Posts from 8th September 2003

Sep 03

Freaky Trigger’s September issue

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 295 views

Freaky Trigger’s September issue is now online, with a good number of music-related articles.

The Pinefox on the ATP festival.
Alex Thomson on the Thrills and Adorno.
Jerry The Nipper on Paul Morley’s book.
The Dirty Vicar on John Otway.

and certainly not least, The 8th Freaky Trigger Pop Music Focus Group!

When you’ve finished with those, we’ve also launched our latest weblog – link in the top right-hand corner of this page…

Freaky Trigger, September 2003

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 405 views

Freaky Trigger, September 2003: what is there for Brown Wedge readers? There’s Jerry the Nipper on Paul Morley, Al Ewing interviewing up-and-coming comics artist Dom Reardon, and me writing about – among other things – continuity in comics. Also, if you look in the top right-hand side of this page, you might notice a new FT weblog…

A LOCAL CLUB FOR LOCAL PEOPLE? – A Manifesto For Non Rockist Football

TMFDPost a comment • 2,141 views

Are you a real fan? The ultimate question to anyone at a football match or who defines themselves as a football fan. It’s a question that’s never answered in the negative and is usually rhetorical. Real fans never get asked it, and if you are, then chances are, the questioner (and beyond them, the wider fanbase) have already made their minds up.

So what is a real fan? Like many things that seem simple enough to begin with, the real fan is easier to define by his opposite. The non-real fan can be inauthentic for many reasons; they might for instance be that dreaded creature, the interloper. The character parodied in The Fast Show who starting watching ‘the football’ sometime between the plaudits being dished out for Fever Pitch and Euro’96, when football ceased to a quaint old relic from the industrial age and became the embodiment of fashionability. When not knowing who was top of the league became social death equivalent to wearing the wrong brand of retro trainer or not knowing who The Next Big Thing were.

Such parvenus are easy targets of course, and helpfully map onto a variety of other Bad Things – the unreal fan is usually middle class, and something of a damp squib. He might claim to be a fan, but is always moments away from being found out as an impostor, dreading being asked the question ‘who did Alan Shearer begin his career with?’

But whilst there’s the unreal fan of the game – someone who takes an interest in football because they were told it was hot in a lifestyle monthly, the truly cutting remark is not being a real fan of this club. The group ostracise you with such a comment. You, who have lived amongst them, celebrated with them and drank with them are suddenly no longer part of the crew. You thought you belonged. You thought you were accepted. But you weren’t; you were tolerated, and access to the tabernacle is denied.

What do unreal fans of clubs do to deserve this? They usually fail to shape up on various measures. They might not have been born in the town concerned. They might not go to away matches. They might not go to home matches. They might not have been going since 1963. They might be a woman. But what is the obverse of such shameful things? What’s a real fan that is possessed of all the right virtues?

He (for it is always he) has always lived in the town. His father did too, and so did his grandfather (yea, even unto the middle ages). Grandfather took father who took real fan; fandom as patri-lineage. He goes to home matches and away matches, and cup matches and friendly matches. He probably makes most of the reserve games too (but probably doesn’t see the women’s team). He also doesn’t exist. Or if he does, he’s far, far less common than he once was.

Real fandom is a mythical concept. The unreal fan isn’t actually someone who is unreal; just someone who fits fewer of the mythical qualities. The Real fan is the John Bull of football, the superhero of (the) Albion. He’s very much like his nationalistic cousin though, in that he serves as a yardstick for convenient exclusion from the tribe anyone who, well, just doesn’t fit. Like the 3rd-generation Black-British who’ll never quite be British enough for some, the unreal fan’s face will never fit. And that’s that. We can see you sneaking out? Good riddance.

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Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,534 views

Introducing Proven By Science, by Geeta Dayal

I usually cringe when I see a science story in a newspaper, magazine, or worst of all, TV. ‘CANCER TREATMENT FOUND’, they trumpet. ‘HOW VITAMINS CAN MAKE YOU SMARTER’. Often, the stories are simply erroneous, or they’re based on data that’s too tentative, or the findings are simplified to the point where they don’t mean much. But the most striking problem with the way that mainstream media covers science in our goal-oriented culture is that they focus completely on results, when half the fun and adventure of science is in the process.

Science presented just in terms of results is like receiving a synopsis of the ending of a book or play without actually getting to read it: ‘Romeo and Juliet both die. The End.’ You can’t publish your finding in a scientific journal without having results, of course. But the bulk of a journal article lies in describing procedures, not simply in the mundane “add 1 mL of acetic acid and stir” recipe-sense, but in the experimental design. Much of the creativity in science is in figuring out a strategy to get the result you want, some brilliant twist of the scientific method that lets you see the world in a way that no one has before. How many miserable (yet terribly dramatic and pathos-drenched) years of trying and trying without success did it take? What previous findings did you find inspiration in; what nutty theories were you reading about? The excitement of discovery, the way-cool backstory, are all obliterated in favor of the soundbite. But what makes it even worse is that all they bother telling you is the happy ending.

