Wednesday, March 07, 2018

About NME

The NME has announced it is closing its print edition and becoming a digital-only product. The end of an era, if that era hadn’t ended in about 2002 (or 1995 or 1981 or pick the year you finally gave up and grew up).

PS: That said, a glance at the cover wrap of that last issue perhaps unwittingly explains what’s really gone wrong for print media:

PPS: And inside, confirmation of exactly how bland and impotent a beast the NME has become, when even the mildest swear is asterisked into oblivion:

Monday, March 05, 2018

About Duchamp and Cage

Lovely write-up in Hyperallergic of the Duchamp/Cage chess match, 50 years ago today.
While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

About posthumanism (again)

The career paths that remain free from threats by encroaching technology seem to be vanishing by the day. Now, fashion models join the list, as Dolce & Gabbana replaces the skinny, glum-looking ladies with drones.

PS: On similar lines, the tale of Shudu Gram, the model who doesn’t exist.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

About empathy

President Trump’s notes for his meeting yesterday with high school students and parents to discuss school shootings. Picture by Carolyn Koster/AP.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

About sensitivity

An interesting article from the Chicago Tribune about the trend for publishers and authors to hire “sensitivity readers” to scan texts for That Which May Offend. A couple of excerpts:
Clayton [one of the readers], who is black, sees her role as a vital one. “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they're supposed to be escapist and fun,” she says. They're not supposed to be a place where readers “encounter harmful versions” and stereotypes of people like them.
Vehicles for pleasure? Escapist and fun? Why would you pay for your book to be read by someone who has such a reductive view of what reading is for? Then author Kate Messner opines:
I wouldn’t dream of sending those books out into the world without getting help to make sure I’m representing those issues in a way that’s realistic and sensitive.
Realistic and sensitive? If you had to make a choice between the two, Kate, which would you pick?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

About education

Education secretary Damian Hinds on proposals for variation in tuition fees between courses:
What we need to look at is the different aspects of pricing — the cost that it is to put on the course, the value that it is to the student and also the value to our society as a whole and to our economy for the future.
“Value.” Such an interesting word.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

About the skeleton

And it’s the Winter Olympics, when we suddenly become experts on the strangest sub-zero pastimes, and then forget about them for another four years. This time round I’m particularly fascinated by the skeleton, but that may be down to my youthful obsession with 1930s horror movies.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

About class

Facebook is apparently developing technology that determines users’ social class. But I don’t know why they bothered. You can immediately judge anyone’s class on the basis of how they refer to their grandmothers. If you call her “nan” or “nanna” you’re almost certainly working class. If you call her “grandma” or “granny” you’re probably middle class. And if you call her “the Dowager Duchess of Chorlton-cum-Hardy” you’re proper posh and there’s no mistake, missus.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

About culture wars

Stolen from Hegemony Jones on Facebook.
If we are going to have a made-up intergenerational culture war where one generation gets accused of being “problematic”, and the other gets accused of being “snowflakes”, can we agree in advance to make it about something - anything - other than FriendsI’m well up for a completely meaningless and invented ruck with the youth, not least because they are all going to outlive me, the little bastards, but I’m not prepared to die in a ditch in defence of the most anodyne shit known to man. A man has standards. It’s hardly Ice-T or Piss-Christ.

Monday, February 05, 2018

About robots

In-class thinking: posthumanism, encompassing androids, cyborgs, VR, zombies and more.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

About Atwood

A nugget I’d missed when first reading Margaret Atwood’s recent, rather controversial piece answering the preposterous charge that she’s a bad feminist:
The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

Friday, January 26, 2018

About Leonardo

If you’re going to publish a book called The Death of Expertise, bemoaning the lack of respect accorded to people who actually know stuff, maybe it’s not such a great idea, on only the second page of the preface, to refer to the man who painted the Mona Lisa as “Da Vinci”, as if that were his surname.

PS: It seems to be catching. Although it’s only the banal charlatan Jeff Koons, so, whatever.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

About content

Reminded of a comment by Marshall McLuhan while listening to Douglas Coupland’s documentary on Radio 4:
...the ‘content’ of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind... 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

About VR

Stumbling out of London Bridge, I see a poster for something to do at the bloody Shard, touting itself as “the UK’s highest Virtual Reality experience”. But surely the whole point of VR is that it transcends physical location; and if you’re aware that you’re genuinely, empirically however-many-analogue-storeys above London, rather than within the slightly emetic digital world created by the headset, then something’s not quite working.

