Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Making great ignoramuses of us all, David Cameron tempts us to the dark side

“I want to tell you what I am fighting this election for — it is the people I call the Great Ignored: they may be black or white. They may be rich or poor. They may live in the town or the country.”

What a load of insipid, nonsensical guff. It sounds profound but is ultimately meaningless; politics ignores everyone on some level - minority or majority. However, because we live in a society we accept it, even if we crave a different balance of who it is getting ignored. Cameron's vow overrides this altruistic fatalism, giving us a glimmer of hope that a Tory government will capitulate to our wildest demands.

It unleashes the 'me first' instinct that Tories know so well - and that we're increasingly attuned to in our 'have your say' culture - giving credibility to our darkest, grabbiest instincts.

Non-voters are technically ignored, but so was I when I didn't specify a Barbie for my 9th birthday and ended up with Sindy's more wholesome mouldings. However futile your request is, by voting you're showing you care about something - whether it's a belief in a party or just democracy itself. Not voting is ambiguous, it doesn't say anything - and it doesn't give you a right to say you've been ignored.

The ignorant get ignored too, with good reason. There's a lot of ghastly opinions harboured by the majority of the population - take the enduring appeal of eating Cornish Pasties on trains, for instance, or Lady Gaga. Tasteless views on immigration are equally prevalent, though most people would be ashamed to admit to them - that is, until someone from the Today Programme waves a microphone in their face asking if they are the 'great ignored' (2mins 52 in). People with backward ideas on foreigners swarming their schools and jobs should feel ignored and unrepresented, especially now Bernard Manning is no longer with us.

I could go on. Basically, everyone can reason their way into the 'great ignored', though it doesn't mean they should now be heard.

Friday, 12 March 2010

She may not be a hooker but the Girl with a One Track Mind, isn't a hero either

Another week, another victory for social media campaigning. After a frenzied retweet-my-wronging initiative from Zoe Margolis, the Indy have apologised for calling her a hooker. Jolly good, it was a moronic headline - lazy, inaccurate and an insult to readers' intelligence (though the Daily Mail's Facebook clanger was far more dangerous). It's exposed a flawed bit of journalism and should be applauded. However, it's also made her more of an insufferable martyr and further validated her brand of prosaic bawdiness. For that I wish it had never happened - probably more than that sub-editor does.

She claims the incident has damaged her reputation, but I can't really imagine that it led anyone to suddenly changing their opinion of her. People who'd think she is a hooker would think so regardless of a headline - that's just how some people judge a woman who talks openly about sex. Over the years she's received enough hate mail and outrage through her blog alone - which she's manufactured into a pretty profitable enterprise as a professional victim. She's regularly wheeled out on Woman's Hour to talk about being persecuted for her sexuality, or onto tech programmes to talk about invasions of privacy.

Now she's been slandered online for being a hooker, so that's ticked both boxes and sent her pity-chip into overdrive. Only the other day she was tweeting that 'I wish my blog wouldn't continue to bite me on the arse (not in the good way); I've held my finger over "Delete Blog?" button so many times.' In the tradition of Heather Mills there's just something unlikeable about such humourless oversensitivity. If you want a quiet life, delete the blog.

I don't think she should delete it - it's important to have women talking about sex without qualms - but it's not as important as she and everyone else seems to think it is. The way the Twittersphere rallies behind her as if she's DH-fucking-Lawrence narks me something rotten. Her blog reads like a cross between Martine McCutcheon's romance novel and stage directions from Skins - it doesn't shock me, but it sure as hell bores me.

My sense of femininity is more tantilised by a picture of the sumptuous Christina Hendricks than by reading about Zoe Margolis getting a roasting. Hell, its more tantilised by Nigella Lawson licking her fingers while preparing a Sunday roast. The Girl with a One Track Mind may have a topical axe to grind, but she doesn't grind it in a particularly eloquent or attractive way and oh boy does her neediness grate. Come on guys, is she really the best we can do?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Generation gossip: how John Terry has made Loose Women of us all

One would imagine the difference between listening 5Live and Radio 4 in the morning would be a simple matter of light and shade; economic gloom and dogs on skateboards. Instead,switching between the two, I've learned all of current affairs is now just one sudsy slurry of gossip and intrigue. No matter what the subject is we'll reduce it to a tale of love, betrayal and crimes of passion.

