Frankly Vulgar Introduces The 9 People You WILL Meet At University

1)  The Wierdo

The weirdo inhabits a tragic Quasimodo-ish world of social anxiety, unwanted reclusiveness and permanently bad hair. I can guarantee that one of the first people you meet will be a weirdo and they shouldn’t be as easy to identify as they are, because there is usually nothing that physically identifies them (admittedly they often smell pretty bad). But identify them you undoubtedly will. The real mark of the weirdo is their ability to kill conversation stone dead simply with their presence. You could have a room with four best friends enjoying some high level roistering until the sudden appearance of the weirdo dissipates all the joy in the room. Large parts of your first year will revolve avoiding roaming weirdo’s who will attempt to befriend you inappropriately.

Famous Example(s): Dementors, Uriah Heep

2)  The Wasteman

(via The Telegraph)

(via The Telegraph)

There is a strange paradox at the heart of the wasteman. Wastemen literally do nothing at all: they don’t do any work but they don’t go out and have a good time either. They are just sort of there like that unshiftable antique armoire in your great aunt’s house. This raises the paradoxical question: surely the absence of effort requires effort to maintain? It can’t be easy to do no work at all and get away with it can it? Plainly the vast web of lines constructed by the wasteman means that he might be less of a waster than he appears. If only he could use that energy for good eh?

Famous Example: Nick Clegg

3)  The Northerner

It's cold 'oop North (via www.fanpop.com)

It’s cold ‘oop North (via http://www.fanpop.com)

As a Londoner, pretty much anyone who hails from north of Watford is both a strange and fascinating creature. Imagine my delight then, when the first person I met at Uni came from the barren post-apocalyptic wastelands that surround Leeds. Seriously though, northerners are great and by far the best kind of people on this list. Raised on a diet of glassing each other, wearing shorts in winter and pronouncing bastard as basss-ted. Northerners are not only generators of pure mirth but also make handy bodyguards when you start a fight in the local takeaway. Keep them close at hand because they are destined to eventually die in one of Blair’s oil wars.

Famous Example(s): The 9th Doctor, John Snow and DCI Gene Hunt.

4)  The Gym Guy

The reason you go to the gym is to do this one day.

The reason you go to the gym is to do this one day.

One of the more boring brute facts about the slow Americanization of our culture is that everybody has to look like a fucking Californian nowadays. The only way to do this is to sweat it out at the gym, which used to be the sole preserve of those fat public school boys whose latent homoeroticism leads them to beat each other up ‘playing’ rugby. Now we’re all in there, although beyond being relatively healthy I’m not sure I understand why. All gym guys seem to want to be, in Clive James’ imperishable phrase, ‘brown condoms stuffed with walnuts’. The paranoia and lack of basic satisfaction with life that the gym guy has is all a little bit sad really.

Famous Example: James Haskell

5)  The Toff

Draco finds out that Daddy just lost his job. (via harrypotter.wikia.com)

Draco finds out that Daddy just lost his job. (via harrypotter.wikia.com)

Toffs are incredibly defensive nowadays. Speak to any of them (they’re easily identifiable by their large jowls and un-ironic presence in the VIP areas of the worst clubs) and they will reveal this. It’s not fair whines the toff: Not fair that my parents have more money than yours! Not fair that people hear my accent and shout ‘rich nob’ and ‘wanker’ at me! Not fair that nobody takes my subscription to the New Statesman seriously! It’s just so tough for them. I guess the toffs will have to console themselves with all their money, their country hunting lodges (hurrah for killing small animals!) and their inevitable invitation to Prince Harry’s wedding to whatever Tattler-fodder he ends up knocking up.

Famous Example: Draco Malfoy

6)  The Private Schoolboy

The most slappable face in show business. (via www.mirror.co.uk)

The most slappable face in show business. (via http://www.mirror.co.uk)

Social status, shit loads of money and the far-reaching benefits of nepotism aside, all private schoolboys know that they are basically fucked. They are doomed to one day wake up aged 50, look glumly into the mirror and see Nigel Farage staring back at them. Unlike the toff who welcomes this fact (and has a hard on just thinking about it) the private schoolboy spends his time at university trying to hide from the inevitability that their career will involve fixing the stock market and fucking over ‘povo’s’. All the retro 90’s gear, the ‘Urban Renewal Trucker Mesh Snapback Hat’s’ and the pointless drug habit can’t obfuscate the bottom line here: privately educated men are c***s (trust me I’m one of them). Most private schoolboys have supported Chelsea since 2007.

