Posts from 5th November 2004

Nov 04

Happy Irony Day!

Blog 7Post a comment • 309 views

Happy Irony Day!

I think every British kid growing up is only dimly aware that Guy Fawkes is the baddie in his story. On the one hand there’s the burning in effigy thing. On the other, there’s the fact that we commemorate a failure to blow up parliament with a night whose message is EXPLOSIONS R KEWL. This seems somewhat wry – but until 1959 it was illegal in some parts of England not to celebrate Bonfire Night*, and the fires and fireworks came in from the first anniversary of the plot, so it’s an officially sanctioned wryness to say the least. Of course there was no ambiguity intended in 1606 but somewhere in the intervening 400 years Guy Fawkes became Our Favourite Terrorist, and his popularity would probably be secure even if his modern day equivalents succeeded where he failed.

Bonfire night is interesting to me because of the vestiges of historical fact that linger in the celebrations – it’s a really nice example of a tradition in the middle of its passage from concrete commemoration (cf Armistice Day, coming up next week) to baffling ritual. You see far fewer guys these days and the ones you do see wouldn’t pass muster (Mark S told a great story on ILX of being approached by urchins whose ‘guy’ consisted of a pair of empty trousers draped over a wheelbarrow). When the guys go, so does a bit more of the memory – but Bonfire Night itself is likely, I think, to endure whether people know why or not.

*this ‘fact’ courtesy of a million Internet sites, so beware.

Bad film alert!!!

Do You SeePost a comment • 392 views

Bad film alert!!! – heartwarming story of rockers fighting the forces of ageism. I’d be more sympathetic if The Alarm had thumbed its nose at the record industry by releasing a – gasp! – good record.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 249 views


“Despite long lines and registration snafus, voters under age 30 clocked the highest turnout percentage since 1972. The good news is that America’s young people are more engaged in politics than at any time in two generations… According to professor William Galston at the University of Maryland, at least 20.9 million Americans under 30 voted on Tuesday. That is an increase of 4.6 million voters from 2000. Four years ago, just 42.3 percent of young people voted. This year more than 51.6 percent did. Young people were especially active in battleground states, with turnout at 64.4 percent of eligible voters. Furthermore, these estimates understate things, because college kids are more likely than other groups (except the military) to vote by absentee ballot… What emerged was clear evidence of two political worldviews among young people. The first worldview, which accounts for 49 percent of college students, fits the old definitions of liberals and conservatives. The second worldview, amounting to 51 percent of students, is neither liberal nor conservative. These young voters base political judgments on religious and moral grounds. They fall into two distinct camps: religious centrists and secular centrists, and neither group is predictably conservative or liberal.”

My Sick Obsession

FT + New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 399 views

My Sick Obsession

…with Band Aid III continues apace – yesterday I was seriously considering setting up a special blog for news of the single. This despite the unavoidable fact that the record will be rubbish. Not because “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a bad song – patronising and melodramatic it may be, but its combination of gothy dirge and pub singalong is a rich and strange one. Also the original Band Aid record is one of the angriest (and simultaneously guiltiest) records ever to top the charts – that’s how they can get away with all that “clanging chimes of doom” malarkey, however naive or confused or two-faced the pop stars were there was clearly a real moral force behind the project.

But of course you can’t just snap your fingers and recapture that force. Band Aid II was a tacky career grab and if half its poor reputation comes from anti-SAW snobbery the other half is still justified. So what about Band Aid III? The interesting thing for me about this project is now little emphasis – almost none, in fact – is being placed on the purported reasons for it, the humanitarian crisis in the Sudan.

Part of this is down to the fact that the Darfur famine crisis is more explicitly political than the Ethiopian famine was: these people are dying in the desert because of other people driving them there. The original Band Aid project depoliticised (to an extent) the hunger problem and I’m sure this helped it succeed – and contributed to its huge (and less helpful) impact on Western perceptions of Africa and its people.

Even so it’s curious the extent to which Band Aid III’s main referent is not any kind of current situation but instead a 20-year old record. There’s been little debate as to whether it’s a good or helpful idea doing a charity record, but equally there’s been little positive enthusiasm – the mood of most news reports has been a kind of dutiful observance, as if “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was a kind of pop national service. The respectable and frankly boring Wogan Generation line-up of performers doesn’t help, either: part of the delight of the original project was the incongruity of seeing firebrand Bono and fifth wheel Marilyn in some kind of collaboration, there was a sense (now totally lost) that the usual judgements as to which pop stars were ‘good’ or not had been suspended in the face of tragedy. This incidentally is why the new record will be more like the lifeless and pointless “Perfect Day” than the original “Do They Know…”.

Meanwhile the bandwagon rolls along. At least half the reason for the enthusiasm around Band Aid III is the hope that it might produce Live Aid II, which lots of people want, particularly record retailers cross-promoting DVDs of Live Aid I. This single is blatantly a stalking horse for that possibility, and will probably do its job nicely. Meanwhile we have a lot of pop stars heartily agreeing that something should be done, and unanimous on what it is, but entirely silent as to why.


Do You SeePost a comment • 496 views

One can’t really add much to the information on the screen…

News 24 screen grab

Okay, my conscience won’t allow this to go without a little context.

The breaking news strap actually applied to the Palestinian/French denial that Yasser Arafat was clinically dead.

Somewhat serendipitously, this news just happened to come during the middle of Dubya’s first post-election presser and, well, the screen grab tells the rest of the story…