About Reading

It’s a strange condition of the world we live in that art requires almost constant justification. Especially the humanities.

“Reading doesn’t prevent genocide bro. Reading won’t stop the climate from changing, you know what I’m saying? The humanities are useless mate, they don’t teach you anything important do they? What kind of job are you going to get with a history degree?”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Film director Steven Soderbergh gives a far more eloquent defence of art in general than I:

Art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being – literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone. You’re connected to the arts.

The reason we need the humanities is because we are human. That ought to be enough.

Yet the art of reading is under a seemingly inexhaustible attack, like the Roman Empire it is overwhelmed; fighting a Sisyphean battle against everything electronic. A National Literary Trust study in 2012 surveyed 21,000 children and teenagers and found that they read less of everything. Comics, books, and magazines – all crowded out by the increasing pressure that the voltaic world is putting on the physical reality of young people. 17% said they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading a book. Three in every ten said they choose to read every day in their spare time. A third of UK households don’t have any books in them.

There is a magnificent paradox here however. The ‘Millennial’ generation is far from illiterate. In fact it may be the first generation in history that is entirely composed of authors, albeit not particularly skilled ones. For what are Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and Tumblr if not a form of publication, a forum for micro-fiction, instant information exchange and a kind of personal open wound style storytelling? Every precious thought or observation or opinion (especially opinion) is broadcast for consumption within the infinite milieu. Every email, tweet and post is validation of our existence, we need to be seen and we need to be heard – all the time.

To write well obviously requires literacy. It requires the ability to read and to have read well and yet Samuel Johnson’s aphorism that ‘what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure’ has never been more relevant. Tweets and posts are generally stacked like so many rusting cars in an endless scrapyard because they are instantaneous, utterly ephemeral and often just bursts of emotive flatulence. As the sender of nearly 12,000 tweets in the space of around 18 months I can vouch for how entirely pointless the vast majority of my little leakages are.

Some people refuse to see this. Within the Internet lies a utopian future. They almost always point to the Arab Spring and the ‘Twitter Revolution” in Iran circa 2009 as examples of the first flexing of the teeming sinews of a profound new Net-centric power that is a ‘Good Thing’ for literacy and truth and liberty. Many historians of the printing press strike similar notes. Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, the historian who has done the most to trump up the ‘profound’ effects of the advent of printing in the 15th century, often does her utmost to downplay the invention’s use for ignoble purposes.

It goes without saying that the press soon reflected the worst of human nature. Almost as soon as it was invented it was used to publish superstitious nonsense like the Malleus Maleficarum, a text found in the libraries of good 16th century witch hunters everywhere. More often that not radical technological innovation will be used to support the ossifying structures of orthodoxy – not to bring them down. Filippo di Strata wryly observed that whilst the pen is a virgin, the printing press is a whore.

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What does that make the Internet? Iran had just twenty thousand Twitter subscribers in 2009 – there was no revolution there. The elite will tolerate limited dissent as long as it remains profitable and limited in its effects – exactly what cyber dissent is. Note that a far larger percentage of all posts on Twitter discuss association football than politics. Marx told us that the philosophers had just interpreted the world; the real purpose of our lives was to change it. This will not happen on the web, a realm of the emotionally incontinent and a place for entertainment not activism. The internet is a province of stupefaction beyond Aldous Huxley’s wildest nightmares. The digital utopians who place their faith in the ‘transformative’ aspects of the web are the new historicists, trying to find a laws and trends and generalizations where only singular and specific events exist.

Within Twitter and Facebook and all the other networked dives and virtual saloons that are beamed around the world a problem is revealed. People can’t actually write anything that will last longer than five minutes.

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It seems like a lingering truism to suggest that one cannot simply put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard and create something worthy of consumption without first reading widely and diligently. In a recent article for the Los Angeles Review of Books William Giraldi discusses the writer as reader with specific reference to Herman Melville the author of Moby Dick. He quotes Hershel Parker (author of a vast two-volume biography of Melville):

“Melville was not reading in order to acquire knowledge for its own sake, his evident purpose in reading the epics of Western Civilization was to learn how to write.”

Melville’s vigorous reading of the epics, especially Milton’s Paradise Lost, is according to Giraldi, what injects such compelling potency into Captain Ahab, “the most compelling quester in the American canon”. The tradition of ‘proper’ reading retains its importance across literary culture. Just as there could be no Ahab without Milton’s Satan, without Ahab there could be no Judge Holden (arguably the single greatest evil imagined in 20th century literature) in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. McCarthy both acknowledges and rejects a comparison between his own creation and Milton’s Satan or Melville’s Ahab within his own work by saying of the Judge:

“Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there a system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go.”

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McCarthy is doffing his cap at readers familiar with both Moby Dick and Paradise Lost; in a rare interview for The New York Times given in 1992, McCarthy baldly acknowledges a truth that is disturbing for both undergraduates and academics who live cowering in fear plagiarism:

“The ugly fact is books are made out of other books.”

