Monday, March 12, 2007

Dumb and then some

I've written before about Jade off of Big Brother, and about Jade: My Autobiography, by Jade Goody, which is a book about Jade off of Big Brother written by Jade off of Big Brother. I feel slightly unclean in raising the subject again, but she infects the Zeitgeist to the extent that it's unavoidable. If I were writing this blog in the 14th century (apart from the fact that I'd be burned for sorcery) I'd feel obliged to raise the unpleasant fact of the Black Death. So it is with Jade. Sorry.

I come back to her because of a new survey that lists the books that Brits don't finish. All the usual suspects are in place: Ulysses; War and Peace; The Satanic Verses; big, important books that you feel you ought to read, but never quite get around to finishing. Or even start; one of the most disturbing findings from the poll is that 55% of respondents buy books for decoration, with no intention of reading them.

This becomes even more depressing when you realise that one of the unread books is the aforementioned Jade: My Autobiography. Now, I can see all sorts of reasons for not reading the book, and for not buying it in the first place. But, presuming you're the sort of person who might choose to acquire it, you're not likely to cast it aside with disgust, because you suddenly realise what a dreadful woman J.O.O.B.B. is. So there can be only two reasons for not pursuing it to its inevitably gripping conclusion. One is that you find it too intellectually taxing. The other is that you bought it simply as decoration; the implication being that it should be propped up between A Suitable Boy and A Brief History of Time, as a means of impressing the neighbours.

It's then that you remember that the people who purchase Jade: My Autobiography are, to some extent, an elite, in that they buy books at all, even if they only buy them to make other people feel inadequate. Which ties in with another story, about allegations of skulduggery in phone-in quizzes on TV. The big chinstroke for many commentators seems to be about the level of trust between producer and consumer, coupled with the suggestion that you've got to be pretty dumb to keep chucking money at these competitions, despite the production office mantra that the viewer isn't stupid. But wasn't the truth about the aptitudes of the sofa species (or at least the professionals' perception of those aptitudes) already apparent from the questions being asked? As Holy Moly reports, a researcher on This Morning (in its Richard and Judy incarnation) was tasked with setting the teasers for 'Mid-Day Money', and was advised that "What is the capital of France?" might be too challenging a conundrum for the target demographic. His facetious suggestion of "What colour is an orange?", however, was accepted with alacrity.

And before anybody says it, yes, I know. The capital of France is 'F'.

28 comments:

Elizabeth said...

This becomes even more depressing when you realise that one of the unread books is the aforementioned Jade: My Autobiography

I must admit this gumswizzled me for a bit. The only 2 explanations that I can come up with are that:

a) unread Christmas present (what sort of friend would do that?)

b) booked skimmed through in half an hour for the interesting bits and then placed on the bookshelf and ignored

Murph said...

I liked the comment from Lynn Truss's publisher. "These people must have the intelligence of plankton not to be able to get through 204 pages of a comic, readable book," said Andrew Franklin, from Profile.

"Reads, Hoots and Leaves", I suppose.

Billy said...

I didn't have you down as a Holy Moly subscriber, Tim.

I went to a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye that sold books by the yard.

Spinsterella said...

But Tim *IS* Mr Popular Culture, Billy. He needs Holy Moly more than the rest of us.

The only books I've ever given up on are The Lord of the Rings (why is it so popular? it's terrible), Harry Potter I (ditto) and The Enigma of Arrival by VS Naipaul which is the morst turgid piece of horseshit I've ever come across in my whole life.

Wyndham said...

Look, I don't mean to suggest you're naive, Tim, God forbid, but are you really sure Jade off of Big Brother really write her own autobiography. Wasn't Posh once asked about something in her own autobiography to which she replied she didn't know, she hadn't read it.

I'm bloody-minded when it comes to books. There are very few that I haven't managed to plough through, but then I make sure they never have more than 100-pages.

Murph said...

And Tim, your re-indexing of old posts recently brought up the song you wanted played at your funeral - "Ghost Writers in the Sky" wasn't it?

Tim Footman said...

Elizabeth: "Gumswizzled". Glorious.

Murph: Enough with the pun-ishment, please!

Billy/Spin: Holy Moly is Popbitch with an existentialist sheen. I love it.

I'm coming to the conclusion that nobody actually writes their own books, Wyndham. My own magnum opus, Welcome to the Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album (end of plug) was actually written by Kat off of EastEnders. And Martin Amis has sub-contracted his next three novels to the gay one from Westlife.

llewtrah said...