In science you fail much more often than you succeed. I learned this lesson well during a summer job in a Princeton University chemistry research lab when I was sixteen. My task was to synthesize a new molecule that had never been made before — a treacherous-looking, many-tentacled monster involving several foul sulfurous reactions. Every day, I tried and tried to make the molecule, and every day, I failed. I would redo my experimental setup, shift strategies. I’d ask the professor and graduate students for advice. I’d put in extra hours, working into the night, coming in on weekends. But every time, I failed. I started to think that maybe I was the victim of one big cosmic joke. I complained to the grad student working next to me. “It’s just not working! I’ve been trying to synthesize this goddamn thing for two months now!” She fixed a steely stare at me and said, “I’ve been trying to synthesize this goddamn thing for two years now.” That was my cue to shut up. By the end of the summer, I’d only succeeded in making a fragment of the molecule, but I felt like a badass. I hadn’t generated the result, but I felt older and more knowledgeable, cooler even, in my stained white lab coat and smudged-up eyeglasses and embittered, we’re-in-it-for-the-long-haul expression. When I made the idiot mistake of spilling a strong acid, leaving a horrific chemical burn on my hand with a hot sizzle, the grad students standing next to me helped me clean it and bandage it, and then congratulated me. “Join the club,” they said solemnly, as if I’d now been sworn into their secret cult. The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. I was one of them now.

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There are no links

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 319 views

There are no links up over on the right hand side of this page. This isn’t some grand we-stand-alone gesture. Apart from anything else, we don’t stand alone. I can’t offer any excuses except to say that I haven’t done anything about it yet and I’m sorry. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears. I’m further humbled by stumbling across a site like plep who seems to gather interesting-looking links at an absurd rate.

Perhaps I can go some way to making up for this by recommending the work-in-progress of our own Anthony Easton: he’s writing 100 Words On 100 Pieces (of visual art). That’s the kind of symmetrical, economical idea for which I’m an absolute sucker, so it pleases me no end to say that it’s a terrific project so far, even at 18% complete. It’s every bit as good as you’d hope, and I’m looking forward to more.

Watching the England game

TMFDPost a comment • 379 views

Watching the England game in the pub on Saturday, we saw Wayne Rooney score that goal, and a predictable cheer went up. When the replays were going on I looked around me and was surprised at what I saw.

In response to one of the less explicable pieces of goalkeeping I can remember (it looked for all the world as though the Macedonian ‘keeper could have stretched out his arm and saved fairly easily, instead of which he seemed to shy away from the ball), people around me seemed to be making hand signals to each other and laughing. Some were doing the back half of the ‘walk like an Egyptian’ dance, which I believe is supposed to signify what’s known as a backhander. Others were theatrically and repeatedly putting their hands in their back pockets. Still more were rubbing their fingers together in a sort of ‘money’ sign. All seemed to be laughing.

I don’t think anyone really thought that the Macedonians had been bribed to lose (or if they did, they surely had no evidence) but the glee with which they seemed to suggest corruption seemed to indicate a rather different attitude to old-fashioned stout English fair play than some would have us believe.

Sporting Trophies and what they say about the organisations that commissioned them – An occasional series Number 1 – The FIFA World Cup

TMFD1 comment • 484 views

Sporting Trophies and what they say about the organisations that commissioned them – An occasional series

Number 1 – The FIFA World Cup

Sporting trophies don’t appear to have figured much in the way of criticism; like much of sport, it appears to be too far below the radar of the critiquing classes. But they are worthy objects of discussion, if only for the obvious point that they don’t get made by themselves. Someone commissions them. Someone buys them. The organisation responsible is saying something about itself at the time of first sourcing the trophy; this may have little to say about the now, or it could say something about what they thought about the now back then. If you see what I mean.

To kick this little series off, I’ll begin with my absolute favourite – The FIFA World Cup Trophy, designed by Sergio Gazzaniga. It was commissioned to replace the original trophy named after Jules Rimet, variously described as the creator, founder and father of the world cup (I can’t believe he was the first person to have the idea of working out who the world’s best team were, but he did actually get the thing off the ground, so fair play to him). Brazil had won the trophy three times and so kept the statuette, and FIFA needed a new one. 53 designs were received and Gazzaniga’s won.

It stands 36cm and weighing in at 4.9Kg. It’s an absolute beauty. It says much about the organisation at the time that having allowed Brazil to keep the last one, the rules were changed to prevent this happening again. This one is in it for the long haul. FIFA had an eye on the future, and I think they did a good job, which is a statement you’d be hard pushed to make today.

So why do I like it? The simplicity and the symmetry are the main ones. The weight too. There was always something that didn’t seem right in the fact that the Jules Rimet trophy was so small and light; something so important shouldn’t look so inconsequential and be able to handed around with little effort. The Ashes in cricket suffer from this same problem to my mind. It should have a near religious sense of a relic, as it is the nearest sport gets to something that transcends the temporary circumstances of the time. It is the perfect trophy for the greatest competition in football, the dream of kids all over the world to one day win, and as they get older and realise they are rubbish, to see their team win.

So the World Cup, heavy beast that it is, feels right. To see a player struggle to hold it and lift it above their head mimics the struggle they have had to win it (apart from France, but I won’t go there). The player holding it above their head mirrors the trophy itself, where two figures hold a globe aloft.

