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Monday, May 23, 2011

The only way is downhill

OK, so The Only Way is Essex. It's a reality television show. It is part of a newly-distorted genre of reality television in which 'real' people are given scripts and told to live out their real lives using said scripts. What happens is generally uneventful - some have even whispered 'boring' - and tends to revolve around nightclubs, beauty salons and the love lives of a small group of unremarkable 20-somethings who live in the county of Essex.
It's completely brainless, full of pretty colours and fake tits and youthfulness, and as such it's become, with crushing predictability, very popular.

What it is NOT - and not so long ago, I'd be laughed at for even suggesting such a sentence might ever be necessary - what it is definitely NOT is a BAFTA-winning television programme.

And yet, and yet: last night, this ludicrous, candyfloss bit of televisual fluff won the audience award at the BAFTAs. Not only did it win, it beat Downton Abbey, which was the MOST WATCHED NEW DRAMA OF THE PAST DECADE, with 12 million viewers.

Now, fair enough, it was the Youtube viewers award, which necessarily means the voting process was going to be utter nonsense: getting the general public's opinion on anything is always a ridiculous idea (just ask David Cameron).
Indeed, the sponsor of the award tells you everything you need to know about who was doing the voting - I'm surprised they were allowed up that late on a Sunday.

But still, there's something depressing going on here that we ought not to really ignore.

I don't DOUBT that the red-topped newspapers this morning will be heralding the show's win at the BAFTAs as a triumph of working class righteousness, a joyous celebration of cultural egalitarianism. And so they must - it was their chuntering on and on about the bloody programme for the last 2 months that helped give it its momentum.

And no DOUBT anyone who complains publicly about this win will be howled down by these same tabloid harridans, who will insist that watching young women called Sherri glueing Swarovski crystals to their waxed and buffed pudendum is a cerebrally-enriching experience on a par with reading Tolstoy.

Palpable nonsense. Tabloid journalists are not idiots, but what they are saying is that it's OK for their READERS to be idiots; nay, their idiocy should be feted, encouraged and fed continuously for fear that if folk looked up from their vajazzles for too long, they might take more of an interest in what the not-stupid folk are getting up to. Or, to paraphrase the mighty Bill Hicks, "Go back to sleep, Britain, nothing to see here".

What this BAFTA win is, once a-fucking-gain, is a celebration of the stupid, a glorification of the not knowing. A world where The Only Way Is Essex is regarded as "like, really brilliant" and worthy of a BAFTA is a world in which thinking is, effectively, something to be sneered at. In this world, to be educated is to be posh, to demand basic standards in one's cultural output is to be stuck up and out of touch. It's a world in which real, 'down-to-earth' folk are not expected to be interested in decent drama that (god forbid) someon talented has actually bothered to write, and which might (heavens above) feature the odd crinoline or multi-syllabic piece of dialogue.

DOn't get me wrong: there is a place in our cultural landscape for The Only Way is Essex. Of course there is. If there wasn't then it wouldn't get such big audiences. But for the love of god, it's imperative that we know it for what it is.
I'm an avid fan of The Apprentice (I particularly enjoy the way Alan Sugar's face crumples like a disappointed sphincter whenever he tries to tell a joke) but I enjoy it for what it is: trash telly. If I wanted to learn anything, or be mentally enriched, I'll watch something else.

Not all television is created equal, just as not all writing is equal: if that were the case, English graduates would be swotting up on Catherine Cookson. Or even (lord preserve me) Tony Parsons.
The fact that they aren't doing so doesn't detract from the intrinsic value or popularity of the trashy stuff, either: Catherine Cookson is still, I believe, the most read writer in the English language.

Say it with me, folks: it's acceptable to watch shit TV. We don't have to justify it by telling ourselves it's worthy, OK?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fancy Dress

As probably the only family in Britain (or so it would seem) who did not pay any attention to the Royal Wedding, I realise I am on shaky ground in commenting on the whole affair, but today's whinge by the low-level former Royal Sarah Ferguson about not getting an invite did grab my attention.

The Duchess of York has told US talk show host Oprah Winfrey that not receiving an invitation to the royal wedding was "difficult".

"I wanted to be there with my girls," the former royal said.

The woman concedes that being caught out flogging 'an audience with' her grimy ex-husband for half a million quid a pop might be the reason for the snub (d'ya think?):

The duchess was caught on video last year offering to sell access to Prince Andrew for £500,000 ($818,000).

"I felt that I ostracized myself by my behaviour, by the past, by living with all the regrets of my mistakes," she said.

but she still thinks it would've been nice to have joined the party. She says:

"It was so difficult... because I wanted to be there with my girls and to - and to be getting them dressed and to go as a family," the Queen's former daughter-in-law said in the interview taped on 6 May and due to air on Wednesday.