Without reading and the conversation that has existed since the first story was told around a fire in some dismal encampment or daubed on a primordial rock face, there is no writing. Reading must happen so that we too may participate in this authorial dialogue. We must struggle against the limits of our life span and perception in order to perceive this ceaseless, ever varying and overlapping emulsion that can carry us to the shores of the past and the future.

There ought to be shame and handwringing about the failure of publishers and educators to inspire the next generation of readers. It is not just a case of the Millennials consuming ‘trash’ entertainment either. We have noted the pitfalls of the Internet but that does not mean that the literary world is an exclusive and privileged ghetto where the best stories reside.

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People increasingly turn to television for the best stories; Game of Thrones (that rare beast that supersedes and improves its source material), Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Mad Men and The Wire have initiated a halcyon era of programming where storytelling and complex characterization is key. The appetite for great stories exists. What are the literary phenomena of the past decade? Unctuous and turgid tales like Fifty Shades of Grey and Harry Potter.

Henry Miller observed that ‘nothing is proposed that can last more than twenty-four hours,’ and ‘we are living a million lives in the space of a generation.’ Miller was writing in the 1930’s, before the present era of instant gratification and communication. Somehow in a world where we can live a million lives in a week and nothing that is proposed can last more than an hour before it lies dissected and cold, our l’angoisse de la mort is heightened and amplified. With each added demand on cheapened time it becomes more precious. It is not a question of why we read then, but why should we continue to read?

John Williams gives a lyrical answer in his novel Stoner by evoking the mysterious gestation of a true reader, that magical process shaped by both circumstance and that spark of the imagination each of us holds, in a truly mesmeric way:

“The past gathered out of the darkness where it stayed, and the dead raised themselves to live before him; and the past and the dead flowed into the present among the alive, so that he had for an intense instant a vision of denseness into which he was compacted and from which he could not escape and had no wish to escape.”

That is the transformation that occurs in all who learn to love literature and it is why those that do will always read.

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On Batfleck and Superman

(Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros)

I can’t have been the only one.

Walking out of the cinema with a huge grin on my face, still reeling from the formidable slice of cinema that is Man of Steel, to say:

“Boy, they could only better that if they had Ben Affleck as Batman in the next one!”

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn't you hear about it?

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn’t you hear about it?

I am of course being facetious. Man of Steel was not a terrible film but no one actually walked out of it with anything other than a headache and slight motion sickness, let alone a demand that the star of Gigli should don Batman’s famed cape and cowl.

Indeed the very idea of a Batman/Superman smackdown seemed strange even before Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne. The presence of two iconic characters in one film demands that the principle question of why they are together is answered with panache.

I fear that this fundamental imperative will be ignored. I fear that it is economic considerations on the part of Warner Brothers that are driving Batman/Superman towards its July 2015 release date, instead of what ought to be the prerequisite of making such a picture: a great idea for a story.

Films have to make money – I get that, but cherished characters like Bats and Supes have to earn that showdown, just as Marvel did with The AvengersMan of Steel certainly did not lay the groundwork for such a clash and director Zack Snyder and studio Warner Bro’s have not yet created a cinematic universe big or interesting enough to explain the presence of these two icons in one movie. This is the equivalent of making The Avengers after the first Iron Man

Marvel’s massive success at universe building has probably disturbed the suits at Warner. It ought not to though. They are after all the studio that gave us Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the only sequence of films in the whole superhero genre that might be called definitive, thematically interesting and perhaps even imperishable.

The reason the announcement of Affleck has been met with such consternation across the internet is because it is very difficult indeed to imagine anyone playing Bruce Wayne other than Christian Bale. The latter was an utterly ferocious Batman imbued with a physical and emotional intelligence that will be hard for Affleck (or any other actor for that matter) to emulate. God help them when they try and cast a new Alfred after what Michael Caine did with the part.

This doesn’t mean casting Affleck was wrong. Or that nobody can ever be cast as Batman again. On the contrary, he may be a good Batman. The decision to put Bats in the next Man of Steel is wrong though, simply because instead of respecting both the work of Nolan and the intelligence/wallets of cinema goers, Warner are content to chase the quick buck that Batman/Superman represents. I guess some men just want to watch the world burn, or they’re really, really impatient. For me the whole thing stinks of desperation.

The aforementioned Mr. Caine has a very wry observation on Batman and Superman:

“Superman is how America views itself. Batman is how the rest of the world views America”

In other words if Superman was an American politician he’d be a bullshitting and mythologised emulsion of various founding fathers and Batman would be Richard Milhous Nixon, a man with a crozzled and blackened heart whose very existence taints the American dream.

Good luck Ben, I think you’re going to need it.

The Horror of The House of Windsor

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What right-thinking person thinks it possible to have a “famous” baby? For that is what our future King will be, famous before he even does anything. At least by the time Mozart was eight he’d had the temerity to compose a symphony. This ‘famous’ baby, I confidently predict, will do nothing worthy and nothing important enough to earn all the simpering adulation it will be received with. And that is the way it should be. Babies shouldn’t be famous because that is an absurdity. It is a fiction.

