Friday, September 29, 2006


Many people have equated religious fervour with the buzz that one might get from sex, drugs, rock and/or roll (delete as appropriate). The whole career of, for example, Marvin Gaye was an attempt to balance their conflicting, yet strangely similar demands. Alternatively, think of the homoerotic cult of St Sebastian, or saucy Hindu art. But, of course, religious people tend not to admit this, because it might involve the painful acknowledgement that they actually possess genitalia. I remember being dumbfounded to discover that the Ayatollah Khomeini was married with kids. Urrggghh... he did it! And so did Ian Paisley! The Catholic Church's objections to The Da Vinci Code aren't about its suggestions that the institution is packed with mad, corrupt murderers; it's the idea that Jesus might have given a little too much of God's love to Mary Magdalene (or Monica Bellucci, as I like to think of her).

No, it's always down to the non-believers to point out that there's not much difference between a Hail Mary and a hand shandy. I just found a story in The Spectator about Francis Crick, discoverer of DNA and committed disciple of the religion-is-bollocks school.

In the early 1960s, Crick was asked to contribute to the establishment of Churchill College, Cambridge, but withdrew his support when he discovered that the college would have a chapel; contradicting, he thought, its stated purpose of prioritising science and technology. He even complained to Winston Churchill himself, who didn't seem bothered one way or another, replying: "A chapel, whatever one’s views on religion, is an amenity which many of those who live in the College may enjoy, and none need enter it unless they wish." Crick sent him 10 guineas to fund college courtesans, with the note: "Such a building will, I feel confident, be an amenity which many who live in Cambridge will enjoy very much, and yet the institution need not be compulsory and none need enter it unless they wish."

Sadly, Sir Winston appears to have returned the cheque.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More coup-related hilarity

Another attempt to wind up Guardian readers.

But, to ensure balance and fairness: Richard Lloyd Parry doesn't sound entirely convinced that the coup is a reboot rather than a jackboot; anti-coup, anti-Thaksin arguments from a man often described as the only Marxist in Thailand; and Simon Tisdall coins a new verb - "to musharraf".

Well, that was the death of democracy, that was. Unless anything untoward happens (like the generals playing the-cheque's-in-the-post games with the promised delivery of a civilian PM), I'm putting away my white suit and getting back to blethering about Baudrillard and Hugh Laurie and the Guillemots and all that stuff.

PS: But before I leave the subject entirely, the story about go-go dancers being forbidden to gyrate for soldiers made me laugh as well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

By Jove

A Deutsche Oper production of Mozart's Idomeneo has been cancelled because of fears that a scene in which the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Poseidon are presented to the titular king might inflame religious tensions. Apparently, nobody has made any specific threats, but I think we know which particular interest group might be expected to overreact, don't we?

That's right. The fucking Greeks. Not Nikos who runs the cash 'n' carry, he's a good mush. It's them ancient ones who are the worst. They come over here, with their beards and their philosophers and their dramatists and their geometry, and they act like we owe them something. And were we asked whether we wanted them? No. Well, we did bring that big wooden horse thing in, but we didn't know they'd want to stay. Anyway, we're supposed to have freedom of speeech, but if you say anything about them, even if it's a joke, like how you reckon that Aphrodite bird's a bit of all right, and they go fucking mental. It's Platonic correctness gone mad.

I reckon they've lost their fucking marbles.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The geek shall inherit

Back in the bad old days before I let blogging into my life (let me hear you say "Amen!"), I used to hover around the Guardian Talk site. I remember one day, a regular poster mentioned that another poster was ill, and might appreciate good wishes. Good wishes were forthcoming, as they generally were on that site provided you stayed off any subject relating to the Middle East. It transpired that the poster's illness was more severe than was at first suspected; she had cancer; she had good days and bad days; over the next few months, the bad outnumbered the good, and she died.

