Archive for October, 2008

I Almost Literally Wrote This, And Everything

Why John Waters thinks he is writing for ‘uninitiated ostriches’ I cannot say; I can only hope we are to see a police sweep of all internet-based ostrich grooming activities quick smart so that these beautiful, ugly birds can wind up in my burger buns with a minimum of trauma. I do hope, however, that our friend will at some stage be sufficiently humble to consider the possibility that people who read his articles also read other things, even if they do not reach the dizzying salutary heights of his own insights.

Before I go any further, can I just say ‘I don’t like Andrew Sachs’? Thank you. I never liked Manuel in Fawlty Towers, and I never liked his character on Countdown either. Manuel was a malign cultural stereotype, and gave the impression to generations of British people that Spanish people are stupid and subservient. There are few things more bigoted and ignorant than developing figures of mockery based on the fact that they cannot speak your language properly. A corollary to this is the fact that there are few things more laughable than the many English (and Irish, let’s be fair) people who, on learning to string a few pidgin sentences together in a given foreign language, genuinely believe they are dazzling the natives with their fluency. That said, I don’t approve of Ross and Brand’s behaviour: I don’t like it when humour is used to humiliate people who don’t deserve it.

Now, here’s the bit where I think M. Eaux is on the mark:

Russell Brand is an engaging comic talent who has created a persona suggesting a cross between Frank Spencer and Keith Richards, written in the style of Charles Dickens. For all his preening narcissism, there is something beguiling and deeply funny in Brand’s playing of himself as a Willy Wonka of the Pleasure Dome who can’t believe his luck.

Watching Brand and Ross in their occasional TV encounters, it is clear that Ross is utterly in awe, and perhaps a little envious, of the younger man. The transcript of the Sachs broadcast shows that this factor was rampant on that occasion, with Ross trying his hardest to out-Brand Brand. Ross was among the most talented of the 1980s TV generation, a witty and thoughtful facilitator who brought to television a sense of the ironic knowing of the first generation reared in front of the box. But he is now deep into middle age and desperately trying to make the right noises to hang in with the youth audience.

I think this is spot-on. Russell Brand is genuinely funny and Ross was struggling to keep up. But oho! – what’s this?

Brand belongs to a generation for which comedy is almost literally everything, and the laughter factor the only reliable test. The kinds of energies which previous youth generations expressed through music, art or protest have in his generation compressed into a single essence: a dissociated blend of ridicule and humour that lacks roots in any form of empathy.

The sisyphean task of teasing out the full richness of the insight must be resumed: Almost literally everything?  Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, your figurative arms give way under the metaphorical rock, and the impenetrable rolls back over you, flattening your interpretative powers as though they were mere…poo.

Let’s break it down. What does ‘literally everything’ mean? It means, literally, everything. Evirthang! The alpha and the omega, all that surrounds it, and all that doesn’t. The problem of describing something, anything (not necessarily the Todd Rundgren album, but that would be as good an example as any) as everything should become clear. To say this means that the particular is literally the whole. But if the particular is literally the whole then the whole is literally particular, in which case it isn’t really the whole at all. So we get into this sort of goddam freaky mobius strip of interpretation that leaves us drooling and exhausted. And to make the conceptual leap into what might make something ‘almost literally everything’ requires a daring feat of the imagination, almost (literally) doomed to failure, and one which my poor brain cannot even contemplate without buckets of drink.

And all that stuff about energies…compressing…into..essence. This is some sort of sly multilingual pun on the operation of the combustion engine, right?

Let us carry on regardless, for it is the only thing to do. That, and find some bastards to blame for the whole affair.

This comedy obsession arose in large part because this generation had its capacity for idealism usurped and frustrated by the couple of generations which preceded it, which refuse to countenance that anyone could be more “progressive” or engaged than themselves. Because those who emerged from the 1960s have been running everything, and refusing to provide space for challenging alternative perspectives, irony and humour became, for those born after 1970 or so, the sole cultural outlets for their natural transformative energies.

Goddamm hippies. Might I make a plug, at this point, however, for the new album by John Fogerty, he of Creedence Clearwater Revival? Some pretty rockin’ tunes on that. The trademark Creedence guitar metronome, equal parts liberating and enslaving, is cranked up, and Mr Fogerty’s righteous yelp is put to good use in detailing how the whole place has gone to the dogs. Of course, it’s full of idealism-capacity-usurping, but don’t let that put you off.

The tone of detached, vacuous mockery that pervades the internet arises from this cultural stakelessness, now rendered artful by comedians like Russell Brand.

Detached, vacuous mockery, you say? The bastards.