The Royal Family makes me embarrassed to be British. The pretence that we are a democracy, that this country is egalitarian will melt away when this baby is presented to the fawning blimps that constitute a minority in these isles and the global media gathers to celebrate the continuation of the hereditary principle. Why not go and celebrate infanticide, incest and bestiality then – the other trappings of a medieval society. In fact, when pageants such as this one occur we are all reminded of our place: we are subjects not citizens. This child will be the gilded strut that props up our unlovely system of class distinction and hierarchy.

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The House of Windsor are the great progenitors of our culture of surface-fetishism, our worship of the unimportant lives of unremarkable people led on by the evermore vulgar media inculcated impulses of cheering and jeering.  Yet conversely they have managed to insert themselves into a mysterious and parochially exotic world. The world of national tradition; and when she dies our current monarch will find herself a symbol of the nation as much as Dickens, or the paintings of Turner and Constable, or the sound of Big Ben tolling in sodden London.

This group of mammals does not deserve to be part of this tradition and their place there is an invention. Cameron, Miliband and Salmond were eviscerated for attending the Wimbledon final as it was seen by many as an example of political opportunism – what then of the Royals presence at the Olympics and all the other great circuses of our island. As William Cobbett remarked, you can tell a lot about a country that refers to the Royal Mint and the National Debt.

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Fun fact: Charles first met Diana when she was 13 and he was 19! LMFAO

What then will become of our little royal superior? Perhaps he will be a fetid creature like Charles, a man so unctuous that he makes one tempted to believe Mohammed Al Fayed’s moonshine afflicted and thoroughly off the wall story that Diana was assassinated. It may be that the kid is more like it’s raffish uncle Harry, a man who enjoyed blowing up Afghani peasants from the seat of his attack helicopter so much that he participated in not one, but two tours of bloodslaked butchery.

Isaac Deutscher once said of the old Soviet Union, as the great clanking beast rusted and died, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose.” No axiom is more appropriate for the toxic reality of deficit Britain, where the money spent yearly on the Royals could pay for 9560 nurses or 8200 police officers.

The Windsors and their army of adulators await the annunciation of the child with the same atavistic fever as those who yearn to see the slick of virgin’s blood on a white bedsheet at some barbaric wedding ritual. There won’t ever be an honest discussion about these people and their role in our country. We are too inured to them now, for where they tread we are but supernumeraries in this dream of life.

Everything Must Go: The People who Relegated QPR

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It’s not Arry’s fault. Honest guv.

Incompetence. Greed. Laziness. PR disasters. And thats just Jose Bosingwa. In a mere two seasons, QPR have stunk the Premier League out good and proper. Tony Fernandes has been left hanging from a branch like a bloated, beaten piñata, gleefully smashed by agents, managers and players. Today, Frankly Vulgar delivers it’s damning personal judgment on some of the people have contributed to this sorry, sorry mess. 

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These two are probably less full of mirth right now.

Park Ji-sung

Park is what I imagine Europe’s capital cities were like in April 1945 – a fucking wreck. He isn’t so much a footballer as he is the remains of one. Gone is the big game gyro, Fergie’s go-to-hustler, his oxymoronically offensive shield. I remember watching Manchester United rout AC Milan 4-0 at Old Trafford. Park was the best player on the pitch. He smothered Andrea Pirlo, suffocated him, running him down into the pitch to the point where the Italian was entirely anonymous. It was a masterclass.

Watching Ji trot hopelessly around Loftus Road, misplacing five yard passes, having to make every second touch a tackle because he can no longer trap a ball, well, it would be sad – if he hadn’t cost the best part of £5 million. The only optimism to be found in watching Park these days is that he actually proves the existence of the afterlife – he has become a ghost.

Verdict: Due a trip to the glue factory.

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As Esteban looked into Mark’s eyes, he realised he had only one question: What the fuck am I doing here.

Esteban Granero

Since Euro 2008 football has had a distinctly Spanish flavour. Tiki-taka has become a layman’s term. Fat, balding men with wheezy voices across Britain have had arguments in pubs about whether the Spanish style, the Barcelona piquancy of pressing and passing, is ‘boring’ or not. Well, regardless of its robotic bloodlessness, its a style that has until very recently been dominant.

I imagine Mark Hughes thought Esteban Granero would bring some of this confidence, this metronomic ability to terminate the opposition through a sheer tonnage of sideways passing, to QPR. In defeat against Manchester City and a draw to Chelsea, Granero made a positive impression: here was a player with pedigree, technique and awareness; an aristocratic footballer. Unfortunately what Granero lacked was balls. The man is a eunuch. As soon as things went sour at QPR this season Granero downed his tools. He started to mope around the pitch, unable to pass the ball without a sort of restless, tempo-sapping vacillation about the way he did it. He’s a wallflower.

Verdict: If Blanche DuBois was a Spanish footballer.