Sometimes she would post, keeping us in touch with her victories and setbacks; as time went on, she became too tired, and updates came from her daughter, partner, and other people who knew her in the real world. Two things were interesting about the thread: apart from those irregular updates, it needed very little input from the real world, as I reckon at least 90% of the volume came from people who never knew the woman, or even her real name; and, after she died, there was a great deal of pressure on the administrators to keep the thread up in perpetuity. When this was refused (it had swelled to over 10,000 posts, and was slowing down the server), a number of posters archived the whole thing, and circulated it to whoever wanted it.

This is a constant theme when anyone's contrasting web-specific content with old media, and I've had polite disagreements with Patroclus about it in the past. People love the interactivity, the immediacy, the sense of community, the [insert your own Web 2.0 buzzword] in blogs, message boards and the like; but when a particular fragment of the web gets serious or significant or famous or infamous, there's immediate pressure to turn it into a book or a film or some other facet of the BBL (Before Berners-Lee) universe. Part of the reason is that it's still disproportionately difficult to make cash out of a Web product that doesn't involve the sweatier regions of human anatomy; but there's also a sense that a website isn't quite appropriate enough, permanent enough to mark what really matters.

This appears to be the story behind Train Man (Densha Otoko). Apparently, the story began in March, 2004, when a young man in Tokyo posted on a chat forum. He'd tussled with a drunk who'd been annoying some women on a train. One of the women sent him some posh teacups as a thank-you present. The young man wondered if this might be a sign that his existence as a virginal otaku might be coming to an end. He asked the other posters, most of them similarly inexperienced in life beyond manga and IT, for help; and kept them in touch with his slowly (they don't snog until page 334) developing relationship.

It's not a great book, although it does remind us that, however much some East Asian urban cultures have adopted the trappings of the West, Nice Girls still Don't (or, more precisely, if they do, they don't talk about it). The format is fun, with some extraordinary ASCII pics apparently lifted from the forum; but there's very little that wasn't done by, say, Matt Beaumont's E, or even the 18th-century epistolary novels of Richardson and Laclos.

What is interesting is the way the original thread ballooned into a book, a TV show, a play, several manga and a movie. (The latter, in gloriously metafictional move, has the girl, Hermès, played by the actress that she is supposed to resemble in the book.) It's as if a good story would be wasted if it were left to languish online. Only when it's between covers (of a book or a DVD case) is it worthwhile. The fact that this means somebody's making money out of it apparently adds to the validity of the whole thing.

And the fact that somebody's doing that (the nominal author, Nakano Hitori, translates as "one of us") raises a few more questions. Who holds the copyright on the content of chat forums? Is it jointly owned by the posters, or sucked up by the hosts. The mystery of the whole tale (the protagonists have not come forward) and of the people who nursemaided its transition into other media, add to the confusion.

And then, of course, there's the whole issue of veracity. The James Frey controversy has raised a number of questions about the intersection between non-fiction, fiction and "based on a true story"; but again, this one has been rumbling at least since Truman Capote unleashed the non-fiction novel on us. Whatever the reality, the author (Compiler? Editor? Transcriber? Collector? Cutter-and-paster? Do we need a new terminology for this? I know "the author" is dead, but...) makes the distinction all but irrelevant, by making the characters so bland and two-dimensional that their own mothers wouldn't recognise them.

So, despite all the precedents, maybe "one of us" has managed to create a new form of literature. It's something so bland, so undefined, that anybody can take it and apply it to his or her own life. It's the raw material of a fiction, that can be cooked up into something interesting by the participants. Get him to do this, do that. Tell her you love her. Don't tell her. Has she got a sister? Oh no she isn't! Behind you!

In short, it's got all the potential to be a fully interactive narrative. Which is what it was to start with (whether it was "real" or not), until someone had the bright idea of fixing it into a fairly ordinary book, like a mediocre mosquito, immortalised in amber. What was the point of that?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Normal service resumed

OK, I screwed up. There was no curfew last night. I blame a previously reliable source, the sort of "pal" who confirms to The Sun that someone out of Girls Aloud is going out with someone who was on Microcelebrity Arse Wax Uncut.

