The Loneliest Jukebox

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

Graham Author Page

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Playing soldiers

Like me, some high profile advocates of the war on terror/Euston Manifesto/'decent' left appear to be in their late thirties (e.g. Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm). Cynics might say that on safely reaching their 32nd birthdays, and becoming too old to join the UK armed forces, they could let rip with support for militarism, protected by this demographic coincidence. I say raise the maximum age to 45 so these tedious commentators can find their true vocation.

If liberal pundits are looking more and more like the armed forces, the armed forces are also looking more and more like the rest of society. Yesterday's Metro (27 August) told of litigation around a huge compensation claim (for a broken ankle) and an Air Training Corps commander involved in extensive fiddling of charitable grants and the honours system. Some people and institutions richly deserve each other.
Two interesting-looking new fiction books, reviewed in the Guardian here and here:


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

All quiet on the blogging front

Right now I'm finding somewhere to live and getting ready for a new term of teaching. So ideas for blog content tend to bubble up but seldom develop into commentaries. There's a couple of other, bigger projects I'm involved in writing at the moment too. That's partly why I let Big Brother 7 go by without saying a great deal. But at the time I noticed that the final eviction night show was playing in direct competition with Sky Sports 2 Championship football - in a Leicester City pub at that! Oddly, BB runner-up Glyn Wise and City striker Matty Fryatt were starting to look alike as my head moved between the two TV screens. (Admittedly both sport the same haircuts.)

It's not just me - I've noted tendencies towards Leicester-based confusion on the sports pages before. The following day's Guardian labelled Levi Porter as Momo Sylla in its match report photocaption ('Leicester's Mohammed Sylla evades Coventry's Andrew Whing' [Football, p.8]: of course he did, he wasn't playing).

There are certain movies and such like playing in the background as I do my thing. These include:
Doctor Who - City of Death
Doctor Who - Edge of Destruction: an RP enunciation masterclass.
Last Days (it felt like it, I can tell you).
Reruns of Miami Vice season 2.
The Fly II.
I'm thinking of switching to radio...

*I'm also dumping some stuff on eBay as part of moving - shop wisely!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ed West's East London

An interesting piece in today's Telegraph by Ed West caught my eye. It's a response to the murder of Peter Woodhams of Canning Town, in the parliamentary constituency where I reside. In the style of Francis Gilbert, the author seeks to link his own childhood misfortunes to the recent killing. One of most repeated happy slapping quotations - "If you feel bored wen ur about an u got a video phone den bitch slap sum norman, innit" - also gets an outing. West is onto something when he hints that broken social bonds and more instrumental, dehumanising attitudes between people contribute to this type of violence. He's just not sure what he's onto.

There's a couple of basic questions such pundits rarely address. It's taken for granted that situations like the one in Canning Town 'fully justify critical social commentary and considered policy intervention'. Is the government expected to protect us from everything? And how would one propose to do this? It's seldom questioned why the punditry takes a form that is at odds with the criminal justice system - individuals innocent until proven guilty - when pundits like West want to deal with 'types' all the time. Secondly, the comment pages are quick to grab the opportunities available from elevating local, magistrates' courts-style stories into national news. A little more self-reflection wouldn't go amiss.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Winlow, sweet chariot

A minor controversy over at the Spiked letters page, where criminologist Simon Winlow took exception to my book review of Francis Gilbert's Yob Nation (yours to buy here). This storm in a shot glass broke out after I praised Winlow's serious fieldwork, in contrast to Gilbert's subcultural tourism. Dr. Winlow also disliked my treatment of rising crime rates.

My review mentioned that the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science had its report about overseas perceptions of crime in Britain (and of legal behaviour bundled in with crime) reported as evidence of rising crime. Yet it wasn't designed to measure that. Moreover, Gilbert's assertion that we have quantitatively more disorder now than ever seems like a device for marketing the book rather than a real measurement of crime rates. In fact, the point of the article was not to talk about crime rates - in which I can only claim expertise around the issue of happy slapping - but to look at the misanthropic niche Gilbert's publishers are exploiting.

