This show baffles me a bit. Playing it—and I use ‘playing’ in the loosest sense; this is barely a game at all—involves no skill whatsoever. No intelligence (or, more specifically,no general knowledge), no memory-skills, nothing physical. In fact, the only ability you need to play it is the ability to choose between box x and box y or £x and £y.
This almost total lack of play-along-ability (unless you enjoy picking random boxes, too), for us at home, means that the only reason we’re really watching this is for the tension i.e. mainly, those LAME calls from THE BANKER. Which makes me think: has any recent game show required such a suspension of disbelief as this one? Surely there is NO-ONE the end of that telephone?*
I was puzzled, too, by the fact that these people seem to all know each other., day in, day out. How long are they holed up in D-O-N-D HQ? And surely this calls for a top new reality show (ahem), wherein we all get to see them interacting, bitching, “strategising”.
Oh, and also: Noel Edmonds. (Or is that too easy?)
*Apparently, says my flatmate, one occasion the contestant and not Noel actually spoke to THE BANKER, but I’m not sure I believe this, tbh.
or have the insults and heckles of teenaged hoodlums gone somewhat downhill recently? Here are some, entirely true, examples of abuse hurled at me recently on the streets of Glasgow.
4. “Here, mate, d’ye want a chip?”: This one puzzled me because, contrary to all expectation, it was not followed by a barrage of chips and gravy hurled in my general direction.
3. “Oooh, check out his sexy @rse”: Thanks!
2. 10 year old Ned, with posse of pals: “You got the time, mate?”
Me: “Yeah. Hold on (pause as I check my watch, in which we all wait patiently and silently) Ten past 4.”
10 year old: “Haha, sh1tebag!”
There goes my social conscience!
1. Ned One (to me): “Haw you! Get a haircut”
Ned Two: “Naw, ‘is hairs naw that bad” (thinks) (to me) “Haw, mate, your flies undone”
Ned One: “Aw, yeah, aye. Haha.”
Like many bipedal mammals, I walk. It is an activity that I enjoy and at which, over the years, I have come to display a certain amount of skill—I can now, for example, walk up stairs or steep inclines, where before this required great effort. Even this most simplest of tasks poses some problems, though. Thus, I present PART ONE of a continuing series for the month of November, from me to you, and for all your walking needs:
Stephen’s Walking Etiquette
1. Where possible (cf. 2), on clogged or narrow streets, pick a speed—be it a slow dawdle or a brisk march—and stick to it. Constant, pointless, acceleration and deceleration will only a) add unnecessary time onto your journey, b) aggravate pedestrians behind you with full control of their walking speed or c) make you look like a drunken mentalist or the star of a “hidden camera” televisual programme a la ‘Beadle’s About‘.
1b. If your walk requires the aid of certain props—a child in a pram for example or a shopping trolley leaden down the bags of old scrap—this rule applies tenfold.
2. Overtaking on foot is a perilous as overtaking in one of the new automobiles. This is especially true of walking at night. Often people will take offence to your overtaking them, the suggestion being that your overtaking implies a terrible breed of aggression on your part. A dilemma emerges.
Consider: it is late on a wet Wednesday night, you have missed the last bus and the street stretches ahead of you with just two other people on it. In order that you do not look like some sort of creepy stalker, keeping pace with the student/pensioner/drunk/ in front (P, for short), you have to speed up and overtake. This speeding up, however, will more often that not give P the impression that you are now going to put something sharp into their back and ask for their wallet.
Hence, our dilemma.
The solution here, rather than bellow “Fear not, late-night-pedestrian, I mean you NO HARM”, is to cross the street as necessary and overtake without fear on either part.
The most minor of all irritants, picture the scene: I, the consumer, have made my way to the till with my purchase. Having handed over my e.g. tenner, I am waiting for a receipt and some change in return. But how does the cashier present this to me, reader? Why, she forms a precarious CHANGE MOUNTAIN, of course, which she then artlessly balances on top my receipt and/or notes and THRUSTS ONTO MY PALM!
Completely oblivious to the fact that this veritable Everest is out of thumb-securing reach AND that my other hand (of TWO) is occupied with my purchase, this cashier has dropped me right into a dillemma: Do I attempt to make it out of the shop, no doubt spilling coppers all over the floor and, thereby holding up the queue and suffering total embarrassment OR do I drop everything onto the counter and attempt to stuff change into my wallet in a panic, thereby holding up the queue and suffering total embarrassment??
Life is full of such trials. But what is the solution?
Jerry the Nipper on broken hearts, epic soundtracks and the immortal majesty of Baxendale
When your heart is not so much broken as subject to a spectacular compound fracture… When the plans you conscientiously drafted for months now seem as grandiose and daftly ruined as, yes, a cake, left out in, yes, the rain… When you find yourself cut adrift and washed ashore on the out-of-season seaside resort of your mid-30s… Well, when all that happens, there is nothing to do but to work out which pop song is going to soundtrack the latest scene in that long-running fiasco, your life.