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I’m actually amazed the good people at Soccer Starz thought Hoilett was good enough to justify being turned into one of these.

Junior Hoilett

David ‘Junior’ Hoilett is what some of my friends would refer to as a ‘sideman’. A wasteman. A dick. Last summer most QPR fans would have had young Junior at the apex of their transfer wish lists. We were giddy when he actually did sign – pacy, tricky , a provider of goals with an eye for the spectacular and he was young. Under 30. Not a big name but with the right management he could be.

We should have been questioning why he came to QPR when he could have played in front of 50,000 at St. James’ or played Champions League football in Germany with Monchengladbach. The player who turned up at QPR was pathetic – fat, slow, lazy and uninterested. Another player treating the club as a kind of money teat to suck on. You can see it on the pitch. It means fuck all to him. The biggest insult I can pay him is that Shaun Wright-Philips is a better footballer than him.

Verdict: Chubby Little Loser.

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The Loftus Road turf wasn’t very receptive to Rob Green’s overtures.

Rob Green

Temporary unconsciousness, extreme agitation, lethargy, functional blindness or paralysis, completely unrealistic responses to the challenge of events, strange reversals of life-long patterns of behaviour – these are the symptoms of Rob Green Syndrome (RGS). Those who suffer with RGS should avoid situations that involve high stress or pressure. If you think you are suffering from RGS call 999 without hesitation. Even if the symptoms of RGS disappear whilst you are waiting for an ambulance, medical professionals advise that you should still go to hospital for treatment.

A friend of mine supports West Ham and insists that ‘Greeno’ is a very capable keeper. Well if thats the case I would like to know where on earth he has been hiding for the last 9 months.

Verdict: Shell Shocked.

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Chris tries to work out what the biggest animal he could kill without a weapon is. Experts at Frankly Vulgar have calculated that it could be as large as a Polar Bear.

Chris Samba

Chris Samba has all the attributes of a player that an idiot (Robbie Savage) thinks would make a good centre back. He’s just a pretty big guy. He’s also pretty slow, pretty cumbersome and pretty mediocre. Journalists still attribute ridiculous adjectives to Samba – I’ve seen him described this season as monstrous, commanding and imperious. The only thing ‘monstrous’ about Samba is his weekly wage – the joke doing the rounds on Sunday was the he missed that days dire derby suicide pact game against Reading because he dropped his wallet on his foot.

Verdict: Big Man Big Money Big Mistakes

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Stéphane Mbia

Awwwwhh! Bless Stéphane Mbia! Look at him giving his shirt away after the game! To a little kid as well! Look how cute he is on Twitter!

Call me a cynic but if Mbia was anywhere near as good as his tooth-achingly saccharine PR then QPR wouldn’t be looking forward to trips to Bournemouth, Barnsley and Burnley next season. Mbia was an excellent (if Wikipedia is to be believed) defender at Marseille. He has been a palpably below average midfielder for QPR. When Mbia signed from Marseille, Joey Barton was packed off the other way on loan. If you’d told me at the time that Marseille would get the better end of the deal I would have ridiculed you. Shows how much I know.

Verdict: His head is the same shape as a  really big baked potato. Creepy.

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The Samba philosophy.

Samba Diakité

Samba is that kid in your class at school. The quiet one who head-butted the door when he got angry. The one who stuck pencils in his nose until it bled and he started crying. Ralph Wiggum with a dash of the old ultra-violence. That kid.

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Samba terminates another opposition midfielder. With EXTREME prejudice.

Samba Diakité’s QPR debut against Fulham last season was utterly extraordinary. He was on the pitch for about 30 minutes and in that time he made thirteen fouls. You could have made a case for each one of them being a red card. Samba has rarely featured this season and when he has he is just as inanely violent as he always is. Most of his time has been spent taking a few sabbaticals in a attempt to make peace with his (incredibly destructive) inner-self.

Verdict: A Chickenless Head

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Bobby’s one man remake of ‘The Karate Kid’ wasn’t universally popular at Loftus Road.

Bobby Zamora

QPR got seriously fleeced when they paid £6 million for this wanker. Bobby is better at moaning about shit than he is at playing football. He makes fancy dress enthusiast Julio Cesar look like a good PR guru.

QPR faced Reading at Loftus Road in November for what was already a relegation six-pointer. This is what Bobby had to say before the game. How clueless can you get? Also for most of the season Bobby has had a very sore hip. He shows this during games by puffing his cheeks out and rubbing it – just in case we didn’t realise. It was impossible not to know about Bobby’s mythical hip this season – Harry Redknapp never stopped going on about the bloody thing. ‘If only’ Bobby could be fit alongside Remy, then we would have a chance said ‘Arry. No. ‘If only’ we had a manager sensible enough not to rely on a hypochondriac like Bobby. ‘If only’ we hadn’t packed off the superb Heidar Helguson to Cardiff for a pittance. Bobby is half the man.

Verdict: The Walking Dead.

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Jose was delighted to hear from his agent about the contract offer QPR made him.

