Glastonbury pre-bloggery

So, it’s June and Glastonbury is less than 10 days away. £200 sterling has been well and truly paid, and the shiny, colourful ticket bearing my grinning mug has arrived. Travel arrangements are being finalised and the alcoholic arsenal is being carefully considered – I’ve already acquired 5 litres of Mallorca’s finest cartons of blanco and rose in a shrewd bit of lash preparation. However, there’s one small (actually fairly big) thing nagging me slightly, I don’t think I’m enthusiastic about seeing anyone on this year’s bill. There are a couple of acts maybe – I’d stretch that to 3, possibly for in a less grumpier mood – that I really want to see, and it seems these few acts that I do want to see are embroiled in in some sort of clashing conundrum with either each other, or with acts the rest of the travelling pack are eager to see.

Tony Parson wrote an interesting piece in last month’s GQ, lamenting the death of Rock ‘n Roll, arguing that the good and the great of guitar lead music are well and truly done for, with no contender able to follow up the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Stone Rose, Oasis et al. Arguably it certainly is time for the oldest of these aforementioned acts, but I was still one of the many praying that the Stones would be in place of either U2, Coldplay or Beyonce as Pyramid headliners at Worthy Farm. I’d put them up there with the Beatles, Hendrix, Bob Marley and Dylan as the acts I want to see before I die. Now, with only two of these a possibility, and the Rolling Stones being one of them, you can appreciate my frustration when it transpires that terms couldn’t be agreed by either party. Unnecessary bureaucracy in light of the potential outcome? Perhaps. I’ll have to get over it. There are rumours of the Stones playing a gig in London next year to mark 50 years since their first ever London show. The point to Parsons’ article, before I digress too much, is that this sort of music, or genre if you like, is now slowly being defined, and moreover confined to a canon, in a similar fashion to how the modern day world perceives Jazz or Classical music for example. A music still loved, cherished and obsessed over, but not necessarily created (or created well in any respect) – and if not created well, then not given the time of day in the forefront of the public consciousness, not in the top 10 for example. Now many people will see this as an absolute, complete and utter blessing, with the modern day public lacking the sophistication to appreciate the likes of Rory Gallagher, Duane Allman or John Squire. Granted, were not living in the Beatles-esque heyday of band worship and mass hysteria, this is a music too important, too emotive, with too much still to offer to be labelled, shelved and listened to on a rainy day.

Yet Parsons goes on to say that it is the Stone Roses, not Oasis who were the last great band making a truly new and original type of music – the last great band therefore, in his eyes. His dismissal of Oasis lies purely on the grounds that they ignored the entirety of Van Morrison’s set at the Mercury music awards. Now, I don’t condone this sort of behaviour to veritable rock royalty like Van the man, but Rock n Roll stars great and small have hardly been noted for their candour and unfettered respect of their ancestral influences, no matter how much of the Beatles discography can be attributed to Noel’s writing. The buck probably stopped somewhere along the lines of the Libertines. A perfect example of tabloid frenzied hysteria for the NME / internet generation, whilst retaining some of that musical angst not to mention the obligatory self destructive gene typical of any great band of the last half century. The Arctic Monkeys came close to contention with THAT album, but a downhill slope of follow up albums showed promise rather than marvel. The Strokes tried, and whilst ‘Is This It?’ is a classic, and their follow up LP’s have been equally as good, they are trust fund kids from America after all. Something doesn’t sit right there.

This was meant to be about Glastonbury, and the current festival scene. Sure, the state of music today has changed and evolved massively from the early beginning of popular music in the 1950’s – but there has always been a feeling that since the 60’s, we’ve had a downhill spiral in terms of quality and meaning – but this can also be linked with quality of life, government, opportunities. We are not in 1950’s America, where the American dream could be realised fairly easily – we’re not necessarily in any worse of a position in the western world either, but there is a sense that the golden age has passed, and won’t return again for quite some time in our current, comfortable way of life. There seems to be a cultural shift occurring with popular music orientated music festival. Festivals are now the new summer getaway, the new weekend away to Blackpool, or summer trip to Malia for example, the new general holiday destination for the youth of today. The worry is that as the popularity of festivals rises, the type of punter attracted has less and less concern about the music each year, being more lad than music aficionado. The evidence to suggest this is the spate of recent sexual assaults at T in The Park and Latitude last year that seems ‘indicative of a wider malaise’ (Alexis Petridis, GQ, June 2011). The use of this evidence will of course rely on the (very stereotypical) assumption that the perpetuators of the aforementioned acts had no other business being at the respective festivals other than to cause trouble and prey on innocent music loving females. Thanks to my criminology first class honours graduate of a girlfriend for this aside, by the way. Violence has always been there, even the idyllic, untainted 60’s had Altamont – but the Rolling Stones were a band who learnt the mistake of hiring the Hells Angels as security for their set, and learnt from it. There doesn’t really seem to be any mistake or overwhelming attribute here to point at, other than the all encompassing, over-saturated mainstream music scene which invites all manner of fan. Whether this turns out to be good or bad over the coming decade, will remain to be seen. The likes of Kent’s Hop Farm Festival, who last year had Bob Dylan and this year providing Iggy & the Stooges and the Eagles to name a few, seems a good indication of where music is heading. Music for the music fan – Festivals tailored to suit the fan of a particular type of music with the likes of Hop Farm, Berlin’s Melt, Spain’s Sonar, Serbia’s Exit offering a more niche festival that may perhaps be a little narrow for everyone to appreciate, but with music at such a confused kind of cross-roads, these offshoots will inevitably where the true music fan doth venture – possibly leaving the likes of Reading/Leeds, Isle of White, god forbid even Glastonbury to be taken over by the unopinionated and apathetic.

