Archive for October 25th, 2007

Topanga Canyon

One of the areas being evacuated in California is Topanga Canyon.

Here is a song with that name by John Phillips.

Light of The World

The other day, a reader, who shall remain anonymous (it was my mother), said of this blog’s content that I need to ‘lighten up’ and that it was getting ‘terrible serious’. Well, reader, I don’t recall asking to be born into a cruel and heartless world.

She does have a point, though. Everything I have written about on the first page of this blog is hardly the sort of thing that is the life and soul of the party – shit, gambling addictions, imperialism, pyjamas, imperialism and bombing, imperialism and bombing with references of Nazis, child abductions, state murderers, state murder, David Quinn.

Thing is, it’s near impossible to write intentionally about ‘lighter’ stuff without it being shackled to some sort of heavier stuff. So if I was to attempt writing exclusively about the wonderful fluffiness of a fluffy bunny, I would have to fight hard to suppress images of the bunny getting nailed by a Scania lorry, or thoughts about what singed fur on the vivisection lab’s perimeter fence might smell like.

But it’s not just me. What passes for general ‘entertainment’ these days is often anything but. Look at this from my bloglines feed from Northern Ireland:

IRA worse than 9/11 says writer

In Entertainment

Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing says the 9/11 attacks were “not that terrible” compared with IRA attacks.

Sort of illustrates the general cultural moment, I think. Literature and what goes into it exists as a mere form of entertainment. If someone reads a book, it must be to put an end to the boredom of not working.

The words of writers are presented by media in the same way as, say, a football manager’s verdict on the previous night’s performance, or a celebrity’s latest declaration on how much/little she still wants her straying ex-partner back.

The point in all cases is to elicit a sensation: did you hear what so-and-so said? There’ll be ructions over that! Media then functions as a dummy for earlier forms of human interaction like the natter over the back garden fence or in the queue at the butchers. But no-one talks much to the neighbours these days. So celebrities -a cast of thousands- take their place.

In the real world of ‘free’ terrestrial TV channels, it often feels as though there has been substantial progress towards populating all old-style game show formats with ‘celebrity’ contestants. But perhaps this isn’t so new:

Even so, why would anyone nowadays want to see people like one’s neighbours on the television winning a dishwasher on Bullseye? For the privilege of such nostalgia, get a satellite TV and pay extra.

It feels like part of this is down to the fact that having fun is now an aspiration. Another part is that associating the ‘normal’ person with a suitcase full of cash might be implying impolitely that the person -and, by extension, the viewer- was not in fact already loaded. Much better to have the prizes given to charity, won by people -celebrities- who, it is assumed, don’t need the money. Being absolutely loaded is presented as a state of nature, but the real, unadvertised, prize remains the same: to arrive at a state where you no longer need the money. Via having lots of money.

There are other shows for ‘real live people’, though: talent shows, where the panel of judges reflects that of the idealised job interview (except when it really is a job interview). Then there are others, mainly intended to improve some fundamental element of the plebeian existence, like the sagging face, the feral children, the filthy home, the value of the house.

The Honourable Number Two In The Health Department

Accumulated over centuries of rulings non-words include: blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, ignoramus, liar, rat, swine, stoolpigeon, and traitor. Shit is apparently OK when used as a noun rather than a bodily function.

I don’t understand the last sentence. Does ‘bodily function’ mean verb? That is, it’s ok to say ‘You, sir, are a shit’, but not ‘After that long and pleasant lunch with the honourable member, I am not fit to shit myself’? It would be strange to call someone a shit without intending some association with bowel eliminations.

But maybe what they mean is when the noun shit refers to worse than useless information. E.g. you are full of shit.

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October 2007