Ah. 'Getting them dressed'. What she means, of course, is that if only that bloody old baggage the Queen hadn't been so sour as to ban her from the nuptials, THIS wouldn't have happened:

Oh, ah, sorry, no, I meant this...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This man is not my grandpa

You know, as a sort-of-ish member of the journalistic profession (and not, the last time I checked, a fan of sadomasochism), I probably shouldn't be saying this: but one has got to admire Max Mosley.

In case we've forgotten (it's been a while)... The man was caught out by the tabloids in the most excruciatingly embarrassingly public way, with his pants around his ankles and a collective of grubby and slightly unsavoury prostitutes walloping him with riding crops and the like. So far, so what? Except for one detail: he is, as his name would suggest, related to a long-dead right wing fascist, and as such,the News of the World were desperate to stitch him up. In fairness, Mosley did quite a bit to help them, by getting aforementioned group of bottle-blonde lovelies to dress up in Nazi uniform and (if memory serves me correctly, as it usually does where peculiar sordid detail is concerned) pick imaginary fleas off him and shout fascistic nonsense at him. But whatever you think about the man's bedroom antics, it doesn't change the fact that there wasn't really much justification for the NOTW to come after him. Mosley certainly felt that way, anyway: he successfully sued the newspaper for printing the initial story and (would you believe the sheer front of the man!) has just taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights to seek a change in the law.

He lost, as one might expect, but as I say: He's got some brass neck, that Mosley. You can't help but admire him for not crawling, humiliated, back into bottom-spanking obscurity.

"This is just about whether the newspapers should have the right to publicise very private aspects of people's lives which there's no public interest in at all - it's just purely for titillation and to sell newspapers," he told the BBC.

Being walloped by a bunch of Nazi hookers is, I would hazard, an unusual way for a grown man to get his jollies, and doesn't exactly speak well of the morals of the man, but Mosley would hardly be the first middle-aged man to enjoy a bit of spanking. Taken in isolation, the facts of the case are really, when all is said and done, quite mundane. Before his tabloid 'expose', nobody had heard of Mosley, so one could not reasonably argue that his being dragged through the public gutter was in the public interest.
No: the reason why the NOTW wanted his scalp is not because of who THIS man is, but because of the man from whom he is descended - Oswald Mosley. When viewed through the strangely distorting eyes of the News of the Screws, Mosley deserved to be brought down because his old dad was a Nazi. And I'm afraid I can't agree with that.
The judge in Mosley's case said he had to protect the media's "right to freedom of expression". But the right to bring a person down because they don't like the politics of a person's family - and not, let's be clear, based on anything that the man himself has done, outside the confines of his own bedroom at least - is not a right that the tabloids should necessarily own, and to suggest that this agenda need 'protecting' is slightly sinister in its implication.

Ex-motorsports boss Max Mosley has lost his European Court of Human Rights bid to force newspapers to warn people before exposing their private lives.

He said the Strasbourg verdict was "disappointing" but he may appeal, to keep fighting for tighter privacy laws.

In 2008, the UK High Court awarded him £60,000 damages after ruling the News of the World invaded his right to privacy by reporting on his sex life.

Victory might have led to new privacy laws, which press bosses oppose.

Mr Mosley, 71, said of the judgement: "[I'm] obviously disappointed, but it's satisfying that they've been extremely critical of the News of the World.

"I think they've underestimated the danger from the UK tabloids but obviously they're the judges and one has to respect their decision."

Monday, November 17, 2008

70% Genius

I love that the tabloids are obsessed with this dead baby - and are particularly obsessed with giving a platform to the startling number of the dead child's relatives that are now coming forward to declare with righteous outrage how they themselves had “warned” the council and its social workers that the child was in mortal danger.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but: OF COURSE a doctor who failed to identify that anything was wrong with a clearly bruised child with broken fingers, missing fingernails, 8 broken ribs and a broken spine (otherwise known as a ‘paralysed’ child) should be brought to tribunal. Of COURSE a social worker who failed to identify the gravity of the situation with regard a child who had been seen 60 times for over 45 acknowledged injuries should not be allowed to work with children again.

But can you tell me what moral right the grandmother/cousin/neice/absent father of ANY small child has to even the smallest IOTA of outrage if they themselves did not do anything to remove the child from danger? And not just talk about how they “tried” to remove the child but were forced to hand it back. If any child of mine or my family was having its fingertips removed with a Stanley Knife as a piece of home theatre entertainment, there is no social worker, no court, frankly no WEAPON in the land that would persuade me to relinquish that child back into the care of those that had inflicted the harm.