Here’s a little thought. A grumpy, old man diatribe aimed towards the fair weather music fan. Please note the above video which shows Keaton Simons, a fairly unspectacular star who is struggling to break into the wider consciousness of the American public, a pretty technically gifted guitarist with his own distinct sound. Now, with our above video, exhibit A if you like, please first observe buffoon A, the man in the glasses providing rhythm guitar next to Keaton, with his gormless, dimwitted and unchanging expression – watch him as he plays a rather rudimentary backing chord sequence, for which Simons can solo away over. All seems fine for the first 30 seconds or so – we don’t know this is going to be an ad hoc version of Summertime, until Keaton leans into the microphone and sings ‘Summertime, and the living is easy…’ But I don’t think he realises it’s Summertime then, or even 2 minutes later, when Simons goes from verse, to guitar riff, to ‘fish are jumping’ to an instruction of G Minor directed at our buffoon A, to which buffoon A seems to do very little about other than carry on playing the completely wrong fucking chords, and then strumming the offending chords a bit harder, in some sort of vain hope that their melodic make up will change if the force of playing is tweaked. I will add here, I understand the frustration now of Clarkey circa approximately 6 years ago, when I no doubt performed this same expression on nonplussed stupidity when playing rhythm guitar (badly and wrong) in his garage after school.

Bad rhythmic guitar ability aside, let’s now observe buffoon B (yes, there’s more), the utterly ridiculous compere of the evening. Simons begins the video with a bit of guitar trickery, half way through which, our buffoon shouts into the mic ‘fuck you Keaton’, being a bit weird and sycophantic. As he leers there, on the stage, clearly having no musical ability himself, he then urges the crowd to ‘make as much noise as possible’. Exactly what a gig featuring two acoustic guitarists and one microphone needs – ear splitting woops and screams. There is a point to all my complaining – but this kind of leads into one of my festival, gig, music-venue pet hates, backing vocals offered by the crowd. Now I’m probably guilty of this myself, so I’ll concede and admit my own hypocrisy. At an Oasis gig in Heaton Park a few years back for example, we were lads on tour for the day, hurling cups full of beer and chanting along to wonderwall, givin’ it the bounce, largin’ it, you know. But I think that Oasis are a band that attract this type of fan, and their music requires this sort of crowd participation. My problem is that every band seems to warrant this inane, mumbled, garbled tuneless shouting along to their song’s lyrics. Imagine a modern day setting if you will, the Pyramid stage on a balmy Saturday evening, and after a lengthy, anxious wait, on walk the Beatles. It’s the Beatles!! There’s Ringo, George, Paul, John (he comes on last, obviously), and amidst the furore, the screaming chanting frenzied adulation for the fab four, they begin to set up. Buzzing amps, a few cymbal crashed. Then, an iconic riff begins…It’s Day Tripper! It’s a magical moment. ‘Got a good reason…’ But it’s not Paul singing it, at least i don’t think it is anyway. It’s Steve from Notts standing next to me who belts out this line, very loud, with great gusto, along with a hundred thousand surrounding numpties – slight criticism if I may, I think it was out of time. A festival licensed beer branded cup flies overhead. Beer showers me – I’m not wearing a coat. Shit. On second thoughts, it’s warm, It’s really warm. It smells.  I lose my footing with all the bouncin’ and largin’ it going on, and I’m on the floor in this ruckus of piss showers and chants. Don’t worry, I’m back up. I think were at the chorus now, I think that was the Day Tripper line, it’s the loudest everybody’s been for a while. Wait…The drumbeats gone. I think Ringo was hit with a piss cup. He’s stormed off – the remaining fab three quickly follow. The Beatles have left the Pyramid stage, the dream is over.

I’m one to talk – I’ve contributed to this post apocalyptic vision along the way, and whilst I lament current, careless attitude towards music, I’m a very different animal after half a dozen pints of medium dry from Somerset’s finest Cider Bus. There’s still time for the mainstream festival. Whether it be in perfect surroundings – Benicassim & Coachella are good examples, or chanced under British skies, I’m firmly in the camp (despite what the last 2000 words suggest) that the festival scene will grow from strength to strength. The granddaddy of em all, Glasto, will take some beating if there’s ever a weekend to trump the country’s most popular festival destination. And why should there? Some things should just be accepted. Like cheddar is the best cheese, despite there being plenty of other great cheeses. With the giant yorkshire puds, the cider bus, B.B Bloody King and Jimmy Cliff, there’s reason to be a tad excited. My point is that we can enjoy all of these cheeses, as long as we don’t turn our festivals into lawless, piss stained, shouty versions of Reading/Leeds.

The Rain in Spain

My long time friend, associate, fellow Goldsmiths Graduate and poet Ewan Abraham made the following remark about yours truly, recently – ‘I read something the other day which went something like this: “Romanticism is walking down the street describing what you see, modernism is walking down the street holding a mirror in front of you describing yourself walking down the street, post-modernism is walking down the street holding a mirror in front of yourself and filming yourself describing yourself walking down the street, and whatever comes after post-modernism will be filming yourself watching the film of you filming yourself walking down the street holding a mirror in front of you describing yourself walking down the street.” And it struck me that you’re a post-post-modern hero. That’s all’

Now, this is either biting satire or a generous compliment. Ewan would like to think it’s the former, but deep down we know it’s the latter, so thank you sir. His point, however, is to highlight his heightened reading list at the business end of his degree, and my fervent desire to document my life relentlessly through various mediums – blogs, social network platforms, photographs & mobile uploads etc. I just thought I was going along with the crowd you know, practising the norms of modern life as it were. Recently, on me hols to Mallorca with Gabriella, I decided to take my IPhone rather than the medium format 120mm camera, or the digital SLR – the photos from said holiday are featured here in this post, by the way. Practicality and ease prevailed here, I told myself. The phone not only boasts two decent cameras, but a host of apps to fiddle and tart up the holiday snaps, not to mention a portion of my music collection too. Yet I soon found myself a perfect case in point for Ewan’s quotation – I couldnt face being parted from my portal of connectivity to the outside world. Day 1, we found the beutiful, serene Illetas beach on the coast slightly west of Palma, a cove of sand surrounded by an idyllic setting of over bearing trees and tall cliff faces – we also found it had free Wifi. What a treat I thought, as I quickly skimmed through a few emails, making sure I wasn’t disconnected from anything, even though I’d paid for exactly that – disconnection and release from normal U.K life. I then returned a phone call for a phone interview with a member of the National Magazine Companies HR staff with regards to a Graduate Scheme I’d applied for, whilst in my flowery shorts with my toes dipped in the cool med sea. Fair enough, perhaps, a justifiable cause in this case, and one that I shouldn’t have waited to act upon when I got back home a week later.

Imagine my frustration though when, on our second night, I’d left the phone behind and sat two tables behind us at our restaurant in puerto portals, was Jonny bleedin’ Wilkinson. Now Gabby, in all fairness, had her camera, and no, it’s nothing to do with me being too scared and polite to go and approach him with something like, ‘er Jonny mate. Ello. just quickly, I wanted to say you’re an absolute hero. You were a regular fixture on my (at the time) rugby loving brother’s wall throughout his childhood and early teens, and you even managed to displace patron St. of England David Beckham as the calender feature on my girlfriend’s wall in the year after you brought us home the world cup. Would you mind a quick picture if it’s not too much of an imposition?’ No, nothing that erudite came to me. I couldnt even muster a rosy cheeked mumble or handshake. But what was the point? Unless I had my phone, and unless I could tweet a potential picture moments after the celebrity meeting, there’d be no point approaching him whatsoever. That’s what I like to think. I digress. We attoned for this stoic display of Britishness when we spotted Jamie Redknapp in the nearby Eurospar buying milk. Intrude away, why not, Gabby thought as she walked over to him and asked him if he was indeed the real Jamie Redknapp?! Picture taken, success. I also got a tweet in after on the way to the beach. The week’s earlier distresses were resolved. Well, slightly.

One night we ventured to a blast from my late teenage past, Magaluf. Again, I didn’t take the phone. Opportunities missed again, to upload a picture to Facebook of us, with a group of these lads from Middlesborough, who’d challenged us to join them and help them out with their 50 Euro fishbowl, drinking it non stop through a straw until it was empty. Nor could I tweet about the lad we’d met in BCM square’s Baywatch Bar, whose birthday it was – He was telling us that we were ‘good people’ when surrounded by barmaids in short red skirts dancing on the bars with stacked topless lads pouring jugs of sex on-the-beach for groups of already hammered girls. All a bit bizarre.

This was also the night of the Champions League final at our dear Wembley back home. Whilst sat in the (potentially Irish) Sloane’s bar, watching Jeff Stelling giving his usual preamble, when we were joined by a group of 60-70 somethings from Wigan, or there and thereabouts. Alas, no phone to keep quiet with, studying the pre match banter and fluctuating betting odds, so I had to share conversation with Brian, Beryl and the gang from Wigan. Whilst getting through endless pints of Estrella Galicia, we discussed the talent of Messi, the intricacy of Barca’s slick one touch play, our shared hatred for Rooney, and thankfully a shared hatred for UTD generally. Brian was not a Wigan fan though, he was an Everton boy. He expressed his dismay at his wife and two children being fans of the bitter enemy, the Kopite side of Scouse land. Brian went on to tell me that he was a member of the board at Wigan FC, back in the day, but he, for whatever reason he didn’t divulge, wasn’t a fan of current chairman Dave Whelan – he was of course happy that they’d managed to avoid the drop. He also reminisced about how he used to go for regular morning runs with old England and Everton legend, Joe Royle. There was me thinking I’d be missing my little rectangle gadget of connectivity.

We rented a car for a couple of days from the affable salesman Jose Martin, who took much delight in explaining to us that our tiny Hyundai Atos was ‘Ferrari-Red’. We’d planned well ahead by purchasing a 4 Euro map to accompany our exploration of the island. After taking the straight forward motorway route to Alcudia at the northern point of the island during the first our our 2 day hire agreement, I decided we’d take the scenic route on day 2, through the windy mountain roads of the Serra de Tramuntarra region – 61km of treachoruous road from Soller to Pollenca. We could’ve done with googlemaps as SatNav, but I’d maxed my overseas data allowance by this point, so we had to make do with the map, and Gabby’s yelps & squeals every time a Thomson tour coach came perilously close to us on the other side of the road, with a few hundred metres of cliff face and sheer drop to stare at out of the passenger window.

The usually reliable weather app also disappointed, promising 27 degree temperatures (of which we’d already had for 7 straight days previous) for our last two days. On our penultimate day, laid out on Illetas beach basking in the glorious sunshine, Gabby noticed a dark cloud looming in the horizon, hovering toward the sun’s fixed point in the sky. I figured about 10 minutes of sun time remained, so I opted for a quick dip in the drink, making the most out of it whilst it was hot. Turned out it was my last taste of sea water for the holiday, but when I got out soaking wet, I started to thinking that the dark cloud approaching was slightly large to be one that was just passing over. Then it came, covered the sun, and the first few trickles of rain fell from above. My ‘swim’ decision for a minute looked a tad foolish, but more foolish when the trickles turned into a torrential downpour. We quickly scrmabled our things and made for shelter under a tree. We then watched whilst the raindrops turned into pellets of ice, and the coast boomed with crackles of thunder. A big tree wasn’t going to be our shelter for much longer.

