Friday, November 24, 2006

You terrible Clint

I tried to write a review of Flags Of Our Fathers, but it went a bit strange and turned into this.


Annie said...

Nice article. Taichilo's comment made me laugh:

It is very early and my brain is still asleep - but my feeling is that it's language that is still the big barrier, and that the West conquered the world through pop music lyrics...

Anonymous said...

Language is, indeed , the barrier ... ironically, the English language went out and conquered the world and then let America conquer us. Unlike many nations who, while enthusiastically consuming American products still retain some form of national identity (I know, a huge subject in its own right), we in the U.K. seem to have collapsed into a nation(s) of Yank wannabes.
No knee-jerk anti-Americanism intended there, but look at the state of our film industry ... it's partly because we share a language that we are just a little adjunct to Hollywood.

Although, in the 21C, aren't Spanish and Chinese dialects due to take over?

treespotter said...

very interesting article tho i think i'm disagreeing with some bits of it. perhaps later when i'm a little more sensical.

re: language, i don't really mind spanish or chinese, but please not now. later.

Indonesian too, maybe?

Molly Bloom said...

I think we should remember that there are some wonderful Americans and many of the things that we have adopted from America are wonderful too. Sometimes we tarnish all America with the same brush.

Language is power.

Tim Footman said...

Annie: CiF readers and Guardian readers form distinct (albeit overlapping groups). Lots of swivel-eyed Bushites stage raids (although I don't want to intrude on Anthony & Molly's little domestic about whether or not septics are shite).

Tree: Nah. I think the world language should be Taglish. It rocks.

Spinsterella said...

Blimey Tim, you get some awfully long-winded comments on CiF.

I like what Arcane said about Asian influences in Australia. Only true in the big cities, but still, it was something I noticed over there as well.

Awesome Thai food in Sydney.

Anonymous said...

I was going to make the same point about the Commonwealth creativity behind LOTR.

A piece of Asian culture has seeped into primetime in the NBC series Heroes (the Lost-like series about ordinary people who discover they have super powers, and try to learn why and what for). The future is depicted in manga-like drawings being turned out by one of the characters. And the most popular storyline is of Hiro--the Japanese guy who can bend time. (And the guy in India is the one piecing it all together.) Anyway--fairly notable for network prime time--the mainstream of the mainstream.

Two news point: I have spun myself off into a personal blog, which I hope you will visit (and which owes its identity to the talents of Sydney Newman, Brian Clemens, and Albert Fennell--Brits all).

And for those who can't sleep: over at we are live webcasting a panel of American bloggers on the effect of blogs on the midterms and '08 American elections on Tues. at 6:30 p.m. EST. You can jump in to the live blogging of the event, which the moderator, Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine will try to incorporate into the discussion.

I don't presume you care about the effects of blogs on the American electoral process . . . just letting you know the event is happening.

patroclus said...

CiF is a scary old place, isn't it?

Apart from the language barrier, someone made the point that US companies (predominantly R. Murdoch) have tended to own the means of distribution for cultural products.

But now the shiny world of Web 2.0 means that (almost) anyone can distribute their cultural products via the internet. Technorati's latest shows that Japanese and Chinese blogs now collectively account for more of the blogosphere (33% and 10% respectively) than English-speaking blogs (39%). If two Chinese students can make a video (admittedly of them miming to a Backstreet Boys song) that becomes the most popular one on YouTube, then what's stopping Asian filmmakers using YouTube as a distribution channel?

Forward the revolution, etc.

NB I noticed in yesterday's Observer Business section Simon Caulkin saying 'Take the rise of the bloggers. This is no simple accident of technology, but the price newspapers are paying for having treated readers as passive consumers without bothering to find out more about them as news users. Yay!

Tim Footman said...

Spin/MA: Yeah... on second thoughts, my broad-brush approach conflated American influence with the rest of the Anglosphere. Ooops. But US culture is really the default voice. I just watched V For Vendetta (not that I'm slow, or anything) and found it depressing that such a defiantly, specifically British story had to have its script doctored for the benefit of US English-speakers (not just "skedule", which seems to have become the standard UK usage, although I'll fight it to the death, but "standing in line", "lever" - rather than "lEEver"...)

Oh, and MA, your site looks fab, and entirely appropriate to the leather-draped raunchette herself. Go there, people, please.

Patroclus: My post about CiF is brewing gently, honest. And I agree with your PoV about means of distribution, but when you put it like that it sounds like doctrinaire Marxism, which encourages a different sort of kneejerk response, etc etc...

