Friday, 5 September 2008

Richard T Kelly & Ten Bad Dates podcast on CBC Radio

I did a bit for Ten Bad Dates with De Niro on a Canadian radio show today, CBC Radio (Canada)'s Q arts and entertainment digest, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. Needless to say I went onto the airwaves live from a boxy central London studio. For a while at least you can hear the podcast here, and for my bit you need to fast-forward about 20 minutes into the show from start.
I have done this shtick on this book a good many times now, albeit not so much in the last twelve months, and so Jian Ghomeshi had some comebacks to my glib patter that I wasn't used to hearing necessarily. For instance, a lot of people blithely accept my contention that there is something fishy about the supremacy of Citizen Kane across All-Time Greatest Movie polls of the last 50 (50!) years. Yet I think Jian thought I was being hard on this poor great movie; certainly as opposed to my now-standard encomium of praise to Ishtar... At any rate, a fun show to do, and some amusing exchanges, at least as it seemed to me.

Manchester: So Much to Answer For, Except New Order

More telly for me: for the second or third time I'm watching the BBC4 documentary on Factory Records, only one of umpteen studies of Manchester and post-punk that I've noted over the last 5 years -though it has horse's-mouth commentary from all the main players, but only like all the others do... Still, it's a great human story, a great northern English story, a great art/rock 'n' roll story.
Nonetheless I still feel the way I always felt about most Factory/Manchester music, which is, couldn't give much of a toss. Except for New Order. I love New Order. And I still think it a small marvel that they ever existed.
But I know it to be so because I saw them play live at Queen's University, Belfast, in January 1986, and that's still the best gig I ever saw. They played most of the Low Life album that night, one of their best. They also played 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' that night, and with all due respect it sounded better than when Joy Division played it - just like most of what New Order did.

Harry Enfield: This is Hardcore

My favourite show is back on telly. In saying it's my favourite, it seems that I reveal my age, because a lot of the preview write-ups in the papers would lead you to suppose that said show is awfully tired on arrival. And yet it seems to me that Harry Enfield's and Paul Whitehouse's comedy is more current and observational and clued-in than any other comedy I've seen on telly lately (admittedly, there's so much obvious brainless crap I just don't bother with.)
Anyhow: glad to see so many characters returning in this series from the (much-derided) first series of Harry & Paul: the lordly surgeons, the Notting Hill shyster knick-knack seller (pictured), the too-nice bloke forlornly in love with the Polish barista... I just hope we'll see the return of the gormless American tourists who are very keen on gay men and hijab-wearing ladies ('Isn't she probably pretty...?')

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Gordon Brown: The Big Fightback (Postponed)

The Prime Minister has told the Scottish CBI that the current economic downturn is “the first, great financial crisis of the global age”, and that “Britain cannot insulate itself” from said crisis, being part of said joined-up globe. There is an upside, though, to do with ‘long-term resilience and underlying strengths’ in the British economy. I like the sound of that, as Brown surely hopes we all will, but while I was born at night it wasn't last night.
Brown also had a catchy line about freeing Britain from the ‘dictatorship of oil’, a cause that George Bush was espousing for the US a few years back too, having been frustrated in previous efforts to shore up said dictatorship. But Brown’s vision has a lot to do with our being energy-efficient in the home, and helping subsidise the electric car. These are tough sells in a downturn, so I wish him good luck on that one.
The PM also stuck up for the Union, since he was in Glasgow, but sadly he’s a Scot in an age when the loudest Scots voices in politics say otherwise. Good luck there, too.
All this, by the way, forms part of Brown’s ‘relaunch.’
Steve Richards of the Independent is sounding rather more in sorrow than anger about Brown, saying ‘These days it is the fashion to rubbish his tenure at the Treasury, but even his harshest critics must acknowledge the political skills that accompanied the policies.’ Wait, though: this is how Richards talks up the Brown legacy: ‘Over a lengthy period he managed to put up taxes, redistribute some cash, increase public spending, and remain popular.’ I’m a great admirer of Richards’ columns but I’m sure that come the morning after, he would want to think again about that crowded, confused sentence. All I hear is a summary of how Brown sold his most inept moves to Labour's most lemming-like voters. It's exactly how and when he made his moves on tax-hikes, redistribution and public sector handouts (so making himself the darling of so many voters who think themselves the Soul of Labour) that is the key; and the reason why he's been rubbished ever since.
Richards also laments the falling-off in Brown from his Treasury days of obsessive policy ground-laying; but you don’t get that luxury as PM, which is the job Brown thought he wanted and was made for. And again we must ask – just run that Treasury Legacy past us one more time?
Still, Brown can be reassured by the latest, newly incoherent and choleric attempt to murder him made by Charles Clarke in the New Statesman. I admire Clarke too, and liked him a lot as Home Secretary. But since he and fellow Blairites couldn’t find anyone to Stop Gordon in 2007 and so lined up behind Brown instead, all this ongoing acrimony is a waste of space.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Fukuyama in the Financial Times: History/My Story

