The Loneliest Jukebox

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

Graham Author Page

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Getting the Finger, going Bats

My review of Batman Begins appears here. As a recent reviewer in Salon discovered, it's important to get everything right or the howls of anguish from fanboys begin. So full credit to Bob Kane and Bill Finger for inventing the character, yada yada yada. Now kindly get a life - it's only a comic/movie...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Little England vs. Celebrity Love Island

CRE head Trevor Phillips has claimed that reality TV shows help to improve 'race relations' in Britain. Ignoring for the moment the sociobiological undertow of the idea that people are divisible into separate races, the statement warrants some investigation.

I've commented before on the daft habit of using the make-up of people's peer groups as a way of measuring the extent of racism in society. Age, geography and social mobility all mediate our groups of friends, along with social attitudes to friendship itself. Some people find it odd that I've been hanging out with same people since 1981, others have friends going back further. The relationship between friendship and the ethnicity of your friends is by no means straightforward.

Equally, hoping for reality TV to perform the CRE's job for it is a strange strategy. To quote Mr Phillips: "It's introduced the majority of the British public to people they never normally would meet," said.

You don't have to like it or think that it's the most wonderful kind of television to accept that actually it is serving a purpose
Trevor Phillips

"For most people, their experience of black or Asian or Chinese people is what they see or hear or read in the media, and historically, black and Asian people in the media have been rather one-dimensional stereotypes."

The problem with this, apart from suggesting anti-racists should go into retirement or broadcasting, is that it seems a risky strategy. What if the black, Asian and Chinese people on reality television invite public hatred through their actions (Slick Vic, BB5) or inaction (boring Vanessa in BB6)? More importantly, what if the pressure to act up for the cameras and stake a claim to celebrity status produces a different sort of one-dimensional stereotype? 'Is it because I is black?' 'No, it's because you're acting like an idiot/media whore on Channel 4.' I don't recall anyone campaigning for the equal right to degrade yourself on national TV.

Britain today has higher levels of inter-marriage than its European neighbours and a higher proportion of multiethnic cities with scope for social mobility (London, Leicester, Birmingham). Things are going in the direction Phillips would like them to, even if he doesn't trust the white majority to play a part in this process without game shows to coach us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Scum Spam

In my inbox:
"Hi Graham,
How would you like a free Chavs are Scum wristband?
You will also get a free Double Dip.
Click here:

Would you like further information about investing in shares? You will also get a free pack of Starburst!
Check it out here:

Thanks for reading,
Have a nice day :-)
For any customer service related enquiries please email"
So can transform me into a chav-hating elitist with a few shares and bad teeth, just using a mouse. Maybe they do a 'Danielle Cook is scum' wristband too...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Undead Marxism

There's a new George Romero zombie movie on the way, promising the usual mix of gore and social commentary. Seems that George wants to show a class conflict between humans and zombies. I'm excited, although reviews so far have been mixed. It's a sign of Romero's forward thinking that after three movies with African-American protagonists, he's now cast an African-American 'villain', as head zombie Big Daddy. Lets hope Land of the Dead improves upon the recent spate of tributes, remakes and knock-offs...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Some sweaty links

The BBC Charter Review website is now running my Policy Watch contribution to the debate; go to this link. Meanwhile my workstation is almost as hot as the lathes used to be in my second ever job, nearly 20 years ago (a frightening thought in itself). It's hot in here, and the only solution is one more reason not to get a webcam. Also the Championship fixture list came out today, perhaps as a reminder that the hot weather won't last forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ASBO-mania continues

From time to time friends threaten to impose an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) on me for my various indiscretions. (Fortunately there are not many links to back this assertion up.) I'm also extremely critical of the procedure itself: I can be found criticising ASBOs online or in my episodic happy slapping-related media appearances (i.e. the ones where journalists actually contact me rather than rely on internet search engines. So thanks to Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Journal du Dimanche, among others, for having a more serious approach to the issues. I'll post the actual links if and when they appear.) The bottom line is that ASBOs draw people, primarily working class youth, into the criminal justice system for acts which aren't technically illegal. They are also one symptom of the exhaustion of political life in the UK, so let's hope there are some successful challenges to ASBOs soon. (Go here for more info.)