Jose Bosingwa

Some questions:

1. You’re a multi-millionaire. You have a mono-brow. Why persist with it? Why?

2. How did a player this useless win the Champions League twice?

3. Why did Harry Redknapp keep playing him in the second half of the season? Nedum Onuoha and Fabio are better players and are also, importantly, not Jose Bosingwa.

4. Dear Jose why do you move like a really awkward crab when you shuffle up the touchline?

Verdict: BOOOO-singwa

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Phil Beard in a situation that would make David Brent proud.

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This is exactly how I imagine Tony Fernandes sits in the boardroom.

The Board

It is very fashionable to blame QPR’s predicament on Mark Hughes. He signed the players. He failed to motivate and prepare them properly. He was an awful manager. Nobody seems to blame Harry Redknapp. He ought to get some of the blame as well. With more games and as much money as Hughes he ended up presiding over just as much of a shambles. What both men have in common is the ability to blame anyone, anything, other than themselves. That and not being as good as their buddies in the media make them out to be.

I would call both of them incompetent. Then again, I would say that the board is incompetent for appointing them. Tony Fernandes is an embarrassment, his tweeting is an embarrassment  his comparison of QPR to his shit Formula1 team was an embarrassment and his damaging, destabilising little meltdown was an embarrassment. He might actually be a decent man, a good bloke and all the other things his sycophantic legions of followers say he is. That wouldn’t change the fact that his near two years in charge of QPR have resembled a forced death march towards the Football League.

Verdict: Fresh Meat in a Piranha Tank.

2012 in Review: Part 3 – Obama Sleepwalks, Romney Blunders and the BBC explodes

Obama - better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Obama – better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Enough about Bane, what about Bain? Former CEO of Bain Capital (the kind of organisation that nearly sliced James Bond in half with a lazer) Mitt Romney managed to make people with access to television news in 2012 feel comforted – ‘no, I’m not as stupid as that guy’ people said the world over. Whether he was casually flipping through ‘binders of women’, telling us with a straight face that ‘corporations are people’ or pissing off the whole of Great Britain on a foreign relations tour that was more Peter Griffin than presidential, Romney managed to make even the biggest imbeciles feel smart in 2012.

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The only thing pleasing about Romney’s presence was the obviousness of his ultimate absence from the presidency. The worldview Romney represented is currently flowing down a demographic sinkhole into political irrelevance; old rich white guys won’t be able to get away with telling people to ‘self-deport’ much longer, they can’t even get away with it now anyway. Barack Obama, despite numerous achievements, even the fact that he is President at all (reading ‘Dreams from My Father‘ this year I was struck by just how incredible a man Obama is), has been disappointing – the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open, Drones still buzz around shredding civilians with about as much discretion as Britney in a hairdressers and a more general malaise in his presidency – a sense that he has allowed the extremist wing of the Republican party to set the political agenda since 2010, all added up to a feeling of impasse around his presidency.  Yet Barry remains the first man to sleepwalk his way to the White House, his lethargic debate performances and the notion that his election was a statistical inevitability rendered the election itself oddly artificial, devoid of real drama.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

I’m one of those annoying hipster types that was not looking forward to the London Olympic Games in 2012. There was that ugly red squiggle ‘sculpture‘ in the olympic park, the crappy corporate hysteria that surrounds every games and the frankly bizarre science fiction sex toy mascot things. Thus, having spent most of the summer organising  all the sarcastic things I would say about the games in my head for the inevitable Twitter free-for-all that would ensue, I ended up massively disappointed. In the best possible way. Being a Londoner this summer was like being a Bolshevik in October 1917. It was more than ok. It was a dimension away from the London of a year previously, as if the city had demarcated two periods of craziness, one bad (buildings on fire, lots of trainers stolen), one good (slow motion montages of healthy role models, lots of gold medals won). You would walk around and see random people smiling, grinning even. The weather was a delight. We won a silly number of medals. Luis Suarez was booed with delirious abandon in the football tournament but not as much as slimy puss-cheeked Tory Chancellor George Osbourne was whenever he creeped into an Olympic venue.

Jess Ennis - um yes.

Jess Ennis – um yes.

We booed! We cheered! We had debates about the intricacies of sports that we didn’t understand on Twitter. We realised that as well as having much better booty, Jess Ennis was a much better role model than Pippa Middleton. We laughed as jumped up diet-Bieber Tom Daley only managed a bronze after the media had spent four years wanking over pictures of his bronzed torso and TOWIE tooth filled maw. The opening ceremony was a sensational triumph (even though nobody talked about how most of its best imagery was nicked from the film ‘Brazil’). The BBC surpassed itself with glorious seemingly 24 hours a day coverage, whilst avoiding the temptation to roll out the John Barrowman/Tess Daley/Fearne Cotton axis of evil. Outside of expunging the image of Boris and Dave dad-dancing, the legacy of the games so far (writing this in the first week of 2013) seems to consist of this and this. Generation. Inspired.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

What next for the BBC after a year of acclaimed sporting coverage? A massive sex scandal/cover-up involving that dead bloke who dressed like a sweet shop and inspired more nervous laughter (Jimmy Savile) than anybody else in British history? Indeed. The Savile scandal was the most genuinely lurid and disconcerting story of the year. Unlike Joseph Kony, Savile didn’t need to be made famous – he was famous, perhaps the most famous British television/radio personality of the last half-century. His eccentricism:  the manner in which he spoke, dressed; his reclusive personal life, all marked him out as ‘different’. A friend to Prince Charles and Thatcher, the first host of Top of the Pops, a man who raised £40 million for charity. 