Last week I snoozed my way though Gordon Brown's metamorphosis into a grunting, punchy Phil Mitchell figure. This morning it was football fans agonising over whether they'd boo John Terry tonight. 'It was a mistake to play him, guv. It's only a friendly (friendly!) it doesn't matter - I'm going to make my feelings clear'. Yes, but is he any good on the pitch? In time gone by men would get this animated his ball control on the pitch, not off it. Goodness knows he earns such an obscene sum of money Terry could afford to buy ear plugs if he's that bothered. Or just man up and do his job.

We've become a nation of washer women, forming an excitable gaggle every time a juicy scrap of news is thrown into the streets. Just look at the Greek chorus that assembled in the Twittersphere for Cheryl Cole once Ashley's yellowing Y-fronts were exposed in the papers. With the kind of enthusiasm for tittle tattle worthy of Loose Women they commentated on her every move, including her performance at the BRITs - not for its professional aptitude (or lack thereof), but for signs of emotional fatigue.

Whether it's politics or popular culture, it's the human interest angle that gets people talking. No wonder the Daily Star is now selling itself as 'Not Just for Boys', it's discovered we're all obsessed with tits.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Birds in flight? More like circling vultures. Losing our sense of reason in the Twittersphere

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. If only the same were true of Twitter. The day after Stephen Fry threatens to quit microblogging over its horrid tendencies and it's front page news in the Sunday Times. Then, on page 18 there's a separate essay about Twitter's mob mentality in the wake of baboon boy AA Gill and the questionable Jan Moir. As Telegraph's tech blog points out, the Times was not alone. Ever since Mr Fry got stuck in a lift and became the poster gent for 140 character missives, papers have taken every opportunity to publish goings on in Twitsville as news. It's a faltering bid to remain relevant in the digital maelstrom. Yet it's too late - indeed the very reason there's an unruly mob to document is because the Twitterati have already left the quaint world of newspapers far behind.

Twitter appeals because it's a hyper-personal news feed - block out what you don't care for, be it sport, private finance or Demi Moore's knickers, focus on what interests you. Newspapers, however myopic, always force your eyes over subjects beyond your interest. By their format, it's hard to escape alternative opinions and serendipitous insights. Over on Twitter, at times you'd be forgiven for thinking the sole occupation of a gifted mind should be X Factor dissection and Daily Mail baiting.

Such narrowed focus breeds second hand information and re-tweeted disgust. Why read into a subject when your trusted sources have distilled the party line so succinctly? Yet the angry mob's torches don't spontaneously combust; someone needs to drop a match. This task falls to prolific Tweeters like @BadJournalism and @glinner, who deliver edicts on matters of the day to an army of yes men. Variously commentators, comedians and writers, these ringleaders find Twitter fertile territory for the volatile ego and childlike insecurity that define their profession.

It's a precarious position; the only thing more powerful than having 150,000 people validating your outrage is having one person calling you a dick. According to Grace Dent 'what no-body seems to have mentioned in this whole Fry thing is @ing someone's name when slagging them off is twat behaviour. why do it?'. Because to incubate people from negative feedback or conflicting ideas is to stifle debate and make pampered fools of us all. Stephen Fry's bipolar condition makes the situation complicated, but other eminent Twitterati have no excuse. The online world isn't a nice one - much like the real one - we can't just edit it like Twitter Lists. I used to follow Jon Ronson and, after my newsfeed had (again) become jammed with his musings, I suggested that he was tweeting too hard and that he should turn down 'Radio Me' a notch. So he blocked me.

We have a valuable tool for spreading truth, joy and justice in Twitter, yet to achieve this its community need to remain flexible in their outlook and remember that other news sources (and opinions) are available.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thelondonpaper closes, hang fire on the champagne

I wrote a blog about the demise of thelondonpaper and posted it on Time Out's Big Smoke section - but in the interests of *ever* updating this page, I figured I should at least mention it here...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Prima Donna indeed: Rufus Wainwright reminds us that great musicians really, really care

I don't know much about opera, but I know that only Rufus Wainwright could entice a crowd of genre virigins to a French language debut - and leave them whooping in the aisles. Witnessing the triumphant premiere of his opera 'Prima Donna' last night he emerged the unflappable renaissance man, sprinkling splendour wherever he goes.

Wainwright's genius lies in enchanting songwriting, delivering performances that can make you smile and break your heart. Prima Donna transferred his effortless grace and immodest grandeur piece-by-piece to the opera and answered his decree that someone needed to 'bring the tunes back'.

