The Loneliest Jukebox

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Good tidings to you

"Winter greetings" to my assorted readers out there. You know who you are, even if I don't. Apart from a heavy duty walk in Bradgate Park, where I saw a large white stag - shades of Narnia - I'm taking it easy. Elsewhere on the web, my review of Cara A. Finnegan's new(ish) book is available through Looksmart and Plato's Breaking Point is due out on DVD in about a month. (I was an extra in one scene in a cafe in north-west London, and am unlikely to have made the final cut, but through the miracle that is the Internet I often appear as third-billed in the cast. Now to see if the movie is any good...).

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Like Clockwork

Over in Canada's National Post, happy slapping is making waves (see Joseph Brean, "Happy slapping: new craze or just thuggery?", National Post, December 17, 2005). It's encouraging to see the journalist taking a balanced approach, even in relation to the horrendous murder of Soho barman David Morley. Perhaps this is a triumph for common sense, or maybe just the calming influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Away from the storm itself, 'random violence' in other countries can look like a storm in a tea-cup. The author even bases his Clockwork Orange analogy on the book not the film, as does fellow London correspondent Sandra Laville (see "A clockwork mobile: feral gang used phone to record death spree", Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 2005). Laville tells us that 'Like the droogs in Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange, they chose the South Bank in London as the hunting ground for their "ultra violence".' Unlike the tramp at the start of the movie, beaten senseless outside the Uxbridge campus of one of my former employers.
(Also, how nice to see the article reposted to the alt.spanking.reality.moderated newsgroup.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Homeland Insecurity

A student at UMass Dartmouth received a visit from federal agents after requesting an interlibrary loan of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, according to recent reports. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless", protested Professor Brian Glyn Williams, who supervises the (anonymous) student in question. Not according to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, whose Mao: The Unknown Story is so fixated with the Great Helmsman that it's plausible they could blame him for causing mayhem from beyond the grave. And not forgetting the way that spectacular Chinese economic growth, partly rooted in Maoist labour relations, probably attract the jealous glances of federal agents in other departments.


On a different type of regulation, I recently watched the DVD of Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence, a bleak Spaghetti western set in Utah. For years it was rumoured that the grim conclusion meant that the BBFC refused it a certificate, as it did Django, although the current (2004) ruling is as follows:
Classified 27 April, 2004 .
Run Time 100m 56s

Dubbed, Widescreen,
Advice for consumers
ConciseContains moderate violence
Language None
Sex/Nudity Infrequent, moderate
Violence Some, moderate

The main spoken language in this work is English.
The BBFC has placed this work in the WESTERN genre(s).

When submitted to the BBFC the work had a running time of 100m 56s.

This work was passed with no cuts made.

At the time of classification Eureka Video was the holder of the rights or the brand name for this work.

Directed by Sergio CorbucciProducer(s) Mar Anendola

The cast for this work includes: Klaus Kinski, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Vonrtta McGee, Mario Brega, Carlo D'Angelo, Marisa Merlini.

A film or video, together with associated trailers may exist in several versions and all versions known to the BBFC are listed below.
This anodyne synopsis has little in common with the official disquiet reputed to have met the movie in the 1960s. A DVD extra shows the upbeat (and bonkers) 'alternative ending' shot for overseas markets, which DVD Times summarises as '... the extraordinary alternative ending which exists only in a soundless version. Shot for the North African market, where it was considered the downbeat ending would be disastrous, it’s a complete mess which is very funny but also rather frightening when you consider that it was made by allegedly intelligent people. I won’t reveal what it contains but be prepared for the most unlikely ‘arrival of the cavalry’ scenes you’ve ever seen.' Quite. The alternative ending would have made it the Not So Great Silence.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy slap killing