Anyway, I suspect there might be a sequel to the CiF piece in the pipeline, seeing as how I'm going to Tokyo next week... I'm getting all Adam & Joe-ish...

patroclus said...

Yes, I almost put 'oo get me, all Marxist and that' in brackets, but I'm trying to be less self-aware these days.

There is, and has been at least since the 1890s when it was terribly trendy, an awful lot of Japanese influence in Western art and design. Maybe that's because no words are required. And also food, as Spin pointed out. Curry (and not just anglicised tikka masala) being Britain's new national dish and all that.

Tim Footman said...

Fair points, but:

1. The Japanese design influence (Toulouse-Lautrec, Rennie Mackintosh, etc) was often invisible to consumers, if not to practitioners. Only in the 1980s, with the big fashion designers (Yamamoto, Kenzo etc) and the yuppie trend for ostentatious minimalism, did Japanese-ness become truly desirable in and of itself, and even then, it was a minority elite that desired it.

2. Indian (and Chinese and Thai and Italian etc etc) food is, of course popular, and there's an increasing demand for authentic (rather than school-dinnersy) ethnic cuisine. But it's simply a matter of the cuisine - people don't have a curry because they aspire to be Indian, they don't read the Bhagavad Gita afterwards. They have a curry because they like the taste.

Whereas Western, and specifically US pop culture is inextricably bound up in a myth of American-ness. Coke and McDonald's appeared at a time when America itself, as an essence, was exotic. Levis mean rock 'n' roll; Starbucks meanes Friends; in SE Asia, I find that rap/R&B signifies a sense of cultural/racial fusion that's still a wee bit taboo - Asian attitudes to black people might constitute another post, another time.

America sells itself through pop culture as something to which the masses can aspire. I don't think Asia has yet managed that.

patroclus said...

Oh, I see what you mean.

But what makes you think that people specifically aspire to be American, rather than simply incorporate elements of American culture into their own life?

And Asia must be selling itself to the West somehow - how otherwise would it have come to be the de rigueur destination for hordes of backpackers?

Oh, I don't know, what do I know, honestly. I'm going back to writing about sticking RFID tags on mortuary corpses.

Spinsterella said...

I think I could stretch the learning about the world through food thing quite a long way.

Mind you, maybe it only applies to peasants like me who grew up in provincial backwaters where pasta was considered to be revolutionary.

Not like you posh types with your school-friends with swimming pools and all that.

Mangonel said...

I notice that your link took us to your article, the Printable Version. When do we get to see the Unprintable Version?

Tim Footman said...

Patroclus: I just think the immersion is deeper. Walking down the street in BKK, seeing the visible brands, the clothes, hearing the music, etc. Add to this the American mythos, the frontier fantasy, manifest destiny, The Godfather immigrant ideal ("I believe in America")...

Yes, there's Asian influence in the West, and yes, backpackers do visit, but very few of them take back any in-depth knowledge.

There's a guy called Richard D Lewis, one of the world's top authorities on cross-cultural management. He says that one advantage for anyone doing business with Americans is that it's almost certain that you know more about them than they know about you.

Spin: It was a very small pool.

Mangonel: It was the same as the printable one, except that it had erotic etchings of what I imagine other CiF posters look like in their pants.

Anonymous said...

Tim, clearly I am the '66-'67, color, Alun Hughes incarnation. There is no leather.

Tim Footman said...

Aaargh, caught out by the only person on the planet more pedantic than I am. How to respond?

OK... if one of the wonders of the web/blogging is that you can recreate yourself however you like ("On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog"), then surely the flipside is that your readers can also recreate them in any shape or form, mono or colour, leather or no. And you'll be delighted to know that, round these parts, Mrs Peel, your form is this.

(Loosens cravat slightly, and wonders if it might be too early for a pink gin.)

patroclus said...

Yes, sorry Tim, I realised that I was arguing about something I knew nothing about, never having visited Asia or anything.

Thanks for that CiF article. I liked this bit: 'Even in their quieter modes, denizens of the web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others'.

To which I would, of course, reply: Kate Muir. Liz Jones. That Jeremy Langmead fellow. Any other weekend supplement columnist you might care to name.

It'll be a nice day when journalists finally accept the fact that they no longer have a monopoly on revealing the minute detail of their private lives to the public - and that their own lives are no more or less interesting than anyone else's.

I also look forward to the (possibly slightly more remote) day when the cult of celebrity collapses in on itself, as people realise that the minute detail of Victoria Beckham's life is also no more or less interesting than anyone else's.

But that's probably a whole different debate.