Monday, July 31, 2023

About “licenses”

Of course I’m angry that one of the death spasms of this preposterous government is to appease the fossil fuel lobby and gammony petrolhead voters by refusing to acknowledge the reality of climate change. Truth be told, I’m even more annoyed by the spelling mistake.

Monday, July 24, 2023

About Dumb Britain

I’ve written before about Private Eye’s Dumb Britain and the issues it raises regarding my pet subject, the question of what we are expected and what we expect others to know. Norma Postin, in the letter above, appears pretty certain that 19th century philosophers and their ilk are among the subjects where we shouldn’t assume knowledge, which may be a fair call. Where I do take exception is the implication that these subjects only enter your canon of knowledge if you’ve attended a certain type of school or university, and if you haven’t you’re condemned to eternal ignorance on the subject. Surely, if all your school taught you was to read, you’d have a chance to find out.

PS: Nothing to do with the above, but I’d normally assume that an article with the subhead “Barbie and Oppenheimer show us how in the heart of the darkest realities we stumble upon fantasies” was a spoof originating in The Onion or McSweeney’s or similar but since Slavoj Žižek is the author, who can tell?

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

About the best films

The critic Derek Malcolm has died, which inevitably draws us back to 2001 and his shamelessly highbrow farewell gift to The Guardian, his 100 best films; any reader of his work would have a pretty good idea of the directors that would appear, although some might query the specific movies. (The Bitter Tea of General Yen for Capra? Really?)

The fun starts when his fellow reviewers are asked to review his list. Most respond with respect, while quibbling with the details; David Thomson despairs of the whole idea. And then there’s Nick Fisher from The Sun (who also died in the past few months), who gives a lovely display of performative philistinism: 

This is a buff's list, not a punter’s list. Where's Erin Brockovich and Men In Black? Where’s American Beauty or American Pie or American Movie, come to that? Long films with dense subtitles are not my cup of rosie. I think Derek and me would be hard pushed to ever pick a Saturday night out at the flicks together. Does he even eat popcorn? I think I read down to Kes before I even recognised any of these names as movies. Kinda smells of pretension to me. But hey, without buffs there would be no poncey foreign film festivals. And we know how important they are. Not. Kes, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull and Night At The Opera... yep, I go along with all of these as firm candidates for any Top 100. But, as for the other 96 titles, you're on your own Del. 

Two thoughts. First, although Malcolm might seem to be in thrall to the canon emforced by Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinéma, Film Comment and so forth, surely Fisher’s reference points are similarly unsurprising, playing the same game, but shorn of the “dense subtitles”. (Too many words, my dear Godard...)

The other is the frame of reference. Malcolm had almost certainly seen most of the films Fisher cited, and decided from a position of knowledge that they didn’t merit inclusion; could Fisher have said the same about the 96 he objected to on Malcolm’s list?

PS: And for what it’s worth, I’d probably agree with about a dozen of Malcolm’s choices. And I don’t like popcorn.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

About images

I’m not going to add to all the partially-informed verbiage prompted by the story apparently involving the BBC, The Sun, £35,000 and some unedifying pictures, except to stroke my chin over one legal oddity the case has highlighted. Someone 16 years old or more has the capacity, the law says, to choose to display his or her or their naked body to someone older, provided said viewer isn’t in a position of responsibility. However, said 16+-year-old is not allowed to distribute an image of said body. The image, one might infer, is more powerful than the original. Baudrillard vindicated again. 

Sunday, July 02, 2023

About assumptions

Following on from the theatre reviewer who wondered why someone might write a play about TS Eliot and/or the Marx Brothers, because only old people have heard of them and might understand the jokes; first, from an article about Evelyn Waugh, which assumes in the reader’s favour. 

It’s the “of course”, of course, that confirms this could only appear in the TLS, or something of that calibre. But then there’s another kind of assumption, from Albion’s Secret History by Guy Mankowski

which (apart from the fact that I know where Bromley is, thanks) I’m calling performative ignorance because even if he doesn’t know where Bromley is, Mankowski could look it up in a matter of seconds.

(And, on vaguely related lines, the people who tore chunks out of a quotation from The Masque of Anarchy because they thought it was by Jeremy Corbyn, rather than Shelley; or “Shelley, whoever that is”, as one Twitter sage put it.)