The Loneliest Jukebox

Graham Barnfield's weblog, being gradually replaced by his Twitter feed -

Graham Author Page

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fair cop(yright), guv?

An interesting courtroom case is getting underway at the moment. Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code (buy it here) has been accused of stealing the main ideas or 'architecture' of another book, albeit a 'non-fiction' work.

Plagiarism is one of many thorns in my side at work, but a broader legal definition is probably not the answer. Ideas of copying intellectual 'architecture' would certainly broaden its scope. For instance, last night I watched Happiness Of The Katakuris (2003 - buy the DVD here). If I put pen to paper on a guesthouse zombie musical claymation novel tomorrow, am I ripping off said film directly, or merely borrowing from its overall structure? How do you tell these procedures apart, and which - if any - are legitimate?

We all know it's possible to make money from ideas, but could this case set precedents, enabling the idea of intellectual property rights to stifle much more than just the impending movie? Time will tell...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Good game, good game

The new issue of Reconstruction, which I "associate edit", appears here. (I didn't actually have anything to do with this theme issue, entitled "The Play's the Thing: Games, Gamers and Gaming Cultures".) Enjoy.

One person who knows how to play the beautiful game is Richard Stearman (log-in required). I normally can't stand David Pleat, for a variety of easy-to-guess reasons, but his 'scouting report' is a fair synopsis of the young Leicester defender.
On my X-Box? The rave documentary, Better Living Through Circuitry. Seen better. You can buy it here and decide for yourself.

My book on the bus? Mark Kermode, The "Shawshank Redemption" (BFI Modern Classics). The jury's still out on this book (i.e. I haven't finished it yet), available here. Which is more than can be said for Andy Dufresne...


I have an amusing cameo appearance in a send-up of the BBC's coverage of happy slapping which appears here. Poo-tashing indeed! By now I'm so used to being misquoted on issues like this that I reached for the default button on the computer which automatically demands a correction. Nice one. Let's hope's reported explosion in 'seagulling' is equally fictitious.

Friday, February 24, 2006

No class

I rarely agree with Blairite blogger Stephen Pollard, but he recently noted that "The Grauniad never fails to disappoint. I've just caught up with yesterday's Society section. It's a must-read every week, as its editors are clearly entirely unaware that it reads like an Onion of the Guardian" (16 February 2006). (For the uninitiated, he means the Onion satirical publication and not an actual onion.)

Some of the things that get through the Society section say more about the prejudices of the writers than anything else. This was confirmed to me, especially in the print edition, by a recent feature on working men's clubs. The question of how to ditch the old racist image was posed; bemused club members reply as follows:
"It's the middle-class whites," Brown says. "They are a different race entirely. A lot of them come from up north. They go to college and start telling the white working class how to treat different races, when we're born and bred in a mixed environment. They don't mix with other races, and are patronising to black people, who can fight for themselves. We've got Filipinos in tonight having a function. With them, it's share and share alike." Regulars are invited to have any leftovers.
Chris Giff, 58, who came to London from Ireland in 1980 and has been trustee of the Bethnal Green Working Men's club for five years and a member for 25, says: "There's no bullshit or racism." But he fears that working men's clubs get a bad press. "There is an assumption that they are racist," he says.

Are they still beating their wives too?

In part, journalists are free-wheeling in their assumptions about the white working class because of prejudice. But it also reflects the decline of the working class as a force to be reckoned with (along with a relative decline in the racism that is supposedly such a problem). It's just not 1973 anymore, guv.

This week's obituaries included Betty Heathfield, a high-profile figure in the 1984-5 Miner's Strike and Cold War historian Theodore Draper, who cut his teeth in the US labour movement but eventually switched sides, unlike his brother Hal. As such figures retreat into the distance, it's clear that the world is changing. Even the 'enemy within' can be rehabilitated on BBC 4 in the recent Lefties.

(News on Sunday failed because it was a badly written paper, by the way. For book links, click here and here.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Le Temps Qui Reste

Time to Leave (Le Temps Qui Reste), directed by François Ozon, is on general release in the UK in May 2006. For my review of it, click here.

Millbank musings

Yesterday saw a media mini-scramble for my services, at least within the BBC's Millbank building. Who knows, if you heard me on FiveLive or saw me on BBC News 24, this might have even prompted you to Google me and see what else I'm saying, hence reading this blog.