As - like Winlow - a former doorman, I enjoyed his book Badfellas (buy it here) and recognised the camaraderie and sudden shifts from boredom to danger he describes. (I also reviewed it for a US journal so won't say any more now, but will link the blog to the review when it eventually appears). My Spiked footnote mentioning 'pulp fiction' seems to have really got under his skin, but it referred to the book's thriller-like penultimate chapter and its Faccia a faccia/ID scenario of the outsider ending up like the group being observed. And how many academic monographs can claim these attributes? I certainly didn't mean to suggest he was making it up. Think of pulp fiction in terms of its narrative drive, rather than its veracity, and we won't end up calling on our old crews to settle it in a pub car park somewhere up north.

US readers can order Badfellas here:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Digital etiquette

Two scenarios. There's a car crash outside my temporary accomodation. Two cars are written off, and one or more drivers are in the back of an ambulance. Is it okay it take pictures? Is it right to tell off neighbours for collecting photos?

Meanwhile in cyberspace, a yahoo messenger contact - who I've never met in person - announces on her blog that her 'cancer is moving very quickly and I chose not to have any more treatments'. What's an acceptable way to respond, that doesn't include forgone conclusions about her health?

Dilemmas of the digital age.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

An Alternative "Arsenal of Democracy"?

One of my reasons for staying out of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament after I hit age 14 was its arguments for nuclear disarmament. Specifically, those which involved drawing up detailed plans for conventional battles, at a time when conventional weapons were in use in almost all of the 'low intensity warfare' raging throughout the 1980s. (Unlike nuclear weapons, of course, which were never used at that time, although CND likes to take credit for this too.)

Now it appears that a military advisory role has migrated across to the laptop bombadiers of the Euston Manifesto group. In this morning's Observer online, Nick Cohen argues that 'The arms lobby imperils are troops' [sic, as of 8.30pm GMT] and lists some conventional weapons needed to replace Britain's impractical Cold War arsenal sent out as part of the occupation of Iraq.

With CND one could ask 'whose side are you on?', but the Euston crowd have made this pretty clear already...

Match of the Yesterday

Time travel is very popular these days, judging by the enormous popular and critical success of the Doctor Who revival. But I was surprised to find that it was used to write the 'live up-to-date Coca Cola Championship team news' in yesterday's Sun:

"Matt Piper could play his last game for Leicester before a possible £2.5 million move to Sunderland but Andy Impey will miss out with a knee injury" (12 August 2006, p.63).

Both players left Leicester in 2002 and 2004 respectively, and are more or less retired from football these days. I doubt many foxes fans were disappointed by their exclusion from the squad. The actual team in this timeline and this reality beat Ipswich 3-1, which is not only a relief, but something that Piper and Impey never managed.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Inbox excerpts

Ceri from Worldwrite is undertaking running training! For people who know her, this will sound funny. I got the begging letter, but you can click on this link to sponsor her.

Paul Marmite writes "Could you imagine the size of the band if we reunited with all personnel, what a racket!!" Quite.

Baden-Württemberg police cadet Anna-Lena requests help with a Masters thesis on happy slapping.* "This may be an uncommon request [not at all uncommon for me - GB], which you receive ... I would be very pleased, since it is hard finding good and level material about „Happy Slapping“. Happy to help with your investigation, officer.

The Google Ad-Sense team says:
"Thank you for your appeal. After receiving your response, we re-reviewed your account data thoroughly. We have reconfirmed that invalid clicks were generated on the ads on your site in violation of our Terms and Conditions and programme policies."
So valid clicks only from now on please, readers, or Anna-Lena might be called into investigate.