Jade's book counts as a book I wouldn't start, never mind not finish. If it's as thick as its author it can be used to prop a table leg.

rockmother said...

I'm with Spinny on Bored Of the Rings as it has always been referred to in our house. And never ever could finish Vernon God Little - will keep trying. I don't think Jaaaaaaaaaaayde did write her book and didn't someone famous ghost Jordan's - I thought it was someone like Hunter Davies? I could be terribly wrong. I just remember thinking that it was an odd combination.

Tim Footman said...

Llewtrah: In which case you wouldn't buy it. It's those who buy it, but are disappointed that get me.

RoMo: Hunter Davies did Wayne Rooney. And Tom 'Lofty' Watt is the one tasked with putting words of wisdom into Beckham's mouth.

Not sure about Jade or Jordan or Jodie. Will delve.

And I liked VGL, but couldn't get into the follow-up.

misty unsworth said...

I read this blog every day and enjoy it, and the comments, very much, but I like a debate as much as the next shop assistant and three words spring immediately to mind Cosy. Intolerant. Posturing.

So there are stupid people in the world with no taste, get over it. What are they supposed to do about it, take an online degree in metaphysics while wearing an 'I'm serving you ironically' badge on their Asda uniform?

“the people who purchase Jade: My Autobiography are, to some extent, an elite, in that they buy books at all” - yup, in the UK about 50% buy books, ever. You are The Intellectual Elite, Noblesse Oblige anyone?

Tim Footman said...

Hi Misty. I've never seen much of a problem in being intolerant, of itself. Depends what you're not tolerating. I don't see any virtues in tolerating stupidity (although lack of taste should be encouraged). Posturing? Well, to the extent that anybody who writes a blog is offering up a posture, a version of her/himself that's unreal to a greater or lesser extent.

Cosy, I do buy that, although it's not by design. In the time I've been doing this, a little knot of people has gathered round the blog, and we post on each other's offerings, and we seem to have a similar midset. The risk of cosiness is ever present. However, the door is always open, and I've never deleted a comment, even by that nutter who was obsessed by the Thai coup.

Yes, it may be tiresome, even impolite to point out that some people are dim, but if we don't do it, we'll eventually lose the ability to discriminate between what is stupid and what isn't. And that matters.

Oh, and according to an unimpeachable source, Jade's autobiography was written by Lucie Cave, features editor of Heat and author of The World's Stupidest Celebrities.

Tim Footman said...

Good article about ghosting here.

Re: Cosy (above); I hope nobody infers that I don't like having the regulars popping in here. I love you all. And yes, I know 'mindset' has an 'n'.

misty unsworth said...

Yeh, fair play on Posturing (and I like watching the Cosy), but intolerance of stupidity seems to me to be often directed at people who are legal, decent, honest and truthful, and happy and not doing anybody any, non-psychic, harm. Isn't it a consequence nature/nurture, so where does the accountability for enjoying the lowbrow life come into it.
We don't seem to be clamouring to change the system overmuch, but are ready to poke fun at the products.
Before I worked in a bookshop I didn't realise how much of an effort against type it can be for some people to venture in and ask questions and buy something.
That marginal elite might not be good enough, but sometimes I think we should give them a break.

Tim Footman said...

Sound points, Misty. Is it possible to be tolerant of stupid people, but intolerant of stupidity? (cf loving the sinner, hating the sin, etc) That's what I hope I'm doing. It's just so much easier to find a picture of Jade than it is to find one of Jade's dimness.

And you're right about the system - Endemol and C4 and Blake Publishing and the quiz channels are the real villains, for all their bleating about "giving the customers what they want". Although, I know, the dumb potboilers subsidise the good stuff...

I once worked in the record department of WH Smith's, and there were people who were deeply nervous about setting foot there. There will always be barriers, and people will impose them on themselves, even if no-one else sets them.

Valerie said...

This all has me musing about the nature of intelligence and the nature of good taste (and the broad variation in defining what is good and what is bad, tastewise). I don't think I have any conclusions to share, but it does strike me that bad taste tends to bother me more than the lack of intelligence on the face of it. (Though thinking about it, I suppose lack of broad-mindedness disturbs me most of all. But that's neither here nor there.)

