Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Crackhead in the Wendy House

Things that are that shouldn’t be. Things that aren’t but should.

1. Joe Strummer is dead and Phil Collins is still alive.

Why is serial adulterer, dreary prog-rocker turned winebar pop dirgester still kicking, while a true hero, a lyrical master and punk visionary Joe Strummer not?

2. The NME is still publishing and The Face died.

The NME, a junior common room of pant-wetting hyperbolists goes incontinent over any four boys with fringes, while The Faces’ refusal to put tits on its front cover consigned it to E-Bay back-edition ignominy.

3. We have bendy buses, not hover cars

The future of travel was supposed to be a personal hover car, with a bubble roof, not an overextended, junction-blocking, incendiary charabanc.

Friday, 16 February 2007

"Radio 2, it's all punk, punk, punk!"

"Alan Titchmarsh doesn't play punk" was my response to my friend Simon when he claimed that Radio 2 "is all punk, punk, punk!". But he had a point. Jonathan Ross plays punk on Radio 2 (he also plays classic reggae). Mark Radcliffe does. Ross is a fiftyniner, a hugely successful one (b.1960, but you know that doesn't matter). His chat show has a punk attitude - irreverent, rude, iconoclastic (albeit, politely) and with swearing. It was in answer to my question "why do I love Radio 2 so much?", that Simon had given me his pithy illustration of how the BBC had successfully targetted the fiftyniners. Ross is free to indulge his love of punk by making an idiot of himself on TV in a recent ludicrous, yet curiously affecting, pastiche punk rock performance. The thoughtful, intelligent man that we see generous glimpses of on his Film programme belies the entertaining buffonery of his chatshow. Both versions of Ross share one quality - genuine passions. Ross truly loves film. Ross truly loves punk rock. That's why I love Radio 2 (well, I also like the late night Sunday evening stuff of Sinatra, Fitzgerald etc). Ross, a fellow fiftyniner, is infinitely preferable to the insufferably dull, repetitive New "Indie" Mainstream of XFm. And as for Radio One - Vernon Kaye (the new DLT), Fearne Cotton, Edith Bowman. It's just not good enough, is it? (Thank you, Simon Amstell). Radio 2 in its eclectism, its freedom from the tyranny of the New Mainstream playlists, is more exciting, challenging even, than its so-called younger rivals.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

They moved the crack

Come on, give it up you demographers! A fairly cursory bit of Googling of "fifty is the new thirty" reveals that market researchers, sociologists and commentators struggle to assign attributes to people by their age. One of the effects of the democratisation of the media through blogging, citizen news, social media - call it what you will - is that people group themselves (as opposed to being grouped by analysts) around shared interests, not how old they are. Now, this cheers me because it mirrors some of my own experiences. I share interests with people of all ages - with my 15-year old nephew's taste in music, with my father's interest in history and politics, with my 92-year old neighbours interest in the local history of our street. The internet allows me to share my interests with, oh, many tens of people. Should I be worried? Perhaps the title of my blog suggests the same outdated way of thinking. Hell, no. I just read today that baby-boomers have grandchildren. Wah?

Monday, 12 February 2007

The power of Bad Science

Fantastic. The Monday after I was eulogising about Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column and suggesting it be on the front page of The Guardian, it is! Not the column itself, but a brilliant example of the power of rational thinking that it has engendered. An energetic fellow Bad Science enthusiast read Ben's piece on "Dr" Gillian McKeith on badscience.net and took her use of a bogus medical title to the Advertising Standards Authority, resulting in her voluntary removal of it from her advertising. A triumph.

