The Loneliest Jukebox

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Down the Tube(s)

My review of the movie Creep appears here. Its London transport-related theme is probably unhelpful to those backing the bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to London, who have conceded defeat, according to the Observer. Not sure what effect this will have on my colleagues and students who have just put together the Olympic issue of Rising East. Maybe it's all a conspiracy.

(OK, so you have to register to access the final link in the posting above - maybe that's a conspiracy too.)

Some things are more cock-up than conspiracy: if Leicester City, who ill health yesterday prevented me from seeing play, suffer a dip in form at the end of the season, Keith Gillespie has an explanation. "The Play-Offs remain the aim and we will keep plugging away until it's mathematically impossible to make it into the top six," he says. At which point they will presumably stop plugging away and get humiliated every weekend, following the logic of Keith's argument. Still, I won't begrudge them the current 'cup run' following the 2-1 victory over Reading I missed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not dead, just busy

Yes, there have been no posts in two weeks. No, don't expect to see my obituary in the Miami Herald any time soon. It's grading and assessment week where I work, and if I was the whistleblowing type I would create new, white-collar definitions of physically impossible.

So no time to comment on anything much, except to say an earlier blog entry hinted that the series 24 would cause a row in the UK too. I was kind of right: it's OK to endorse government torture, just don't go misrepresenting fictional Muslim families whose story arc is only four hours old. The government's latest draconian proposals are a lot worse than some actors pretending, just to put things in perspective. Perhaps fellow Sky TV character Rodney Marsh could cause a real row by teaming up with Jack Bauer and upsetting everyone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Labored discussion

There's never a bad time for a discussion of Michael Denning's book The Cultural Front. (Feel free to add your own Lemony Snicket-style examples of bad times to do this, but you get my drift.) Last night I was involved in trying to work out how New York-centred social democratic politics and culture made its way down to South Beach and manifested itself in art deco hotels.

Apparently, when Denning was at the Wolfsonian a few years ago he told his audience that the 'The Laboring of American Culture' was all around them. Apart from the gorgeous Treasury-funded post office mural in SoBe, the book group struggled to work out the exact mediations. However, I suspect that - like the holes in the fossil record exploited by televangelists here - just because we didn't find them, doesn't mean they're not there.

(A picture of said mural is at the bottom of this webpage.)

Monday, January 10, 2005

22 to go

It's back. 24, the show where secret agents dressed by FCUK and Gap wander round an Ikea warehouse looking shifty, had its season 4 premiere last night. Whereas the thrill of season 1 - 'WTF is this?' - gave way to season 2 - 'can they pull it off again?' - many viewers thought season 3 lost its way. When Kim got kidnapped for the third time, or menaced by a mountain lion, the phrase 'jump the shark' sprang to mind.

The first two episodes were moderately entertaining, on the back of a cast cull - only Kiefer Sutherland and Chloe are still around from last time - and Kim Raver (Third Watch) and Nestor Serrano, who was fantastic when Jesus Hopped the A-Train came to the London stage, have joined. The show also seems shameless about its status as the informal torture manual for the war on terror.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Saloon bar opinions

In South Beach you get a different type of night out. People are still wishing you happy new year on January 8 as they stumble between the hummers and soft-tops. You also get a different type of pub liar, comparable to Kenny from Phoenix Nights. Thus my temporary drinking buddy, Earl from Kentucky, had met both Gorbachev and the Queen of England, in addition to knocking boots with King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Or maybe it was true. Either way Alfred Kinsey, the subject of Bill Condon's entertaining new film, would need to create a 'sex with monarchs' category as one of the quantitative categories he was using. Either that or do a content analysis of the Jerry Springer Show, where William Sadler's cameo in Kinsey would not be out of place.

Talking of which, Springer's sideline as an opera character is causing a ruckus back in London. "At least 45,000 people had contacted the BBC to complain about swearing and religious themes in the opera...The BBC said on Sunday that it had received 317 calls since the broadcast, more than half of which had been supportive." In other words, about 44, 850 complained about the show before they'd seen it. Talk to the hand, cos the brain ain't listening.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Film Criticism 101

My Life in Film: A while ago I progressed from a mixture of being an extra in features, as opposed to a featured extra, and credited parts in short films, to getting a credit in a feature film. Needless to say, I brought untold depth to the role of 'Woods Guy' in Number One Longing, Number Two Regret, starring Jenny Agutter.
After the film premiere protagonist Spears (Paul Conway) drew flack from my friends and from internet posters for a wooden performance. Being a trainspotter, I had a look on the internet to see what else he'd been up to. On his CV is a film called Penetration Angst, described by one IMDB poster as "Miserable story: The idea of a raped vagina that takes revenge by turning into a man eater sounds quite funny, but what the writer made out of it is stupid."
Sorry "zeter-pan", but the idea sounds quite stupid...
Click here to see for yourself...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In a Spin(oza)

As predicted, this blog has been a bit quiet of late. Unlike life, where the Boxing Day priority was finding my brother in Phuket. This could have got frantic had he not phoned me from Bangkok airport to say he was stuck there and going north. A lucky upgrade meant he missed the tsunami and let me know he was okay before I had time to panic. Meanwhile the British government is making up its policy on the hoof. The initial aid contribution was less than gets spent on condescending initiatives on drinking, and dwarfed by public donations.

Here the South Florida weather compares nicely with winter in London, even a mild one. Yet back home those wretched anti-Americans are at it again. So says Mel Ayrton on History News Network. He's clearly not much of a historian, omitting the Soviet Union from the big battles of WW2 and thinking that Australian soaps have fuelled British teens' intellectual turn down under. The striking thing in his diatribe, like a number of similar ones over the past three years, is his attempt to play the victim. Ayrton willfully conflates legitimate objections to US foreign policy with the nihilistic Bush-bashing that sees all US voters as rednecks, apart from that nice Michael Moore. If you must be so whiny, it says more about your loss of confidence than about your opponents' mindless lashing out.

Compared to Europe, one of the strenghts of the USA has been its historic ability to incorporate new arrivals. 'Proud to be American, proud to be Sikh' said a banner I saw on a New York parade in 1999, in contrast to the snootiness of British cricket clubs complained of in Bend It Like Beckham (2002). In its day, America as an idea was basically an ethical one, not unlike a secular version of Spinoza's take on God. 'In so far as we conceive things adequately, we understand them as flowing from God', explains Roger Scruton (p.29). Take away the almighty and substitute 'society' and you have a universalist basis with which to observe your fellow or potential fellow citizens. The United States has done a better job of inculcating this idea than much of old Europe and its legal system, to the point where radicals like E. San Juan Jr. see Spinoza and universalist notions of citizenship as allowing us to resist the 'war on terror'. European anti-Americanism and Ayrton's US wittering and whining both erode this potential, by throwing out the universalist baby with the imperialist bathwater.

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