The Loneliest Jukebox

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

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Terminator 4ever: The Rise of the Machines

A while ago I noted that a Manchester Metropolitan University social psychologist wanted happy slapping to be reclassified as street terrorism. Kids don't share this view, apparently. For them 'happy slapping is not the most feared bullying either, 51 per cent believe taking the mickey out of someone’s looks is worse', according to a poll in The Sun ('Poll: Kids are Fatheads', 29 June 2006).

MMU's Professor Holmes was back in the news yesterday, telling us 'Mobile phones have broken many social taboos, with people answering calls in the middle of a conversation or chatting away on the toilet. This again demonstrates the effect modern technology has on our behaviour' (David Rose, 'Britain is running more than a day late', Times 29 June 2006, p.5).

No, people have broken social taboos, by choosing to use certain objects in ways that are generally rude. The objects themselves are not to blame.

Pet peeve: ITV4 is fast becoming the home of the GCS (US generic cop show) in Britain. Then why do they pick up cancelled shows and market them as the next big thing, in the knowledge that they have already tanked stateside and the characters are in TV Purgatory? First Wanted, now Big Apple. At least the regular viewer knows they will get their life back in good time, whereas over on More4 four nights a week of NYPD Blue is a bit much . Must get out more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Your Face Here

No, not the British cinema history book of the same name (buy it here). According to the BBC, Facebook is where it is at, for social advancement on the basis of networking. As strategies go, it beats joining a conspiratorial master race of cats, at any rate.

So best give it a try, methinks. This Jukebox will be lonely no more. Now to watch the offers of paid work and romance flood in. Or not. We'll see.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Revenge of the Spider

No, not a sequel to the ropey B-movie. I'm talking about the performance of Zeljko "Spider" Kalac in the Australia-Croatia game in the World Cup. True to form, he managed to put Croatia in front as he dived low and the ball bobbled over him. Only a godawful performance from Tring's finest Graham 'Three Yellows' Poll spared Spider's blushes, although Kalac was subsequently dropped from the Australia team.

All this brought back memories from over a decade ago, when Spider first signed for Leicester City. I was a bit unsure of the signing from the start, not least when folks on phone-ins said 'he'll be great for the club, he's really wacky'. Generally speaking wackiness is not the first quality I look for in a goalkeeper. Several soft goals against West Brom and Bolton later and he was dropped to the reserves, resurfacing only to be seen tearing up fanzines in the player's lounge at Filbert Street.

Duleep Allirajah takes up the story from here, drawing parallels between Kalac and lanky England striker Peter Crouch:
"I once witnessed this very phenomenon at a First Division play-off final at Wembley between Crystal Palace and Leicester. The game was deadlocked at 1-1 and heading for penalties when Martin O’Neill played his joker, sending on substitute goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac who was, I swear, the tallest man I have ever seen. The unnervingly surreal spectacle of a giant suddenly appearing and starting to trot across the pitch was just like a scene from a David Lynch film. The Palace fans started booing, and rightly so, for the giant would certainly have saved every penalty or at the very least freaked out opposing penalty takers. I suspect that the Palace players were similarly distracted because, with seconds to go, Steve Claridge shinned a ball that looped in slow motion over Nigel Martyn’s head and into the net. Can Crouch do the same thing in Germany? The problem now confronting Sven is this: if he starts with Crouch, the surprise element of bringing on a giant to confuse the opposition is lost."

And now Kalac is back in the public eye. But for how long?
The 'google ad-sense' portion of this blog (i.e. the software that takes blog visitors to other websites, while forwarding me a microscopic amount of cash in return), is linking up to the English Democrats political party. One reason for not voting for them, based on the home page, is Bromley & Chislehurst Parliamentary Candidate Steven Uncles, who is '42 years old, married with two children ... By 2003, he had become aware that "something needed to be done for England"'. If the candidate took 39 years to realise that there were problems in this country, then his prospective constituents shouldn't hold their breath while awaiting any concrete results from him.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Barely Legal

Readers who listen to BBC Radio Essex may have heard me on air this morning, talking about the US website that sets CCTV footage of a fatal stabbing to music. Nice.