As predicted, the verdict is in on the David Morley murder trial. Whereas the BBC is, for now, treating it as a straightforward killing, the London Evening Standard is reporting the '"Happy Slap" gang guilty of murder'. The prosecutor's comments about 'Clockword Orange-style thugs' might well bring some old chestnut about violence in the Kubrick classic back into the public eye, but they are more likely to revive concerns about happy slapping. Watch this space, as they don't say in Nadsat. UPDATE: Since my writing this post, the BBC news homepage began using a link entitled 'Killed for kicks: How "happy slapping" craze led to the death of an innocent man'. This takes the surfer to the story "Feral pack who thrived on violence", by journalist Chris Summers.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Media Snips

The latest Intermedia editorial reflects on my 'happy slapping' article in the previous edition, as an example of 'the abuse of self generated content in the mobile sphere' (see 'The New Content Agenda', Intermedia, Vol. 33, No. 5, December 2005). Much of the new issue reflects on 'Losing Control of Content: A blessing or a curse?'.

Answering 'curse' with conviction may well hinge on the outcome of several forthcoming murder trials. At the time of writing, the jury is out on the David Morley murder trial at the Old Bailey, whose savage beating was, allegedly, recorded using mobiles. Up until summer, the press speculated feverishly that it would all end in murder, but the 7/7 bombings prompted an abrupt change of tack. (The bombers were truly anti-social; the media begged us to send in our voyeuristic video clips. AP Television News is not alone in developing facilities to receive phone footage for broadcast.) The happy slap murders 'predicted' (pleaded for?) in tabloid rhetoric will be formally recognised in courtrooms any time soon. Correspondent Emily Todd writes to say 'Journalists should be persuading the Government to change the rules on computer games and media so that crime can be reduced instead of trying to deny the fact that these links exist.' Unfortunately too many journalists are taking this 'crime prevention' route already, with mixed results.

PS. The Chomsky controversy continues at the Guardian, with some correspondents wanting the paper's apology to Chomsky retracted and others saying it was not apologetic enough. Let's move on; one would hope that the laptop bombadiers who set Chomsky up in the first place and his anti-war supporters would have too little in common for this debate to be a fruitful use of their time (and ours).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Italian for Postmodernists

Joseph Conrad - the 'Author', not the actual person, that is - is often to be found these days lurking near the start of some 20th century modern literature syllabus or other. As such he becomes the de facto forefather of literary modernism. Yet in The Secret Agent, he ends up describing the patrons of an 'Italian' restaurant in London thus: 'They seemed created for the Italian restaurant unless the Italian restaurant had been perchance created for them. But that last hypothesis was unthinkable, since one could not place them anywhere outside those special establishments.' (Wordsworth Classics edition, p.134). In postmodern style, Conrad considers for a moment whether the restaurant constitutes its patrons or vice versa, before moving on to more important matters. In this fleeting rumination, he anticipates a strand of the methodology that has been used to berate him ever since the early 1970s. Not just precise with language, but precognitive too.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hollywood blacklist books reviewed

I've got a chunky book review in Scope issue 3. Titles covered are The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930 to 1960, by Larry Ceplair and Robert Englund; Blacklisted: The Film Lover's Guide to the Hollywood Blacklist, by Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, and Joseph Losey (British Film Makers Series) by Colin Gardner. As usual, clicking the titles lets you buy these books from Amazon. Scope is freely accessible and my review is available on the web and in a printer friendly format.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dahn to Margate

Chas & Dave: the vaguely menacing cockney duo who sing about their love of the Kentish seaside town. (At least when they were still on speaking terms; according to yesterday's Sun, this is no longer the case.) But they never proposed building a Dubai-style peninsula of islands off the Kent coast as a solution to Britain's housing shortage. This argument was left to me on the TV show Homes Under the Hammer, broadcast on BBC One on Monday 28 November. If anyone has a recording of it, drop me a line as I wouldn't mind a copy. My extravagent suggestion was based on a mixture of audacity and frustration with the South East's housing shortage, and made on camera before the extension of Britain's licensing hours.