Still, a couple of days of rain from 10, with 90% of the stay being scorching seems a good deal with it being the end of May. We returned to the U.K tanned, rested, well fed, well watered, well wined, and with the added realisation that I’m a post-post-modernist hero after all, even if the imminent phone bill is going to be horrendous in about two weeks.

Malouda – Player of the Year?

The Times today ran one of their regular bits, an insert into the Sports section: Fink Tank created and written by Daniel Finklestein. The Fink Tank basically pulls together information from every game played, every minute on the pitch and valuing players particularly for their ‘contribution to increasing the probability of a goal scored or defended.’ Crucially, points are not adjusted in light of minutes played, but that shouldn’t be a case against its merit. The Fink Tank’s player of the season this year for Europe is Lionel Messi, and last year’s winner for the Premier League was Didier Drogba. So it’s safe to say that this giant stat crunching machine’s picks are usually in lieu with the view of pundits. So many people will be completely surprised to hear that, from these stats, Florent Malouda is the Premier League’s player of the season. What was that? A stat crunching computer completely devoid of any bias that assesses every single minute played throws up a Chelsea player? It’s hard to believe because we of course rarely hear anything about the blues. MOTD for one is a programme far too concerned with those teams far further north than SW6, but believe it or not, there wasn’t a Man Utd player in sight in Fink Tank’s top 10. Furthermore, we have the ageing, lost half a yard in pace John Terry and perfect role model Ashley Cole in 4th and 6th place respectively.

Now before this all sounds like a bitter lament at the lack of coverage given to Chelsea in the media or particularly on programmes such as MOTD, this chunk of data, whilst a strong case for Malouda’s input this season, doesn’t show the best single player or team. We can’t argue with Ferguson’s achievements this season, nor can we argue with his player’s. They are deserved champions who have fought hard throughout a very tight and difficult season. This being said, you wouldn’t argue with Fink Tank’s top ten either. Whilst there’ll be a case for Nani, Hernandez and Berbatov, the likes of Leighton Baines, Joe Hart, Jose Reina, and Sylvain Distin are all rightfully mentioned. These are the unsung heroes of teams who have all admittedly underachieved – with the exception of Manchester City perhaps. Everton had a torrid start, but look once again like the formidable force they are every season, and are right back up there finishing (probably) 7th. Similar with laughable Liverpool, who under the transformation under Dalgish, sold their spanish sweetheart striker and put together a good string of results toward the close of the season. Too little too late perhaps, but a strong finish can only be good preparation for next year’s campaign.

But back to the blues. We started magnificently, and have finished fairly strongly, and we’ve been there and thereabouts (surprisingly when you look back to February) – but it was that awful slump in between where we won one match from a total of 8, where we lost too much ground to regain. And this all comes down to one thing in my mind, the dismissal of Ray Wilkins. When Mourinho came to the bridge, one of the things he enforced in the dressing room was that the players and staff must speak English at all times. This small but quite important rule stuck throughout his tenure, and carried on after his departure when Grant and Hiddink were in charge. Wilkins was much more than just an assistant manager, he was the Ancelotti’s communicator in many ways, bridging the gap between the players and the Italian’s poor English. He was a positive force in the dressing room with an very intelligent grasp of the beautiful game. More importantly he was a Chelsea boy through and through, a nugget of history so needed in footballs current climate.

This is now where we turn our attentions – to reports that, after tomorrow’s game against Everton, the final game of the season, Carlo Ancelotti will be shown the door. He even seems resigned to this suggestion, stating that he hopes to stay but will not fight for his job. One last attempt to salvage some pride perhaps? It seems absolutely incredible to me that this man will be sacked, just a year after he brought home the double in his first season. Granted, this year has not been good enough, but there has to be some sort of perspective surely? This relentless pursuit of immediate results, and more worryingly, the Champions League, distorts everything in the grander scheme of things. It’s the meddling from higher up, from Abramovich and the directors, their ruthless chopping and changing of key members of staff which will be the ruin of Chelsea Football Club. Jose Mourinho was sacked, with no real reasoning it seemed, after winning back to back Premier League trophies. Wilkins was then sacked in an extraordinarily bizzare twist, just at the first sight of trouble only a few matches into this years campaign.

At the risk of coming over all Ian Holloway, what sort of world do we live in where these businessmen rule these clubs purely as a business? We just need to take a look at Arsenal to see a perfect example of the faith put into their club manager. Sure, many Arsenal fans would rather not be in the position of being trophiless for 6 seasons, but a remarkable ethos has been instilled around the club by Wenger, a style of football beautiful to the eye. As a business too, they’ve been careful with their money, paying back loans taken out for it’s build with the ticket sales generated from the larger capacity provided by the extra few seats.

So i’ll leave on this note. We cannot thank Abramovich enough for the money he’s plowed into our club. We’ve enjoyed the majority of the last decades being up there as title contenders, having won multiple Premier League trophies and F.A Cups, but I fear that this ruthless and dangerous pursuit of immediate results gives no manager a chance in the modern footballing world. We need to create our own history as a football club & team, and not constantly be at the whim of the owner. Today marks 40 years since we won the European Cup Winners Cup in Athens, two years before there was a hint of a European trophy on Merseyside. Our history hasn’t necessarily been as rich as other clubs, but still, theres is one there. Abramovich needs to realise this if there’s any chance of creating more history in the years to come.

Moore on Kemp

I’ve blogged about Ross Kemp before a couple of years or so ago, with a reaction to a particular episode of his ‘on gangs’ series for which he won a Bafta in 2007. Kemp is no stranger to the limelight, being the telly hardman we all know and love – Grant from Eastenders. His acting back catalogue is dwarfed by the role for which he is best known, yet his documentary televisual pursuits on Sky have thrown him back into the fray over the past few years. At first glance, these are a fairly typical fit for the larger than life, no nonsense, balls of steel personality (Ross Kemp on Gangs, Ross Kemp in Afghanistan et al), and it seems that Kemp is merely the face of some intuitive insight into some of the worlds more engulfing and complex problems.

However, you have to question how much of all this is Sky’s doing, or their suggestion at least. Kemp’s first trip to Afghanistan was born of frustration of war coverage on mainstream TV at the time and it seems there are plenty of pressing issues perturbing him behind all of that tough exterior. The GQ TV Personality of the Year 2009 is up there in my mind as one of the countries leading journalists, a daring and genuinely engaging foreign reporter.

Moving on from all this sycophancy, the reason for this particular piece is Kemp’s latest documentary offering Ross Kemp’s Extreme World. This 5 episode series explores some of the world’s more problematic concerns – the astonishing murder rate in Jaurez, Mexico; Chicago’s heroin addiction; the devastation that still remains after the Haitian earthquake last year; the deadly current warzone of Congo and problems closer to home by the shape of modern day slavery in the UK. Kemp aims to get to the root of these problems by exploring every facet and leaving no stone unturned. He gets up uncomfortably close, personal and at times fairly confrontational with some of the worlds more unsavoury characters.

This aggressive style of journalism can only really work with a formidable physical presence such as his, but it is Kemp’s relentless pursuit of this root of the problem which makes for compelling viewing at times. We are taken to Haiti in one episode and shown a wreckage of an island that was torn apart by an earthquake in 2010. Whilst the natural disaster was well documented and a considerable cause of concern for the rest of the world for some time, it seems at first glance that aid has since dried up – yet when questions are asked, there are implications that help offered by the rest of the world is being gobbled up by shady sorts in the Haitian government, with little of it being seen by the population of a country merely surviving in veritable famine.

There are refugee style camps for the general population as a temporary fix while structures are rebuilt – It becomes apparent that even drinking water is a luxury here, and reports of cholera outbreaks are rife. There are of course longer lasting offshoots of destruction caused by the quake. Take the island’s prisons for example, many of which had crumbled to the ground, with the obvious repercussion of this meaning that haiti’s most dangerous roam the streets. Kemp shadows a swat police raid on a squat suspected of housing one of these escaped convicts. Sure enough, they find what they’re looking for, but instead of watching the arrest take place and letting the visuals speak for themselves, Kemp can’t help himself. He goes about questioning the assumed convict, asking him whether he is indeed an escapee, and further probes him, attributing the island’s increased crime rate to the on-the-loose criminals. We get a defiant response, as we find out he’s American not Haitian, and that he carries a .38 revolver so he can ‘buss me a nigger’ if necessary. I assume the gun was the icing on the cake for the police involved, and they take him away.

So we see Kemp clearly unphased by the prospect of talking to criminals featured in this series, but more pertinently he walks a fine line between journalistic tone, and accusatory – and this often begs more of a response. When in Chicago, he’s allowed into a chop house where Heroin is chopped into smaller batches and mixed with other substances. The addicts who work there are not allowed to wear clothes, to ensure they don’t steal produce. He probes the chief ‘pimp’ if you like into the working conditions and ethic behind the whole operation. Kemp also goes further to meet Mr Big, one of Chicago’s biggest drug dealers, someone who would have had Kemp killed should his identity be revealed. It’s this ardent, commited and courageous approach to his work that makes the entire series so compelling and insightful. In choosing to probe and question these characters, we get a sense that Kemp is always working toward a goal, not just a denouement for the program, but a shared aim in restoration and reprisal.

Yet no matter the personality and depth to his work, there is a feeling that the issues explored throughout this series show no signs of going away. Whilst in Juarez, Mexico, there were a total of 76 deaths in the mere three weeks they were there filming, proof if needed that these are complex problems very much in the here and now. Kemp’s parting words from this mission are ones of anger, frustration and maybe regret, at perhaps not being able to have done more. Without him though, we’d be none the wiser – “Who are we to judge these people? They have ended up as they are for a reason. All I can do is show what is happening – even if we would rather not know.”

Banality of Reality

The new issue of Esquire which hit the shelves last week with a brand new look masterminded by new editor and former GQ writer Alex Bilmes ran a short article named ‘Esquire Manifesto’. In a short summary, Kevin Braddock (writer of the piece) bemoans the generalised view of the modern man – as a lazy, oafish, useless being born from lad mag culture and general self depreciation. Whilst there are plentiful anecdotal justifications for the argument against – James Bowthorpe, a man who cycled no less than 18,000 miles around the world in 175 days for example. There are many extraordinary individuals that put the modern man, or any man for that fact to shame. But I agree with Braddock’s annoyance here, that the modern man (let’s assume this label applies to man in the present day, as we are in apparent modernity after all?) is lazy, or even worse, useless.

Man therefore is capable, and moreover useful. However, programmes like The Only Way is Essex, Jersey Shore and this evenings Made in Chelsea dont do this justification any favours at all. These recent shows are the starlets of a reality TV revival, actually more of a rejigging. This isn’t reality telly in the vain of Big Brother, the majority of the scenarios & events are scripted or planned, but these are real people apparently reflecting 21st century culture in Britain (Essex & London) and USA (New Jersey). More importantly, these people are young, and nearly always beautiful – rolemodels of sorts for impressionable young people of this country.

Now before I go om any further with my diatribe, I’m sat here watching Made In Chelsea as we speak. I watched both series of The Only Way Is Essex, only missing a couple of episodes and have downloaded (yes downbloodyloaded) three seasons of Jersey Shore. I am an ultimate consumer therefore and would seemingly not have a leg to stand on when attacking the merits behind any of these shows. As my housemate Clarkey put it, ‘don’t slag it off in your blog because you love it’. ‘It’ being this type of show. He has a point, it’s hard to draw myself from this new Chelsea programme, even though I’m aware of how much of my life I’ve given to the aforementioned shows, it draws you in.

But I’m not the point really. I’m not trending on twitter as we speak, nor am I on telly. My main problem with all of these programs is, whilst they are utterly engaging and captivating, the premise from which they stem says nothing about the modern man (or woman for that matter). In the last episode of The Only Way is Essex, Arg and Mark spend a good 5 minutes or so talking about Lydia (his only recent ex) and a number of other birds, and feelings, and birds again etc etc. I’m not trying to pretend we’re all so high and mighty that we are above these banal conversations about relationships and who fancies who, who’s cheating on who and so forth. Lads talk about birds for a large portion of time spent together, and I’d imagine that girls sit and chat about boys just as much if not more – BUT if i go ahead and say that the only thing girls ever talk about is men then I’d be vilified for derogatory, patronising sexism.

95 percent of the time, you’ll have 2 or 3 characters from this larger weaving plot, in a room, talking about another character, which they then conveniently pan to. Then 2 characters talking about another character talking about another character bla bla bla. Something will be brimming throughout an episode and will all come to a head in a club at the end of the show. Basic but nothing new, it has a shade of Les Liasons Dangerouses about it. Yet talking about relationships really isn’t the point, you can dress it up or dumb it down as much as you like. Analysing social interaction is good. People discuss Facebook for example in dissertations nowadays -my girlfriend for one in her discussion of how stalking is treated by the Police in comparison to NGO’s. It’s important to show modern life, how life nowadays is different to that of even 5 or 6 years ago perhaps. But surely we can react to the 21st century intelligently like my girlfriend with her dissertation for example? We’re not a generation of Facebook pervs and table hoppers surely?

It’s the broader contexts in which these airheads mingle. The moneyed set which doesn’t show an adequate portrayal of life for the 20 something growing up in London or any other part of the country. I’ve no problem with people having money, working for money, or even not working for it whether it be through inheritance or general family wealth or whatever. But you get a sense from these programmes that nobody ever works and everyone’s loaded. Maybe this plot, this interweaving story about the ups and downs in the interactions of the Essex lot or Sloaney set is work. They’re day job is to do this, and act to a certain extent, so I should probably shut up as I’m missing the point.

But I’d like to think we’re not a culture reduced to this sort of banality, however watchable (and dare I say influential?) it may be.

Sir ‘Erny

Thankfully, by the time our nations papers had gone to print, news of Bin Laden’s death on Sunday evening hadn’t yet trickled through. This meant that instead of his mug being plastered all over the front pages, a far more reputable and honest gentleman by the name of Sir Henry Cooper was given sufficient press. In a weekend of news overload – Royal Wedding hysteria, Libyan bombings, Premier League title race intrigue – the capturing and killing of the world’s most wanted man would have surely sidelined the news of Henry Cooper’s death to page 5 of most papers.

Let’s not dwell though. Sir Henry Cooper’s obituary in The Times read that he was regarded as ‘probably the the most popular British boxer of his time.’ I’d argue of all time. In a world of multi millionaire footballers, your Ashley Coles and Wayne Rooneys, it’s hardly surprising that such an earnest and humble character such as Cooper could be popular. Yet in the boxing world he was revered for the same thing, his demeanor. Most sportsmen are judged, critiqued and celebrated for their achievements, and seeing as Cooper never won a word title, he seems the perennial underachiever in comparison to the ‘GOAT’ Muhammed Ali. Sure, he won 40 bouts, 27 by the way of knockout, but never a world title – but did that ever really matter?

The image above shows the moment he is most famous for, boxing wise, when he knocked down Ali (then Cassius Clay) in their famous 1963 fight. Whilst this was Cassius Clay in his early years, before the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ plaudits, he was still the arrogant, cocksure showman he was both loved and hated for. He directed a tirade of insults toward Cooper, ‘a tramp, a bum, a cripple.’ Yet it was in the fourth round, when this American show off full of Hollywood razzmatazz looked like he was beaten as Cooper knocked him down with a fierce right hander. What followed stands in folklore as a great injustice against the British. Clay was illegally revived by smelling salts, and as legend has it, a tear was made on his glove in an attempt to delay the beginning of the 5th round by a few minutes. It worked, Clay went on to win the match on points – the rest is history.