My multiple appearances were prompted by a police press release, based on a new policing strategy. The Met's decision to trawl for complaints by broadcasting video clips of happy slapping victims getting attacked has prompted some controversy. Fellow academic Dr David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University - who has previously advocated his own preferred format for screening scenes of (fictional) sexual assault in (see p.5 of linked PDF) - equated happy slapping with terrorism, shortly after my appearance. Makes a change from him dispensing advice on stalking, I suppose. This issue will run and run, so watch this space. For instance, it's clear that there's a bit of a 'frontlash' brewing against the ASBO movie Kidulthood (e.g. in the Times)*. Feel free to send in your annecdotes and evidence about how the issue is panning out it your town.

I was also pleased to see my contributor copy of Manmade Modular Megastructures (London: Wiley-Academy, ISBN: 047001623X) arrive in the post. My chapter is called 'Hollywood's Noir Detours: Unease in the Mental Megalopolis' and Amazon will sell you copy here.

[* See Kevin Maher, "It's proper sad, man: These 'authentic' films from the mean streets are simply middle-class voyeurism", The Times T2 Cinema, February 15, 2006.]

Internet dating

Operating on the principle 'life's too short', I don't usually get in slanging matches with other bloggers. But I did notice that David Renton was attacking Spiked over its approach to the Islamic cartoons row (see '7 February: the new socialism of fools', on Renton's site). Writing of Spiked's forerunners in the mid-1990s, he says:
"I remember being in Sheffield in 1995-8, when the main activities of the group were to promote showings of such films as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Leading BNP activist Mark Collett always boasts that he joined the BNP, through the activities of one such RCP front, 'When I came to Leeds University I joined the Free Speech society to fight against political correctness. Then a BNP speaker got expelled, which I thought was absurd. He invited me to a BNP meeting in Burnley and I felt right at home. They were my kind of people."

I remember organising various activities in Sheffield and Leeds in the same period, most of which were conducted around anti-militarist issues. A couple of free-speech film screenings in the Steel City were Romper Stomper (an anti-fascist film) and Birth of a Nation, which the narrow anti-fascists wanted to ban. These were both screened some time before 1995, if memory serves. I don't recall a Triumph of the Will showing. Meanwhile, Mark Collett, who comes from the same school catchment area as me but is way younger, was set to become a Leeds University alumnus in May 2002. That meant Collett missing out on punch-ups with my comrades by at least three years, as the RCP was dissolved in 1996.

None of this bodes well for Renton's work as a historian. Maybe if he doesn't rely on his memory too much and writes down all the dates...

Update (26 Feb): Dave Renton replies "Jukebox suggests that the RCP could not be blamed - it folded in 1996, 3 years before Collett arrived at uni. But when the RCP closed, it continued in Spiked online, which took over the politics of the RCP, plus most of the contributors to its former publication Living Marxism. RCP groups outside London continue to organise into the late 1990s, chiefly taking people to events organised by Spiked. Was the Free Speech society at Leeds still run by former RCPers in 1999? If it was, that would surprise me not one bit."

Was the Free Speech society an 'ex-RCP front' in 1999 or not? One tragedy of the British left, then as now: according to Renton and co, by the close of the last century the defence of free speech was more or less exclusively identified with the Revolutionary Communist Party. So insofar as an RCP-backed Free Speech society would surprise him "not one bit", he's right.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The new opposition

Even living in an increasingly risk averse society, there are still some prepared to challenge the status quo. Such as Prince Charles, the self-styled political dissident. Hold on a minute...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nights of the Living Dork

Just been moving house, so a bit quiet on the blogging front. Just about had time to wonder about why today's protest movements have produced little in the way of a corresponding cultural movement and to look for a postal address so I can congratulate my friend Juliet on the birth of a baby girl, Gracie-Rose, yesterday. She weighed 6lb 12oz (baby, not Juliet). (Thanks to Chris for letting me know and supplying the joke here.) I took the picture of a bison off the blog as it was a bit memory intensive and really slowing things down. It was not as disruptive as having some generous soul make a zombie out of my previous PC which - if the diagnosis is correct - really slowed things down. So apologies for all the industrial quantities of hardcore porn that you may have been emailed while I was sleeping. And for those of you who like that kind of thing, don't thank me, just doing someone else's job ....