Trophies seem to be little more than updated replayings of hunting rites; the presentation is to demonstrate to the world that they have killed it, they have vanquished the foe. We did this, and we did it for you is the message. The World Cup is perhaps the finest at this. Deceptively heavy, pleasingly simple yet still redolent of great wealth, and looks a treat when held aloft. FIFA might just have bumbled into choosing this design, but I’d like to think not. Even so, in age of gaudy trophies and transient tournaments, the greatest tournament in the world have the greatest trophy in the world. FIFA probably wouldn’t choose this now, of course.

But it seems they might be up for trying, with talk of them getting a new one made. FIFA’s choice said much about the game in 1974 when it was first awarded. Respectful, though with less of a nod to the standard curves and heraldic figures of past trophies and cups than one would expect. It spoke of an organisation secure in its knowledge that football was the greatest game, and confident of its prospects. The modern game has moved on so much since then, and FIFA has done so too. A new prize would unlikely to have that respect and comfort with history of the game and its future. Just like FIFA itself.


I Hate Music43 comments • 13,963 views

There was some bloke who recently wrote a book about television programmes. Not my idea of fun, but a much more respectable job than writing about pop music in the positive. However as part of this tome he decided to subject himself to a comparative job of working out what the best theme song ever was.

To which I would always reply the TV show without a theme song. Unfortunately there have not been many of them. Still I would not have committed myself to the stupid task to start off with. This fella (like I say, I forget his name due to excessive consumption of my new favourite drink Tonic’n’Gin) managed to raise the hackles of the amassed tabloid press by picking some ridiculous show about a horse of some such nonsense in the sixties. Where, they all clamoured, was the theme tune to Only Fools And Horses?

Shall I tell you. It was in the bin where John Sullivan should have left it in the first place. Those of you who are not aware of this, the UK’s most beloved comedy program, it is the everyday tale of a nasty, pernicious villain and his idiot brother who week in week out try to swindle people of their money whilst dropping lovable cockney catchphrases. If you were being charitable you could call it Crimewatch UK with jokes – except Crimewatch UK generally has better jokes. And it has a theme tune in which a sullen cockney voice intones the key points about swindlous trading: “no income tax, no V.A.T, No money back, No guarantee”. The line missing from this song is obviously no bloody quality either.

People who did not turn off the moment the song came on were often lulled into the assumption that the piss poor vocals had to be done by Nicholas Lyndhurst, star of said TV programme belov’d for his gormless voice, expression and existence. In truth it was the writer of the song, who was also the writer of the show illustrating his vibrant personality. The idea that a colloquialism for the life of a conman and a French expression could rhyme could only spring from the well-font of an imagination that thinks someone falling behind a bar is the funniest thing ever. “C’est magnifique – Hooky Street!

Worse still was the fact that there were actually two theme tunes to the show (presumably Sullivan thought he could stretch this to an A-side and a B-side rather than the more apt up his own backside). Why do only fools and horse work? So they can afford to go to the pub and not sit at home watching and listening to claptrap like this.

The Aberdeen Angus Steak House

Pumpkin Publog4 comments • 3,288 views

The Aberdeen Angus Steak House I have always been assured is some sort of money laundering operation. Think about it. They have well over twenty restaurants in prime locations in central London. To your tax inspector in Bradford or East Kilbride this suggests that you must be a successful, thriving business pumping that toursit cash straight into your coffers. In actual fact your are dour, plush red places who overcharge for poorly done steaks*. If this is not a way of laundering money from otherwise dodgy drug deals then creative accounting must be much more creative than all the other arts put together.

Having found out once that two of the many kebab houses on Haringey Green Lanes were infact owned by Scottish businessmen I concocted a complex, yet plausible origin of the Aberdeen Angus Steak House phenom. Namely, so incensed by the Scots moving into their turf, the Turkish Mafia proceeded to set up the AASH chain as revenge. Even as we speak a vicious (surf’n’) turf wars is being fought between Scottish and Turkish organised crime leaving no prisoners, except the inmate like looks from people who are suckered into any of their establishments.

*As every Londoner knows with ever having been there.

You’re not from round ‘ere

TMFDPost a comment • 332 views

You’re not from round ‘ere: I’m delighted to see FT’s sports coverage kick off with a fine article by Dave Boyle. He’s right to be sick of the jeering insistence on authenticity which runs through so much football culture, even the more enlightened kind. Manchester United supporter from Barnstaple? Liverpool fan from Stevenage? We’ll be the judge of which communities you belong to, thanks very much.

I’ll quite often get on to talking about football with people I don’t know well: it’s a big part of my life and can be quite a handy thing-we-have-in-common. It’s often funny to watch them react to the question I get round to asking as they enthuse about their team: “Do you go?”

As often as not, those who don’t slog through the wind and the rain to inhospitable away ends in far-off places start to get intimidated and start to make excuses. I generally have to reassure them. I don’t care how often they pay at the turnstiles as long as they’ve something interesting to say. I’m generally happy that I’ve had the chance to ask them a saucy question, one which would normally earn me a slap, and kept a straight face.