Archive for June 19th, 2005

Revolution in the Shopping Bag

This commuter’s attention was caught by billboard advertisements in railway stations, featuring a leather-clad lady holding aloft a red flag, in a style that alluded to posters for Soviet May Day, calling on people to join the ‘Shopping Revolution’ at The Blanchardstown Centre.

What exactly the ‘revolution’ involves is unclear, although the promise of ‘free parking’ on the poster might indicate that the emancipation of the working classes through the purchase of M&S underwear is not the main objective.

What it does indicate is that images and words of revolution and counterculture can be used to sell anything these days. Almost complete obliviousness to history means they are denuded of their original significance. So Vodafone can launch a campaign about a mobile broadband revolution knowing that its potential customers are unlikely to associate ‘revolution’ with, say, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.

Which is why diners at Café Mao in Dublin, as Henry McDonald points out in today’s Observer, should look up Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s new book on Mao:

Just imagine if an entrepreneur opened a restaurant in central Dublin called Café Hitler, serving up traditional Germanic fare such as sauerkraut, schnitzel and apple strudel. Jewish and anti-fascist groups would (quite rightly) picket the establishment, accusing its owners of having the worst possible taste by choosing the name of a mass murderer for their business.

Yes, but the ‘Chairman Mao’ being honoured here is not the historical monster responsible for the deaths of millions, but the character who appears in a Beatles song, like Rita the Meter Maid or Polythene Pam. There’s a revolution going on, y’know.

Summertime and the livin’ is squeezy..

L’Orange, by Francis Ponge.

When there’s a warm spell in Ireland, shopping centres North and South can be relied upon to include a Beach Boys compilation in their piped music selection. The band’s early song lyrics say quite a lot about summer fun, yet winter fun inspired them to write one of the most ludicrous lyrics in modern popular music: the grimly banal ‘Christmas comes this time each year’.

Yet for a song about Northern Ireland, ‘Marching season comes this time each year’ has a certain ring to it.

Ham sandwiches and cups of tea. Music and sunshine. Parades. Water cannons, petrol bombs and broken limbs.


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June 2005
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