In the FT Francis Fukuyama has pointed out a few tough truths that he assumes both candidates in the US election have taken onboard: namely that ‘the past two US administrations could assume American hegemony in both economics and security. The next administration cannot’; and that the task of the next Administration will be ‘to gracefully manage an adversely shifting global power balance and significantly diminished US influence.’
Ah, 'gracefully'… and so the sun sets (and the blood dries) on the US imperium. All empires must perish, by overstretch if not stagnation: I have had my 'issues' with the American version, though I prefer it still to any of the rival candidates now vying for succession.
Of course Fukuyama has got Russia on his mind and argues that the US were too brusque and bumptious through those early post-Cold War years when the Russian Bear was mangy and down on its knees. He clearly reckons Iraq as an irredeemable disaster, because he says that ‘one of the chief ways that US power has been diminished in this decade is in its moral credibility.’ And he’s also one of those who wants to throw the Nato Kosovo action back at Britain and the US too, for setting ‘an unhappy precedent of legitimising separatism.’ (But being separated from people who want you dead is a powerful driver. All I can say is that it’s all very well for wonks and scholars to favour the why-can’t-you-all-just-stick-together? option.)
Still, Fukuyama also manages to squeeze in the call-me-civilised qualifier (‘I do not want to be seen as apologising for Moscow’s behaviour… That Russian feelings of resentment are understandable does not make them morally right.’) And I daresay the strongest point he has is that the push for Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine does look like nothing but an American game, and only Angela Merkel seems to have the seriousness to make this understood.
BTW why should one pay attention to Fukuyama? Not sure. But then, you know, this guy once forecast the End of History - a bold call, albeit completely wrong and wronger every day. Still, with such a brass neck maybe there’s a chance that one day he’ll call it right.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Keegan/Ashley: Whose psychological flaws?

Talk is cheap, as we all know, and I'm writing from London, among the southrons, so I defer to my honourable friends at and true faith in terms of the smartest and most felt on-site reportage of today's hateful bloody shambles at Newcastle United. I'm not interested in what the national press have to say, unless they have more luck in getting either Keegan or Ashley/a crony of this on the line tonight. The Mail, though, says Keegan has been in heavy session with m'learned friends.
The nationals will give Keegan a good few digs, of course, some sharper than others. There's a certain crying-on-the-inside aspect to KK's personality that is like fresh meat to the ravening pack. But unlike a lot of NUFC fans I don't think there's a southron vendetta against the club: it's just the natural born schadenfreude of football fans, most of whom spend a lot of their time depressed over a lot of nonsense and need to get a laugh out of some other lot who appear worse off. And we do give 'em no end of material to work with.
Five words, but: 'Dennis Wise', 'dugout', 'next match.' No way. I hereby endorse any strategy of supporter-driven resistance to this skin-crawling prospect. If Ashley has the slightest understanding of that kind of broad-based sentiment, then he should get his effing jumbo-sized black-and-white shirt on and go explain his rationale over a pint to any fan he can find who doesn't feel like nutting him.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Xisco is a Geordie

Well, someone on the Barrack Road was listening to me because apparently they just put out an announcement, for Xisco and Gonzalez both. And I'll just say this for the Xisco lad right now - he doesn't need to get his bloody hair cut, and these days that's a blessed relief to see in a young player. Good proper short haircuts mean bags of goals, in my lengthy experience.

Late Transfer Window Drama: fans yawn, scratch heads, gloomily...

I was definitely cheerier this morning: I thought we had this guy Xisco from Deportivo. And there's a name to make headlines and t-shirts out of. But if we had him this morning, why did midnight pass without confirmation? Hell's teeth. And everyone thinks we have this Gonzalez on loan, but again, it's not official as of 00:15. Other names have vanished like breath off a razor-blade. Meanwhile texters report desperate Toon bids for defenders at Sheffield and Derby, both knocked back. It's not what it said in the brochure, no sir. But I see Antoine Sibierski's off to another club - good luck to him, he was the butt of great Mag frustration on Window day in January 2 or 3 years back. As they always say, it's the hope that kills you.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Poem for the Day: Briggflatts (Bunting)

Since he's been on my mind for the purpose of an essay I'm currently writing, perhaps I might set down a stave or so from his most famous work - this eminent Northumbrian, who refused that he was a Geordie since he was actually born in Scotswood...
"A mason times his mallet
to a lark’s twitter,
listening while the marble rests,
lays his rule
at a letter’s edge,
fingertips checking,
till the stone spells a name
naming none,
a man abolished.
Painful lark, labouring to rise!
The solemn mallet says:
In the grave’s slot
he lies. We rot."