The Loneliest Jukebox

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Bournemouth Supremacy

Down in Bournemouth, one Lynne Nolan has put together an excellent and attractive little website on happy slapping, drawing together some of the national discussion recently overshadowed by more serious events. My contribution appears here; the site can also be navigated from this point. Meanwhile, over on a Francophone website, I am slated for not recognising that this is a rampage of 'young aristocrats' against the poor defenceless proletariat (if I read it correctly). Since when was owning a new mobile the equivalent of a heriditary peerage?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Permanent Flashbacks

Some days are like a glitch in the Matrix, to use sci-fi speak: the uncanny feeling I'd been here already. Late last night I read the reports of Celtic's 5-0 drubbing in Slovakia. Perhaps the Hoops thought they were playing out a friendly with Leicester City. Meanwhile, over at the Walkers Stadium, a once-promising player limps out of club after a long-term series of injuries. Foxes fans will know this scenario only too well. For every Pontus K and Robert Ullathorne who beat these problems - only to succumb to similar situations later on - there's players who never come back. Peter Canero can now link up with Matt Jones and Darren Eadie as part of a medical case studies eleven; how long before Lee Morris joins them?

Meanwhile today's Times T2 also invites a trip down memory lane. In an article by Kevin Maher ('Oeuvre the top', Times T2, 28 July 2005, p.20.), there is an extended complaint about the kind of misanthropic arthouse cinema that usually culminates in violent scenes. I'm broadly sympathetic to Maher's argument, although he muffs the description of a key scene in Gaspar Noe's Seul Contre Tous. The main problem is not that the censors are too lenient with such movies, it's that the acts of carnage bear very little relationship to the rest of the narrative. They are there for 'affect', as my film studies colleagues might say. Noe is a fantastic filmmaker, although doing a costume drama would prevent him from getting pigeon-holed, whereas many of his lesser contemporaries demonstrate the problems of treating 'extreme cinema' as a genre in its own right. That's what horror films are for.

Why was this article like having a flashback? Because I more or less wrote the same piece in 2003. Like a grindhouse cinema, the wheels of repetition keep on turning.

One year and one week ago, this blog trumpeted my
review of the anthology Unmasking L.A.: Third Worlds And The City (to buy the book click here). As the postman brought the latest print edition of American Studies Today, I was surprised to see that it contained my review of Unmasking L.A.: Third Worlds And The City. I hadn't changed my mind about the book: it was a (presumably accidental) reprint of my same ambivalent piece from last year. And they say there's too many repeats on television...

Full reference: Graham Barnfield, review of Unmasking L.A.: Third Worlds And The City by Deepak Narang Sawhney (Editor) in American Studies Today, Issue 14, September 2005, pp.35-36.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Happy Lazarus

The issue of happy slapping just keeps on coming back to life, like the biblical character. Now the non-striking Professional Association of Teachers want to 'delete the word from the educational vocabulary' (i.e. ban the word), along with the word 'failure'.

Happy slapping is not really 'happy' after all, we are reminded. A motion will be debated at the national conference starting tomorrow in Buxton: ' Conference deplores the use of the term ‘happy slapping’ to describe what is either assault or a glorified form of bullying, and calls on all in positions of power or influence to support schools in their attempts to stamp out bullying in all its forms. Proposed by: Jim O’Neill.

The same motion will be debated on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme tomorrow, Monday 25 July. If all goes to plan, yours truly will be appearing as part of this broadcast.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Resistance is Useful

Today saw the third set of events that make it seem like the London bombs are not a flash in the pan, so to speak. Parts of the London underground went into chaos - well, more chaos than usual - as armed police shot dead a suspect in a crowded tube carriage. Sensibly, many Londoners are treating it all as another local hazard and going about their lives as usual, sometimes with good humour. If they continue bending the stick towards a state of panic, the authorities can be relied upon to make a drama out of a crisis. Londoners will need to rely on their own judgement in these matters.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Bh 0-0 ys are back in town

Match reports - I'm never sure what to do with them. Either they are a local, line-by-line account of what happened in a game, or an attempt at literary greatness in the broadsheets; Stuart Hall in print. Therefore I'm not going to attempt to write one here; I'll leave that to my good friend Carlton Brick.

