Posts from 8th September 2005

Sep 05

What Does A German Wear Under His Beer Skirt?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 529 views

Because Lederhosen are just too uncomfortable for Oktoberfest, we introduce The Oktoberfest Frock. Now I cannot help but think that there is a clothing evolutionary midground that has been skipped to go from the ‘hosen to the skirt, but if its what the German’s want to wear then good luck to them.

Hopefully like all decent manly drinking apparel, the beer skirt is waterproof on the front, but has a rear section which is absorbant like a paper towel for leaving the gents. But it does allow for quick dissemenation of eminations caused by too much pilsner, sauerkraut and bratwurst.


FT + New York London Paris Munich/1 comment • 2,139 views

Culture Beat – “Mr Vain”

There is an argument, one I hope to elucidate in the following, that Culture Beat are exactly that. The rhythm of our Western Culture in 1993: the thud of the backing of this song is merely the underpinning of the songs accurate and razorsharp critique of that culture. That it sold 4.5 million copies worldwide and hit the top of the charts in twelve countries also manages to show how self-reflexive said culture is, even to the extent of taking a scabrous political song and treating it as mere dance music.

Lyrical analysis is never the best way to discuss a song, but perhaps with Mr Vain it is the lyrics which are most disregarded. Certainly it is a wonderful song to dance to, but it also demands a singalong. Yet do we ever really consider the meaning of the words? Take the best known parts:
I know what I want and I want it now
I want you cause I’m Mr. Vain

If you do not recognise this as the 90’s mantra then we lived through a different decade. It is all about the narcissistic “me” generation of the period. And why do they want so much, citing vanity as a cause for profligate consumerism may seem contradictory: but is it? The reason we need to acquire so much (and in this case sexual conquests are seen as much as acquisitions as anything else) is that cultural vanity requires us to experience and judge everything. We turn the music into an extension of our own creativity. We are the artist. And we are not exactly modest about this.

Ironically this process of unpacking the song and turning it into our own product, “a nice safe cheesy dance record” seemingly neuters the power of the tune. Mr Vain is remembered as just that, a slightly embarrassing floor filler from the early nineties, where German producers grafted in a singer in spike heels and ruled the pop charts. But Mr Vain is a Trojan horse: it still fills the floor today and the words sometimes get through. When a lagered up lad at that wedding disco mouths “I’m Mr Vain”, the response is certainly in the affirmative. That Mr Vain is the soundtrack of 1993 there can be no argument to. But I would also propose it is the soul of 1993 too. And when we are also invited to note the equivalence of Mr Vain to Mr Wrong, we can see instantly what Culture Beat’s line on 1993 was.

Oh, That’s Why We Don’t Play Home Internationals Any More

TMFDPost a comment • 392 views

After a terrific performance from Northern Ireland and a lousy one from England, there were difficult decisions for national newspapers today on how jingoistic and England orientated they should be.

Daily Mail: Sack the Swede
Daily Star: Sack the Swede
The Mirror: Sack the clot
The Sun: Taxi for Eriksson
Daily Express: Sven’s Irish joke
Guardian: England are humiliated
Daily Telegraph: England are humiliated
Independent: Humiliation
Times: Eriksson feels the heat after sad England’s latest debacle
Racing Post: Shambles sees Eriksson slashed for sack

(Cheers BBC)

Hold on, slashed for sack?

He’s a Developer, and he’s been Arrested!

Do You SeePost a comment • 281 views

As befits as US sitcom showed by the BBC, it is almost impossible to see Arrested Development properly in the UK. (BBC4 handles it a bit better, but my TV does not handle BBC4 very well). All I knew about it was that I was startled by its speed, its cruelty and its brevity – and found it funny. I was also aware that there was some sort of ongoing story which my once in a blue moon viewing might did not elude to me.

Luckily box sets exist, and watching the first six episodes is very instructive as to how sitcoms rapidly evolve. Arrested Development (I only got the tortuous title after the third show) utilises everything it can do to make it unlike a proper studio based sitcom. But when the set up is laid bare, it is a show about brothers and sisters in the same family living together, most of them trying to get jobs and being rubbish at it. It does however have a much larger cast than expected: and the eccentricities displayed by the nine lead characters could easily be the main character a normal US sitcom might be about. (The failed magician sitcom, the campaigner who foils her own campaigns sitcom, the businessman in prison sitcom, the idiot manchild sitcom, the cousins who fancy each other sitcom.) Also it has mastered the throwaway cut-away gag to such an extent that there are entire scenes shot to illustrate a one second gag. Add to this Ron Howard’s (!) straight man omniscient narration and you have a show which regularly fits in three solid plots in twenty minutes with room for a completely specious and false “coming up in the next episode” segment at the end.

These first episodes can be patchy, but watching in quick succession you can see the original plot wriggling out of control as the show gets a rhythm of its own. It is this more organic nature that British sitcoms, polished by writers and with runs too short to build up this chemistry, often missed. Arrested Development is not the best sitcom ever made, but it takes the US sitcom format and reimagines it just enough to remain nice and fresh.