Famous Example(s): Chris Martin, David Cameron, Michael McIntyre

7)  The Poser

Arguably the most dangerous character on this entire list and not just because they are the hardest to spot. The poser is that person who comes to university to finally be a proper ‘grown-up’. This results in a slew of tawdry certainties: drinking shit white wine makes you better than people who drink lager, incense is brilliant and anything French is the height of sophistication (I reckon this is how the poser justifies serial infidelity). Slightly less knowing than hipsters, the poser is mired so deep in self-parody that his/her life is nothing more than an unceasing satire, like the violence in a Paul Verhoeven movie. The poser usually studies languages or the humanities because those are the subjects with the most space to emit their special emulsion of bullshit and self-delusion. As comfortable in their own skin as a miniskirt salesman is in Tehran.

Famous Example: The guy with shit hair in the clip above who gets his ass whooped by Matt Damon.

8)  The Alternative Sports Guy

A classic case of a guy who enjoys alternative sports.

A classic case of a guy who enjoys alternative sports.

Before I arrived at University I thought that the only people who actually played darts were born before the start of the First World War but apparently this isn’t the case. You’re highly likely to meet alternative sports guy, a man who can only be dubbed ‘insane’ at pointlessly shite pseudo-sports like pool, table tennis and squash. Alternative sports guy’s ability in any given sport is in direct proportion to just how unpopular said sport is – the more shunned it is, the better he is at it.

Famous Example(s): Jesus Quintana, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ronnie O’Sullivan

9)  The Stoner

Arnie loves a spliff. (via marc.perkel.com)

Arnie loves a spliff. (via marc.perkel.com)

Christ stoners can be boring if they want to be. Seriously only when gym guy starts banging on about his dietary plan and how ‘whey protein isn’t what it’s cracked up to be’, does shit get as boring as when stoner’s tell you about how the hemp industry will change the world one day. Fuck off. And I don’t want to discuss the hidden symbolism of ‘Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle’ either because there is no symbolism in it. The best argument for the legalization of cannabis is that it will stop these guys from droning on about it sub specie aeternitatis.

Famous Example(s): Stone Cold Steve Austin, Steve Stone, Oliver Stone, Sharon Stone, Emma Stone

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.”

Image

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.

Image

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.

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

From Hope to Fear: The Obama Obfuscation

It is going to be one of the Great Questions of the era we currently find ourselves in.

How did this guy:

tumblr_md31dmr7aq1qzupj0o1_500Turn into this guy:

BMaF3jqCMAAGZSpSince the start of the year Obama’s administration has been deluged with a series of quasi-Nixonian scandals: a two month phone tapping exercise led by the Department of Justice on Associated Press journalists (the AP responded by calling it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion”) and the news that the IRS targeted a number of right-wing campaign groups in a move that might at best be described as “dodgy”.

Then came the revelation that US government was basically spying on everyone through PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program that gathered intelligence from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants.  Obama’s response to these exposures was a study in intellectual dishonesty that you really ought to see here:

Really watch Obama in this video. Note the slight hunch, the greying hair and his unsmiling minders behind him. He waves away the greatest denouement of government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens in history with a flippant conveyor belt of platitudes and blandishments. Observe adages as tired as his body language, 58 seconds of crap like ‘trust’, ‘oversight’ and ‘bad guys’.

d8e

You cherish the constitution? Bullshit. PRISM and its associated programs take the 4th amendment, hose it with gasoline and light the bastard thing up. Obama, lest we forget (or try and make excuses for him) is a constitutional law professor who knows exactly what it is that he has helped to dismantle. He is up there with this guy now:

I didn’t want to believe that Obama was just another political hack. Back in 2008 he seemed like a radical departure from the stuffy, fed on lies and bullshit world of Clinton and Bush. Obama graced paragraphs with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and yeah, you know what, it felt right. Obama seemed to be the promise of America made flesh. Anything could be projected onto Obama and the Brave New World we hoped he represented. Obama the apotheosis of progress. Obama the harbinger of a new age of racial harmony that would spirit us away from old dysfunctions and conflicts, Obama the story: his journey from the working class to the White House was Gatsby-ish in its scope and emotional resonances. This was before he was even inaugurated, before he even fucking did anything at all – the guy was an action figure before he was the President. Seeing the name of Dr King or Ghandi or Mandela in the same paragraph as Obama’s brings home the nauseous realisation that they don’t have anything in common at all.

obama-wins-reelection-memes

 

No one cares though. No riots, no demonstrations, no real outcry outside of the Guardian comment section/stoned guys on Reddit strata of society. The American public actually seems to love being spied on and here in Britain there is one CCTV camera for every 14 subjects (we’re not technically citizens in the UK). Voltaire reminds us how dangerous apathy is:

295456_10151395645450155_1626127152_n

 

I find myself watching Obama on television and not really recognising what he has become. The firebrand from 2004, the avatar of hope in 2008 has become the dull diet Bush of 2013. The only real ‘change’ Obama has wrought has been in this transformation, this sacrifice of his values. It is hard not to feel angry, hard not to feel betrayed at some personal level. View his metamorphosis here:

I haven’t even mentioned his failure to close Guantanamo Bay prison, his use of a fleet of robotic aerial drones to hose liquid metal death on third world shepards without recourse to international law. These facts, and every scandal of the last few months are symptomatic of a flawed and dysfunctional administration.

