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Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Proper Ganda

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Still disturbed by the Kings Speech; not the speech itself but the film in general! Did like Rowan Williams’ suggestion in Lost Icons that the death of Diana broke the mystery and magic of monarchy. Long after the death of deference in general society, the sort of deference that took a generation to Flanders, we’re supposed to have finally seen monarchy for what it is; a smoke and mirrors act. The sympathy and affection oozing for George VI’s characterisation doesn’t quite square up. It seems we ‘buy’ monarchy all over again. Terrifying that we docile English absorb these constructions hook, line and orb. I suppose if Hollywood can propel an Austrian body-builder to the Governator it can schpin the Saxe-Coburg and Ghotas to Mr and Mrs Windsor. Blair’s reference to the People’s Princess shows obsequious efforts to inveigle the stream of emotions surrounding Diana’s death. Such unquestioning support enables this bizarre affection to roll on; to the extent that Diana was voted the 3rd Greatest Briton ahead of Shakespeare, Newton and Darwin. So much for meritocracy. I know I know. We can surely separate admiration for great acting from the storyline? Maybe. Williams is a great observer of social change and states:

“The ‘lost icon’ [precious symbol] was not simply the dead princess; it was a whole mythology of social cohesion around anointed authority and mystery.”

The ritual of monarchy is then a layer of glue over a society that has few uniting rituals. The warmth towards Firth’s performance is about a cohesive society; that if we lost monarchy then what on earth would symbolise ‘us’. The answer is ‘we’ would.

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In praise of the irrational and the ‘still small voice’

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm

During recent Sussex train trip I cast an envious but contemptuous eye over a smart young couple who were reading from an e-book reader. Usual ungracious thought of ‘that is not ‘proper’ reading’ issued. No self respecting lover of literature would disgrace the author etc and so forth yadda yadda. But a Tennysonian ‘still small voice’ inside said yes but you could take all your journals and books on this thing… hmmm… As with Tennyson’s The Two Voices I’m torn; between the love of a rich bookshelf and the utility of a Kindle.

Not many are torn if Publishers Weekly is to be believed:

“Amazon released more mind-numbing results for 2010, announcing a number of records and new milestones along with difficult-to-understand statistics. The top line was stellar with total sales for the year up 40%, to $34.2 billion, while net income rose 28%, to $1.15 billion. In a prepared statement chairman Jeff Bezos said the company passed two milestones in the fourth quarter–its first time sales topped more than $10 billion in a quarter with actual sales hitting $12 billion; and “after selling millions of third-generation Kindles during the quarter, Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on Amazon.com,” even while sales of paperbacks rose.” http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/45932-records-fall-at-amazon-as-kindles-e-books-rise.html

All this is not Rational is it? Consumers aren’t meant to behave like this. All this fluidity will have businesses running around for years wondering why their rational selves don’t fit irrational humanity.

William Butler Yeats offered up:

Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart

Something about Amazon represents the quixotic anti-reason more akin to human beings than the logical and linear. More Bartók than Beethoven, Shostakovich than Strauss. Western Rational business models have found their ladder doesn’t reach to the top of the wall and they’re left jumping on the top rung but still can’t see into the garden on the other side.

Still haven’t downloaded an e-book; Penguin books are the moral high ground of books, plus they feel wonderful to the touch and carry the scars of travel. Nothing like paper technology… it’s the future!

Dickensian Britain returns at the hands of Grovegrind

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Enjoying the light relief of Stephen Fry’s latest bio as the sun shines outside in a frosty Cumbria; having read Moab is My Washpot awhile back I was looking forward to the humanity and self-deprecation of his story, someone who is probably overly exposed as the thinking woman’s Jeremy Clarkson but nonetheless interesting. He shares my fascination with Wagner and recently rescued W’s reputation from being the nasty backing track to the Nazi era. Having loved Blackadder when it first came out, sitting to watch Fry as the Archbish with my girlfriend of the time (now a far better half by a country mile), he cuts an interesting figure and observer of our times and our relationship with an Englishness that still disturbs us. A kind of accessible toff. Unlike his Oxbridge counterpart Ozzy ‘Kloisters’ Osbourne for whom darker thoughts emerge.

