Archive for June 18th, 2006

Thomfoolery

The Swearing Lady isn’t too happy with Scottish chanteuse Sandi Thom, and I can’t say I’m too impressed either. Celtic fans may be interested to know that she’s the daughter of former Celtic star and German, Andreas Thom.*

Everyone knows by now how awful the song is, and how she’s ‘really’ a fake. The fact is, though, that even if she had been able to finance all those webcasts and virtual flyers and stuff herself, she’d still be a goddam fake. Or at least, she wouldn’t be any more ‘real’.

The difficulty I find every time I sit down to write about one of these scams, or about an advertisement for a product, or a film that’s in the middle of a promotion campaign, is that even the expression of a negative opinion serves to promote the product even further. That is, promotional campaigns are designed to incorporate the negative responses, and use them for their own ends. So if I protest that she’s a damn fake, I am automatically proposing that there really could be a genuine article, a piece of bona fide musical gold, out there waiting on the internet, for you and for me and all our friends. To RCA records, and the recording industry in general, such a response is welcome: keep tuning in for more authentic examples, and we’ll get there eventually.

The only means of getting around such a situation is to include an association so outrageous that it completely destroys the possibility that your own assessment could serve to promote the product in question even further. A drastic measure, to be sure, but hard to avoid.

Anyway, back to the song itself. Treat the content of the song as something that aspires to profundity, but fails miserably, and you hold out a hope that such a form could actually deliver something profound. In other words, nothing wrong with the form – it’s the content that gives cause for concern. This seems mistaken to me. I tried substituting some of the objects and cultural references in the chorus to see if it would make any difference. I think that the re-written chorus below demonstrates that the form is pretty bankrupt:

Oh I wish I was a Nazi with lacquer in my hair,

In 23 and 33 revolution was in the air,

I was born too late to a world that doesn’t care,

Oh I wish I was a Nazi with lacquer in my hair

The strange thing is that if, for some strange reason, you felt misplaced nostalgia for Nazism, you might not need to alter much of the rest of the song at all. That is, it would be quite consistent for a Nazi to yearn for a time when the head of state didn’t play guitar, when accountants didn’t have control, and the media couldn’t buy your soul [message: the media can buy your soul; or, your soul has already been bought] and, especially, when ignorance could still be bliss.

*Actually, no, she isn’t, I made that bit up.

Summer Reading

Years ago I used to mishear the Don Henley song ‘The Boys of Summer’, hearing ‘The Poison Summer’ instead. Now, when I think about it, ‘the poison summer’ probably sounds better, although I would change ‘have’ to ‘has’.

Anyway, it’s shite. I heard Paul Gambaccini praising it once, so even if it was any good in the first place, I certainly wouldn’t have liked it after that.

So, it’s summer, then. And that can only mean one thing, among others. It’s time for newspapers to run their features on what writers and other literary people will be reading on holidays. Most books that get mentioned I have never heard of, and am never likely to read. And a lot of the selections are cheating too, because they’re books the contributor has already read.

Now, I can be pretty confident that no newspaper is ever going to ask me to contribute a couple of lines what I will be reading during my summer holidays. But if they ever did, I’d make damn sure that any book I happened to mention was a figment of my imagination.

So, this summer I’ll be reading Len Bexley’s searing semi-autobiographical account of a childhood spent living in a hedge in Malvern at the end of the 1950s. After that I’ll be moving on to The Bronze Half-Calf, a 950-page tonal poem by the incomparable Trudi Preston who, I am sad to say, passed away earlier this year. Provided I get the time, I’ll be reading the collected essays of John Bullhorn. Resolute, witty and terse, their treasures reveal themselves with repeated reading. The last on the list, seeing as I’m going on a fish-tasting holiday in Alexandria, is Sturgeon: A Life, by Czech photographer Klaus Benak. It’s a wonderfully vivid photographic account of a life of a sturgeon, with accompanying notes from the ever-excellent Jan Prochazka.

Community Representatives

When they talk about brawlers belonging to the ‘Latvian, Polish, and Portuguese communities’, do they mean that there is a Latvian community, a Polish community and a Portuguese community in Portadown, or do they mean that if you’re a Latvian, you’re automatically part of the Northern Ireland Latvian community, and so on? Just curious as to how these things work. For instance, if I boot someone in the head in London, would I do so as part of the Irish community?


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