Anyway, Bangkoup seems to be back to its smelly, noisy self, with a few exceptions. There are armed troops patrolling some of the big road intersections, while the regular traffic cops put their feet up. The latter aren't happy with the situation, since they're unable to follow their usual routine of approaching drivers for, um, contributions towards the police benevolent fund. There are some good pics at 2bangkok; and RLP is in town, so expect more pungent analysis soon.

On a slightly less tanks-and-soldiers-heavy note, James Blue Cat reminded me how good this is:

One to ponder the next time we see Dr House doodling on his Bechstein as he broods on his secret longing for Wilson.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

From our own correspondent

If you can be arsed, check out my hastily thrown-together Comment is free piece.

What did you do in the war, Timmy?

Thanks again, all of you, for your messages and good vibes. There's a slightly edgy air, as a lot of shops are boarded up, and there are armed troops on street corners. 3,000 reinforcements are coming into BKK from the provinces. I just popped out to load up on water, noodles and chocolate, and everything seemed pretty normal, although shoppers seemed to be hoarding a bit.

On the positive side, not a shot has been fired in anger (as far as we know) and Gen Sonthi, the coup leader, has declared that he'll hand over the reins to a civilian within a fortnight. The general consensus in the city is that it's unfortunate and slightly embarrassing that the army's moved in, as everyone thought the country had moved past that (there have been about 17 since 1932, but the last one up to now was 14 years ago); but if this was the only way to get PM Thaksin and his cronies out, so be it. The guy had, after all, resorted to faking assassination attempts against himself to bolster support.

Key questions now are:

1. How will this play in the countryside and Chiang Mai, where Thaksin's electoral support is concentrated? And what about the pockets of support he has within the military?

2. How will this affect the South, where separatist bombing campaigns have killed hundreds of people in the last two years?

3. What will HM the King do and say?

4. What will Thaksin do? He's almost certainly heading back to his groovy pad in South Ken right now, so feel free to ask him if you see him. He's the one with the amusingly cuboid head and the slightly aggrieved look.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Well, it's just gone 2.30 here, and bugger-all's going to happen now. If anybody's interested, the local English language papers are back online here and here.

Thanks for all your good wishes. Everything, so far at least, is fine.

a legal matter, baby

Can anyone explain the difference between martial law (which the army's declared) and a state of emergency (which the PM's called)? Which is better? Is it like Top Trumps?

God, the World Service is rubbish.

(Nismes-Desclous 1976 Armagnac, however, is very nice. Shall I have another, or a cup of tea. Oh, all right then.)

Everyone's saying that a military coup will be lousy for business and tourism, but since there's been no effective government for most of the year, I'm not so sure.

Oh Christ, I'm just listening to GWB's speech to the UN. Why does he always sound as if he's about to blub like a gurl?


All foreign-language TV has been suspended. Can get World Service on shortwave. Internet seems OK for the moment at least. Thaksin due to address the UN in the next few hours.

People have been advised to stay at home, except when they need to go to work. Hardly sounds like a state of emergency. More like a train strike.

Rain's calmed down a bit.

Just been listening to the Guillemots album. It's rather good, actually.

May you live in interesting times...

Blimey, looks as if there's a military coup going on here. PM Thaksin's called a state of emergency, and has ordered the military not to do anything illegal, but he's in NYC. There are troops in govt house.

News media has been replaced by patriotic songs. And it's pissing down.

Will attempt to place updates, although I'm relying pretty much on the BBC at the moment, so you probably know as much as I do.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It ain't over till the fat lady turns into a talking goldfish

According to a survey carried out by the University of Leicester, 12% of opera lovers have taken magic mushrooms.

Opera being one of the few musical forms that's never really sparked my motor (with all due deference to my darling departed grandma, for whom Placido Domingo was second only to David Gower in the geriatric crush stakes), I have to wonder if four hours of Wagner might go a little faster if one is enjoying a Huxley moment. Also, considering the picture above, I reckon the figures for performers may be considerably higher.

