The Loneliest Jukebox

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

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Soft Cell

Us "professional-moral-panic-sceptics" have gotta stick together. The phrase is from Gerard Goggin's new book, which recounts my 2005 brush with infamy (they all had it infamy) (pp.122-123). His Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life looks well worth a read.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jaded opinions

Celebrity Big Brother 5 might be closing, but the row over race carries on. I've chipped in my two penn'th for BBC local radio, so I won't repeat myself here. Except to say that if Britain was as racist as some commentators make out - based on projecting "Jade Baddy's" mindset onto everyone else - then Shilpa Shetty would have been voted off the show by now.

Part of Goody's problem is that she is seen as white trash, therefore a legitimate target. The sentiments that fuel the bashing of 'rough estates' get personalised in the name of anti-racism. (For a snapshot of this more general snobbery, see Paul Barker, 'Homes for heroes, or designs for despair?' [r. Lynsey Hanley, Estates: an intimate history], Independent Art & Books Review, 12 January 2007, p.22.) The transformation of official anti-racism into elite etiquette is pretty breathtaking.

That's not to say that this is the first time such ideas have been chopped and changed in line with other priorities. Right now I'm reading Popular Eugenics, edited by Susan Currell and Christina Cogdell, which shows how support for eugenics flourished and crumbled at the same time. Ideology is of necessity flexible if it is to be effective.


Pizza the Action/You're So Vein

Top marks to The Underdog (Issue 14, December 2006) for a great opening line: "You may have read ... that Pizza Hut on Walthamstow High Street had installed ultraviolet lights in their toilets in case customers started injecting themselves with heroin because the food was so bad."

What it lacks in conciseness it makes up for in accuracy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Smugly Barney

Writing at the end of 2002, who criticised a "film’s inescapable hectoring about body image" but also claimed in America "Ferrara’s case, a star is born. See Real Women Have Curves for her performance alone"?

Why, that would be me, praising the future star of Ugly Betty. Prescient or what?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Trial and error and terror

I got sent the preview DVD for The Trial of Tony Blair. It tried my patience: full story here.

Scriptwriter Alastair Beaton worked on Spitting Image and Robert Lindsay, who plays Tony Blair, also played Wolfie "Don't call me WH" Smith. Perhaps these leftie origins explain the sheer disappointment with New Labour that goes into making one of these tedious "satires".

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Race reading

Against the Current magazine hosts an interesting review of Bill Mullen's excellent book Afro-Orientalism here; my own more modest efforts are stored here. As we say farewell to Gerald Ford, I'm also looking forward to reading Kevin Yuill tell another side of the story in his Richard Nixon and the Rise of Affirmative Action.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Slappy hanging

From Images of Empire to the Empire of Images

Whatever you make of the execution of Saddam Hussein, it didn't take long for the PR wheels to come off. Sky News found its diplomatic correspondent saying Saddam was the only dignified person in the room; John Prescott found it "deplorable" that the footage was caught on cameraphone.

Half a world away, some apparently equivalent cinematography was haunting the teaching profession (links here, here, here and - less connectedly - here). Since when did capturing foul behaviour on digital video make it that much worse than before? Certain assumptions were developed in media studies and feminist critiques of pornography about the harm caused by images. (Others debated the progressive political potential of imagery, but that's another story.) I'm not sure when it was, but at some point these ideas became mainstream.

Advocates for the victimised use such ideas to lodge their complaints in increasingly wounded tones. Even when the old brute Saddam gets happy slapped on the gallows, it's filming it that is deemed unacceptable. Recorded humiliation is a terrible thing. Coming up next, Celebrity Big Brother 5.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy Newman

Happy new year to the readers of this blog.

Let's hope you are kept as busy as the writer Kim Newman was last year, who made so many appearances on BBC4 in recent weeks that it sometimes appeared as if the channel was devoted to him. (I note this with pleasure, as his obversations were generally interesting and coherent.)

Here's a younger Kim offering a plot synopsis of the David Cronenberg movie Videodrome:
"... the film follows Max Renn (James Woods), a cable TV hustler in a near-future Toronto whose justification for his channel's output of 'softcore pornography and hardcore violence' is 'better on television than in the streets'. Renn is trying to track down a pirate station that's transmitting Videodrome, 'a show that's just torture and murder. No plot. No characters. Very realistic', because he thinks 'it's the coming thing'" (Nightmare Movies: The New Edition, London: Bloomsbury, 1988 ed., p.119).

How come so many recent media developments, not least the alleged democratising consequences of mobile video cameras, make one think s/he is living in Videodrome? Like I said, happy new year.