Barnaby from London is interested in "how Hunter S. Thompson's Gonzo style has influenced the writing of modern day journalists ... I came across your article on the death of Gonzo at spiked-online, which I found very interesting. I was hoping you might be able to answer a few quick questions via email for research purposes? I am eager to gauge how experts see Gonzo's legacy..."
So I'm an expert?

Ben, also from London, writes:
"Thank you very, very much ... it was extremely kind of you and certainly not something everyone would have done. It’s great to think that people still go out their way to help others and it really and truly made my day & restored my faith in my fellow man!"

Just another busy day in paradise ...


* At the time of writing, Emil Steiner's blog which reports this story proves 'once again that stupidity knows no boarders'. Either this shows the need for proof-reading, or maybe stupidity has never met a temporary, paying guest in its life ...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Losing touch with Reality (TV)

Most summers I can be found complaining about reality TV. This summer, the adventures of Pete, Bonnie, Richard and co. have left me cold. Henry A. Giroux has this to say on the genre:

'Emptied of its political content, public space increasingly becomes either a site of self-display ... or it functions as a site for reclaiming a form of social Darwinism represented most explicitly in reality-based television shows such as "Survivor" and "Big Brother" with their endless instinct for the weaknesses of others and masochistic affirmation of ruthlessness and steroidal power ... Reality TV embraces the arrogance of neoliberal power as it smiles back at us, legitimating downsizing and the ubiquitousness of the political economy of fear.'

Read on: Henry A. Giroux, 'Globalizing dissent and radicalizing democracy: Politics, pedagogy, and the responsibility of critical intellectuals' in Laura Gray-Rosendale and Steven Rosendale (eds.), Radical Relevance: Toward a Scholarship of the Whole Left (New York: SUNY Press, 2005), p.145.

Buy it
here (UK) or here used (UK).
US readers can buy it here:

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Championshit football and the loss of nerve

Martin O'Neill now works at Villa. And the Championship got off to a bad start, where Leicester's players appeared not to want it. Let's hope things improve from here. Late last season Rob Kelly injected a bit of pride back into the side, and this is what is needed now. Passing and defending were terrible. Nothing happened on the pitch/screen to grab the attention of the Irish travellers who frequent my local, who preferred playing pool. The reason O'Neill and briefly(?) Kelly got results is that they actually stood up for something, which gave their sides some backbone.

Everyone else in society seems to be going in the opposite direction. Or to Bulgaria, where 30-something professionals frequently tell me they would buy a ski lodge if they had a few grand to spare. Part of the exodus includes "former army pilot Keith Davis and his wife Angela [who] have made a traditional house in the village of Gostilitsa near Dryanovo their home" (source here). After defending the realm, it seems like this forces couple have had enough: '"We sought to live in a place that is more natural, more unspoiled, where people are not corrupted by Western values," Angela said as, surrounded by her three dogs, she went about restoring faded pictures on an old chest.' Corrupted by Western values, complains the ex-squaddie's wife. Wasn't it his job to defend them?

In the world of publishing - print and online - things plod on. I'm excited about Alan Wald's forthcoming book, Trinity of Passion: The U.S. Literary Left and the Anti-Fascist Crusade. My article in Architectural Design is publicised at the journal's revamped website here. My late grandpa's book - buy it here - has had a run of sales based on a belated Leicester Mercury article. And not to be left out, I opened a Myspace account here. Don't expect me to conquer the music download charts any time soon though...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Attack on the Clone

Thanks to everyone who showed or sent me the details of near-namesake Graham Branfield and his recent ASBO. Mr Branfield, 63, has been told to stop feeding local pigeons or face five years in jail.

Now I hate those avian rats as much as the Mayor of London, apart from the one I ate in Dubai, which was delicious. I wouldn't be seen dead feeding them anything other than an appropriate toxin. But once again the sheer injustice of ASBOs is on show, attaching a custodial sentence to a perfectly legal activity.

What's on my Xbox? The DVD of Stander, showing a very different mixture of legal and illegal in action.