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3 Jul

Just listened to Stephen Fry’s latest “podgram” on the future of the BBC. Inspired and soothed, I checked the comments from his blog. The following comment was found there ::

Britain should remember that it is a tragically tiny country that most people wouldn’t have ever heard of if it punched its natural weight. It is no longer known for its quality manufacturing, no longer the custodian of a massive empire and ever less relevant in global politics alongside the growing superpowers. One thing remains however, and that is Britain’s role as a cultural cornerstone for the English speaking world. Its programming in both radio and television has permeated the English speaking world from my father’s childhood bedroom in Cape Town to corners of Australia, India, Canada, the US and New Zealand. To think that the global reach and effect of British programming isn’t to Britain’s benefit is simply moronic. British comedy does more to win hearts and minds than any of its military follies.

The World Service is testament to the fact this was once widely understood. Has the ambition of global cultural relevance died with imperial ambition? I hope not.

The kernel of Stephen’s beautifully articulated speech (paraphrased) ::

The BBC is flowers on a roundabout x 1,000,000

A public excess, that is, without a second of doubt, worth it.

So true.

guitar heroes

8 Nov

those were the 16k days*

22 Jul

Readers of a certain vintage will remember with a warm heart the early days of home computing. The days of the Speccie, the CPC 464, and the Commodore 64; Homebrew, Zzap 64, and Cauldron.

Why not wander down memory lane with this great animation (via: B3ta)?

*Yeah, I know, some of these devices had 64k :o)

The Politics of Gipper

8 May

I have just finished catching up on the news from the first Republican ’08 presidential nominee debate (yeah, I have been that busy – and you thought blogging was about instant reactions to the breaking news. Shows how wrong you can be, doesn’t it?). The debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

All ten GOP hopefuls pretty much broke their neck to pay homage to Old Gipper and his politics, and this got me thinking about the dangers and reasons for the Republican Party’s almost religious veneration of The 40th President of The United States of America.

I suppose the first place to start would be the ruinous presidency of the current White House incumbent, George W. Bush. It must be hard to run on a Republican ticket right now. With Bush’s approval ratings similar to those of a prison snitch, it’s nigh on impossible to build on his legacy.

Of course John McCain has it hardest, being so identified as a supporter of the War in Iraq and a defender of the President’s recent surge strategy. Yet, over the last year or so, even McCain has tried to put clear blue water between him and Bush, going on record to describe Donald Rumsfeld as one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in history and himself as a Reaganite Republican.

What Bush has achieved is pretty spectacular. When he took office, Bush ’43 enjoyed GOP control of both Houses of Congress, and was supported by a loyal party base with deep pockets. Now, over halfway through his second term, the Dems control both Houses, he is defined by a failed war, and his domestic reputation is in tatters. For a Republican hopeful, it’s probably politically safer to be caught having full-sex with a chicken, than to be caught praising the President.

Such disillusionment with its own sitting President has forced the Republican Party to look back to better times. During Reagan’s presidency the GOP was defined by economic confidence, low taxes, and an inflexible foreign policy. The Soviet Union represented a unifying threat and a tangible enemy. Compare and contrast this to America’s current nemesis: the nebulous and constantly morphing menace of Islamic-fascism.

A rose-tinted lurching back to the past is also further evidence of the intellectual vacuum that has followed the collapse of Neoconservatism. With violence in Iraq still escalating and the Neocon dream of nation building in disarray, conservatives are without a clear political ideology to pin their hopes to. By hankering back to a more lucid geopolitical landscape, the GOP is proving that it doesn’t have the answers for the problems America faces today.

Ronald Reagan has been raised to a saint-like position in modern Republican folklore. His administration is considered the vanguard of the glory-days of conservatism, a time when being described as a Liberal was considered a slur, and anyone who argued against conservative values was dismissed as godless or un-American. Only a couple of years ago, Bush won his second term as President, and Republican rule seemed dynastical.

Now with The Democratic Party again in the ascendancy, Republican hopefuls are thrashing around for something solid on which to lay their new foundations on. The fact they are looking back to the nineteen eighties, tells you everything you need to know about the House of Bush and the current state of Conservative Politics in America.

Conservatism will have its day in the sun again, but now it is up to a generation of Liberal politicians to provide leadership to a rudderless America. With Conservative politics offering no solutions to the major threats to the US (globalisation, perilous levels of consumer borrowings and terrorism), the Democrats have the opportunity to seize control of The White House and steer America to more prosperous waters.

Carpe Diem, Mr. Obama, Carpe Diem.