“Oh look, my 18 month old son/grandson/nephew/fill in as appropriate appears to be being beaten senseless on a regular basis by its parents and carers, I simply must take action. I know, I’ll call the council to complain. After all, the welfare of my family is their sole responsibility, isn’t it?”

No, blame culture c**ts of Britain, it really isn’t.

And talking of blame culture, I heard probably THE best example of a person absolving themselves of personal responsibility the other day (and as this one doesn’t involve beaten-to-death children, it’s a lighter note to end on, frankly).

In a piece on the ‘credit crunch’ (it may have been local news – I dunno, maybe I was waiting for Coronation Street) there was a chap being interviewed about his nigh-on insurmountable debts and the “anguish” they had caused him and his wife as they were chased by credit companies. These companies, it transpired, were after him for the return of a grand total of £65,000, which he had spent.
On credit cards.
On cruises, five-star safaris and other “lifestyle luxuries”.
He said, and I quote, “The fact is that I now owe £65,000. And at the end of the day, I’m not completely a victim [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] because it was me that took out the loans and I spent the money, so I know that I am partially responsible. So I’d say that I’m about 70% responsible, but the banks are 30% responsible because they shouldn’t have lent me the money knowing I couldn’t pay it back”.

Absolute genius.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Political Heavyweights

Right. Well. While I've been too busy doing tedious things like working, it appears the world has gone even more fucking mental than ever.

While America celebrates it's own political events of historical significance (or if you're a newspaper journalist, revels in a never-before-seen event of monumentous, near-indescribable proportions that directly affects everyone on the face of the earth, as well as absolving the nation of its racist past, particularly the rather pesky murder of Martin Luther King, oh dear, I'm welling up), senior politicians in THIS country have been busily occupying themselves with similarly poignant and vital events of major national significance.

By this, I am of course talking about the random and entirely unexplained reference to the 'voting off' of a reality television programme singing contestant named Laura White (which apparently took place this week on a tedious 'reality' music programme on ITV called X Factor) by Andy Burnham. In the House of Commons.

No, really, I meant to put that: the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham gave a speech to the House of Commons about this programme, telling his bemused (and one can only hope, drunk) colleagues how sad he was that Ms White had failed in her quest to become a talentless music industry puppet. Sad, sad sad, he was. No, REALLY.

'Even the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, had something to say about the show in Parliament.
He said White, who lives in his constituency of Leigh in Greater Manchester, was "wonderful and talented" and the decision to axe her was "very harsh".'

An explanation for this absurd mockery of the democratic process is seemingly, if the BBC is anything to go by, deemed depressingly unnecessary.

Meanwhile, in other political news, the former (and formerly-respected) political journalist John Sergeant is apparently not doing very well in his bid to make cash as a cheap media whore by ballroom dancing badly on a BBC programme hosted by Bruce Forsyth, RIP (1807-1983).

Excuse me, I'm just off to boil my head in a vat of glue.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Supermodels’ undercarriages

Story on the BBC today about ‘designer vaginas’, in which a London-based urogynaecologist told a conference, in Canada (somehow you knew it would be) that the trend for women to get their lady gardens ‘fixed’ to look purdier is “worrying”.

Perhaps more worrying is the quote she gives to the BBC on the subject:

"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend,” she says.

Erm… have I missed something, or aren’t supermodels generally known for the slenderness of their bodyframes and the uninspiring prettiness of their faces?

Since when did the poor underfed minxes become women with well-documentedly tidy labia?

P.S. The designer vagina operation is called a labiaplasty. What kind of a sense of humour bypass must the plastic surgery industry have had not to want to call it a labotomy?

'A leading urogynaecologist has spoken out against the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery.
Professor Linda Cardozo, of King's College Hospital, London, says little evidence exists to advise women on the safety or effectiveness of procedures.
These include operations to make the external appearance more "attractive" and reshaping the vagina to counter laxity after childbirth, for example.
She discussed the issues at a medical meeting in Montreal, Canada.
A Google search showed over 45,000 references to cosmetic vaginal surgery, yet on medical databases such as PubMed or Medline there were less than 100.
Professor Cardozo said the most established vaginal cosmetic procedure was reduction labioplasty - a procedure to make the labia smaller - which is requested by women either for aesthetic reasons or to alleviate physical discomfort.
"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky.
"Most of the procedures are done in the private sector and it's totally unregulated."
The exact numbers of procedures carried out are unknown.
In the past five years there has been a doubling of the number of labial reductions carried out on the NHS from 400 in 2000/1 to 800 in 2004/5.
Growing trend
The evidence from existing case studies shows that the procedure, which costs about £2,000 at a private clinic, does have positive aesthetic results but it is unclear whether it resolves feelings of psychological distress or improves sexual functioning, she said.
And there was little evidence that "vaginal rejuvenation" - the surgical repair of vaginal laxity, with a price tag of about £3,000 - improved symptoms and was any better than doing simple pelvic floor muscle exercises.
She said robust research was needed so that doctors could properly advise their patients. In the meantime, she urged surgeons to remain cautious and operate only as a last resort.
In her presentation at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 7th International Scientific Meeting, Professor Cardozo said: "Cosmetic vaginal procedures raise a number of serious ethical questions.
"Women are paying large sums of money for this type of surgery which may improve the appearance of their genitalia but there is no evidence that it improves function."'