Así que pasen diez años

Today is my granny’s tenth anniversary. After drinking too many cups of coffee yesterday afternoon, I lay awake until late last night trying to capture memories of her. You’d think that the most recent memories are the ones that appear clearest in your mind, but it’s not like that. I can remember the last time I spoke to her though, on the phone, a few days before she died.

Continue reading ‘Así que pasen diez años’

Historical Enquiries Team

I know the past is a foreign country, but how the hell did Alone Again Naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan ever top the UK and US charts? This has to be the most miserable song ever. First verse he contemplates climbing up a tower and jumping off after being left in the lurch on his wedding day and no-one really giving a damn. Next verse he identifies himself with Jesus, wondering why, if God exists, he had deserted him. Then at the bridge he figures there are millions of people just like him. Then he recalls his father’s death and how his now dead mother had to cope. And that’s it. It’s quite funny, I suppose. But still. People went out to buy this in their millions. What was all that about?

Music and Politics

I watched Obama’s 30 minute slot this morning. Actually, I didn’t watch it, I saw the first shot of the waving wheat sure smelling sweet in the golden sun, and I stuck the headphones on and listened to the rest of it as I continued with my daily labours.

The music. Jesus, the music. I can only presume millions of Americans are absolute suckers for that warm guitar sound that sounds ever so slightly like a harp and which I personally first heard in the theme music to Thirtysomething. God knows what it evokes in their guts, but it must be potent. I’m thinking thick sweaters, big ol’ mugs of coffee and long evenings pacing up and down in the intensive care unit.

At times it into sort of High Llamas territory, with unintrusive strings that occasionally veered into darker shades, normally at the moment when someone was disclosing the general misery of existence in tones that I would use to disclose that the milk had gone off. For long stretches though, it was the sort of stuff you quite happily listen to when you’re getting a facial or a full body massage. If it wasn’t for the voices of people talking about politics and shit I would have called the butler upstairs to give my neck a good rub.


A Danger Here-style spotter’s badge for the person to point out the first Irish newspaper article of the season to praise a new-found maturity among Dubliners who have been wearing poppies, or, at the very least, not throwing petrol bombs at the wearer.

I see a military parade is planned for Belfast in honour of soldiers who have been off in Iraq and Afghanistan participating in a project delivering liberation, democracy and civilisation, mainly in the form of bullets and shells, with some high-altitude bombing thrown in for good measure. If a few dozen civilians get killed here, there and everywhere, sure they’re only Arabs, or whatever. Unionist politicians see no contradiction in supporting such activities -calling for the event to be televised, among other things- while praising the RIR for its role in the fight against terrorism.

In fairness, the Taliban supported Al Qaeda, and it flew planes into the twin towers. So you can’t blame the Brits wanting to help out their friends, like they did when they used royal prerogative the other day to justify the expulsion of the Chagos Islanders to build a US military base. And none can doubt their bona fides in combatting tyranny: the UK has multi-billion pound contracts for arms sales to liberal democracy par excellence Saudi Arabia.

So in conclusion, it’s all in a good cause because the MoD says so and I would encourage all who can attend to do so, and show your thanks to the troops for their bravery in occupying countries and killing civilians on your behalf.

Insane On The Brain

On occasion, David McWilliams says sensible things, but not today. Read this.

However, even though the right-brained people were more likely to have foreseen the crash, it doesn’t follow that the right-brained people are the best ones to get us out of this mess. We still (and possibly urgently) need the lefties with their focus, decisiveness and linear minds, who when given the task will execute. Maybe we just need the more ponderous righties to advise them.

He thinks you might be able to resolve a national crisis by putting people with the right brain type in the right role. While they’re at it, they might as well check their star signs and their inside leg measurements.

But while the proposed solution is ridiculous, the problem identified is real.

If people are incapable of seeing a way out it is because their way of thinking is so heavily influenced by a system now on the verge of collapse. There is, alas, little possibility of an immanent critique of capitalism from business schools, accountancy firms and other capitalist institutions. Such a thing would be like expecting the Catholic Church to elaborate a systematic denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

One can confront this reality, or look for wisdom in how-and-why manuals at the airport bookshop.

Common phenomena in internet discourse, no. 1

First in an irregular series:

As I passed the three grinning picanninnes perched atop the bonnet of my car, I cursed the day the people who run this country, who seem incapable of doing anything other than swanning about in their tops and tails, hatched the plan of plunging us into a fedoral Europe. It matters little whether you are from Derby or Panama: no-one likes to see their country to be overrun by immigrants. It is high time we poured ten gallons of petrol on the whole idea of multiculturalism. There needs to be a cap introduced on the number of foreigners getting into this place, as it’s full to the brimmer.

Continue reading ‘Common phenomena in internet discourse, no. 1’

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