There’s probably a metaphor here for global capitalism but I’m not sure if it’s worth pursuing.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

About Christopher Robin

When I was very young, maybe five or six, there was a family holiday to Devon. At one point we ended up in a bookshop. I was probably mooching among the Ladybirds when my father nudged me and pointed towards the back of the shop, from where a bespectacled man had appeared, muttered something to the lady at the till and then disappeared again. “That’s Christopher Robin,” whispered Dad.

And it really was. Christopher Robin Milne had opened the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth in 1951, barely tolerating the gawpers who still saw him as the slightly fey child of his father’s books, all of them seemingly unaware (the clue’s in the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, people) that childhood isn’t a lifetime deal. I was still coming to terms with the distinction between fiction and real life, a confusion that wasn’t resolved by teachers who told us Bible stories in the same tones they reserved for sums and spelling; and if I’d deduced that Christopher Robin at least had his roots in reality, I couldn’t quite cope with the idea that this, to me, phenomenally old man (he would then have been in his early/mid-50s) was the blond, leggy friend to Pooh and Eeyore and all.

That said, in retrospect, he was probably the first Famous Person I’d seen in real life, outside the frame of a TV screen. And I still reckon that’s a pretty good one to start with.

Who was yours?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

About Banksy (not for the first time)

Bristol Museum is in hot water for selling prints of a Banksy work without the mystery stenciller’s permission. On the face of it, it’s a straightforward copyright issue; but of course Banksy made his reputation as a graffitist, a subversive, a lawbreaker, a defacer. He does things in galleries now, but derives his authenticity from his time on the streets, where copycats attract opprobrium, but not lawyers’ letters. One purchaser cancelled his order when he found the print wasn’t authorised, as if a picture of something that Banksy did (not the work itself) is only good if Banksy says it is.

Which reminds me – “authentic” and “author” and “authorised” and “authority” all come from the same root.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

About posthumanism

I’m reading Katherine Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman (which Blogger turns into “Postman”, which is nice, and sexist), and came across this on Twitter and I know it’s *meant* to be funny but I’m not really laughing, sorry.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

About that reshuffle

Our new Culture Secretary.

About Chile

Greil Marcus, discussing the UK post-punk scene, circa 1980:
Among the many mysteries of British culture I know I will never solve is the meaning of “Chile Solidarity Disco.”

Sunday, January 07, 2018

About All the Money in the World

When I was younger, I had several of those books about the behind-the-scenes scandals and secrets of the movie industry, sort of PG-rated Hollywood Babylon. One chapter I remember was about the casting ideas that didn’t come off, accompanied by slightly wonky collages that showed what The Wizard of Oz would have been like with Shirley Temple and WC Fields, or Doris Day as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate. Of course, it’s impossible to watch All the Money in the World – as I tried to do last night – without thinking of the unfortunate circumstances that preceded its release. The difference is, that this isn’t a “what if?” A version of the movie with Kevin Spacey actually exists and we don’t need to glue a cut-out of his head onto Christopher Plummer’s body to make it so; in fact, the collage effectively happened the other way round, with Plummer interpolated to a film that was already essentially finished. One effect of the last-minute change is that you’re constantly focusing on the artificiality of the filming process, knowing that all the scenes with Plummer were thrown together a few weeks ago, long after the other stuff had been shot. When actors talk about “the old man” they didn’t have an image of Plummer as J Paul Getty in their heads; as you see a reaction shot to Plummer, he or she was probably reacting to Spacey (who’s several inches shorter than his replacement, which must have added to the fun).

It’s a pity, because although Plummer is very good, his is strictly a supporting role. The real centre of the film is Michelle Williams as Getty’s daughter-in-law Gail, exactly the sort of role we need for women in a post-Weinstein universe, discovering her own hidden strengths without needing to flash her cleavage; but she’s all but buried as we try to work out how the venerable Plummer was shoehorned into the action.

Both Williams and Plummer are tipped for Oscars. There’s a healthy tradition of people winning statuettes for reasons extrinsic to the performances in question, which often aren’t their best; Judi Dench for not having won it for Mrs Brown the year before; Henry Fonda for not having won one at all, and being nearly dead; John Wayne for being John Wayne. But Plummer could be the first person to acquire an award for who he isn’t.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

About Mastermind (again)

In case you a) missed it and b) care. (That’s not me, by the way.)