Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mind the gap

We are informed with brain-gelling regularity that new and social media (such as blogging) have dealt a killer blow to proper old-fashioned newspapers - see here for one creative response. (Thanks to JW-S for the tip.)

So how’s the health of this rampaging behemoth that has the blood of a thousand journalists on its hands? (Note to self - do behemoths have hands?)

Well, the Urban Woo has shut up shop, as has the Wastrel (formerly Spinsterella) and, it would appear, Bob Swipe; First Nations is on a virally-induced hiatus, and Patroclus is in a similar state (although she'd doubtless blame work and a bizarrely hued kitten). OPC? Nine-Tenths? It’s as if they’ve all spotted the precarious state of, say, the Chicago Tribune and decided they want a go.

Which leads to a tricky question: if newspapers are dying; and the things that killed them are dying; what’s going to fill the hole?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I haven’t posted here since Saturday. I could get all meta and ponder the socially acceptable time limit between posts (and the point at which people start wondering whether you’re dead). Or I could just stick this up, on the basis that what’s good enough for Graham Linehan is OK for the rest of us:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The wane of wax

Celebrated Record Store Day with a farewell trip to Beanos in Croydon, which is closing down and reinventing itself as an indoor market of some description. I've long had a soft spot for Beanos because it's where we got most of the vinyl that powered the jukebox we hired for our wedding in 2000 (the biggest single expense of the day, as far as I recall).

As I suggested a few weeks ago, with reference to Bangkok bookshops, it's difficult to assess a product's popularity by its presence or absence in a second-hand shop. If the five-for-a-quid rack contains, for example, several copies of 'Love Your Sexy...!!' by Byker Grooove, it might suggest that nobody wants it - but it also reminds us that someone once did.

I didn't buy it, but I did buy this:

(And no, I know it's not Coldcut.)

The Clement Freud Memorial Blogmeet...

...took place on a rainy night in Soho, and featured appearances by Billy, Llewtrah, Rockmother, Slaminsky and one's good self. Subjects touched upon included harpsichords, the general grooviness of Derek Griffiths, and what a shame it was that LC had chosen to stay at home with his Judy Garland records rather than joining us.

But the best moment came as we loitered outside the French House, a hostelry otherwise frequented by actors you sort of recognise from telly, except that the people you're thinking of are dead (in this case, the one who looks like Denis Quilley, but gayer, and the more ginger Ian Bannen). As we supped and ruminated, a gentleman whose liver had known better days came among us.

"I'll not lie," he announced, always a good start, "I'm asking for money so I can buy myself a drink."

Touched by his barefaced honesty, we each contributed a bit of fiscal shrapnel. And as he staggered away, Billy said:

"I'll be bloody pissed off if he goes and buys a cup of tea with that."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brian's tie-in

I once worked for the man, no longer with us, who claimed to have invented the idea of reprinting books to tie in with TV adaptations (he’d been head of marketing at Penguin when The Forsyte Saga was on telly first time round). Obviously, a high-profile TV or movie (or even radio) version works wonders for sales, sometimes decades after a book first came out.

But if we accept that many book are purchased because they reinforce the desired self-image of the reader (the black-clad 19-year-old with a copy of Camus or Kerouac in his greatcoat pocket), are these TV tie-ins such a great idea? The movie version of Watchmen has prompted a lot of me-firsting, not just from people who read the book in the 80s, but also from those who read the original comics. Surely wielding a copy of Slumdog Millionaire or The Damned United with a movie still on the front brands you as a meek belonger, a pack follower, a Cloughie-come-lately?

Maybe publishers should just print dummy copies, with the movie poster on the cover, but blank pages inside, and deposit them on the shop shelves to lure in the punters - who can then buy artfully distressed copies (discreetly displayed next to the dummies) without cover shots of Michael Sheen or that bloke from Skins, so they can affect cultured ignorance that the movie even exists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Songs from a (school) room

A short piece for RBP, about childhood and Leonard Cohen and stuff.

My tractor’s got no nose

Hastily cobbled-together first draft of a thesis, after visiting Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism at Tate Modern (and fondly remembering a previous exhibition at the V&A):

Monday, April 13, 2009

Destroying the economy, one hotel booking at a time

I did say I’d stop writing about the political situation in Thailand, because it’s turned into a modern-day version of the Schleswig-Holstein Question, but the Graun asked nicely, so I came up with this.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pablo hummy

As you enter the exhibition Picasso: Challenging the Past (at the National Gallery until June 7), you’re confronted with a sign declaring: “LECTURING IS NOT PERMITTED IN THE EXHIBITION”.

Which raises a number of questions, not least the precise definition of lecturing. Obviously you don’t want your viewing disturbed by 47 wannabe Schamas, what exactly is the distinction between that and the sort of low-level explicatory natter that two friends might share when looking at a painting? While it’s deeply annoying to get an unsolicited running commentary during a film or play, a certain level of chat is tolerable in the otherwise silent gallery.

Although of course, it’s not silent: the ambient noise of the modern gallery is the fractured buzz leaking from those bloody headphones, all slightly out of sync with each other, as if a Tube carriage-full of commuters had all started the same track on their iPods at two-second intervals. To be honest, I’d rather have a wannabe Schama, even at the risk of provoking a scene like this:

As it was, the main distraction from the buzz (apart from the exhibition itself, of course, which is quite good, but a bit short for 12 quid) was the sight of a lady sitting and sketching in front of ‘Women of Algiers (After Delacroix)’, apparently unfazed by all the people standing in her way. Only by looking over her shoulder did I realise that she was drawing the people, not the painting.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thom’s Thomism

Just to note that Radiohead and Philosophy is now available from Amazon in the UK (and presumably in bookshops and libraries and things).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Freek zine

If you can tear yourself away for a moment from the ruthless twazmuppeting of poor Sir Fred, do check out Freekly. It’s an application that tracks your iTunes listening habits to create a bespoke weekly music magazine, drawn from the archives of Rock’s Backpages. Well, that’s the idea, at least. The temptation is surely to listen to nothing but Nurse With Wound or The Saturdays, just to push the product to the limit. But what’s wrong with that?

And if you don’t get the laboured pun in the post title:

Freddie’s dead

Type twazmuppet into Google.

Go about half way down the first page.

Say thank you, LC.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hey, hey LBW

Just finished Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, which is about many things – marriage, masculinity, mid-life crises, migration – but above all about the barely visible subculture of cricket in New York. O’Neill describes it as a post-American novel: as the dust of 9/11 refuses to settle, a hodgepodge of immigrants indulge in a pastime that’s almost as alien to the American psyche as Marxism or not liking apple pie. (Although, as one character points out, cricket was played in New York in the 1770s, and the first international sporting events were cricket matches between the USA and Canada, in the 1840s.)

I think I’m reading it at exactly the right time. America may not yet have ceded the 21st century to China and India at the G20 summit, but Obama’s presence at the G20 summit struck a new tone of humility. Meanwhile, Afghanistan responds to its prolonged occupation not by opening McDonalds and Starbucks in Kabul, but by moving inexorably towards a place in the next Cricket World Cup.

Cricket becomes the signifier of not-Americanness; the next step will be America meekly submitting to its charms. And the conclusive sign that the American hegemony is over will be President Paris Hilton bowling the first googly of the 20/20 World Series.

Friday, April 03, 2009

La Chanson de Roland III (instrumental)

Sorry, all been a bit frantic this week, so I haven’t really had time to come up with a proper blog post. And you know what that means: