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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
  The revolution will not be on teletext

Apologies to those who’ve just tuned in, but Phil and Pete both posted after long absences so I felt compelled to dust off my brain and write something.

Me, I don’t tune in to anything anymore, as my television has automatic tuning (and possibly some primitive form of consciousness), and the radio in my car tunes itself as well. My cameras focus themselves, and come to think of it all the appliances in my house are in league with Satan, and that’s why I never write for the blog anymore. Ha.

But seriously, everything is hi tech and automatic. Yeah, okay, ‘tune your fuckin hearing aid in Grandad’ I hear you shout. But, I croak back, pointing my walking stick at the telly, ‘teletext is still as crap as it’s always been!’

Now I’m not talking about fancy digital TVs and all their clever red button malarkey. (My life is far too exciting and fulfilling for all those channels. I mean, the eight hours of snooker I watch every day is only on one channel, right?) No, I’m talking about the pages where you type in a number, (say 387 for the latest snooker scores) then wait for a few minutes until it takes you where you want. Then when you get there, you wait a few more minutes until it takes you to page 5 out of 18, and that page doesn’t load properly so the whole thing looks like a game of chuckie egg on the BBC micro. Aah, bliss.

Soon these days will be gone completely. You’ll have internet on your television, e-mail in the bath, palmtops on the electric scooter, etc. We’ll all be plugged into some mainframe which erases our brains and runs a simulated world program in which none of us are really in control, and by then teletext will be long gone, and who will remember it?

Call me a sad old git (yeah, just remember you’re the one reading a blog on the internet, so let’s not get into a debate about wasted lives) but I like teletext. As you can probably tell from the ‘design’ of this page, we’re into low-fi aesthetics that are retro and a bit rough around the edges. Check out Pete and Phil’s wardrobes for further evidence. And how many happy afternoons have you spent in front of the telly, with teletext on, waiting for the football scores to appear because you’re too cheap to pay for digital or cable, and too antisocial to get out more?

Our kids won’t understand this. We’ll be saying, ‘ah, but things were slower then, lad, back in them days you could… what… where am I?’ and they’ll be off in the garden, gallivanting on their electric skateboards like the ones on Back to the future (don’t go over the water!) and will anybody ever take a moment to reflect on the beauty of teletext?
  beta band, ica

what ho. glad to see phil holding the fort. i'm still here too though, honest! how's everyone been? good? lovely.

BETA BAND UPDATE! since i wrote to them down there (the letter was returned, unread ;( i've heard the album. i was prepared for disappointment, after reading this review by jess harvell, and also by the number of positive reviews the album was getting in the press. not in a perverse way you understand, just because most of the praise seemed to be coming from the direction of people who didn't rate Hot Shots II, which is silly, obviously.

so, yes, i've heard it, and i'm underwhelmed. something isn't there. it's a 'good' album, maybe the first 'good' album they've done. just a nice solid album. but it sounds earth-bound and humdrum where HSII was galactical and visionary. i saw them play last night at the ICA and it was a very good gig, theirs always are, and the new songs did sound more inspiring in that setting, but that whole air of whispered nocturnal revelation that HSII had in spades seems to have evaporated. the band have cheered up and fallen to earth. this album feels like the first time the band aren't marching off into the ether - it's the first time when, listening to it, i can imagine them standing there in a studio playing instruments. you can see the joins.

i remember steve mason saying a few months ago that the new album was going to sound like 'the mily way in a teacup,' which is a beautiful phrase, and a noble ambition, i think. thing is, they got that on Hot Shots! that's exactly what it sounded like! ah well. i'm going to see them a few more times in the next few months so i'll have more to say then perhaps.

and i apologise for apparently only being able to write about the beta band these days, it's a bit pathetic i appreciate that, but everything else seems to just turn my mind to mush, maaaaannnn...
Monday, April 26, 2004
  I started laughing uncontrollably at work today. I'd remembered something from my early childhood, something improbable.

When I was about six, I needed a new coat. Obviously I wasn't going to go out and make a choice myself, so off went my mum to pick something up from the supermarket. How little things have changed. Anyway, she returned from Asda in Totton with a blue and green coat (we called it a ski-jacket for some reason, even though my Dad was the only member of my extended family to ever have gone ski-ing, and that was decades ago, before marriage, when he traveled further as a seaman than the English channel). I recall being quite fond of it, and the first night I owned it I declared it so cold in the house that I could only be kept warm by wearing the coat indoors, though even then I realised this was pretty stupid and so in my embarrassment kept myself partially hidden from my older brothers between two armchairs, snugged together so the sausage-like armrests arched over me in a checked-brown canopy.