Happy slapping is now moving into the phase of the panic where most teenagers know about it and might now be tempted to stage their own. Right now an exact phrase search on Google picks up some 132,000 as opposed to the measily 541 in the days before the Tonight Special. Interestingly only 16 images register in the same search, and half of these are page furniture and graphics. So if it is an epidemic as reported, there's not much posting straight to the web going on. Meanwhile wise heads remember the Tango man of long ago, and the corresponding scare, while the relationship between mobile phones and privacy is also open to debate. Looks like my role as 'expert by echo chamber' is set to run and run. Maybe a guest appearance on Jackass is in order.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Wild west scenarios

My happy slaps saga continues here (log-in required). "What the hell is Britain coming to? Is our country getting out of control? Tell us what you think about the violence on our streets? Email us at" asks The Sun. Even Daleks aren't safe.

This rhetoric is based in part on the apparent progression to a happy shooting incident in Leeds. Don't they realise that statements such as 'Happy slapping craze will end in MURDER' are a self-fulfilling prophecy, egging on a handful of enthusiasts to go one better? This weekend I overheard my first bunch of local (white) teenagers in
Poplar planning to 'go happy slap someone innit, bruv', after two months of only hearing journalists talking about it. Keep up the hysteria and maybe the press will get that murder it's been looking for.

There's some useful background to my review of Bill Mullen's sharp new book at this link and this one. If you haven't got a copy yet, here's the place to do so.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"What are you like?"

My Liverpool comrades - and a friend from the Wirral (hello Claire) - have been known to ask me that from time to time. But now everyone gets to find out, thanks to a sympathetic Guardian profile from the witty John Crace. Maybe I came across as more cut up about the whole episode than I really am: all publicity is good publicity, after all. This profile is a good account of my happy slaps infamy, backed up with some early biographical details.

Someone who knows me from those days on the South Coast wrote to say:
Dear Graham,
I see from the media that you are now the world's most renowned authority on Happy Slapping. I hope that you are not "Happy Slapping " anyone with the Motorola phone that I sold to you 10 years ago. If so please visit my site and get yourself a newer model.
Sadly " Happy Slapping" only really happens in the minds of Daily Mail journalists, which is a shame as it could really drive my website sales if it caught on.
Hope you are well,

Cheers Kamil. I wouldn't even think of phoning anyone on that old Motorola ...
My Reconstruction review of Bill Mullen's thought-provoking book Afro-Orientalism appears here; you can buy the book here.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Pun-ch drunk

My response to the DCMS Green Paper on the BBC Charter is available here, if that's what floats your boat. It's a direct link, unlike the one mentioned in the previous post (below). As one would imagine, this factoid is hardly a source of great puns to use as the title of the posting. This is not the Sun newspaper, after all.

A correspondent asks 'why are some posts to your blog mini articles on the issues of the day, and others short entries promoting your writing or even the tat you sell on Amazon?' A neat synopsis, and the reason is simple. If someone else will publish my writing, that's where it will appear, especially when payment is involved. This blog can then be used to indicate to readers where it can be found. Other materials, initially insubstantial 'WTF'-type observations that no publisher would touch, appear here. More recently this blog has been useful for staying up-to-date with my happy slaps debacle, which took me onto Australian radio last night/this morning (depending on one's timezone). And finally I'm a big fan of the public/private distinction most of the time, so I won't be using the blog as a personal diary very often, or a chance to enthuse about cats.

On the cultural front, I went to the preview of Sin City on Monday, the final episode of The Thick of It was screened and the Newtown Neurotics are reforming for a one-off gig in Brighton. Bucket and spade at the ready (and that's just after seeing Sin City)!