That said, a Leicester-Celtic friendly is something to look forward to, even sans Martin O'Neill. What we got was both sets of players warming up from their summer holidays, coupled with a few full-blooded challenges and a broken leg for midfield sensation James Wesolowski. Still, Gordon Strachan seemed more fed up with the goalless draw than the travelling fans.

Meanwhile, '
Big Brother, day 56' (affects Geordie accent): The 'term "Reality TV" has gained a far greater cultural currency. In 2002 Graham Barnfield commented on Kellner's (1992) use of the term: Use [the] labels and people will instantly know what is meant. (Barnfield, 2002: 49) However, Barnfield then goes on to acknowledge the rather "loose usage" of the term.' (Quotation from Deborah Jermyn and Su Holmes (editors), Understanding Reality Television; click title to buy book). This isn't far from the truth, but the extent to which reality TV has now become a matter of routine is now glaringly apparent. Vote them all out...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Murdoch Pressed

Who controls the past, controls the future. This just in from Lance Murdoch over on Marxmail:
"I created an article on the US No Gun Ri Massacre during the Korean war.

On July 11th, someone with the IP address began
white-washing the article. They made misrepresentations about what
had happened, what US policy was at the time and other such things. I
reverted back to what I had written, but they reverted me, changing [it]
back to what they had written.

So I became curious who this was. I consulted , which told me that any IP address beginning
with 214 belonged to the US Department of Defense. Then I did a PTR
(also called a reverse DNS) lookup, and found that was

Well, I knew mil meant military. CentCom I remember from the film
"Control Room", they are the people trying to spin the Iraq war for
the world (and especially the US corporate) media. But MNSTCI?

A little checking around showed me MNSTCI stood for the United States
Central Command's Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq.
So my tax dollars are paying for someone at CentCom's Multi-National
Security Transition Command - Iraq, which I suppose is some sort of
modern version of Orwell's Ministry of Truth, to go through my
Wikipedia edits, removing all reference to massacres the US did over
half a century ago.

If you click the link above and the "history" button, you can see the
IP address. Various Internet tools (like the ARIN link) will show you
where it's coming from."

Friday, July 15, 2005

New Times, Dire Straits

Back in the day, when Tony Blair talked domestic policy rather than foreign trips to enshrine him in history, we heard a lot about the 'Third Way'. One oft-cited example of where this communitarian political approach held sway was in Singapore. (On the political right, the same approach was adopted; see Bruce Pilbeam, Conservatism in Crisis, p.124-125; click book title to buy a copy.) In response, certain critics were 'Old Labour' or unreconstructed enough to worry about whether an authoritarian city state was the way forward in Britain.

About a decade later, a mixture of domestic terrorism and anti-social behaviour - a culture of fear, to coin a phrase (not) -makes authoritarian solutions seem more acceptable. So much so that Singapore's Straits Times newspaper is reporting ASBO-mania, happy slapping etc. as matters of real concern. What a world...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The 7/7 Blame Game

During a recent radio appearance strong links were made between the London bombings and US/British foreign policy (not by me I might add). Meanwhile the government peddles the 'they hate our way of life' line, and anyone who disagrees is beyond the pale, to be bracketed with Respect MP George Galloway. Some muttering in the Guardian suggests this is disingenuous, and that British support for the Iraq war did lead to the bombing.

For opponents of the war, and the continuing occupation of Iraq, it's important that we have our cake and eat it too. Yes, US/British foreign policy frequently undermines national sovereignty; move away from Middle East and recent history shows Guyana having its leaders more or less appointed in London and Washington, to use one of countless examples I could have chosen. But by linking these individual terrorists to the causes they think they represent, pundits do them a favour. Their self-righteous sense that they act on behalf of the wretched of the Earth is nearly as outrageous as the bombings themselves, so let's not give them any more credibility.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Not so Big in Romania

A day of unparalleled media exposure. If you were watching Plato's Breaking Point on Romanian pay-per-view this week, you might have spotted me in a yellow shirt filling out a scene in a greasy spoon. Or you might not if the alternative footage was used, shot on a freezing cold night at the end of the 1990s. I don't know myself as I haven't seen the film, but it's good to see some use being made of it somewhere.