I am a foodie, too. Chaucer's Bitch, who is a dear soul, enjoys a good Whopper from BK. Should I look down on this, when such a thing doesn't actually qualify as food in my book? I do have a temptation to say "ew," I admit.

But I think I entirely digress. Just saying that y'all have got me thinking.

Spitting Mad said...

hello everyone.

Don't you think the reason people didn't finish the Jade Goody book (and the Lynn Truss book) could be simply that they started reading it and found they didn't like it? That's more likely to be because they are cleverer than the book than because the book is cleverer than them ;-)

[plug alert]
We've failed to finish many a feature in Observer Woman, and they're only about 2 pages long, never mind 200!
[/plug alert]

Ally McBile @ OWMMS
xx

rockmother said...

Tim - that's funny - I loved the follow-up.

Tim Footman said...

Valerie makes a good point. Ideas about intelligence and knowledge blur seamlessly into the area of taste, which gets uncomfortably close to notions of social class, about which we (especially Brits, but others as well) get exceedingly uncomfortable). No, of course it doesn't matter if CB loves a warm, juicy Whopper (especially if it's attached to a pirate, arf!), but at the same time should V feel guilty that she finds the idea a bit icky?

Welcome Ms Bile, with all your OW-themed spittle. My question is more to do with the act of buying the book. What were they expecting? And what exactly was the shortfall when they read it?

RoMo: Ta, love. But which bit was funny?

rockmother said...

Oh sorry - it was very late when I wrote that. I meant funny in the odd sense that I can't read Vernon God Little but loved the follow-up and you are (like many other people I know who have read his books) the other way round.

Tim Footman said...

OIC. Sorry, too much going on in this post, can't keep track.

I haven't given up on Ludmilla... just haven't found my point of entry yet. Maybe I should be reading the Jade book...

Marsha Klein said...

Oh bugger! Just wrote a long (very repetative) comment all about ignorance and stupidity and society's different attitudes to both and...it's disappeared!

I mentioned Donald Rumsfeld and everything...grrrr.

misty unsworth said...

Ask sixth formers in state schools and public schools what they would think of working in a bank when they leave school, and I bet the public school pupils immediately think of JPMorgan or Schroeder's, the state scholl puils of NatWest and Barclay's, whatever the relative intelligences.
I knew a couple in 1999 who had very blank faces when I made a joke about Monica Lewinski, turns out Bill Clinton registered just as strongly. They were kind and happy and knowing the name of the U.S. president was very low on their list of priorities.
It might be better if everyone was fully armed with a wide range of the facts needed to participate in a well-ordered society, had access to (and realised they had acces to , and how to use that access and what the consequences of having access were likely to be) the full selection of cultural goodies and knowledge of the social nuances of key decisions in life. But do Us really care about Them that much? Once there is a reasonable base level achieved, don't we just stand back and keep our mouths shut and turn the lights off around the ladder?

I'm really just bitter 'cause I used to say 'Oh that Jade is nice, she's a kind person really, just because she doesn't know a lot of things, doesn't mean she's a bad person'. *Hangs head in shame and sorrow*

Elizabeth said...

Tim, I insist you change the name of your blog to Cosy Snow.

Tim Footman said...

Marsha: Yes, the stupidity/ignorance thing is very important. I once met a very successful City investment bank type chap who didn't know the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But do you think Rumsfeld is clever, as well as insane?

Misty: I take your point: people who've never heard of Monica L aren't necessarily wicked. But it's deeply frustrating when people are provided with the means of informing themselves, that they piss it up against the wall. I get frustrated with the general level of debate here in BKK, but many people here have an excuse (having left school at 12 to help in the fields). It's the ones who've made it to university, perhaps with an MBA, and still don't know the capital of Malaysia (which is next door).

It's not ignorance that makes me annoyed - it's lack of any kind of critical curiosity. And yes, I should be blaming the system. And I do. But in a developed, rich society, most (not all) people should be able to set their sights a bit higher.

Tim Footman said...

Elizabeth: Hmmm.... what do you reckon?

I fancy Posturing Snow, although that sounds like a Cherokee chief.

misty unsworth said...

:0 : 0 : ] : ))

llewtrah said...

" Llewtrah: In which case you wouldn't buy it. It's those who buy it, but are disappointed that get me."

I might flick through it out of morbid curiosity in WHSmiths.

On second thoughts, no I wouldn't. My curiosity isn't that morbid ...