Tuesday, December 03, 2019

About footnotes

At the beginning of Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine, about the ills of social media:
In writing this book, I set out to avoid burdening it with references and scholarship. I want it to be read as an essay, rather than as a polemic or an academic work. But for anyone who wants to know more, or simply finds themselves asking, ‘How does he know that?’ there are bibliographical notes at the end. If you find yourself itching to research a quote, statistic, or fact, simply skip to the end and search under the page number for the relevant phrase.
You see, I’ve never understood this hostility to footnotes, but every time I’ve written a book, I’ve been encouraged by editors to rein in my enthusiasm, because they put people off, apparently. When did references and scholarship become a burden? (There are notes in the Seymour book, but they're tucked away at the back, so as not to scare the more fragile reader.)


Thursday, November 28, 2019

About Miller and James

News came in yesterday of the deaths of two polymaths, Jonathan Miller and Clive James. I found this chat between the two, astonished that such freewheeling, unscripted, funny cleverness once popped up in a primetime slot on a mainstream channel; note that Miller isn’t plugging his latest product – he’s just there because he can talk well. When people talk about how wonderful podcasts are, I tell them they’re just what TV used to be.



It was a little depressing though that the deaths of two people blessed with such intelligence and knowledge should be accompanied by such outright wrongness. No, Evan Davis on Broadcasting House (Radio 4), Michael Grade did not give Clive James his television break on LWT in the late 70s; he’d had a regular berth on So It Goes for Granada in 1976 and was doing telly for several years before that. On the same frequency, a Front Row presenter claimed that Miller was a Cambridge contemporary of Eric Idle, when there was a decade or so between them. And, most glorious of all was Sarah-Jane Mee on Sky News, happily remembering a contretemps with the Bee Gees, oblivious of the fact she was thinking of the wrong Clive...

And the most poignant thing is the fun they would have had with such gaffes.

PS: Good article in the FT about the way each of them straddled the high/low divide:
Miller and his colleagues said: we refuse to take some things seriously just because respectable opinion says we should. James, you could say by contrast, said: I am determined to take some things seriously even though respectable opinion says I shouldn’t. The two positions are complementary.

Friday, November 22, 2019

About Beat Happening

Back in 2002, K Records released Crashing Through, a seven-disc box set devoted to the recorded output of the indie rock band Beat Happening. I asked Stephen McRobbie of the Pastels to review it for Careless Talk Costs Lives magazine, which remains the most quintessentially indie thing I’ve ever done (having chickened out from dancing on stage with Belle and Sebastian at a gig in Bangkok).

Now, there’s a new box set, We Are Beat Happening. It’s on vinyl this time, which I thought at first would make it more indie (analogue rather than digital), although it’s been remastered (at Abbey Road, no less), which I reckon seriously misses the point of BH’s lo-fi charm, and it actually contains less music than Crashing Through, losing the bonus tracks and the live mini-album.

And then of course I remembered that vinyl (or, ugh, “vinyls”), doesn’t mean what it used to mean. It’s a style thing, a hipster thing, it’s an acquisition. Really, they should have released the whole thing on cassettes. No, even better, they should have got someone to play it on the radio, and recorded that broadcast on cassettes, and decorated the inlay card with poems about someone who doesn’t fancy you, and CND stickers, and maybe burned off the corner of the case with a cigarette lighter.

Then I discovered that another band, the Oh Sees, are releasing a box set on eight-track cartridges. Now, who could I get to review that?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

About Fat Roland

If it’s meta to write a blog post about blogging, how meta is it to post something about another blogger's blog post about blogging? Oh, I don’t know. Go and ask the excellent Fat Roland, who’s been doing this even longer than I have, the silly bugger.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

About #OKBoomer

I first noticed the phrase “OK Boomer” a few months ago, but didn’t really get it. I’m neither a boomer nor a millennial; I believe I fall into the sociological sweetie jar called Generation X (named after the Douglas Coupland novel, not Billy Idol’s band or the Deverson/Hamblett book about 60s kids) so I believed that I had no particular skin in this game.

But I’m being pedantic, aren’t I, and referring back to books and music from the seriously olden days, which is exactly the sort of behaviour that prompts the phrase in the first place. It’s a non-specific “you wouldn’t understand” whine, just the sort of thing I probably wielded towards my own parents when I was about 15 and had been listening to Joy Division and writing some bloody awful poetry when I should have been doing maths revision.

What is interesting though, is that, by undergoing the intense analysis its suffered in the past few days, the #OKBoomer meme has immediately lost its special power, its ability to act as a secret code between the young, something that the old farts won’t get or even notice. It’s like a long-lost film or album that held us all in special thrall because nobody had ever seen it – A Clockwork Orange, for example, which couldn’t officially be shown in Britain for decades – that reveals itself to be pretty ordinary in daylight. But that was before your time, wasn’t it?

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

About the Tollemache-Tollemaches


Some people think I’m in possession of a good memory but in reality it’s always been pretty flawed, and is getting worse. I was never good at useful stuff like revising for exams, or learning lines for plays, or recalling birthdays. But other stuff, pointless stuff, adheres when I don’t even ask it to.

An example: at a very early age, I read in an old copy of the Guinness Book of Records that the longest surname was borne by one Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache and without any conscious effort I’ve remembered that name for more than four decades. When I went to a secondary school with delusions of grandeur, I discovered that there was a Major-General Sir Humphry Tollemache, Bt, on the board of governors, a name that would have sounded gloriously over-the-top in any other context, but I always assumed he was one of the provincial also-rans of the family. (“No, he’s one of the single-barrelled ones. We send him a Christmas card, but that’s all.”)

Sadly, I recently became aware that Leone’s record was something of a dud; in fact, Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache’s surname was merely the relatively succinct Tollemache-Tollemache and not, as the McWhirters asserted, Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache. (Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet were just extra forenames.) However, to make up for that, I discovered that he had a brother with an even better name: Lyulph Ydwallo Odin Nestor Egbert Lyonel Toedmag Hugh Erchenwyne Saxon Esa Cromwell Orma Nevill Dysart Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache. Which is lovely, but for some reason, it’s not sticking.

PS: And as I wrote the above, I remembered the case of Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff­welche­vor­altern­waren­gewissen­haft­schafers­wessen­schafe­waren­wohl­gepflege­und­sorg­faltig­keit­be­schutzen­vor­an­greifen­durch­ihr­raub­gierig­feinde­welche­vor­altern­zwolf­hundert­tausend­jah­res­voran­die­er­scheinen­von­der­erste­erde­mensch­der­raum­schiff­genacht­mit­tung­stein­und­sieben­iridium­elek­trisch­motors­ge­brauch­licht­als­sein­ur­sprung­von­kraft­ge­start­sein­lange­fahrt­hin­zwischen­stern­artig­raum­auf­der­suchen­nach­bar­schaft­der­stern­welche­ge­habt­be­wohn­bar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wo­hin­der­neue­rasse­von­ver­stand­ig­mensch­lich­keit­konnte­fort­pflanzen­und­sicher­freuen­an­lebens­lang­lich­freude­und­ru­he­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­an­greifen­vor­anderer­intelligent­ge­schopfs­von­hin­zwischen­stern­art­ig­raum Sr, who made the poor old Tollemache-Tollemaches look rather amateurish. And I remembered that I did actually try to memorise his name, but never managed it.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

About Le monde selon Radiohead

Enough of the teasers. Watch lots of clever people explain five awkward, pale posh boys with guitars, while I wave my hands around and try to remember bits of Chomsky. (He’s in it, as is Steve Reich.)