I was into boxing a little bit in my teenage years, when I was about 16 I think. I went on a family holiday to LA and my literature of choice at the time was sporting biographies, in particular boxing ones. I was reading Henry Cooper’s the morning that, in our hotel lobby, we unwittingly spotted Mike Tyson on his mobile. After a bit of encouragement from my Mum, I went over and laid it on thick how big a fan I was. To be fair, it was true, he was a legend from my youth. Staying up late to watch him fight Frank Bruno was one of my standout childhood memories. I suddenly panicked, when only finding a pen and no paper, but instead I offered the front blank page of my Henry Cooper autobiography for him to scribble his signature on. Tyson spotted the book’s subject, and he revealed great admiration for Cooper, a ‘true fighter,’ I think were his words. He then remarked ‘I was so sad when he died’. I was a little bit confused, sure, mainly because he was well and truly alive – but this is Mike Tyson, who am I to argue?

There is something very filmic about Boxing – no surprise that there have been so many boxing films, and so many good ones at that. Rocky, Raging Bull, more recently The Fighter and Million Dollar Baby to name a few. The lone struggle with the regime and preparation, the giant mental obstacle to overcome, not only through this preparation but through the opponent himself. Then then denouement complete with victory, conquest, blood, pride, extollment – A breadth of superlatives, fitting for Hollywood. Yet it was Cooper’s very un-Hollywood character that awarded him his knightood, his popularity and place in British boxing’s heart.

He certainly wasn’t Muhammed Ali, he was far too refined for all that success.

Big Royal Blog

Thought I’d chime in with my two cents. I’ll try and make it short and sweet. An excited nation, coming together on a public holiday. 4 days off of work (for a large chunk of the working public) – an excuse for a right ol’ knees up as it were. My problems with the whole event? None, infact. Turns out I’m having a tear up tonight, booked the time off of work in advance, and it’s my birthday tomorrow, so all of this collective frenzy is welcomed by yours truly.

Some spoilsports out there, however, are not so keen on the event of the year. Take Arsene Wenger for example, who is furious at the timing of the Royal Wedding, which has taken attention away from Arsenal’s massive Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday. Further proof to the FA & Premier League’s clear bias toward the Mancs, and conspiracy against Wenger’s club – obviously to ensure that their stretch without silverware carries over another year.

Right all joking aside (not my joke either by the way so I won’t try and take credit for it) the Royal Wedding, as joyous an occasion as it is, obviously has it’s detractors. The most obvious of course would be the anarchist / anti – royalist groups, but with an event like this, there are far too many talking points for there not to be ardent disagreements. Now to bring my Grandad into the equation. He is a bag fan of the queen & the Royal family, and I don’t wish to decry his excellent knowledge & opinion (which I am indebted to 99% of the time) but he commented earlier this week on Victoria Beckham being invited to THE wedding, for which he was in disagreement with. Now I wont go into the case for her as a woman, fashion designer, popstar or whatever contribution she has apparently made to the United Kingdom, not to mention my devoted Mrs. I think for the majority of the detractors, it is the notion of celebrity which people are turning their nose up at.

Now I’m not an anti-royalist, nor am I an anarchist, but when this argument is put forward, all I can think of is hypocrisy. The Royle Family are the ultimate celebrity, surely? Rich & famous for no apparent reason whatsoever other than lineage. An antiquated, rather pointless version of celebrity perhaps, tied in with the moneyed class & the evil Tories. An embarrassing throwback to a bygone era? That’s going a bit far. Our Royal Family make this country unique, and I don’t think there should be any great efforts made to get rid of them. To be fair, it can only be good for the economy at the moment – Americans & Australians in particular love the Royals, I just saw some nutter on the telly who has 12,000 pieces of Royal china. Mental. Moving swiftly on – Above the world of mass media and celebrity the Royal Family certainly aint. David & Victoria Beckham are the ultimate celebrity couple, not necessarily on merit no, but can you mention merit with the Royal Family? This wedding is the ultimate media event. There’s a veritable media palace opposite Buckingham Palace at the moment, and you wouldn’t be surprised if Hello had the rights to the official photos.

I digress. These may sound like the ramblings of a bitter anti royalist. It’s the Big Royal Weekend! What’s not to love? The Royal Family generally? My opinion of them is largely indifferent. Capitalism and Western greed, for example, are some of the bigger things to worry about.

Diatribe over, off to play the Royal Wedding drinking game. Salut!

So, er, what’s like your favourite film?!

Looking through my collection of films on the train back to London one evening (of pirated, downloaded .avi files to be precise) I spent so much time debating which film to watch, that by the time I’d made my choice, I could only fit in the first hour of said choice. This is hardly surprising, choice in my 21st century childhood has always been overhwhelming, as it would be for anyone lucky enough to be born into the modern Western world. Then, my train of thought inanely turned to that of an ultimate question – What is my favourite film? One of those questions asked in situations where you are new to a social circle for example, or a group of people in a new job. The unanswerable generic question which is not asking for an honest answer, moreover a test of the subject’s social knowledge and perception. A kind of ‘are you welcome here?’ test rather than a bit of get to know you small talk. Or at least this is how I feel. Maybe it’s my insecurity that shows I constantly feel like I’m being judged by every single human being I have a conversation with. But, those questions – ‘What type of music do you listen to?’ and ‘What’s your favourite film?’ beg a lot of brain work. If I met these questions from a rightfully wary but fairly welcoming new bunch of colleagues or pals with the answers ‘Hungarian death metal’ and ‘Charlie’s Anals’, I’d look a bit of a tard. Thinking about it, I’d look hilarious, but the point is (believe it or not, there is one somewhere) that when I try and think of 10 of my favourite films ever, it’s difficult not to think of each one in light of how it makes me look. How a certain type of film reflects a certain air of class, intelligence, humour and so forth. So here are my 10 favourite films (I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible) ever that are in no way picked to make me look anything but undeniably cool…honest.

