie-detector tests...what day is it?

Although one show fascinates me. I was never ever a fan of Jerry Springer, and always feel defrauded when Jerry turns up on British TV wearing his serious intelligent liberal persona. It's as if he didn't make his fortune from a TV show that was all about humiliating the poor, mentally ill and socially inadequate, and nobody ever calls him on it.

Steve Wilkos, whose show is from the same stable as JS, takes this both a step further and a step back. I am fascinated by the fact that nobody seems to think this is abnormal behaviour. With his tough love template and his backstage counsellors, Steve purports to help people with their problems (like, for example, Montell Williams) whilst simultaneously parading them in a freakshow. Here's the thing that grips me about the show. Much of it is taken up with Steve and the studio audience bullying, name calling, humiliating and threatening nonentities. In short the bullies get bullied back.

I don't know how much these people are paid, or how true their stories are, but they seemingly are all willing to appear on TV and take a dose of abuse from Steve and his audience. Often the pressure is too much and they storm out. This gratifies me. We (Steve, the studio audience and the watching audience) have won. We have exposed the bullies as cowards unable to face any force even a degree tougher than themselves. They stand on what Steve calls rather territorially 'My Stage', and are forced to jump through hoops of aggressive humiliation. people. But in many cases the recipients are lowlife wife beaters, drug dealers, child abusers and selfish irresponsible chaotic nature of the show, I find it oddly thrilling. Who hasn't thought of giving some back to a bully? I certainly have. Like lots of people, I was bullied relentlessly at school (and sometimes at work) and found that the only real way to stop a bully is to punch them on the nose, or find some way to wrest power from them. On the other side, I can't say that I ever proactively bullied, but have sometimes found myself caught up in it by joining in the jokes and name-calling - especially as a schoolboy. In fact, I still worry that I may have inadvertently caused more damage than I ever realised at the time and wish I could apologise to the people involved.

Yet when it is all over I feel sordid and awful, a bit like I do when I finish a James Ellroy novel (except with Ellroy, it is because he skillfully and superbly draws you in to his imagined histories of 50s and 60s LA until you start to inhabit the obsessions of the plot and character. In other words, it is a consensual act of immersion and one which is 'pleasant' in the way fiction can be) , and cannot wait to turn over and watch nice middle class British people wallpapering their hallways and buying Clarice Cliffe salad bowls at auction.

Friday, November 14, 2008

today : Difficulty quitting

Here is a short precis of the long piece of writing I have been attempting over the past two or three weeks, but have been struggling to finish for many and various reasons that are too boring to go into now. It is all about how different groups of people are trapped by their ideology and even when shaken out of it are desperate to retreat into it's comforting cocoon. The banking crisis shook up the entire system. Pretty much the writing was on the wall for the particular capitalistic model we've been following for thirty or so years. In some ways Reaganomics or Friedmanomics or whatever you want to call it is possibly the last writhing gasp of modernism. When will people realise that ideology is stupid. Yes, it's comforting but the world is too complex to be fitted into nice, hermetically sealed theories. Yet it took about two weeks of panicking for the banking community to fall back on their bonus culture - even though we were told that, with the system all but privatised, it would have to stop. No bankers traded in their Beamers for a low-emissions city runaround.

Obama's election was a game changer. A 'major watershed in Anerican history' (TM). Yet it took politicians and political hacks about 36 hours (the hangover and the early night) to start approaching his tenure with cynicism. Once Michelle picks a school then it will all blow up.

In British football, this year everyone agreed that it was time to stop abusing the referees. Managers and players all supported the idea. Yet it took about a month of the season for managers to start blaming refs for bad decisions and calling them names.

Change is incredibly difficult to achieve.
it's even more difficult to sustain. The idea of the tipping point is such a lovely and seductive one that I want to believe it. But I can only see any declared tipping point as a tentative, fragile, teetering beginning of change.

A couple of months ago I spent some time in hospital and had to quit smoking for a few days. Stocking up on the nicotine gum, I managed it quite easily. It helped that my impulse to find some way to smoke was severely compromised by the fact that I was bedridden and hooked up to oxygen and intravenous miscellany, and that the reason for my stay was a pretty major ankle operation. I quickly became comfortable with the fact that I was trapped and genuinely had no choice but to not smoke. I guess the intravenous drugs might have helped, as they put me in a hazy, altered state. I declared to myself that I would continue in abstinence when I got out.

It lasted about five minutes, as long as it took to find a place to stop the car and light up. And I forced myself to smoke. First cigarettes are something we endure. Anyone who has quit and started again is thrown back into the moment of their very first cigarette. I didn't cough on my first smoke - a bad sign - but it tasted bitter and unpleasant, and aways does.

(Unrelated to the topic of this piece, but related to smoking, I do like a nice Havana cigar. The problem is that the flavour is so fantastic that going back to boring old American cigarette tobacco is kind of a let down, like drinking supermarket cola.)

My point is that my hospital stay was a tipping point, but my addiction to the old ways of addiction was too strong, and I blew the chance to change. If you like, I tipped back.

And this is what the banks are doing. They appear to have taken our money and gone back to their gamblin' ways. How much smoke and how many mirrors can you buy for a billion quid? Same with the journalists and the footie managers. They just couldn't bring themselves to change their ways, even though they know that to stay the same would perpetuate the problems they are responsible for.

the picture btw is nothing to do with the writing (apart from the presence of an ash-tray), it's just one of my favourite pictures by Georges Brassai

Thursday, November 06, 2008

this also happens to women and girls

This also happened and was reported yesterday. It kind of got lost in the news from the USA.

The curse of the world is ideology that is so rigid and goes so far that it defies logic.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

today : just about the busiest day ever

It struck me that today is probably the busiest blogging day of all time. Just think of all them political bloggers furiously typing their minute by minute responses to the US election results. I read that the BBC coverage of the results will even have a blogosphere correspondant, which is a bit like those TV shows that mine Youtube for clips of people falling off bikes and then string them together. Hello - the 'Blogosphere', or Blogistan, or whatever, is a different medium than TV - that's why it's not TV based.

News has never been that good at reporting things that aren't traditional journalism. Year after year they set up in a pub on Budget day to ask 'average drinkers' (those who are in the pub on an aftrenoon whilst everyone else is at work) what their response to tax rises on alcohol are, or find an average family and vox pop them about fiscal nuances they have no understanding of.

I myself have lots of opinion on the US election but have chosen to keep them to myself. I don't have ambitions of a cross-media career and have been busy in the past week or so.

I might read the odd blog tomorrow when it's all over but will not, as Wolf Blitzer often advises, be sitting in front of the TV with my laptop open.