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"My heart just broke for the terrorist cause"

So here we have another dippy American actress glamourising the IRA and its illustrious work of the 1970s-1990s.

I UNDERSTAND that the IRA are, by virtue of being Irish, intrinsically cool to some in the US.

I UNDERSTAND that the IRA are OK because their targets were the English and not their good old friends in America - that nation that saved them from the potato famine, saved them from British oppression, and in which (obscurely when you think about it) huge numbers of people identify themselves as being 'Irish' because they come from Boston or New York and have great grannies from Tipperary.

And I UNDERSTAND that the issue of Irish Republicanism looks terribly black and white, terribly David and Goliath, and terribly easy to unravel in the eyes of people who can't be bothered to understand it properly: think Mel Gibson and his interpretation of Scottish nationalism for a nice wee comparison.

But it's still all a bit tiring, isn't it?

Many in America have tended to think of members of the IRA as being, in reality, much as they portray them in the movies: good looking (Daniel Day Lewis crossed with Brad Pitt crossed with Aiden Gillen with a soupcon of Colin Farrell, if you like), passionate and troubled souls who are perhaps misguided, yet glamorously violent and - here's the key thing - JUSTIFIED - freedom fighters. And as long as the knees they were capping and the children they were blowing up were located in Derry, Birmingham or London, they could continue funding the IRA to their hearts content and no harm done (Angelica Huston, you stupid bitch, I'm looking at you).

Interestingly, after America found itself the victim of a major terrorist incident (seven years ago today, in fact), many of those same people who had been quick to sympathise with the IRA's 'cause' (they have a cause, see, not like those pesky towel heads) found that, actually, they weren't really all that fond of terrorism after all.
It's no coincidence that the IRA's demotion to 'yesterday's terrorists', with funds drying up quicker than they could blink, happened at much the same time as Al Qaeda started to take violent action against what it saw as an internationally oppressive US.

Which makes these remarks by actress Rose McGowan (me neither) particularly surprising and particularly hilariously misjudged. Because while she might think she's on safe ground staying off the topic of Middle Eastern politics on September 11th, and promoting her movie by chuntering about the once-again-cute-but-dangerous Irish brand of terrorists, all you have to do is replace the phrase 'IRA' in the story below with 'Al Qaeda' and 'Belfast' for 'Kabul' and you realise just how completely she has got that wrong.

'Hollywood actress Rose McGowan has said she would have joined the IRA if she lived in Belfast during the Troubles.
McGowan stars in Fifty Dead Men Walking, an adaptation of IRA informer Martin McGartland's autobiography.
"My heart just broke for the cause," she told a news conference ahead of the film's world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Violence is not to be played out daily and provide an answer to problems, but I understand it."
The film also stars Jim Sturgess as Mr McGartland and Sir Ben Kingsley as his British handler.
It tells the story of how Mr McGartland joined the IRA at 16 after he was recruited by RUC Special Branch to infiltrate the group.
It chronicles his four years in the IRA between 1987 and 1991 before his cover was blown and he was kidnapped.
He escaped by jumping out of a window but was later resettled with a secret identity in Whitley Bay, near Newcastle upon Tyne.
However, his new name emerged after he was prosecuted for a driving offence, and in 1999 he was badly wounded in a gun attack, blamed on the IRA. Since then, MI5 has given him another name and moved him to another location.
Mr McGartland opposed the film for months but he now says he is happy with it following negotiations this week, which according to Reuters, included a £20,000 settlement whereby he agreed not to pursue legal action.
"The producers gave me a copy of the DVD and I watched it again ... and the more I watch it, I just love it," he said.
Canadian director Kari Skogland said Mr McGartland initially found it difficult to understand the film based on his life was not the same as making a documentary about him.
She said during filming in Belfast, advice from former IRA members on how to make a bomb and techniques for torturing informants helped to add authenticity to the project.
"I had many secret meetings in dark places. We were being watched by all sides, phones tapped, that sort of thing," she told the Hollywood Reporter.'

P.S. LOVING McGartland's quote about the movie he'd apparently hated until they bunged him £20 grand to shut up. "The more I watch it, I just love it". Anyone would think he was taking the piss.