Red Nose Day

A: Hi. I’ve been thinking about red nose day.
B: Really. What about it?
A: Well more about ‘charity’ and ‘giving’ really.
B: Go on.
A: Well, imagine this situation… You’ve been shopping and bought a really nice new pair of shoes. They’ve cost you £80.
B: Nice shoes.
A: Yep. Then as you’re walking home past the canal you see a small child obviously drowning. The canal’s not that deep. Would you wade in and save the child even though it will mean ruining your new shoes?
B: Of course. Next question.
A: Scenario number 2. You’ve bought the shoes but have taken a different route home. You see a poster of an African child obviously starving. You read the notice and it says that it would cost £80 to keep this child alive. Would you return to the shop, collect your £80 and send the money to the charity?
B: I’d like to think I would.
A: But…
B: Of course I wouldn’t.
A: Why do you think that is?
B: I’m not really sure. No doubt you’ve a theory or 2 on this?
A: Indeed. I guess one element in explaining this is the phenomena known as social loafing. This concerns how people behave in groups. There seems to be some element of laziness, of ‘someone else will do it’ in all of us.
B: Have you a dramatic illustration of this?
A: This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964. According to the reports for more than thirty minutes 38 citizens watched a killer stalk and stab Kitty Genovese in three separate attacks. Twice the talking and glow of the lights in the apartments forced the assailant to leave but he returned to kill her. No one telephoned the police during the assault. One woman contacted the police after the woman was dead.
B: Anything else spring to mind?
A: Perhaps there’s the ‘giving overload’ aspect. For a long time now we seem to have been bombarded with images of starving children, mistreated animals, old people suffering. It’s just not news anymore and the emotional shock value has all but disappeared.
B: So – big implications for comic relief I guess?
A: Exactly. They have to keep making it different.
B: So, sitting in a bath of beans no longer works?
A: Afraid not.
B: So I can get out then?
A: Yes please, and don’t leave a mess on the carpet.
B: Why didn’t you just say in the first place?

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My Parents Are Aliens

B: I’ve been watching a lot of children’s TV lately.
A: Why would you want to do that?
B: Basically because you have control of the remote.
A: Good point. And…..
B: I love some of it.
A: Me too.
B: I especially love ‘My Parents Are Aliens’ and ‘Charlie And Lola’.
A: Me too.
B: Why do you like them so much?
A: They’re funny. That’s what counts.
B: I like them because they are superbly written, witty, and contain little nuances and ideas that are sadly lacking in most ‘grown-up’ programmes.
A: Oh, tell me more..
B: ‘My Parents Are Aliens’ is a series about three children whose parents are dead and who have been adopted by aliens. Not perhaps the most traditional of childrens’ programmes topics.
A: Why are you telling me this?
B: Just in case our reader hasn’t seen it.
A: OK. It’s not because you’ve had to adapt a review you wrote that the Guardian turned down?
B: Of course not. ….. Yet like some of the truly classic programmes (‘Bodies’, ‘Six Feet Under’) it deals with life, love and loss from a new angle. ‘My Parents Are Aliens’ is unafraid to tackle issues of death and loss as no other current programme (pre or post 7 p.m.) does. It never shies away from the big issues and deals with them directly and openly. Apart from death, loss it tackles religion, depression, or anything that seems to crop up.
A: Well that sounded totally natural. Now would you like to tell me about ‘Charlie and Lola’?
B: ‘Charlie and Lola’ is different. Charlie and Lola are a pair of siblings who are so accurately drawn that it’s almost cruel. Lola is the star. She’s everything a child should be – cheeky, irreverent, self-obsessed. However, it’s her brother that really works for me. He’s the antithesis of the stereotypical teenager. Traditionally he would be sulky, moody, fighting with his parents a la Harry Enfield. Yet he’s sweet, human and really loves his sister. It’s one of the most heart-warming programmes you’ll ever see.
A: Well put. I think Charlie and Lola is really funny as well.
B: And that’s what counts.
A: And that’s what counts.

Jade

A: I guess you’ll have some thoughts on Big Brother.
B: Why do you ask?
A: Well everyone else has.
B: Actually, so have I – although mine are different.
A: Really?
B: Yes. Everyone else hasn’t seen the programme but have a vicious opinion of people in it.
A: You?
B: I have seen the show and have a vicious opinion of people who haven’t seen it.
A: Pray tell….
B: One of the most powerful motivators for humans is the motivation to not be wrong.
This particular motivator seems to have become almost been carried out on a National scale over the past 48 hours or so. People, it seems, will do almost anything to ensure they’re not in the wrong – lying, cheating, feigning illness, feigning ignorance. In the newspapers this weekend, in particular it seems that selective amnesia is the way out.