On a 'what will they think of next' note, last night I watched the Sweden-England game with an old friend who works for an 'adult' (i.e. pornography, recut to remove the sex, as per British law) TV channel. After the game, s/he talked shop about a couple more paradoxes of modern life.

The first of these is that even though said channel's viewers would join anti-paedophile lynch mobs if required, in line with the national mood, ratings soar the moment a video with a title like Anal Schoolgirls 3 is shown on pay-per-view. Seems we do a nice line in hypocrisy here: hate the fiddlers, love the frisson.

The second such paradox concerns a disciplinary warning my friend received. In most jobs there are certain things you just don't send by email, hence the 'not work safe'/'not office friendly' subject line that should go out with any JPegs requiring a judgement-call . For obvious reasons, the intranet/email system at a porn narrowcaster can't be subject to the same rules. Nevertheless, when a colleague threw a sickie, my friend alerted everyone by email. As a flippant remark, s/he added a diagnosis: "X is off sick having caught a lurgy from kissing the boys".

Totally straight-faced, a reprimand was issued, saying that such comments could be construed as sexual harassment. Suitably chastened, my friend went back to scheduling Anal Schoolgirls 3 and its sequels for transmission.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Life on the Line

Is there anything to be gained from earwigging on "private" mobile phone conversations in public places? My Monday evening teas in the pubs of Woodford Green illustrate the futility of listening in. Women breaking up with their boyfriends/partners is the industry standard, expressed as a string of allegations over the fate of large cash loans. They are frustrated by the poor signal/battery strength of their phones and seem to be sniffling all the time. As Malcolm Gladwell puts it, 'having someone you love express contempt towards you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system' (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, p.33; buy it here). And it shows in their voices.

A further problem is that hearing "public" discussions about what passes for public life is worse. The journey from my work to Woodford pubs usually takes me past the Excel Centre on the fabulous DLR. Current conferences, at the time of writing, include CEDIA and the Trading Standards Conference. As a self-important delegate from one (or possible neither) of these events bellowed into his phone, several things became clear:

* In Camden, Connor's star is fading. Two or three councillors have lost their seats to the Lib Dems, and the Christian People's Alliance is eating into the (New Labour) vote. "But fear not", says the spin doctor, "this has historical precedents in Liverpool".
* It would be invidious to blame politicians for other people's (presumably the electorate - GB) failure to measure global change in terms of aspirational changes and environmental changes.

He's lost my vote already: at least cut out the jargon. Let's hope the regeneration industry's vision for the Thames Gateway*, linking work and Woodford Green, makes more sense.
*Sir Terry Farrell has redrawn his vision for the Thames Gateway. He now has an improved map with a tidal barrage to be presented at an event hosted by EC Harris at the HBOS Auditorium, 33 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HZ at 6.00pm on Wednesday 28th June 2006.

ROSPA relay

'Playgrounds have become so boring that children are choosing to play on roadsides and railway lines ... Too many overly safe facilities mean youngsters are seeking out more stimulating environments, the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents said' (Metro, 16 June 2006, p.2). Sounds sensible. In fact, it sounds a familiar argument. Oh yes, I was a series editor at SHU Press when Swings and Roundabouts: the Danger of Safety in Outdoor Play Environments by Kate Moorcock (ISBN 0 86339 8340) was plonked on my desk. It made similar observations to ROSPA. Eight years ago ....

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Teacher training/Nine Songs

Earlier today I was in my local library, sorry Ideas Store, and I overheard the future of Britain unfolding.
The unseasonal heat meant that the doors were being kept open - silent libraries are a thing of the past anyway - and a crop of future pedagogues were getting the official line drilled into them (excerpted below):
Tutor: "I'm looking for a common problem with kids today. Anyone? Mmmm. Anyone? Peer pressure. That's right, peer pressure. Anyone? Mmmm. Anyone? Not a wooden thing in Blackpool or Southend. Peer pressure. Like the idea behind grammar schools."

Audibly bored adult: "Do they have schools for grandmas now?"
[No, but they had that joke when my grandma was at school. GB.]