Not only do admire his balls for making such a bold foray into unchartered waters - risking a libretto of tutting from the critics - but what his show does is to enlighten music fans of all persuasions.

The premise - an opera about an opera singer - had the deconstructive, post-modern wink of an outsider. To tackle the life-affirming - yet painful - synchroncity between an artist's craft and their identity is something of a musicians in-joke. It was, as is befitting of Rufus, a vanity project in the extreme. It was also its definitive strength.

Our cultural obsession with music has left us deadened to the flicker of a tortured genius. When everyone can audition to be a star, the majority of musicians are dispassionate and expectant. From pop to rock banality yawns out a limp embrace.

For all the warbling, simpering and weeping crocodile tears on 'X Factor', no one believes Alexandra Burke would be driven to insanity if she lost her voice. She'd probably carve out an equally fulfilling career breeding kittens.

'Prima Donna' reunites a pop-savvy crowd with the notion a musician lives and dies by their art. That Wainwright has relayed this message in a medium out of step with mainstream music allows it a critical distance. It also sprays an insouciant fragrance into the haughty musk of its host genre. It shows both opera and pop what it's been missing - and confirms Rufus Wainwright as the prima donna standard for which all musicians should strive.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Happiness in Magazines - or not

It takes a lot to get hair as pink and blonde as mine: four hours of a hairdresser (two at some stages) dividing, bleaching, washing, dividing, pink-ing, washing, snipping, cutting, drying, straightening, snipping again. The extensive time spent in a context so focused on image makes it impossible for girl not to consider femininity - especially given the reading material on offer. Each appointment is a rare opportunity to run the gamut of glossy magazines with impunity; each one proffering tropes of womanhood - none of which remotely appeal.

So which kind of lady could I be?

Now, I could be the sort of girl I am and take the Guardian, but the kind of girl I am also feels embarrased about waving my liberal zine around in there. There's something about spending silly money on silly hair that doesn't quite square with Iranian protest updates.

Today my random selection featured Vogue (scary), Tatler (foie gras for the soul) and OK! (unsettling).

OK! No
I've always consoled myself with the notion that no one reads 'sleb magazines seriously, but curiously OK! still manages to take itself seriously. Like Tatler, it's in the thrall of awful rich people, albeit at opposite ends of an alleged 'class' spectrum. My copy was a few weeks old - comparing Kerry Katona and Katie Price's respective falls from grace - what will the future hold for them? Price has always been the worst kind of woman and is a vicious empty vessel ('I should have trapped him with a baby' screamed a recent Closer front page), while Katona is more troubling - you believe her damage is real. One uses bawdy sexuality as empowerment, the other is helplessly subjugated by the nasty piece of work she married. Both are independently wealthy, though this brings about a marked contrast in their situations - Price has a license to behave how she pleases, for Katona it's just another way she is robbed of personal resources by her husband.

A few pages on we get Chantelle Houghton, who is now boasting curves after a too-skinny phase. This modicum of willful, classic womanliness wrestles with routine WAG-tastic modern standards for relationships, informing insights like: 'If a woman could describe her perfect man they'd say they were looking for someone who was caring, thoughtful and someone who would put up with a lot of shit. So Peter Andre then.'

The repellent nature of the Jordan-Chantelle model must be to do with the way they tell 'em, because when Rufus Wainwright talks about prima donnas in Vogue it sounds classy, passionate and inspiring. Funny how different things sound when they come from someone with talent. Meanwhile, Alexa Chung posits another alternative to the up-skirt route to self-definition when she tells us how she hearts the tomboy look. 'It's far classier to showcase your personality than your cup size' she says, underwriting said personality with the aphorism 'I don't care what anyone thinks' while holding down a career that reeks of kitten farts. Alexa could've learned a lot from Florence Welch, whose wardrobe we plunder in the next feature. Channeling vintage, silliness and eccentricity, her outfits convey 'I don't care' by wearing it rather than saying it. Though admittedly, it's the difference between a Dan Brown novel and a Julie Burchill column.

I left Tatler 'til last, and didn't finish it. After 26 pages of adverts you're plunged into fawning accounts of gratuitous displays of wealth enacted by dead-eyed heiresses. The humbling of this scene was one of the few positive effects of economic collapse and it seems they've got over it now.

Now I'm not trying to say all women are scheming, squealing or stupid. That's almost certainly not true. It's just a shame they don't have decent magazines in hairdressers.