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Yet Savile’s sexuality had always been questioned. There have been idle pub jokes: “I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. When I was 8, he fixed it for me to milk a cow blindfolded” and so on. More famously there was the Louis Theroux documentary “When Louis met… Jimmy” in 2000, which painted Savile as a sad man, desperate to remain in the public conciseness but without public intrusion into his public life; a cipher in his own home clinging oedipally to objects that reminded him of his late mother.  In October a storm broke; Savile it appeared was a predatory sex offender and possibly even a necrophiliac. As these allegations broke, day after day, the media – and in particular our dear BBC became a chickenless head that frankly didn’t have a fucking clue what to do. Panorama was investigating Newsnight, and Newsnight was investigating itself and Jeremy Paxman didn’t know who to ask questions of and Esther Ransen wouldn’t shut up about how much she loved kids and ITV was laughing a lot and Philip Schoefield gave David Cameron a list of names (Sorry Lord Mcalpine) and Eamon Holmes and these women presumably felt ashamed. Total chaos then. Personally I would’ve dragged Prince Charles out in front of the flashbulbs and asked him some impertinent questions but he is a prince and we are a bunch of peasants, so that kind of thing doesn’t happen in this country. I was reminded of my old school. The whole affair was succinctly surmised by my mother: “He’s ruined the 70’s for me”. Quite. In related news the Pope got twitter this year, @Pontifex.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside? Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

As a year I think it’s safe to say that 2012 began in January and finished unexpectedly in December. It was a decent enough year, lacking a bit of the sparkle of 2011. The bloke shouting “FENTON” was no Rebecca Black for example. Or maybe it was? That will be for the historians to decide in the years ahead of us. I look forward to 2013; Joseph Kony’s continuing, epic game of hide and seek, the Pope’s first hashtag and best of all a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

2012 in Review: Part 2 – Crying Claire Danes, Bane and beards

Television in 2012 was as feckless as ever. While that guy whose face resembled a medium sized ham with two pickled onions stuck in the middle of it won X-Factor; the BBC completely revolutionised the talent show genre by putting Tom Jones, diet-Bono, the Fringe and Will.i.am in big fucking chairsThis was ‘The Voice‘. This was the future of television. Or it was just another shite show that nobody watched after the auditions.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones' grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones’ grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

The only thing I really got into in 2012 was Showtime’s terrorist drama ‘Homeland‘, two series of which were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. My televisual year was therefore dominated by images of actress Claire Danes weeping, staring and yelping with such authenticity that it spawned this. The first series was a brilliant I-can’t-recommend-this-enough mixture of mental illness, uncomfortable sex scenes that you wouldn’t watch with your mates let alone your parents and the murky moral minefield that is the War on Terror. The series finale was so tense that I don’t think I moved for the entire 2 hours; Channel 4 hadn’t been this exciting since Ahmed broke all the plates on Big Brother 5. Would Brody detonate the suicide vest? Would the wind change while Claire Danes was making one of her crazy faces? Why was Saul‘s beard so God damn itchy?

Saul's idea of a disguise - a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Saul’s idea of a disguise – a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Naturally this being 2012 a paltry year, in which all entertainment figures from the 1970’s turned out to be pedophiles and John Terry got to lift the European Cup, we did get answers to the questions Homeland posed; they were just incredibly fucking stupid. The first series’ perfect blend of suspense, hilarious false beard heavy flashbacks and plausible characters was suspended in the second series. We instead enjoyed preposterous plot twists, remote controlled pacemakers and terrorist helicopters that could fly undetectably around Washington D.C. without the C.I.A. being able to do a thing. Oh and somebody tell the actress who plays Dana that fiddling a lot doesn’t make her an actress.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

