Tuesday, August 31, 2021

About NFTs and Geronimo

I’ve remarked before about the way BBC journalists – presumably in the spirit of accessibility and inclusivity – have taken to explaining references that 10 years ago would have needed no gloss; thus, a mention of Hamlet becomes “Shakespeare’s play Hamlet” and so on.

But some other aspects of our culture have become embedded in the stuff-you’re-assumed-to-know box, and remarkably quickly at that. A year ago, I’m pretty sure I’d never heard of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), but today a BBC website story not only refrained from explaining what they are (there’s a link to a separate article that does that) but didn’t even say what the abbreviation stands for. Or whether “a professional NFT collector” is a real job.

And just as I’m about to hit send, another BBC-related thought. Geronimo the alpaca met his fate today; it was a bit of a silly season story, and some questioned why a culture that happily slaughters thousands of animals a day should fixate on this one beast. Evan Davis, on the PM show, mused on similar lines, as an explanation of why he wasn’t covering the story. But surely by doing so, he’s covering the story. The only thing worse than being talked about, as Wilde nearly said, is having one’s purported newsworthiness dismissed live on Radio 4. Well, that and being shot in the head by a vet.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

About Aaliyah

Many years ago I wrote a cheap and cheerful tome about the late R&B (and movie) star Aaliyah and since very few people have followed my example since, I’ve become a sort of default expert. At least I think that’s why a nice Swiss lady asked me some questions about her, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of her death, and two of her albums finally appearing on Spotify. (And no, I didn’t do it in French.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

About snooker

I remember the extraordinary final of the 1985 World Snooker Championship, and the screams of delight echoing around the neighbourhood when Dennis Taylor finally potted that last black ball. It wasn’t that people disliked Steve Davis per se, simply that anyone who challenged his hegemony at the time acquired automatic plucky underdog status.

Plenty of other folk remember it as well, it seems, to the extent that the whole final frame is being restaged as a live event, a simulacrum of a match, a bit like one of those re-enactments of Civil War battles, but with cues replacing pikestaffs. It’ll be a lot of nostalgic fun, but what made the original event really exciting – as with any sporting event – was the tension, the jeopardy, the fact that nobody, including those pacing round the table, knew what was going to happen next, how the whole thing was going to end, who was going to lift the silverware and who was going to look rueful on the periphery. Short of tweaking reality so that Davis wins, I’m not quite sure how they can bring that back.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

About Shakespeare

The Globe Theatre’s decision to include a content warning with publicity about its production of Romeo and Juliet has prompted the usual feeding frenzy from a right-wing press the sole purpose of which appears to be a ceaseless campaign against what it deems to be wokery. 

In normal circumstances I’m sceptical about attempts to cover an audience in cotton wool, but I don’t really have a problem with this. It’s a bit like those contextual labels that some National Trust properties want to put up, explaining historical links to slavery; visitors are perfectly able to ignore them, and just look at the pretty gardens and suits of armour if that’s what they want, and I don’t see how warnings about violence and trauma in R&J will spoil anyone’s enjoyment. Many years ago I saw Deborah Warner’s notoriously brutal production of Titus Andronicus, which had many audience members fainting or running for the exits. I suspect they may have appreciated a hint of what was to come.

Shakespeare has long been the victim of censorious intervention, from the fiddling of Nahum Tate and Thomas Bowdler, to the edition of Macbeth I used when I was doing my O-levels in the 1980s, from which the funniest bits of the Porter’s speech were excised. As far as I know, the Globe production doesn’t mess with the words – you know, the important stuff. And in any case, I’d take The Sun’s proprietorial attitude to the Bard far more seriously if they actually gave proper critical coverage to modern productions of his work, rather than just exploiting him now and again as one more weapon in an increasingly tedious and silly culture war. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

About Pinter and Yeats


Monday, August 16, 2021

About Swift

The Facebook algorithms have finally come good, damn them, directing me to a company called Humbuggery, offering gift ideas for people who hate Christmas and pretty much everything else. This babygro in particular caught my imagination. Now I just need to find a small child, willing or otherwise, to put in it.

Friday, August 13, 2021

About Fergie

Today I was (very briefly) on Radio 4’s Feedback programme, among several grumbling about their imbecilic interview with Sarah Ferguson, who was briefly famous in the 80s.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

About Larkin

When an ad for this poster (the work of the Bristol company Standard Designs) popped up, I laughed at first, because it’s funny; then my inner pedant grumbled because Larkin was wary of any jazz that happened after about 1940 so the Blue Note designs being pastiched here wouldn’t have figured that much in his collection. (I once complained to the BBC because a Radio 4 play about the poet suggested that he was a fan of Cannonball Adderley.) But then I wondered whether that was the whole point – anything to annoy the King of Curmudgeons. If only he were around to write a mordant poem about it.

She kept her songs, they kept so little space,
The covers pleased her...

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

About a mask

I’ve always been fairly relaxed about the notion that scary advertising bots know far more about my needs and wants than I’d like; if only because the ads that pop up when I use social media seem to involve only the things I actively wouldn’t want. As an example, this, in an advertisement for Boots, was the first image to assail my eyes when I went onto Facebook this morning. 

Pretty disturbing before the first coffee and not at all the sort of thing I’d consider purchasing... unless of course I aspired to create a low-budget remake of one of my favourite films in the back garden...

Come to think of it, maybe these bots do a better job than I gave them credit for.