Friday, 9 February 2007

you are what you read, you big dummy

I heard on The Today programme this morning that "You are what you eat" has supplanted Stephen Hawking's "A brief history of time" as the most borrowed non-fiction book in British libraries. Is this an indication that libraries, under constant pressure of closure, have bowed to the lowest common denominator and are simply "giving the public what they want"? And if so, what does that say about the Great British Public? That they have been comprehensively duped by the dodgy pseudo-science of "Dr" Gillian McKeith? God, I hope not. McKeith's bogus advice on nutrition was splendidly dissected and discredited by Ben Goldacre in one of my favourite columns - the Guardian's Bad Science slot. Bad Science should have a permanent front page space in The Guardian. The rigorous de-bunking of self-serving, dishonest and sometimes downright dangerous so-called science is an heroic service to us all in this age of mumbo-jumbo (thanks, Francis Wheen). Many of my friends - educated, otherwise rational people - are willing to believe in alls sorts of hokum from homeopathy to the Atkins Diet while harbouring a general suspicion about "scientists". It's enough to make a sane man depressed. But I take comfort in the fact that Richard Dawkins' "The God Illusion" was a Christmas best-seller. Why the disparity between best-seller and best-borrowed? Is it that people can easily buy a book like this from, amongst others Amazon and its "long tail" of choice, while the borrower has to choose from libraries' sadly limited range of stock? Perhaps Google, and the growth of free content, will map the future list-toppers.

Monday, 5 February 2007

There's no such thing as a "jeans and trainers" man

When I was still in my teens I swore I would stop wearing jeans the day I hit forty (it may even have been thirty). Ah, the militant certainty of youth. I still wear jeans, of course. Seventy-year olds wear jeans. You can wear what you damn well like, regardless of how old you are. Well, up to a point...

Let me illustrate what I mean. Take trainers, for example. No, bear with me. I know it's a subject pathologically done to death by the writers of Duped and Bemused, but trainers do provide a handy hook for the sort of cod trendiology that I am about to indulge in.

I was a late convert to the nano-fetish of trainers. Sure, I wore Converse baseball boots when I was thirteen along with my greatcoat, Oxford bags and scoop T-shirts. But I was into my thirties before I knew or gave a damn about the pros and cons of Vans V Adidas. (It has to be Adidas). I bought a modest four pairs in New York last year. And there was one pair that it took me months to wear for the first time. Partly because I wanted to keep them pristine and box-fresh. But mainly because, for a while, I wasn't sure that their luminous whiteness, and funky Paisley detailing wasn't just a little, well, young. But they looked so good with the dirty indigo straight (byebye bootleg) jeans, the white cutaway double-cuff shirt with my wife's grandfather's Vegas 'links and the Shener Adam pinstripe jacket, I realised what a worryheaded fool I had been. Lesson? You can wear whatever you damn well like, regardless of age..so long as it looks right. If you're still consulting GQ on stuff like this, you're a boy, not yet a man.

PS - the Adidas are strictly "bar to car" so stay fresh.

PPS - I was taught almost all I know about how to look right by my older brother. He has the instinct. He was born with it. More about him another day.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Your 50th don't come for free

How much should a man spend on his fiftieth birthday party? I've been planning mine in my head for a few months now. I want it to be more than just a normal bash, which nowadays usually amounts to getting a few friends together down the local gastropub. All very nice, don't get me wrong. But the Big Five Zero merits something special. And that means a little more outlay. However, my grand plans were cut down to size with one, ugly, chilling word from my wife - budget. "Start with a budget", she said. "I prefer to start with an idea, and then see if I can afford it", I countered. But I was outgunned. Friends agreed with the missus. So that kiboshed my ambition to hire the country house which sleeps fifty where my friends had got married. It was perfect. In secluded gardens in the Devon countryside, with loads of rooms. All it would have needed was a DJ (we all have at least five friends who are DJs), a caterer (ditto), maybe a live band, and some money behind the bar. Boom. Three grand. Yep. Three large ones. My wife checked. She rang the couple who'd been wed there. Bugger. OK, couple of pints, seared tuna and a banoffee pie down the Bar and Kitchen, it is then, I thought. But then I rang my mate Richard. He'd rented a Hove promenade cafe, got his mates to DJ and hired a stripping magician for his 40th. He'll have ideas, I thought. I was right. He didn't disappoint. All I have to do now is find an existing Easter event, chat up the venue, and tag mine on to the end. And the bill? £500. A grand, tops.