Let me illustrate. After a week of bitter hatred, and plenty of newsprint, the eviction on Friday of Jade Goody was a huge disappointment to most rabid writers and broadcasters. They had painted her as evil, a racist, a loudmouth, a bully, typical of the ‘yoof’ of today, etc. etc. On Friday she didn’t deny any of this but came across as repentant, incredibly sad, really hurt and pretty pathetic.

Now, in a month where Saddam Hussein’s popularity has shot up due to a bad death and a little dignity it seems strange that many newspapers wouldn’t offer the same mark of respect for Jade. Here is a young mother of two crying on national TV, losing her career, her earnings, her dignity and probably any respect she ever had. She’s forced to watch her appalling behaviour in front of 9 million people yet the press can’t let her off. They want their pound of flesh. They can’t be seen to be wrong. This is very worrying.

The Saturday Telegraph was pretty quiet on this denouement of the sordid story apart from a report by Nicole Martin headlined “Advertisers turned off by Big Brother row” (no surprise where the emphasis here is). Ms Martin’s few words on the outing of Jade were “Goody, at the centre of a row after making allegedly racist comments about Shetty shrugged and said “all right” as she was told by the show’s presenter, Davina MCall, that the public had voted her out of the house”. No mention of the tears, the remorse, the suffering.

Now I guess many Telegraph readers would have little sympathy with Jade, but to openly ignore what has been shown on TV is disturbing and quite insulting. Granted the demographic for Big Brother doesn’t contain a fantastic amount of Telegraph readers. However there may have been one or two Telegraph readers who had seen the eviction – not turned on to watch it of course, but it may have been there in the background while they were doing worthier things and even they must have had some pangs of sympathy. Then to read that nothing happened (apart from some advertisers getting concerned about their popularity) must have caused just a few to wonder – “Well hang on. I saw this programme and something did happen – Jade was contrite and tearful and it was a pathetic sight to see a mother of two being burnt in public. If the Telegraph lies to me about this then how can I believe everything else they say? Perhaps there are no weapons of mass destruction?”

Out of the whole affair my limited reading and viewing has picked up just 2 unlikely heroes. One – Dominic Lawson writing in the Independent makes it clear that he doesn’t agree but defends freedom of speech and cited Mr Jade as being guilty only of being a prick, which he reminds us isn’t a crime yet. I would agree. The other voice of common sense comes from Russell Brand who says, to paraphrase, “Even if Jade is a bully then kicking the shit out of her isn’t really all that clever then is?”. Again I would tend to agree.

Happy New Year

A: So Happy New Year and all that.
B: You too. Any New Year resolutions?
A: I’m eight.
B: So?
A: What vices do you think I need to address this year then?
B: Well…
A: Too much drinking, drugs maybe?
B: OK. OK.
A: So you – what are you looking to give up?
B: Usual things … but most importantly I’m really going to write this blog far more regularly
A: Really. Why would you want to do that?
B: I’ve this idea that this would make an excellent book.
A: Honestly? How would you pitch this then?
B: I have. I’ve described it as a ‘gentle comedy’…
A: Incredibly gentle.
B: … detailing conversations between a precocious 8 year old …
A: Called?
B: Alice. Obviously not you.
A: Couldn’t be – different name. Do you get a name?
B: No. Other character is Guardian–reading, ‘right-on’….
A: Does anyone say that these days?
B: …liberal-type.
A: So, not you either?
B: Precisely.
B: And someone’s gone for it.
B: Well yes. Those nice, perceptive people at Pegasus are keen.
A: Define keen.
B: (pause)
A: They’ve offered us a six figure advance and a contract?
B: Not in so many words.
A: They haven’t said ‘no’ yet?
B: Closer. They’ve asked me to submit it when it’s finished. So let’s get cracking.
A: Me? You know I take no responsibility for any of this.
B: Of course. So what’s with the ‘us’ you mentioned before when you talked about an advance?
A: Just a figure of speech.

The Choir

B: How’s the Christmas play going?

A: Terrible. I hate being in the choir.

B: Oh, why’s that?

A: Miss’s moved me to the second row.