Aside from the panels of blue and green, which were mint-green and sky-blue for the tone conscious, the other significant motif on the coat was a yellow star on either sleeve. This didn't mean anything to me at the time. I got dropped off at the bus-stop as usual, my mum waiting in our maroon Renault until the orange-streaked school-bus had collected my sister and I, and the other children who waited with us who were friends then but are faceless now. I don't think anyone commented on my coat, certainly not like they had when some dull-bladed family friend cut my hair months earlier, and an older kid advised me to sue. Of course, I had no idea what that meant. I can't be bothered to invent the intervening snivel and joy of six-year-old life, as it may have been weeks between the coat purchase and the incident I recalled nearly two decades later, so on we go.

The boy was called Neil I think. When I try and picture him now I see a bowled chin, freckles, prominent teeth, and diluted-blue eyes arched with laughter. He's jumping up and down pointing at me, one or two years older. He is pointing at the yellow stars on my sleeves shouting 'Star of David, Star of David. You're a Jew, You're a Jew.' I've always self-consciously liked to think that I was quite smart as a child, but I didn't know what a Star of David was and I neither did I know what Jews were. Further elaboration was on the way. 'Round him up! Round him up!' And I was shoved a little, playfully though, without malice. It was just something he was shouting while playing a game. A few other kids joined in, though then as now, I am sure they had no idea what they were saying.

I sounds pretty horrible writing it down like that, but it didn't feel horrible at the time, and as you can probably assume by the fact that I giggled helplessly at my desk for a good minute or so, I don't find it shocking now. I have no idea where an eight year old learned about the marks of Jewish segregation, and I have no idea if he knew the full significance of the consequences of that branding. Neither do I know why it suddenly returned to the front of my mind with such clarity, but I'm quite glad it did. I promise every word, however absurd, is true. 
Sunday, April 25, 2004
  Things I can't quite believe I saw on television tonight...

1. Frank Skinner's sitcom 'Shane' (repeated from sometime earlier in the week).
2. The McDonalds advert which attempts to tell young women that its ok to eat there now. Thanks Ronald.

Both in their own way felt like personal insults. 
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
  HMV selling David Mead's 'Mine and Yours' for 3.99. For some reason I knew it would be there, in the little wooden box that contains the CDs they don't expect anyone to want.  
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
  Quite Happy

After more than two long years of searching, I finally have a copy of the 1984 edition of Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend hurtling over the Atlantic (hopefully inside a box, inside a plane)... god bless Abebooks, probably my favorite shop on the web. 
Monday, April 05, 2004
  A very brief post, which seems quite inadequate as I have just read the piece on Brimstone and Treacle at K-Punk, needless to say, I enjoyed it.

Last week I acquired two series of Futurama on DVD, and after watching about ten episodes over the weekend and the sick day I took today, it strikes me that there's a real imbalance in the appreciation of Matt Groening's output. The famous 'more like the Waltons, less like the Simpsons' line by Bush senior is easy enough to skewer, mainly because trite bullshit comparisons like that are always wrong... but the point to me seems to be the extent to which Bush was wrong. The Simpsons and Futurama are funny and occasionally nastily satirical, but if satire alone was a good thing, Rory Bremner wouldn't just be a pompous cricket-loving tosser.

I can't be bothered to actually substantiate this with references from the recent media, but I'd say I've read on three separate occasions in the past month about the gradual shift in social units of support from the family, to an equally concrete circle of friends. No doubt there is a print-friendly psycho-jargon name for this group, which has nothing to do with Minnie Driver, but I don't know it, and don't really want to know it, just in case anyone does and is tempted to pollute the comments box with their verbal carrion. The reason I mention this little piece of sociological jiggery-pokery is to point out that while it might be true, its kind of irrelevant. A more important consideration than who you are behaving towards is surely that of how you are behaving towards them...

A far more serious treatment of an aspect of the point that I promise I'm eventually going to make has already been explored on various other pages, in their sober appreciation of comicbook art. So in keeping with that, I feel its my duty to be far more shallow and presumptuous (and provide fewer jpegs for the eye-weary).

Ok, here it is. The one sentence that I could probably have written just as profitably for any readers enduring this far without all the preceding fuckwittery. Matt Groening's shows, more than any other series on tv, make me feel optimistic. Optimism is a very serious business, it's incredibly hard to marshall. It's not kids' stuff. The Simpsons and Futurama regularly provide just about the most sane moral education in the modern media, while also managing to be funny and visually exciting. Lets just think about that for a few more seconds, as its actually probably slightly underplayed in that previous flabby sentence. A program that manages to be highly principled and actually probably does you some good... performs that non-specific miracle of 'making you a better person', but is also FUNNY... FUNNY.

I both hate and love big claims.

Matt Groening is a good man. 


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