My more serious appearance was on the Sonia Deol show, debating whether press coverage of the London bombs was responsible or not. I argued that compared to past "terror" campaigns - many described as such to assail legitimate liberation movements - recent journalism is largely quite restrained. More troubling is the assumption that the white working class in this country is ready to go on a racist rampage when fed the slightest tabloid provocation. For some reason this new etiquette involves pretending to live in the early 1980s, when such arguments were perhaps a bit more plausible. Still, it was quite pleasant to be able to stick it to Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh, who is firmly a supporter of free speech and tolerance for those who agree with him. Poor old Tariq Ramadan is clearly beyond the pale.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Upcoming radio appearance

Tomorrow (Tuesday 12 July) I'm a guest on the Sonia Deol Show, part of the BBC Asian Network. I should be on from around 10am, discussing press soverage of the London bombings. The link for the site may take you to an archive version of the show if you miss it. I was also pleased to discover that the researcher who recruited me to appear is a graduate of UEL's Innovation Studies programme.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London's Burning: A Personal Account

I was working from home when a series of explosions and 'power surges' were being reported. Just after 9a.m., my flatmate's parents phoned to check he was OK. The first reported incident took place about two tube stations away from me. On went 24-hour news. Out went my phone calls to reassure relatives: the mobile networks were overloaded, for the first time since New Year's Day. Worried emails came in from friends outside London: the person closest to the blast was within earshot of Kings Cross. My work ordered a 3pm shut-down to allow people time to get home.

Meanwhile the 24-hour broadcasters went into overdrive, with speculation and dumb questions about casualty rates. Sky News had the sense to ask if anyone had yet claimed responsibility. The commentary was not unlike the situation facing the Tom Cruise character in War of the Worlds, who experiences the disaster on the ground but seldom gets enough information to make sense of what's going on. TV reports have failed to build up a comprehensive picture, delivering snippets instead and repeating them. Blair's statement seemed as rehearsed as the London contingency plans that were put into play; London Mayor Ken Livingstone did a better job. As to motive, no-one knows; it may be the kind of nihilistic attack where no-one claims responsibility. More will become clear later.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Is she thinking what I'm thinking?

Louise Casey, former homelessness czar and current head of the government's Anti-Social Behaviour Unit, has offended current orthodoxy. The senior government adviser on anti-social behaviour has joked about working while drunk and said anti-binge drinking messages were "nonsense", according the BBC website. Contrary to the latest exhortations from Downing Street, Casey seemed to suggest that a spot of binge drinking was not a problem. It's the most sensible thing to come out of a government advisor in years: maybe she'd had one too many while offending probation officers' "union" chiefs and other worthies. They were "certainly inappropriate comments to be made by a civil servant, never mind one who is heading up the anti-social behaviour unit," NAPO deputy Harry Fletcher told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Drinking on the job was integral to the civil service in my day, even if Whitehall and the Benefit Agency's regional office were worlds apart.

Perhaps Casey's remarks reflect her relative youth - she's 38. Her critics will say this explains her inexperience, but I guess she's young enough to remember her own youthful indiscretions, including the levels of drinking that used to be considered a normal part of growing up. In the meantime, I'll have what she's having. Now let's see if she can tell the truth about ASBOs. Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005 interview link

I'm interviewed by - bin schon informiert here. A Google translation appears at this link. Needless to say, the move from English to German to Googlese makes me sound like I was on class A drugs throughout the interview. (Insert your own joke here...)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Mobile phones and privacy

What's the best way to use new laws to prevent happy slapping? By making no new laws, I argue today on Spiked. This brief observation appears as part of a debate on mobile phones and privacy, and is being written up in greater depth for publication in future.

Meanwhile you can help to foot the bill for this Blog by shopping at my Amazon store here.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Nice one Trevor...

Not long ago, I noted that Trevor Phillips' comments - "reality TV is improving race relations" - seemed too optimistic about reality TV and too pessimistic about real life in Britain today.

I thought it churlish at the time to suggest that the Big Brother house had divided into two hostile ethnic camps. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is the case, as this recent Guardian piece suggests. No wonder Davina McCall was so nervous during Friday's eviction show.