B: Why would she do that?

A: Well the badder the singer you are the more rows you get moved back.

B: Second row’s not too bad though?

A: I was on the front row.

B: I see.

A: Georgina’s on the 6th row. Miss said she’d sing better if she opened her mouth.

B: Nice bit of typical music teacher feedback.

A: That reminds me. Tell me about the Beatles.

B: Why’s that?

A: It’s a school project.

B: Music?

A: History.

B: Well, I have to admit that I wasn’t really that big a fan.

A: But you’re old… and we live near Liverpool.

B: I know but I’ve never really liked Paul McCartney.

A: Good grief. Anything else you’d like to admit to?

B: I think Morrissey, Pete Doherty, Jeff Tweedy, Liam Gallagher and Eminem are all funny.

A: Did you do a lot of drugs in the 70s?

B: Again – no. I guess I’m a big disappointment to you aren’t I?

A: Just as long as you don’t start liking my music that’s OK.

B: And your music?

A: Wilco, Sparklehorse, Lambchop.

B: ….

A: Just joking; Kylie and Pussy Cat Dolls.

B: On safe ground there.

A: So musically what were the 50s like?

B: How would I know?

A: 60s?

B: Too young

A: 70s?

B: Too busy.

A: 80s?

B: Too old.

A: 90s?

B: Now that was a good time.

A: Why was that?

B: I discovered music and had enough money to enjoy it.

A: But didn’t they all sound the same?

B: Exactly. Bluetones. Ocean Colour Scene. Kula Shaker….

A: You made that last one up.

B: Absolutely not. They were huge in October 1996.

A: So tell me what was the whole musical experience of seeing a band like?

B: The gig?

A: The gig.

B: Well it followed a religiously predictable pattern; Meet in the Lamb, go to TJs..

A: The Lamb? TJs? This would be Welsh code for something, yes?

B: The Lamb is the famous Pub in Newport and the Legendary TJs is the music venue where, allegedly, Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love.

A: Right.

B. So, meet in the Lamb; go to TJs; see Catatonia…

A: Catatonia ? Weren’t they famous once?

B: Not at this time – always the support act never the bridegroom, or whatever the saying is.

A: Do carry on.

B: Meet in the Lamb; go to TJs; see Catatonia; go to bar; hear “I’m A Firestarter”; see band; back to Lamb with headache and home.

A: Sounds great.

B: Ah the good old days.

A: So how come your life’s totally out of order? Shouldn’t you have got over all that in the first half of your life?

B: Possibly… possibly. So back to music history.

A: Was Tommy Steele a really cheeky monkey at school?

Equal Opps

B: So, what’s the recipe today Jim?

A: ……….

B: Too long to explain. Translates as ‘W

hat would you like to talk about today?”

A: Sexism.

B: Ah ha. And you’ve asked me because you realise it’s a topic I’m well-versed in?

A: Not really. Because you’re a cove.

B: A what?

A: A cove, a cuffin, a damber, a bloke, an ice cream freezer…

B: ?

A: A geezer, an hombre, a man.

B: The man?

A: A man.

B: You’ve been at that slang dictionary again haven’t you?

A: I have. So tell me the differences between men and women?

B: Biologically?

A: Psychologically. And don’t give me that Martian / Venusian nonsense either.

B: Well. Let me give you an example. There was a job offered in the newspaper and the salary was £55,000 / annum. No women applied.

A: Ah ha.

B: Then the post was re-advertised at £35,000 / annum and several women applied.

A: Interesting.

B: And what does that tell us?

A: That in this particular instance it would appear that there may have been a lack of self-esteem amongst some women looking at this advert. This is probably the result of thousands of years of you treating us as second class citizens, peg puffs, gixies, molls or mivvys.

B: This may be true and I apologise.

A: So you would agree?

B: I can’t really see any other explanation. But things are better than they were?

A: Oh yes. We can vote, go to some golf clubs, almost get paid the same as men in some cases.

B: Absolutely. It’s only a few years ago that John Wayne said, “Women have the right to work wherever they want – As long as they have my dinner ready when I get home”.

A: Yes. And look where he is now.

B: Point taken.

Music Report 2006

A: Why don’t you give us your thoughts on the music of 2006?