Thankfully 2012 had plenty more stupid to bring to our screens. A cavalcade of sequels, prequels, remakes, re-imaginings and re-packages – we may look back at 2012 and see it as the zenith of Hollywood‘s absolute creative bankruptcy. Until we reach summer 2013. There was the good-looking ‘Prometheus’, a prequel to ‘Alien‘ that was so highly anticipated and so hyped up that everybody forgot that a creative collaboration between the writer of  Lost’s bafflingly shite finale and the consistently inconsistent Ridley Scott was bound to be a confusedly well-designed blancmange of a movie.The Hunger Games’ was a sort of ‘Twilight’/‘Battle Royale’ crossover without the gay vampires, t-shirt removal and graphic violence of those two. ‘The Hunger Games’ replaced those with some competent female archery, a guy who was really, really good at makeup and some convenient killer bees. It was alright. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ saw Andrew Garfield (age 30) and Emma Stone (age 24) playing two 17 year-olds, making a film with a giant talking lizard in it even less plausible than it already was. ‘Safe House‘ was a by the numbers Denzel Washington thriller in which Denzel, playing a maniacal genius, showed the characters off the scale intelligence by muttering ‘tick-tock’, befriending Ryan Reynolds  and shooting his pistol with above-average levels of flamboyance. Quite. ‘The Hobbit‘ sees Tim from ‘The Office‘ embark on an epic quest, battling Trolls, Wargs and Andy Serkis in a wet suit. It’s an uncomfortably long film, containing a fucking huge number of close up shots of Ian McKellan‘s Gandalf doing weird shit with his eyebrows. The much-lauded ‘Skyfall‘ marked the 50th anniversary of James Bond by essentially remaking 2008’s  ‘The Dark Knight‘ complete with random scenes were a brooding Daniel Craig stands on a roof for no reason at all. Javier Bardem gives it his best Heath Ledger and there’s even a butler who gives our moody protagonist the perfect salt of the earth advice we would all enjoy receiving (except he is Scottish not a bleedin’ cockney). Nowhere near as good as everyone says it is.

Prometheus - the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the 'toilet' is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail.

Prometheus – the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the ‘toilet’ is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail. Or toilet paper. And you’re on a train.

The most frustrating film of 2012 was without a doubt The Dark Knight Rises‘. Yes it had numerous moments. The ‘Blues Brothers‘ style car chase at the beginning, a startlingly brutal moment involving Christian Bale‘s  spine and the wonderful Michael Caine turning the ham-o-meter up to 11 in one great scene. But these were the occasional laudable stars shining in a reservoir of a movie. The incomprehensible plot littered with asine conveniences, the painstakingly obvious dialogue/political allegory and the fact that NOTHING the films villain, Bane said made any sense. If I wanted to watch a bald guy masticating indecipherably through shit dialogue with a look of wide eyed confusion on his face then I can go and watch Gregg Wallace on Masterchef.  It was completely ridiculous. The way people talk about the film you’d think it’s ‘The Godfather‘ but it is not near as much fun as ‘The Avengers‘, a film which doesn’t have a batarang up its arse. I’ll end this part with some of Bane’s dialogue from ‘TDKR’:

Mpppppmhhhhhh mphhhhh mhhhh oarghhhh reckoning mmmpppp!

2012 in Review: Part 1 – Kony, Pasties, ‘Propinquity’ and Princes

The world didn’t manage to end in 2012, unless your happened to be a relative of the late Sir Jimmy Savile OBE, KCSG. It was a year of cringing indifference, political incompetence and shuffling entropy. Prince Charles became a weatherman. Clearly it was a strange year and a particularly anticlimactic one at that, after 2011’s season finale feel, being a year of revolution, rioting and the occasional nuclear explosion, 2012 instead brought us another step closer to having a Prime Minister with the initials ‘BJ’. 

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Boris: not the man of the year. More of a dangling grape actually.

The Leveson inquiry was the best daytime television ever apparently (or so I’ve heard, I was stuck at bloody school when it was going down). It was a good excuse to watch dreamy Perry Mason-a-like Robert Jay QC utter stupendously big words like ‘propinquity’ and ‘condign’ with terrifying control and accuracy. Celebrities usually seen in the context of desperately trying to distract us from the crashing awfulness of the real world and its often horrible ‘news’ became part of its fabric for a few weeks. Hugh Grant, Imogen ‘shagged Giggsy’ Thomas, Steve Coogan – even a sallow faced J.K. Rowling rubbed painfully sawing shoulders with the political and (serious) media establishments. It was like a high brow Big Brother house or an intellectually charged edition of Jeremy Kyle with Sienna Miller in place of some web-footed delinquent from Norfolk. Wonderfully all involved seemed to have an axe to grind, chickens came home to roost with all the precision of the underground during the Olympics and Robert Jay QC joyously made David Cameron look like a total mug in regards to his ‘country supper – yes we can’ texts to Rebekah Brooks. 2012 being the unavailing year it was Cameron managed to completely ignore recommendations of Leveson’s report. Still, it made for good television.

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Robert Jay QC – imagine a likeable Jeremy Kyle who isn’t an imbecile.

Cameron didn’t have a great 2012. Allowing his stooge George Osbourne to slap a 20% VAT surcharge on hot foods led to the embarrassing  Pastygate fiasco, leading swarms of sycophantic politicians to besiege branches of Greggs nationwide in a desperate effort to show that they were human beings like the rest of us. Memorably, class dork Ed Miliband  and his bouncer Ed Balls ordered a staggering eight sausage rolls from one branch of Greggs which seemed excessive in these times of austerity, Mr Balls enjoyed ‘the lion’s share’ of the sausage rolls apparently. Cameron upped the cringe factor by telling an apocryphal story about eating pasties:

‘I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time. The choice was to have one of their small ones or their large ones. I’ve got a feeling I opted for the large one and very good it was too.’