Why a decrepit Dylan is still important

25 Aug

I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan. Even before I went to university I was a fan. I used to write a lot of – mostly sardonic – poetry when I was young, so an attraction to Dylan was unavoidable. Obviously the guy can’t sing, his gravel voice, honed with a mixture of tobacco and bitterness, is an acquired taste, but that was never the point. Dylan stood outside the establishment and peered in, and like the rest of us, he didn’t like what he saw.

I’m only 28. I can’t remember Dylan in his heyday because I wasn’t around. I don’t remember Vietnam or the riots in Paris, because I wasn’t there. But the establishment doesn’t change; we’re still being governed like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed on bullshit. We’re still fighting wars that nobody can quite understand, and still, when things go wrong, the French youth will still trash Paris. Things don’t change, not really. When we got rid of Nixon, they picked up the pieces and hashed together Bush. They didn’t shoot Clinton, but they still managed to kill him. Even today’s Labour Government is a quasi-Thatcherite experiment in economic neoliberalism, with a dash of authoritarianism thrown in gratis. It’s getting like Stalinism without the free housing. Ok. I’m exaggerating, but take a look at John Reid’s criticisms of civil liberties, and tell me you don’t know what I’m getting at.

Dylan still speaks for us, mostly because he’s never quite been surpassed. There have been sporadic instances of musicians reflecting the modern world. Green Day’s American Idiot, is certainly a product of Bush’s America: disillusioned, bitter, and incensed. During the eighties and early nineties Tracey Chapman would sing about the urban black poor, and today we can hear The Streets define modern urban Britain. But mostly, angst in modern music doesn’t really exist. Politics is not cool. Those who do proselytise about the ills of the world, and I speak of Chris Martin, Bono, and the like, do so with as very much part of the establishment. And they concentrate on a non-offensive agenda; they don’t challenge leaders about the democratic shortcomings in their own backyards, or a misguided and counterproductive foreign policy. They don’t speak for us.

Where is the music (or poetry) that rages against the system? Where is The Clash of the noughties? Or are we too comfortable and decadent to worry about civil liberties and democracy? Even democracy is a dirty word among the left now; the Bush doctrine has even sullied that. So that’s why Dylan is so important, because he, now ravaged by age, is all we have.

It may not be throwing mud in the eye of Bush, but in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine (an excerpt of which can be read here) it seems Dylan can still boil up some characteristic venom, as he takes on the chronic overproduction in the music industry.

“Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today. We all like records that are played on record players, but let’s face it, those days are gon-n-n-e. You do the best you can, you fight that technology in all kinds of ways, but I don’t know anybody who’s made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really.

I’m not quite sure I wholly agree. Certainly, modern digitally recorded music isn’t as warm or as fluid as vinyl. And the alchemy of the CD is not as aesthetically pleasing or as tactile as a 12″ record. And, you certainly can’t roll a joint on a gatefold CD case. But there is some good music being made, some of which even sounds good. But bands such as The Killers, Queens of the Stone Age, and Muse are few and far between. I genuinely struggle to muster the interest to buy a CD in a record shop now; mostly I just shuffle off home and play some Smiths or early REM. And maybe because of this, music doesn’t really mater anymore. It doesn’t help that so much of it is garbage or so diluted you may as well not bother, but no one, even those making it, seems to give a shit anymore. And that is the real problem with modern music.

It’s nice to see that Dylan is still prepared to be the polemicist, and rally against the established orthodoxy. We certainly need him. And his new album does reflect on a post-9/11 world, which is more that can be said for some of the ‘politically aware’ bands around. But Dylan is not a product of our world; we shouldn’t be relying on a sixty-five-year-old musician to define it. We need the vacuous singer-songwriters who litter the charts to stop looking inwards, reflecting yet again about a lost lover, and look outwards at the shit that’s building up at the door.

Billy Bragg is still raging, but he’s knocking on fifty and very much a product of the seventies and early eighties. We need someone to define us who wasn’t part of the scene that gave us The Young Ones; we need someone to rally against the sheer gormlessness of our over-commercialised, politically vacant reality.

The problem is not Bush and Blair, the problem is we don’t fight back.

Gratuitous Nostalgia Part VIII | The Pixies

22 Aug


The Pixies rocked.

Frank Black was a hero, just rediscovering their music after a couple of years hiatus.

Gratuitous Nostalgia Part VII | The Adam and Joe Show

21 Aug

Adam and Joe still have a show on XFM Radio. A Podcast is also available. Adam Buxton has a blog.

I adored this show. It is very much part of my youth.