Friday, April 30, 2010

Stop smiling you bloody fool!

At a bit of a loose end last night, I decided to bite the bullet and watch the UK pre-election debate. I didn't expect to be particularly impressed, and the speakers more or less lived up to my expectations. On the other hand I was a little perturbed at my own reaction to the debate and the very idea of it as a whole, in that as I approach 40 I sense that I'm becoming an elitist old fart. Naturally I can't argue with the idea that politicians should be accountable, and should have to present their case to the people, man, but in a televised debate it's inevitable that presentation skills become paramount, style over content.

Gordon Brown is at an obvious disadvantage here, not only in terms of age but also of demeanour. Whilst it might be stretching it to say I began to sympathise with him, at times I couldn't help cringing at just how shit he is at playing this game. In all three debates he's come third of the three party leaders in performance ratings, and it's no surprise. Clearly whoever is coaching him is making an utter balls-up of it. By far the worst of it is Brown's horribly awkward, horribly creepy smile, which was all too painfully evident last night. It's been remarked upon before, why does nobody in his team tell him to stop doing it? Or has it now become a kind of involuntary nervous tic? I was reminded of the story about the Kennedy v Nixon debate in 1960, in which those who'd heard it on the radio thought Nixon had won, whereas those who'd seen it on TV thought the opposite, and I wondered whether Brown might have fared better if he'd appeared with a paper bag on his head.

As for the other leaders, Nick Clegg is not the new Obama. He mostly managed to come across as reasonably competent, in my view the best of the three, but his constant promotion of himself as the new and fresh candidate is already beginning to look a bit old and stale. I was slightly baffled to see the polls saying that Cameron had won the debate, since I thought he was dire. I can't pretend to be neutral here, I've always had a deep antipathy towards the Conservative party, but then again I won't be voting for any of the three main parties, so maybe I'm not all that biased. As a man who's openly modelled himself on Tony Blair, how else can he appear than as a vacuous, smarmy toff?

I realise I haven't mentioned the substance of the debate myself, but quite apart from the fact that I don't want this to become a party political rant, that is kind of my point – I wonder how many people who watched it will remember the specifics of what was actually said, or whether the most enduring image of it all, resurfacing in voters' nightmares up and down Britain, will be the Brown smile. If politics has become just another form of entertainment, it's not very good entertainment, is it?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If a good riff is essentially a masochistic pleasure, that in Carl's view should make you wince, then this one does pretty well for punishment value.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just having noticed that the Impostume is having a highly entertaining riffs competition with Simon Reynolds, with all kinds of gloriously hairy bastards making an appearance, as well as a couple of genuine atrocities (Def fucking Leppard, I ask you), the question in my mind is how come you've glossed over punk's contribution to the riff? Forgive me if my choices are too obvious, but have I missed something? And how come nobody's included the greatest start to any track EVER?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The last month or so I've been resisting the urge to pitch in on such an obvious topic, and especially with who else but Hitchens leading the campaign to have the pope arrested I considered any contribution from me to be pretty superfluous, but this is just too funny.

It's not really the memo itself that's so hilarious, since it's hardly the pinnacle of rapier-like wit to suggest that the pope open an abortion clinic etc. Picture the scene. A “junior civil servant” and some of his work chums, resentful at their bosses for forcing upon them the indignity of compiling a document on the utterly trivial and pointless matter of the pope's visit, which is set to cost British taxpayers - thank god(!) I'm not one of them - 20 million pounds, go out to the pub on a Friday lunchtime. Where they get pissed, angrily fucking rat-arsed, and start ranting and laughing raucously about what pompous, hypocritical cunts their bosses are, what an evil sack of shit the pope is, what child molesting scum priests are. As the beers go down, the language and the humour get cruder, the callow, beleaguered office dogsbodies get bolder. Fuck lunch, it's Friday anyway, let's just have some more beer instead and talk about this bullshit memo we've been saddled with, we can just as well do it here in the pub. That stuck up, old-school-tie wanker of an office manager and his masters in the government asked for this, they've got nobody but themselves to blame. We'll bounce some fucking ideas around all right.

Several pints later, maybe with a couple of chasers to give them the courage to face their colleagues and superiors, they roll back into the office a good two hours late, stinking of booze. Back behind their computers, charged up with the nervous excitement of juvenile rebellion, they start surreptitiously typing up the most grotesquely absurd ideas from their brainstorming session, keeping their momentum and bravery alive by sending each other sniggering e-mails or chat messages. Safety in numbers, we're all in it together. The team effort completed, they print it out, their heads still swimming, and circulate it around the office, suppressing their guffaws. Just act innocent, play dumb. Half an hour on, shortly before their shift's done and having noticed the spread of uneasy murmuring and/or incredulous mirth amongst their workmates, they're beginning to sober up fast, and inevitably their thoughts turn to the consequences of their actions. Shit, we'll never get away with this, what are we going to do? With everybody about to knock off for the weekend, the anxious pups hastily put out a cover note, stressing that under no circumstances is the memo to be shared externally. Too late! Someone in the office, either in sympathetic mischief or in vindictive outrage, has already divulged the contents to that crustiest of Tory newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph, which is going to do everything in its power to have a field day at the Labour government's expense, while certain junior civil servants are in for the bollocking of their lives.

All in all a pretty prosaic scenario, which reminds me of unwelcome school assignments that, as spotty teenagers, we used to try and sneak as much childish innuendo as we could into. No doubt it would have seemed funny to be in on it at the time, but I doubt if the people responsible are laughing much about it now. What is funny, but also, as is often the case with matters concerning the Vatican and its extended network of vice, rather tragic, is the churchy, utterly humourless, so very British and so very New-Labour reaction to it from the government and foreign office. David Miliband is “appalled” (and he's such an insipid turd that I actually believe that he wasn't secretly pissing himself at the ridiculousness of it all, like any normal person would), and we now have to deal with the terrifying prospect that, according to the BBC, some Catholics might be left “with the impression of a culture within official circles in which their Church's teaching is not taken seriously”, or even that “the pope might be regarded as a figure of fun”. God (THAT fucking word again!) forbid! So correspondingly, grovelling apologies are issued, on our behalf, to a pontiff who felt no need to apologise for recently not only attacking but encouraging active resistance with “missionary zeal” against the British government that's offered with such fawning stupidity to pay for his visit out of taxpayers' pockets. Why the righteous call to insurrection? Well, naturally not for the government's failure to regulate the banking system and for thus playing its own part in facilitating the global economic crisis, or for its controversial role in the Iraq war, but for the grave sin of promoting equality. Nevertheless, our elected representatives continue to kowtow to an institution that has systematically covered up child rape, and when cornered on the matter has decided that attack is the best form of defence with the monstrously insensitive and idiotic comparison of those who are demanding an explanation, some of them victims of Catholic pederasts, to mass murdering anti-Semites. After all, our government needs to protect its and our reputation as decent folk, and really, what's a few thousand tortured kids compared to the potentially immense damage that can be caused by a drunken office prank?

Evidently being British means always having to say you're sorry. If only we had some of the unwavering self-belief of those exalted residents of the Vatican. Fuck, do I feel proud to be British.