Tutor: "No, grammar schools based on the idea of peer pressure..."

And so it went on; I would have gnawed my arm off to escape at that point, so I can only assume these future teachers were there on pain of having their Jobseekers' Allowance suspended.

In the TES, Dennis Hayes argues that the relationship between between teachers and pupils is a unique and special one ('Banish this band of classroom meddlers', 19 May 2006). I agree, but for how long, with this kind of 'training' on offer?

Finally got round to watching Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs the other day (buy it here). Once critics got their heads around the explicit sex, they rightly argued it was a dull movie. In its defence, the film (video?) logged some astute and therefore uncomfortable indicators of day-to-day decay in the relationship between a Brit researcher and an attractive US grad student. Ouch. But you have to be on the same wavelength as the characters to spot this going on. 24 Hour Party People it ain't.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Football fever

I've blogged on this year's World Cup before, and no doubt will again. This afternoon's England-Paraguay game ended on an underwhelming note, so I probably did the right thing by watching it at home and avoiding a shared national experience on the big screen down the road at Canary Wharf.*

Mind you, this might disqualify me from holding forth on the national game/national character in Canada's National Post, where 'soccer' as they call it is somewhere below hockey but above lacrosse in the nation's affections.

*From the BBC: "up to 200 football fans also were caught up in a brawl during a big screen showing in the shadow of Canary Wharf in London docklands, Scotland Yard said. Six people were left with minor injuries and were treated at the scene by an ambulance crew."

Book clubbed to death

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
A while back I noted that the Book Club Association was sending out a special leaflet promoting the most ambulance-chasing list of publications it could get its hands on. My colleague Andrew Calcutt once wrote a great little book explaining the origins of this bibliographic niche (buy it here); I took the position that I wouldn't want to be part of any club that would have me as a member, and promptly left.

More recently I was cold-called by someone who noted from her files that I had a seven year-old daughter; would I like a free copy of the latest Jacqueline Wilson issue-athon? (This is before talk of human body parts in The Illustrated Mum had given the same seven year-old nightmares.) Go on then, I said.

Today the invoice for the postal charges arrived, but not the book itself. Also enclosed was a flyer for 'Amazing people ... incredible lives'. Books offered include Life, Interrupted (a memoir of obsession, compulsion, loneliness, alcoholism, music [!]), Just a Boy ('how the author's childhood was destroyed when his mother was murdered by the "Yorkshire Ripper"') and Ugly ('one little girl's determination to succeed, despite the systematic abuse visited on her by her mother').

Let's hope the World Cup turns out more cheerfully.

PS. Usually I would provide Amazon links to these books, in the hope that readers would buy them and my income would be supplemented accordingly. Given the grim subject matter I'll spare you this time, although you could visit my Amazon shop, where a permanent clearance sale of my used goods/impoverished cultural life is taking place. Knock yourself out, dear reader. It beats paying for self storage.

Friday, June 02, 2006

World cup copycats

Recently Dougie Brimson appeared in the Guardian, arguing that hooliganism is inevitable at the World Cup later this month. Maybe, maybe not.

But I'm not convinced by the explanation for it in his new book Kicking Off: Why Hooliganism and Racism Are Killing Football (buy it here, UK readers). Pages 87 to 92, if I recall, are dedicated to the phenomenon of 'hoolie lit', which Brimson claims to have invented - news to the late Richard Allen - and the subsequent film adaptations. (For what it's worth, I have grumbled about these films here.) Dougie - a pleasant enough political chameleon when you meet him - claims that a new generation of hooligans use these movies as training videos to get them in shape for big 'rows' on matchdays. Which is just as well for him, as he co-wrote Green Street and so gets a percentage off each copy sold. Future hooligans can buy a copy here.
Cold War coincidences: following an earlier blog entry, where I mentioned Nathan Abrams and his meticulous research on Commentary magazine, he also pops up on Oliver Kamm's neo-con blog (here). Further related events at this time include the death of right-wing thinker Peter Viereck and the DVD of The House on Carroll Street (1987) gracing my TV screen in the same week. Small world.