Sunday, January 30, 2022

About Harry Potter

Another day, another scare story about that poorly-defined phantom of “wokeness” invading the dreaming spires. This time it’s the University of Chester, where, we are informed by the Mail, Telegraph and other doughty defenders of high culture, a trigger warning about “gender, race, sexuality, class and identity” was appended to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Not so, counters the university; it was a general warning, which also applies to the works of Philip Pullman and Suzanne Collins.

So that’s all right then. Unless you think it odd that undergraduates on an Eng Lit course should spend quite so long reading what are, essentially, books for kids. That said, I’m reading Frank Furedi’s Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone?, which points out that many undergraduates can go a year without reading a whole book. So maybe the Chester students’ workload is unusually rigorous.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

About best films

Leafing, as yer do, through 1952’s inaugural Sight and Sound Best Films List, the fun appears to be more in the chatter around the whole project than the list itself. 

One refrain, which I yell every time such a vote is taken, is that “the films one thought best (in the history of the cinema, etc.), were not necessarily the films one liked best.” Which I think is what distinguishes the two schools of list. People who vote for The Empire Strikes Back or The Shawshank Redemption in, say, an Empire  poll, do not acknowledge such a distinction; those who pick Vertigo or Tokyo Story in the Sight and Sound are painfully aware of it, although not all will own up to the dichotomy in their own aesthetic. And the complaints about 10 being an arbitrary number: “Why not 50? asked one contributor (sending in 15 choices). Why not 2½? suggested another.”

Which was presumably meant to be facetious, but it suggests another question: what’s the best half of a film, even if the other half disappoints?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

About Turner

Friday, January 14, 2022

About Phonogram

Late to the (Death Of A) Party as always, I read Phonogram: Rue Britannia, Kieron Gillen’s graphic novel that gives a dark fantasy to the glory days of Britpop, and a line leaps up that would have prompted a paragraph or several in my Radiohead book. First:

In those vacuum post-Britpop days that marked the end of the great British indie experiment (Birth: “Spiral Scratch EP”, the Buzzcocks, Death: “K”, Kula Shaker), there was space for all manner of leftist ideas to flourish.”

Gillen’s starting point is pretty much inarguable but in the book I suggested the patient survived the cod-psychedelia of K and staggered on until 1997/8, its terminal hangover depicted in the grooves of (take your pic), Blur by Blur, Ladies and Gentlemen... We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized, Urban Hymns by The Verve, This Is Hardcore by Pulp (referenced on the cover of Phonogram) or, of course, OK Computer itself. And then Gillen reminds us:

The thing with Kenickie is that they, by the very nature of their existence, draw a line between all the enforced dichotomies modern pop. Seriousness is not the same as intelligence, no matter how many times virginal Radiohead fans reiterate it....

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

About ellipses...

 Zoe Williams:

If you trail off a text with “…”, this situates you right in the middle of generation X, but if you ask a younger acquaintance what is so wrong with ellipsis, you doubly age yourself, first by using ellipsis and second by knowing what it is called.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

About farts

I am intrigued by the tale of TikTok star Stephanie Matto, who sold her farts in jars then claims to have ended up in hospital from over-indulgence in high-fibre foods. Not because of the product itself – that’s just a half-arsed (sorry) take on Piero Manzoni’s Künstlerscheisse – but because of her decision to sell non-fungible tokens of her bottom burps instead, proving once again that NFTs attain a level of conceptualist purity that would leave Duchamp gasping in admiration.

And while we’re on the subject of artists not averse to making a quick buck, this picture just popped up on Twitter, depicting a little soirée Warhol threw at the Factory for (among others) Quentin Crisp, Keith Haring and, uh, Marilyn. A dream dinner party for many – so why do they all look so bloody glum?

Saturday, January 01, 2022

About honours

I’ve long had a morbid obsession with the honours system, as manifested by the various baubles doled out twice a year or so in the name of the monarch. In one sense it’s entirely pointless and silly, but it gives so many hints as to how power and privilege operate in modern society, it can’t sensibly be ignored. This shows especially when we dig down into the particular gongs that particular individuals get. The actors Vanessa Redgrave and Joanna Lumley become dames; William Roache and June Brown, whose fame comes mainly from roles in long-running soap operas, get OBEs, several rungs down the ladder.

One award in particular fascinates; the CMG (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George) bestowed upon Daniel Craig as he vacates the role of James Bond. No disrespect intended to Craig himself, who deserves a nod as much as Lumley or Roache. But why this one in particular? It’s an honour generally given to diplomats and other senior government servants rather than actors and most significantly, it was given to Bond himself for his various homicidal and amatory exploits in the service of Queen and Country. Except that Bond is a fictional character and the award was given by his creator, Ian Fleming, rather than by a shadowy committee operating under the nominal authority of the Queen. Essentially, an award more usually given to people for doing a thing is here being given to someone for pretending to do a thing. 

And as I look down the rest of the list, I ask myself how many of the recipients – and not just the actors – fall into the latter category.