Meanwhile over at the Leicester Mercury, the technology correspondent is quoting directly from my recent post on the London whale. S/he introduces the post as 'a clever thing that Graham Barnfield actually did say. Well, wrote.' Does this refer to all the times I've been misquoted recently? Or does it imply that most of the time I'm unlikely to say/write a clever thing? This morning, it feels like the second of these is the right one.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Spamwatch: A (buffa)low blow

With the passage of time, I find myself invited to do an ever-stranger array of things via my email inbox. If I replied to it all I'd need a warehouse in which to keep the viagra, ink cartridge refills and corporate logos I get offered every single day of my life. Hell, I'd even need a warehouse to keep most of my enormous penis in, if I bought every miracle growth pill I was offered. (Assuming these things actually work, that is, which of course they don't.) Then the warehouses' contents would be repossessed, as I was fleeced by the countless exiled African dignitaries who trust me enough to offer me 10% of their gross national product, if only I would store it in my bank account for them.

None of these spam-based observations are particularly new or original. But I was struck by this morning's invitation to "
Cum like a bison with Spermamax", from my good friend "". A bison. What knowledge do these spammers have to make this comparison? Or do they refer to the bellowing noise one makes after consuming this wonder drug? I'm almost tempted to reply in order to test the veracity of such claims. Almost.

My book on the bus? Ring Lardner Jr., The Lardners: My Family Remembered. Ring Lardner would probably take this opportunity to remind us that at least you can wash your hands in a bison...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Evenin' all/A cop out

This morning I was on BBC Radio Devon, discussing happy slapping. It seemed that a fairly extensive compilation of such incidents had been filmed in Torbay and posted online. As usual, the link is not available and I'm reluctant to comment on an open prosecution. I was a bit suprised at comments from the local cop who was on the show before me. As is customary, the point was made that some kind of action was needed even though much of the footage being discussed did not involve actual crimes, except crimes against common sense. (For an example of this kind of commentary click here: "These youths are not doing anything wrong, but to the elderly and vulnerable, having to pass a crowd of even the most harmless youths is intimidating", says a reporter discussing youth in Northampton [Finlo Rohrer, "The nothing to do generation" BBC News, in Northampton, posted Thursday, 9 February 2006, 01:30 GMT]).

The Devon plod then went on to praise the production values involved in the video. The empire of media studies continues to expand in unexpected directions. Perhaps she had been watching a preview tape of Kidulthood, the forthcoming happy slap movie condemned in the Sun newspaper and featuring the excellent Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith from Doctor Who). She should certainly advise her Norfolk colleagues on production values, as their e-fit artwork is clearly godawful. Meanwhile in Boscombe, Dorset, police have advised local shopkeepers that they are too busy to investigate shoplifting complaints where the property nicked is worth less than £75. Maybe the cops are all off on film studies courses discussing production values instead...

Silly officers. Don't they realise that UK graduates are acquiring a reputation for uselessness among employers? (On a more serious note, the media studies idea that words and images translate into material power seems to have taken hold in recent prosecutions involving Islam, cartoons and placards...)

* My book on the bus? Mick Foley, Tietam Brown (London: Jonathan Cape 2003). Buy it here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Running out of pithy happy slapping puns here, folks...

Happy slapping: while the press speculation continues to advertise the practice in the UK, overseas commentators wonder what's going on. There's a detailed essay (in French) appears here (pdf) and here (html). German pundits are also watching the 'brutaler foto-handy trend' with interest. As are some in Hungary. As I've noted before, when I put the coverage through a google translation, the situation seems even more confusing. For instance, "Medium expert Graham Barnfield of the Londoner University OF East said at the Wednesday evening in the television station ITV, "Happy slapping" is in the eyes of the authors a kind abbreviation to the fast fame. They wanted to impress people with the pictures of struck victims in the InterNet. The aggressors will besides ever more brutally, in order to overtrump itself mutually" (link here). If that's how I talk, it's suprising that I'm even considered a medium expert...

*Sometimes you don't need to speak the language to get the drift of article. How about this phrase: "Happy Slapping-Attacken hat Premier Tony Blair jugendlichen Rowdies"?