Also plucked from the cultural snowdrift in recent days: Rock's Backpages, that inavaluable resource for lazy music journalists everywhere, hits its fifth anniversary and 10,000th article; Charlie Brooker destroys Justin Timberlake ("testes the size of capers" indeed); Conservative Party activists freelance as art critics; a woman with even less talent than breast tissue is voted the greatest ever Hollywood starlet; and finally we get to see what Girl With A One-Track Mind looks like. She seems to be the sort of nice, middle-class Jewish girl my other grandma might have wanted me to settle down with; but, more to the point, is Sharon Osbourne turning into the mum from The Brady Bunch, or what?

And finally, I need your advice. Some of you may recall that I've joined LibraryThing, the online book catalogue site; indeed, a number appear to have followed suit. Well, I have a dilemma. For my birthday, Small Boo gave the Pocket Penguins 70th anniversary box set, which comprises 70 little books. Now, should I enter all 70; or just put in one entry, for the box?

Your thoughts on the matter, or any matter, except bloody opera, are welcome.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hard-boiled Greg

To an appropriate soundtrack of Radiohead B-sides and the start of the Asian rainy season, I've been thinking about Dr Gregory House again, and what he represents. It's partly prompted by a thought MA Peel had at the Museum of Television and Radio blog (a blog for people who get paid to watch telly - none cooler, surely?), linking our favourite cantankerous medical genius with Rick Blaine, Bogart's character in Casablanca (still the greatest movie of all time, and no argument will be brooked on this one); and also by something Realdoc (our favourite lovely medical genius) said about most TV doctors being utterly divorced from reality (Green Wing and Cardiac Arrest excepted).

Yay, four sets of brackets in one sentence. This blog ought to get a Parenthetical Advisory sticker. Munch on that, L Brent Bozell III (who, incidentally, looks like the mutant offspring of Chuck Norris and a hairdresser I once knew).

The thing is, House sidesteps the whole issue, by not really being a show about medicine, any more than Fawlty Towers is about the hotel trade, or Casablanca is about Casablanca. Many critics have suggested that it's more of a whodunnit, with House and Wilson a barely disguised Holmes and Watson. (This presumably makes Foreman, Cameron and Chase the Baker Street Irregulars; Cuddy a weird synthesis of Lestrade and Mrs Hudson; Vogler is Moriarty; and Stacy has to be Irene Adler. For the violin and the seven-percent-solution, read the piano and Vicodin.)

A few months ago, I mooted a link between House and David Brent of The Office, suggesting that the difference was self-awareness and desire to be loved. On second thoughts, it's more than this. House is about men.

Dr Gregory House is the alpha male who knows that the chest-beating, knuckle-dragging mundanity of being an alpha male is beneath him. He needs the respect of those around him, but he doesn't want to need it, and certainly doesn't want the others to know he needs it. He's good at his job, but his self-image as a loner means that he's totally unsuited for a senior role within the orthodox hierarchy. And he's faced with a paradox - if he becomes too self-aware, too much in awe of his own limping, baleful majesty, then that persona becomes invalid. It's a similar situation to that in Eliot's Murder In The Cathedral. Becket knows what is right, and knows that the right action will lead to martyrdom. But by consciously seeking martyrdom ("the last temptation"), he risks invalidating that martyrdom. The only person who can't be a House fan is House.

The only way the two conflicting sets of needs can be reconciled - for the hospital to make best use of House's talents, and for House to retain his lone-wolf self-image - is for him to operate a semi-autonomous little gang within the organisation. It's what the management guru Tom Peters (yes, I have a parallel life where I have to read management books) calls a skunkworks. It has its own rules and culture and loyalty, although its ultimate purpose is to serve the overall ends of the organisation. There's no dress code, you can eat pizza at your desk, and throw it at outsiders who enter your territory. There's still a paycheque and a pension plan at the end of the day, but let's not be so crass as to mention that.