WORDS AND MUSIC
A HISTORY OF POP IN THE SHAPE OF A CITY
BLOOMSBURY, £12.99, ISBN: 0747557780
If an ideal pop journal were to give me 1,864 words to take a tour of Paul Morley’s new ‘history of pop in the shape of a city’, there might be any number of routes I could take.
a) I could write the latest chapter in my ongoing essay on the embarrassment of fandom, titled, in the fashion of Nicholson Baker’s ‘U & I’, ‘Em’n’Me’. Following chapters where I creep-out Morley on an LBC phone-in in the 1980s, write him a betrayed-fan letter about his column in ‘Esquire’ in the 90s and interview him following publication of his memoir in 2000 (only to fail to write the interview up), this might be the chapter where we have a tiff.
b) I could chart a list of co-ordinates in the irresistible Morleyian cartography, locating W&M as the missing link between Chuck Eddy’s ‘Accidental Evolution of Rock and Roll’ and David Thomson’s ‘Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes’; between Camden Joy’s ‘The Last Rock Star Book or Liz Phair: a rant’ and Jacques Derrida’s ‘The Post Card’; between Lester Bangs’ ‘Blondie’ and Chris. Marker’s ‘Immemory’ or between Charlie Gillett’s ‘The Sound of the City’ and Jorge Luis Borges’ ‘Labyrinths’.
c) I could write a dutiful consumer report sensibly explaining how W&M is an idiosyncratic history of avant-pop from Satie to Kylie via John Cage, Brian Eno and Kraftwerk, which you might like if you were already a fan of the music writing of Richard Meltzer and David Toop.
All of these journeys would be more or less scenic, but I’m not sure how useful they would be, in the context of this particular journal, this particular conversation. And because W&M is about, among other things, negotiating the exhausting vertigo of The Arbitrary, usefulness might be our best guide. So I’ve resolved to spend my words thinking about the point of writing pop histories.
W&M begins with two tracks: Alvin Lucier’s obscure ‘I am sitting in a room’ and Kylie’s lucid ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. Morley’s history is the tale of falling down – or digging – the timetunnel that connects the two.
Well, you might lose patience with this story right here: it’s clear it isn’t going to be any straightforward, plausibly causal trip down memory lane. More like being taken for a ride by an errant cabbie via the spooked suburbs of some joker’s soundhoard. If we’re used to the idea these days that histories make sense through genre (and pop histories, from ‘The Sound of the City’ to ‘The People’s Music’ most often partake of tragedy or elegy), then Morley is making a pitch for sci-fi. This is a story that wants to go down rabbit-holes, through looking-glasses, via wormholes to possible futures – pop history as written by Lewis Carroll, Phil Dick and Steve Erickson.
Except it’s not so far-fetched. The best review of W&M would be if some clever bastard tracked down Lucier’s 1969 recording and mashed it up into a 21st century deconstructed Kylie instrumental. Don’t the best bootlegs make vivid what is implied in the most interesting criticism: that meaning or value is less a question of weighing up, marking and filing, but rather… making unlikely introductions across space-time and genre, seeing what chafes, what rubs up the right way, what sparks fly? Maybe if such a bootleg existed it might make clear whether W&M is formulating a genuinely fruitful equation or is just so much dry humping.
While we can enjoy even the most frivolous bootlegs for their daft novelty or disposable cheek, Morley has to gamble on our investment in his story, our suspension of disbelief, for over 300 pages. So he spends a lot of time talking up the tale he is about to tell, trailing a mysterioso mix of murder, magic and the weather, ‘an adventure in sound, in history, in love, in legend’. Our establishing shot finds Kylie, pretty much as she is styled in the video to ‘Can’t get you of my head’, cruising down an autobahn of dreams towards her – and our – destiny. It’s a classic noir beginning: you might think of Janet Leigh, full of high hopes at the start of ‘Psycho’, Oedipa Maas swept along into the paranoia of San Narciso or even lovely Rita’s route down Mulholland Dr.
You might… and you might be disappointed. From a provocative premise, the story takes a turn as listless as its chapter headings (‘Chapter 2: The journey continues’, ‘Chapter 3: The journey continues, ‘Chapter 4: The journey continues’). The compelling knots of narrative are smoothed over and the book becomes a kind of blog of recorded and unrecorded time, as linear as a motorway, as inevitable as teleology. To illustrate how up to her ears she is in history, Morley reveals a tattoo on the nape of the Kylieneck, a microdot in which is inscribed the history of words and music, from the first rumblings of the trogs to the release of ‘Now… 50’. Kylie meets some interesting folks along the way (John Cage, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, Kraftwerk, Merzbow), there are some good jokes (1963: the White Stripes release ‘Elephant’) and there are some marvellous set-pieces (Morley on Tangerine Dream, on Simon Fuller, on ‘Metal Machine Music’), but the story lacks lustre, grows thin with list. If this essay were to have a soundtrack, the song for this paragraph would be St Etienne’s ‘Like a Motorway’: ‘dull, grey and long’.
It dawns on us that the terminus of Kylie’s teleocruise is Popopolis, as we now dream it: an eternal city which has forgotten how to forget, where all that was solid has fractured into frisky pixels, where someone is inventing postmicrohouse at the same time as someone else is discovering Son House, a city where geography is history and history is geography. Where the tunnel between Kylie and Alvin is a curious tube ride across town rather than cryptohistorical causality.- 1 2