Christ, I’m starting to sound like FOX news.

 

 

Maggie, Morrissey and Legacy

Image

Mozza and Margaret (Getty, AP)

‘Great’ people tend to be those who can ignite profound change and inspire blind devotion in equal measure. They are those rarities amongst us who can ‘set the weather’ by shaping it with their very will. Above all they never compromise, they can’t be bought or sold: they lead and others simply follow, shellshocked in their wake.

People like this don’t actually exist of course. Great people merely make waves in the tides of history, they don’t direct the process itself. Yet with the death of Margaret Thatcher this week, an inevitable operation of mythologising and beatification, led by Downing Street and in the rightwing press has begun in earnest. View with trepidation the front pages of the Mail and Telegraph on Tuesday: a backlit photo of ‘our Maggie’ at her ‘Rule Britannia’  peak, smiling benignly, the light warming the famously unmoving hair into a halo, a visual representation of a calculated attempt to rewrite the history of our country. This is Thatcher rebranded – above the swill of old hatreds, joining the pantheon of British political leaders who are now apolitical symbols of national unity.

Who stands against this?

Certainly not the Labour Party – their last Prime Minister spent £100,000 renaming a room in Downing Street after her. The BBC has been cowed into showing vapid commemorative programming that, deliciously enough, has been beaten in the ratings by Coronation Street. The really despicable moments of Thatcher’s reign, for instance discrimatory legislation like Section 28 has barely been mentioned this week. When the discord and disharmony sown by Thatcher has been shown on the news this week it has dwelt far too much simply on the fact that many people despised her and not why they despised her. Similar to the way the 2011 film ‘The Iron Lady’ showed a horde of screaming protestors battering the great ladies car without explaining their motives at all. Terrifyingly that film and the sycophantic press coverage this week will probably shape the way a vast majority of under-35’s remember Thatcher.

That leaves us with Morrissey.

An 80’s icon who divides opinion in a way that is startlingly similar to Thatcher, Morrissey’s song ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’ was probably the first protest song that I ever heard and actually understood. Ironically the artlessness of Thatcher the person (her interests didn’t stretch very far beyond watching the occasional episode of ‘Songs of Praise’ and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Tennyson) and her government created an atmosphere of opposition that created great art – everyone from Billy Bragg to Sue Townsend owes a strange kind of debt to Thatcherism.

Through his music and interviews (in one he famously wished the Brighton Bombing had claimed her life) Morrissey represented a slice of culture and a section of society that vehemently loathed Thatcher. This week his chance to dance on her grave finally arrived. He didn’t hold back.  Much of the truly vehement appraisals of Thatcher this week have come from similar figures from the period.

Yet by displaying such naked, reckless hate for Thatcher, Morrissey reveals a character remarkably like that of the Iron Lady. In fact there are many similarities between the two; their aforementioned divisiveness, their intransigence and their proclivity towards hubris. They are both magnets for hatred from the press and the public. Thatcher’s slide to irrelevance began as she was tearfully ushered out of Downing Street, Morrissey’s as The Smiths fell apart around him in 1987. For Thatcher’s remark about the ‘enemy within’ trade Mozza labelling the Chinese a ‘sub-species’. Was it Mozza or Maggie who said this:

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing”

It ends there though. Morrissey is merely one of the great songwriters of the last 30 years. Mrs. Thatcher was a politician who changed Britain in a revolutionary way. What transpired under her leadership may have been better than the alternative; a managed decline of a former great power, Michael Foot creating a Warsaw-upon-Thames land full of nationalised pubs, intermittent electricity and unbreakably powerful unions. This does not however excuse the unblinkingly one-eyed coverage of Thatcher that has occurred since her death, nor does it mean the public should contribute to what is already being called an “all but a” state funeral. Churchill – a leader who united the country in a remarkable way deserves such an honour but Thatcher, who has left us with a legacy of profound divisions especially between rich and poor and between the celtic fringes of these islands and England, simply does not deserve the accolade. Nor would she want it.

She blazed a trail, with the caveat that it was for herself and for people like her. All opposition was either wrong or the enemy. To consider her a symbol of national unity is to be sadly misguided. Equally to assess her legacy as she assessed her opponents: in extreme terms that border on hatred, is to poison the discourse to come: the sight of smug Brixton hipsters who probably wouldn’t even know what a ‘pit’ is celebrating her death was almost as irritating as the tearfully masturbatory tone of the right-wing press this week.

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.

Image

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.