It's a classic compromise for the post-punk, post-feminist male. In his head he's Meursault, Holden Caulfield, Raskolnikov. Like Brent, he really wanted to be a rock star, and he would have been a better one, but he'd have walked away from the showbiz bullshit before he made it big. He can't be tempted with a flash car, a shiny desk, golf-club membership or a leggy secretary. (House's attitude to women is fascinating; he's self-consciously laddish and horny when confronted with a nice pair of tits, yet deep down he respects the take-no-shit stance of woman-in-a-man's-world Cuddy.) His outsidery, existentialist pose has to be stroked and stoked to get the best out of him. He needs to exasperate to feel wanted. And he needs a gang around him, who maintain unswerving loyalty (to him, not to the hospital) without ever tipping over into obsequiousness.

Damn. It's Gordon Brown. The departmental autonomy within the bigger structure. The gang of outriders, who are Brownites first, Labour second. The brooding. The fearsome intellect. The unspoken sadness (the dead child) and the disability (the dead eye) for which he will tolerate no pity.

But even those who despair at the surly snarling of Brown/House know that the alternative is worse. Brown is softening, making himself more amenable to Middle England, bigging up Blair's achievements, laying on more of that weird, lopsided smile. House's soft side resurfaced briefly in the second series, with the arrival of Stacy; and there's always the worry that the simmering sexual tension with Cuddy (modelled on Hawkeye and Hotlips?) will boil over and destroy the show (David and Maddie; Niles and Daphne). And if Brown leaves the diagnostic punk skunkworks of the Treasury for a role where he has to kiss babies and be nice to foreigners, the magic will be gone forever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

And you thought I was poncy...

Hannah McGill's review of the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston romcom The Break-up, in the August edition of Sight & Sound, begins thus:

"The poster for The Break-up echoes, perhaps unconciously, a publicity still of Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman from Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage."

It's the perhaps that I love.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

South Bronx on the South Bank

The sensuous yet cerebral Molly Bloom offers a thought- and argument-provoking list of her favourite London films. Of course, the question of what 'a London film' might be is as open to discussion as the content of the list. Which London are we talking? And whose?

In the 30s, Hollywood could create anything it wanted on its backlot, and that included Ver Smoke. Witness, as an example, Fred taking Ginger on a carriage ride round Hyde Park, CA, in the delightful, utterly nonsensical Top Hat. This is travelogue London, with chirpy cabbies, bewhiskered bobbies and shots of the obvious landmarks every five minutes to remind you where you are (especially necessary in this case to distinguish it from the scenes in an equally fanciful Venice). The whole concept was brilliantly sent up in the opening sequence of the first Austin Powers movie, although I suspect there's a hardcore of Midwestern multiplex-goers that really does believe the streets of Chelsea are patrolled by Beefeaters.

The ultimate city-as-cinematic-simulacrum, however, was Casablanca. Much was made of the fact that the cast was drawn from dozens of different countries (of the main actors only Bogart and Dooley Wilson were born in the States) but nobody seemed too worried about the absence of any actual Moroccans. In fact, the producers' attention to veracity was so half-arsed, they even put Casablanca in the wrong place on the map in the opening sequence.

From the late 1940s onwards, easier and cheaper transport made location shoots more feasible. Audiences, it was claimed, also wanted more realistic movies, although what they actually got (wanted?) was a different, less fluffy flavour of unreality. The 1950 noir Night and the City is a classic example. Jules Dassin's delightfully sleazy yarn of dodgy dealers and desperate losers offers us all the right establishment shots of St Paul's and Tower Bridge. The twilight world of Soho clipjoints and fixed wrestling bouts is inhabited by reliable pillars of the Brit moviemaking community: bloated Dickens specialist Francis L Sullivan; professional slattern Googie Withers; all-purpose immigrant Herbert Lom. But American cinemagoers wanted to have their individual fruit pie from a Lyon's Corner Cafe and eat it; the leads are Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney; even the boring bloke downstairs who carries a torch for Tierney is played by the American Hugh Marlowe. The question of why so many people would want to swap the post-war Truman/Eisenhower boom economy for damp, rationed Blighty is seldom addressed. They're there because American audiences want them there, just as they'd later want Hugh Grant to cop off with Andie or Julia. The Hudson flows into the Thames, and Nelson wields a torch.

