The Loneliest Jukebox

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Monday, January 30, 2006

The conceptual gift that keeps on giving...

I'm not one to inflict my private life on readers of this blog. Now and again some personal anecdote will fit in with a topical news story. A funny thing will happen, usually not on the way to the forum, or a story might be leaked to me that's too good to keep to myself. But generally no pictures of my cats or speculation about individual emotional well-being. The Internet has plenty of that already.

All in all I'm a laid back guy. Life's to short to get too worked up about most interpersonal stuff (putting aside my erstwhile marriage for a moment). This does mean that when I do lose it, or selectively go for a show of rage, the bollockings and tantrums prove more effective. But it takes a lot to get me riled. Even in my time as a club doorman, I can only recall one occasion when I really enjoyed giving someone a kicking... So as you can probably tell, my respect for the potential of the Internet stops me cluttering it up with my inner monologue and similar codswallop. Who give a toss anyway?

Where the net does come in handy for personal gain is selling off my old stuff on Amazon and recruiting Californian housemates from Craigslist (as housemates, not to hook up with). Here indeed was where said housemates were to be found. As the contract on our place nears expiry, it turns out I'm not laid back after all. In fact I'm informed that I'm passive-aggressive. Not just passive-aggressive, you understand, but "prone to the most passive-aggressive behaviour that is humanly possible", no less. Like putting an extra 'U' in the word behaviour, just to annoy those yanks?

The beauty of this 'personality disorder', embodied in the word 'passive', is that it can be alleged even when lacking in any actual evidence. Or when everyday mistakes and goofs are interpreted according to this psychological framework. Therapy beckons. Or different housemates. I know which I'd prefer.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cashing in

My review of James Mangold's Walk the Line appears here. You can buy the soundtrack here. And I'm back in the news after the 'happy slapping' manslaughter here and here (in India).

Let's hope the new trend towards 'seagulling' on cameraphone doesn't catch on (look it up yourself at; I don't fancy having to explain it on TV and radio, especially if my mum is watching.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Whale meat again

For 24 hours the tale of a whale was unfolding in the River Thames, culminating in the unfortunate animal's death in shallow waters. (Maybe they're not as smart as some folks claim.) A media circus ensued and the spectacle brought Londoners together, albeit momentarily, to watch the rescue efforts. It was David Blaine without the heckling.

I was reminded of the Béla Tarr movie Werckmeister harmóniák (2000). Here a whale coming to town is interpreted as a portent of doom. Who's to say that this visit won't be seen in the same way?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Same old song

Once again video games stand accused of causing real life violence. Once again the accusers are UK newspapers and the 'evidence' comes from their highly selective interpretation of academic research. Once again I grumble about it on Spiked, both here and here (printer friendly version). The saga continues ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bog standard stuff

In the ongoing terror trial, part of the evidence against cranky cleric Abu Hamza is that he compared living in Britain to living in a toilet. If this evidence is accepted as part of the prosecution's case, it would suggest that speech and action were being treated as the same thing. Not that there's anything new in that, as the liberal left in Britain have been doing it for years (e.g. George Monbiot's attack on 'anti-social bastards', based primarily on comments by Jeremy Clarkson).

In terms of the specific remarks made by Hamza, sometimes it is like living in a toilet. If this observation makes you a target of the war on terror, where would this leave my Californian flatmates? Or the authors of such lavatorial reads as Crap Towns?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Young at Herts

And so to BBC Three Counties Radio, where some instant punditry was required. Turns out youths in Hertford have been videoing their own Jackass-style stunts and showing the clips on the Internet. (Needless to say, a google video search leads to dead links.) The local newspaper calls it shocking, sick and even 'madness', particularly rude and 'revolting' remarks made about local reality TV star Jade Goody. Is it copycat behaviour, I was asked. The correct answer is 'try asking these kids', whose cheapskate Dirty Sanchez antics have got some people so worked up.

What was more worrying is local police are viewing the footage in order to be able to identify individuals, go into schools and 'highlight the issue so that others won't copy them'. A proportion of the activities filmed - including '"moshing" - throwing themselves at one another' - are not actually illegal. But the national preoccupation with anti-social behaviour leads us to discard this basic distinction in pursuit of a high jinks-free environment. Mind how you go now...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Young's people today/No Respect

Part of the current preoccupation with anti-social behaviour in Britain involves the complaint that people, especially young people, have lost respect for various institutions. This theme was publicised yesterday by the Prime Minister, filmed cleaning graffiti off a wall. It also features strongly in current TV advertising for the Daily Express newspaper, which looks and sounds like a party political broadcast.

Few seem to consider that institutions act in ways which contribute to their own decline by damaging their credibility. To pick a random but grimly amusing example, the Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Young's Bitter billboard which posits a
link between alcohol and sexual success (story here and here). The Young's ads show a male figure with a ram's head in a gentleman's club and by a swimming pool, in close proximity to some underdressed women. (That's right, a ram's head. You would need to be pretty tanked up, or typify various rural stereotypes, to find him sexually attractive.) No sexual intercourse takes place in the ad, so the 'sexual success' is in the minds of the regulators. And most adults recognise that sexual success favours the bold, or at least the party involved who has drank less Young'sBitter than their partner(s) prior to getting it on. Young & Co's Brewery "said the ram in the adverts related to one which had appeared on the brewery's logo for more than 150 years ... the idea of a ram being in the social situations shown in the posters was so preposterous that people would understand it was not real." Quite.

Current Advertising Standards Authority adverts hinge on the idea that the Authority's own adverts are 'a bit rubbish'. This description also applies to its decisions.

* All going well, you should hear be able to me on BBC Three Counties Radio tomorrow after 7am, discussing Jackass TV.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Seasonal slowdown

Not too many posts will be forthcoming between now and Semester B (starting 6 February) on account of workload. Yes it's time for marking and second-marking - that's grading to US readers/users - and people hounding me for scraps of paper I should have sent them in 2005. So the usually sluggish work-rate on this blog will slow down further still.

As usual, links to my writings elsewhere and observational gossip will pop up as appropriate. I'm also working on,
among other articles, a review of Political Philosophy Comes to Rick's: Casablanca and American Civic Culture (ed. James F. Pontuso).
New blog section:
What's been on my X-Box?
Carnivale Season 1 DVD; But I'm a Cheerleader; The Forgotten; The Tesseract.
This week's 'book on the bus' was China Mieville, King Rat.
[Eagle-eyed users will see this as me inaugurating a regular feature to direct more traffic to Amazon and thus assist with my child support etc. Correct!]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Crouching in humiliation

Back in the day (i.e. 1989-1992), student politics for me included a few run-ins with the whiny voiced Dave Crouch, who went on to become Socialist Worker's Moscow correspondent. One time he was so keen to call me a ponce he'd even photocopied the dictionary definition of the word, to wave about in the air while droning on poshly about the ballot in the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Anyway, I'd quite forgotten the guy until various 'liberal interventionist' blogs drew one of his apoplectic rages to my attention.

Turns out Dave is in a strop after the Weekly Worker syndicated one of his contributions to the SWP's internal bulletin. Crouch thinks his preferred newspaper, Socialist Worker, contains "too many discursive or superficial comment pieces", but he doesn't want devotees of Trotskyist sectariana knowing he thinks that. Scrolling down to the section "Email exchange between Weekly Worker editor Peter Manson and Dave Crouch, November 29-30" also shows that Dave did little in his post-Sussex University years to expand his vocabulary...