B: What a good idea;

Coda (2005)

“We’re on the one road / Maybe the wrong road / It’s the road to fuck knows where”

Consider the following; an intelligent, but fucked up, individual suddenly becomes the “coolest person in the world”. Not only that but he gets “the most mesmerising woman on the planet” as a devoted girlfriend. What else could a person want? Oh yes, why not write and play some of the best, most original music heard for a long, long time with echoes of TS Eliot, The Smiths, The Clash… There is a downside however as the individual seems to have lost all links with reality, is despised,ridiculed ( and adored) in equal measure and seemingly on a collision course to be dead before his 28th Birthday.

In some quarters, there is a debate regarding the merits of music versus lifestyle. Bill Hicks gives the definitive answer; “I want my rock stars dead! I want them to fucking play with one hand and put a gun in their other fucking hand and go “I hope you enjoy the show!” Play from your fucking heart!
Bill Hicks would have approved of Pete Doherty

Review of 2006

“Oh there ain’t no love, no Montagues or Capulets
Just banging tunes and DJ sets and
Dirty dancefloors and dreams of naughtiness”

It’s not difficult to do great music. You need 3 basic ingredients – banging tunes, eloquent lyrics and a little dash of attitude.

Imagine a band of talented, raw, hard-working, working class teenagers coming out of a deprived city in England with a potential genius leader. If you’re thinking Beatles you’ve got the vibe but you’re 40 years out. Substitute John Lennon for Alex Turner and you’ve got it. If you’ve been put off by the hype surrounding them – get over it and listen to the music. You’ve got to love a band that can call their follow up record ‘Who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys?’ and consistently refuse to give interviews or appear on Top of the Pops and the equivalent. Get on the bandwagon immediately before their second proper album comes out. The hope is that it’ll be terrific. History tells us that this is rarely so (more examples to follow). We can only hope, and pray.

This year, as with many years, the phenomena has been that ‘difficult second album’. Or, more precisely, that ‘difficult next album to the successful one after you’ve finally got it together’. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I offer you; The Streets, Keane, Athlete, Snow Patrol. The one notable exception being Muse. It’s sad.

The main thrust of artists with something to say this year are female – Shakira, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse. They seem to have something in common – banging tunes, decent words and attitude. It’s not a female trait though. Others females breaking one, two or all three of these simple requisites would include Courtney Love, My Chemical Romance, J Lo, Madonna.

Madonna falls into another category this year, again. This would be the ‘artists who are dead but have forgotten to lie down’ group. Let’s hope 2007 is the year Madonna lies down with friends U2, Take That, Dave Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Oasis, Eminem, Bob Dylan, Sting, the Who, Elton John, Paul Weller. They’re a lot like your father singing at a wedding. It’s embarrassing for you, for them and for everyone watching. Please stop. There is a sign as to the exact moment you enter this category – When the crowd give you a standing ovation before you do anything – it’s time to grab a pillow and sleep.

Someone I’m constantly worried about and who is nearly, nearly, nearly moving into this category would be Morrissey. In terms of his music – so far, so good. However, with every new release I get a little more anxious. Morrissey, if you could stop soon before you end up like Bono it would save me a lot of stress. The problem is that he’s on the cusp of the ‘popular / not too popular’ spectrum. If you’re ‘not too popular’ (with a loyal fan base) you can get away with it. Let me explain; if you have the talent, the real talent and the right “it’s my job” mentality you can go on forever getting better and surviving. Stand up Lambchop, Wilco, Eels, Belle and Sebastian (although I was worried for a while last year), Trash Can Sinatras, Tindersticks. They’ll never make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but will go on and on making music – because it’s what they do.

Of the rest it goes without saying that I’ve no time for boy bands, girl bands, X factor winners (or losers), film stars turned music stars (except Juliette Lewis who really seems to have gone for it) James Blunt and Robbie Williams. As Bill Hicks would describe it;
“When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children to listen to people who fucking rocked.”

In the ‘I missed the boat completely’ category I’d have to place The Kooks, Gnarls Barkley, Johnson and a whole bunch of female singers called Nora, Mary, Natasha, Justin or Alicia. Just don’t get it. They “say nothing to me about my life”.

On a positive side there has been a mini-cult of uncynical ‘happy songs’ that I really like – Hal, Zutons, Fratellis, Feeling, Automatics. It’s a one-off and like all sugary things you can only take so much, but they worked for me.

Two questions for next year – will the Arctic Monkey be able to retain and channel the energy? And will the Devil give Pete Doherty another 12 months? I’m betting the answer is ‘no’ to at least one of those questions.