The last scenes Night and the City offer a frenzied cat-and-mouse game between Widmark and the various thugs, snitches and low-lifes of London ('London'?). The first time I saw it, I became disoriented when the action moved to the river, hopping between dockside huts and building sites. Where the hell were they? I was guessing the Isle of Dogs, and wondering how he'd managed to get so quickly from W1, before someone asked a policeman (of course) for directions to York Road; and I realised this mess of mud and cranes was the South Bank, presumably in the throes of development for 1951's Festival of Britain. And this, of course, was also where Grant quoted David Cassidy to McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Everything is connected, even when you're being chased by sinister Cockneys.

Of course, for many years, the preferred destination for footloose Yanks was Paris: think Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Gene Kelly, Jean Seberg in A Bout de Souffle, selling the Herald Tribune on the Champs Elysées. The disadvantage, as Seberg's endearingly crap French demonstrated, is that Parisians insist on not understanding the international language of English shouted slowly. This created something of a problem for Roman Polanski in the mid-70s, when criminal charges of unlawful sex with a minor forced him to flee the States just after the success of Chinatown.

His first film in exile effectively wrote the whole Hollywood sojourn out of his history, by referring back to his London classic Repulsion (which is in Molly's Top Ten, something you can't say for Four Weddings). The Tenant (1976) is, like so many of Polanski's movies, about a small, insignificant individual cast adrift in a world gone insane. (Note to self... Polanski does Kafka... music by Radiohead...) In the familiar story of an apartment building that's not quite what it seems, he shakes up the model of Repulsion by making the lead character male (himself, rather than Catherine Deneuve) and transferring the action to Paris.

But because Polanski was now a Hollywood player, albeit a disgraced one, there was American money around; which meant American stars. Melvyn Douglas is the landlord; Shelley Winters the concierge. And if they're not going to speak French, why should anyone else? The polyglot Polanski is fine; but Isabelle Adjani, her loveliness only slightly marred by green eyeshadow and Deidre Langton specs, seems to be dubbed; the other French performers (including Josiane Belasko, Michel Simon and Claude Dauphin) are definitely given the Singing Ringing Tree treatment.

It's Paris made safe for Anglophones, although the image of a deranged Polanski dressing up as a woman and pulling out his own tooth may take the romantic sheen off the city for some. It's properly abroad, but you don't even need subtitles, let alone a phrasebook. In a world where Americans feel the need to sew Canadian flags on their backpacks before boarding international flights, such a concept must be tempting.

However, it's not just a case of moving into a city and installing enough aircon, valet parking and Hershey bars to make it comfortable. Location filming in New York and LA has become so expensive that Toronto and Budapest, Pinewood and Cinecitta are now called to stand in for the definitive American cities, CGI smoothing over the joins. Instead of bringing the world to the Hollywood backlot, the world becomes the backlot. As Le Monde declared on the morning of September 12, 2001: "Nous sommes tous des Américains".

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brent cross

I was flipping through a book about the Lady Chatterley trial last night, and chuckling over the prehistoric attitudes of the prosecution counsel. Everybody remembers Mervyn Griffith-Jones's line about whether it would be "a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read." But the moment when he gets to the naughty bits is high camp to the power of several:

"The word 'fuck' or 'fucking' occurs no less than thirty times. I have added them up, but I do not guarantee that I have added them all up. 'Cunt' fourteen times; 'balls' thirteen times; 'shit' and 'arse' six times apiece; 'cock' four times; 'piss' three times, and so on."