Within minutes Network Rail confirmed that Mr Cameron’s story was entirely false. Nice try Dave.

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Ed Miliband and Ed Balls: people like you and me.

Kony 2012. Stop at Nothing. Cover the Night. Stumbling nakedly through 2012 like its misguided evangelical christian poster boy creator Jason Russell came ultra-viral video Kony 2012. This was a video made by the charity Invisible Children; their campaign was a classic example of streamlined, quintessentially American exercise in utter bullshit. The video itself was a blatant, if admittedly well made, piece of propaganda, seemingly designed for simpletons to share on Facebook and Twitter. The people behind the film encouraged the proliferation of the video on social networks aiming to make Ugandan warlord and all round bad apple Joseph Kony ‘famous’. This was duly achieved by said simpletons. And then… Invisible Children asked us to help capture Kony by, err, buying one of their $30 action kits? Or, um, a bracelet? Or a t-shirt? It wasn’t long before half the internet called bullshit on the Kony campaign, and the other half went and cried in the corner of their rooms about how ill-informed they were. If ever a disingenuous charity campaign was to end with its architect screaming and publicly masturbating it was this one (although Bob Geldof still looks like he would be capable of something similar). Poor bloke. Oh and as of 2013 Kony and his band of child soldiers are still at large in central africa and presumably more pissed off than ever. The power of social media!

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The excitingly 20th century-like Arab Spring was one of the bigger let downs of the year. All those words and names newly emblazoned in the public lexicon: Benghazi, Tahrir Square, Mohamed Bouazizi – these words and the feelings they engendered began to sour in 2012. This wasn’t particularly surprising, after all most governments run by mobs of half-starved  militiamen with a penchant for ululating and shooting at the sky for no reason whatsoever don’t do too well.

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President Assad: a man with quite nice eyes.

Finally it was another massive year in the Royal Family‘s continued rebranding exercise . The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in classically British style by watching Poseidon completely shit on her boat pageant, Prince Harry went to Vegas with unsurprising consequences and the Duchess of Cambridge‘s breasts caused the most cross-channel consternation since the Hundred Years War. The actual Diamond Jubilee itself was risible. Risible weather, risible coverage by the BBC and the risible and ubiquitous Will.i.am shouting ‘yo’ over the top of Stevie Wonder during the Jubilee concert. Even Peter Kay was wheeled out, performing a joke so old that he had to dig up its fossil on the morning of the concert to get it ready. A healthy dose of karma arrived for the bloodsuckers later in 2012 in the form of court jester and notorious shagger Prince Harry’s regal buttocks. All the usual platitudes where spluttered out: “Give it a rest he’s only young” (Harry is 28), “He deserves a holiday after what he did in Afghanistan” (morally questionable), “its not his fault the pictures were taken” (then why do we pay for his bodyguards to do this) and so on. Brendan Gleeson sums up the Royals better than I could.

Shower Sickness

Films and television bombarded me with various clichés about university life, giving me certain expectations: that by December I would be eating cold Aldi value beans with my bare hands, that a year later there would be more drugs in my system than some shuffling nutter roaming the corridors of Broadmoor. What I didn’t expect was the shower. No feeling I’ve had matches the sheer vertical cliff face of hatred I feel towards the ‘Mira Sport’ shower in unit 4a’s bathroom. Mira is the Hamlet of the shower world, a whiny teenager vacillating between oxymoronic temperatures of arctic frost and uncomfortable ‘shouldn’t have worn this jumper by the log fire’ warmth. If Mira were a person this would be their awful first impression, but an actual conversation would reveal their greatest flaw: water pressure. Akin to having a pervy giraffe lasciviously swatting flies off my face, on a good day Mira might rouse itself to the water pressure equivalent of a heavily medicated old man dribbling slowly on the top of my head.

I’ve always had a deep suspicion of showers – the skin blanching heat and the banal inevitability of the accompanying full-length mirror that forces confrontation with the frank inadequacy of the human body. Yet showers are constantly thrust at me as acceptable as with Nando’s, reading on a Kindle and collaborations between Jay-Z and Kanye. Just like Amin, Gaddafi and Mao, shower lovers create a ‘regime’, a regime that orbits entirely around showering in the same way that a Catholic Mass revolves around chanting nonsense incantations whilst simultaneously playing Simon Says. Its no wonder that Bret Easton Ellis had his charmingly sociopathic serial killer protagonist Patrick Bateman slavishly following a strenuous showering regime in ‘American Psycho’. Showering is the kind of maniacal, narcissistic activity that Charles Manson and Ted Bundy enjoyed. Now, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with good personal hygiene but my preferred method of washing – the bath, has been cast into cultural purgatory along with four piece guitar bands and thinking the Royal Family are vile. Still, I’d probably rather drink bleach than get back in the Mira Sport.