 

10

Vicky Christina Barcelona – 2008. Dir. Woody Allen

I’ll confess that most of these films are very much in the manly, classic vain. But I’ll start with this one. I’ve scoured the net carefully for still images that reflect as much of my perception of the films as possible. The humour from Allen here is unmistakable, but by no means in the canon of his works to date. Still, I enjoyed the free expressionism sentiments from the damaged but painfully cool Javier Bardem and the general free spirited nature of the entire film. Granted, some of the cultural references seem a little ignorant, a very Western view of idyllic Spain, but the icing on the cake is Penelope Cruz. Not only an amazing actor, but every modern man’s fantasy no doubt. Just see above…wow.

9

The Deer Hunter – 1978. Dir. Michael Cimino.

That’s more like it. Man films. I have to be careful not to overdo the De Niro / Pacino love in. His performance in this is incredible, yet it is Walken who takes the plaudits. Whilst the premise for the plot if brilliant, the acting overshadows anything from the director. Still, that should be the point right?

8

The Shining – 1980. Dir. Stanley Kubrick.

I opted against the daft Nicholson head in the door shot. Whilst this film is as much about him as anything, I had to choose a shot of something in the hotel corridors. Spoilt for choice, I toyed between little Danny Torrance on his trike, or these sinister looking twins. The nightmare glimpse of the blood stained walls was a bit much, and I thought about the blood pouring out of the lift, but there are just so many scenes contained within the two charmingly wallpapered walls that it kind of sums up the insularity of everything to do with the film.

7

Scarface – 1983. Dir. Brian de Palma

So many naff shots of this film plague the net. I could’ve opted for the tacky white suit with red shirt combo Tony Montana sports whilst walking alongside a pool, or the infamous ‘say yello to my ‘lil friend’ scene. I actually wanted the look on his face when Manny opens the door to his sister’s house, shortly after him and Montana’s sister had married. Or anything from the chainsaw in the apartment scene. But I opted for this. Bar the Godfather, one of the single greatest acting performances ever from Pacino. Screenplay is great too, as is the soundtrack. Anyone who’s ever played GTA Vice City will know exactly what I mean.

6

O Brother Where Art Thou? – 2000. Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen.

Not necessarily as good as Barton Fink, Fargo or No Country For Old Men ( I would agree with the last of those three) but one of my all time favourites for its plot, cinematography and soundtrack. Whilst the soundtrack takes the plaudits, and is my favourite film film soundtrack by a country mile, the setting is what draws me in the most. Maybe it’s because of my love for Steinbeck, Preston Sturges & Dorothea Lange come together in a neat and crisp 21st Century spectacle. Also, Clooney’s funny, for once.

5

The Godfather Part II – 1974. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola.

Same problem here with Scarface, which picture to choose? I nearly left this one out in favour of ‘Into the Wild’ or ‘Reservoir Dogs’, but couldn’t bring myself to it. The choice of picture was really down to choice of De Niro or Pacino. This one’s difficult, as I think it’s Pacino’s best performance to date, alongside De Niro’s. I don’t prefer De Niro’s Vito Corleone to Pacino’s Michael, but I prefer the overall scenes where we backtrack into the early formation of the Mafia empire. Amazing film that I couldn’t do justice in words, and predictably picked ahead of the preceeding original, which still deserves a mention.

4

Breathless (A bout de souffle) – 1960. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard

I’ve already written a piece on this about two years ago. Quirky, original, undeniably the coolest film ever made, and probably the coolest film to be seen watching / say you’ve watched. An answer for the earlier mentioned awkward, ultimate social question. Jean-Paul Belmondo is amazing, but the direction is what makes this one. It changed cinema forever, and hasn’t been matched since.

3

La Haine – 1995. Dir. Matthieu Kassovitz

Couldn’t pick between the two images, so inserted both. Kassovitz’s portrayal of the French balnieu’s is one of my all time faves. I’m not a huge fan of Hip-Hop, or this subject matter really at all, but it is such a gripping piece of art that it deserves to be talked about despite what it promotes. One of my favourite ever performances too from Vincent Cassel, one of the world’s great actors, from the first image. The second image is the beginning of one of the greatest filmic moments I have ever seen, a shot of the three musketeers here, which has the camera focused on them, whilst the surrounding backdrop zooms out further and further until we see the iconic Eiffel Tower behind their heads, and the entirety of Paris in all it’s splendour.

2

City of God (Cidade de Deus) – 2002. Dir. Fernando Meirelles

3 foreign language films make up my all time top 4. Maybe in an attempt to look worldly and arty as we all know subtitled films are hip and happening. I wrote an essay on this film for my Latin American Cinema course at uni, and whilst this isn’t the most celebrated, or critically reverred Latin American speaking film, it is certainly one of the most commercially successful, and whilst that might not matter for much in the snooty world of the critic, it says a lot for a film shot on a shoestring budget, using talented local actors and extras from the Brazilian favelas. The acting is amazing, the screenplay is one of the best that has ever been written, and the cinematography from Cesar Charlone is also unmatchable, and fully deserved of it’s 2004 Academy Award for best cinematography.. Some of the most imaginative artwork and camera direction I’ve ever seen.

1

Pulp Fiction – 1994. Dir. Quentin Tarantino.

I had to have an English speaking film for my number one. Whilst Tarantino drives me mad with his arrogance, this is one of the greatest works of art ever made. I couldn’t bring myself to add Reservoir Dogs into my top 10, although it does come in at 11 on my favourite list. A cast to die for, an excellent screenplay overloaded with genius pop culture references, and, as much as I hate to say it, great direction.

Omissions – Les Valsueses ; Into the Wild; Reservoir Dogs.