It's tempting to be smug about the whole business. Such prim and prissy attitudes are long gone, surely? But then comes a story from last month's Emmy Awards. Dame Helen Mirren, a woman who must be credited with guiding an entire generation of males through the traumas of adolescence, remarked upon accepting her bauble that she had almost fallen "arse over tit" on her way to the stage. This got a few laughs from an audience more used to female recipients bursting into tears. And the whole thing would have been forgotten, were it not for a person going by the frankly preposterous name of L Brent Bozell. Mr Bozell, L to his chums, is President of something called the Parents Television Council, which waves its fists and stamps its little feet at rudeness and badness on the telly. "It is utterly irresponsible and atrocious for NBC to air this vulgar language... when millions of children were in the viewing audience," said L, who has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

Atrocious? I'll give you atrocious, mate. This is Helen Mirren you're talking about. This is a woman so adored that, when she was chosen to play the Queen, the only reservation expressed was whether the Queen was classy enough to be played by Helen. You diss her, you diss all of us.

People, I need your help here. This is my 200th post on this blog, and I need to do something special. The obvious thing would be to dismiss Mr L Brent Bozell as an arse and a tit, and forget about it. But I think he deserves something bigger and better and badder. First of all, he needs to be warned, in the most direct terms possible, that you don't mess with the Mirren. But he also needs to be made aware that "arse over tit" is but a bland, vanilla-flavour topping on the seething, brandy-and-dark-chocolate-and-morello-cherries pudding of British sweariness. I want you to offer up the worst, vilest, most heinous, irresponsible, atrocious insults that can be swabbed from the darkest recesses of your putrid minds. Apply them to Mr L Brent Bozell (is that an anagram, do you think?) and put them in the Comments section. Pass the word around to your friends, family and blogroll. If I get a decent number, I might just let L Brent know what we think.

To kick off, my own humble offering:

"L Brent Bozell is a perineal spunkmuppet."

Off you go. And remember... this is for Helen.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Paid for my silence

I've been thinking about this whole plug-products-on-blogs deal, discussed with such eloquence and profundity by the mighty Patroclus. Reduced to a syrupy consistency, the deal is this: consumers have become wise to ads; they're not consuming old media enough; advertisers now need to rebuild trust through new media; bloggers have the audiences and the trust; let's get a blogger to say how great our stuff is; oops, blogger has now betrayed trust of readership; blogger and advertiser both screwed; death of both global consumer capitalism (yay!) and, er, blogosphere.

I'm not actually sure why this should be. Does anyone really think that celebrities in ads actually consume the product? It's common knowledge that Rutger Hauer couldn't stand Guinness; and have you ever seen Sharon Osbourne rooting through the reduced-to-go ready-meals in Asda? So why should consumers of my blog hold me to higher standards than those demanded by people who watch The Hitcher; or people who like watching a revolting, talentless, middle-aged woman shouting?

Well, if my loyal readers really think I'm utterly pure and sincere in word and deed, then so be it. But there is something I can offer. Most advertising codes of practice have stringent rules about "knocking copy" - essentially, the extent to which an advertiser can slag off the opposition. Otherwise, those witty, groundbreaking, surreal Guinness ads could use the tag "All Beamish drinkers have tiny willies", and then where would we be?

But such rules, for the time being at least, do not apply to blogs. So here's the deal. I will not "big up" your product to help you get "down wiv ver kidz" who hang out on my virtual street. Readers will immediately be suspicious if I break into one of my customary tirades about Radiohead and Baudrillard to discuss the merits of a new brand of feminine hygiene product. However, on payment of a small consideration, I will be happy to drop in a casual sideswipe about the complete bollocksness of your leading competitor, while maintaining a dignified silence about your own stuff, however vile it may be.

For example: "Have you tried that new Coke Zero? Crikey, it's a bit rubbish, isn't it?"

C'mon, Pepsi, surely that's worth, say, ten quid? See, I'm considerably cheaper than Sharon Osbourne.

And there aren't many people who can say that.

Friday, September 01, 2006

On the other foot...

Plausible definition of a modern intellectual:

Someone who owns more books than shoes.