It reminded me that this Fry book was a Crimbo gift which jogged my thoughts into a reflection that one of the blessings of being married for a year or four (*cough*) is having a partner who knows your taste in reading. In fact I wonder if marriage progress is marked by the gifts you get. You spend a number of years cringing and being disturbed by gifts that appear to have little or no relation to yourself; maybe bizarre videos (VHS in my case) on some obscure interest you don’t have. And then after much honesty and openness and intimacy you arrive at a state of artful insight by your lover where Christmas is a joy of discovery as there are no long socks, stripy pullovers, noisome after-shaves that could strip 14 layers of paint in one dousing. My daughter mocks my boring nature as gifts can now simply fall into two categories only: CDs and books. What else is there frankly? But on page 87 of Fry’s hardback version his turn of phrase really appeals in a short evangelical moment which is worth blogging. He says:

“Picture the world as being a city whose pavements are covered a foot deep in gold coins. You have to wade through them to make progress. Their clinking and rattling fills the air. Imagine that you met a beggar in such a city. ‘Please, give me something. I am penniless.’ ‘But look around you,’ you would shout. ‘There is gold enough to last you your whole life. All you have to do is to bend down and pick it up!’ When people complain that they don’t know any literature because it was badly taught at school, or that they missed out on history because on the timetable it was either that or biology, or some such ludicrous excuse, it is hard not to react in the same way. ‘But it’s all around you!’ I want to scream. ‘All you have to do is bend down and pick it up!’.”

I make no apology for gushing imagery. Especially as libraries face budget slashing by the current Philistine government. I suspect ConDem don’t read much in fact… especially as Gove loves his ‘facts, facts and more facts’. His lines unknowingly plagiarised from Dickens’ Hard Times and sounding more like Gradgrind than Gradgrind himself. Despite Fry’s privileges in life he has a point. So at least we prize Fry for such clarity and restoring something amidst a world awash with popular culture’s terrifying offering (not that it’s all bad… there is… erm… ?). Of course this emotion and entreaties are now aided by the fact Waterstones is usually adorned by Costa Coffee – the middle class junkie’s drug of choice (along with Chardonnay from the fridge… on tap!). Tea /Coffee and reading / studying being the loving bedfellows. We have a brilliant independent 2nd hand store here with a Buddhist coffee shop attached. (Not sure what Buddha himself would think of caffeine induced hyperness?) It and W’stones are the Temples or Fountains or Wells or whatever that keep the city centre public spaces from being one large advertising hoarding for tat. The only drawback is the 2nd hand store is usually minus 20 degrees as its grumbling boiler never gets fixed and the staff have developed blood thicker than oil in their veins and have stopped noticing the ice particles in the air. Thankfully Waterstones heat their customers to a toasty crust so sitting for an hour or two with your reading material is probably the closest we have to heaven on this earth. Starbucks is now awash with sticky detritus and seems to be populated by the local yoof too plus their service levels have plummeted to what you might expect from impersonal American franchises whose long arm of management control can’t quite reach North Cumbria very effectively.

Right… W’stones it is……

Is it time for Harold Wilson to be re-incarnated?

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Andrew Neil on form looking at the ‘death of meritocracy’ in this programme from the Beeb: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00y37gk/Posh_and_Posher_Why_Public_School_Boys_Run_Britain/ The notion that the elite has stolen the gateway to politics; not just for the Tories but now also Labour. Neil is at his best here pouring acid scorn on our virtual closed shop of senior politics. Harold Wilson barnstormed the Etonian phalanx of British politics leading to a new era of post-aristocratic post-war post-Empire Britain; but here we are again in 1950s Britain, is the general gist with a privileged few shaping the majority. The Union path trodden by Johnson and Prestcott is shut too. Is this post-modern Britain or modern class ridden Britain coming back to curse us?