Monday, March 13, 2006

Giving the people what they want?

Developments near & far have been distractions during a grey, cold & occasionally abrasive week. The distractions, news stories which appeal partly to my bugbears, partly to my sense of the absurd, reflect a world of the usual human failings, twisted ambition, constraints being loosened & shattered certitudes.
I've always viewed TV as a necessary evil. That might sound like the observation of a curmudgeonly recluse, but it's one that I've held since my mid-teens. Flush with the heady mix of youthful brio, teenage idealism & (over) reverence for the written word, I saw television in terms of mindless pap. That was in the late 70s/early 80s, long before the avalanche of sewage which descended via cable & satellite.
In this context I was drawn to a story which both intrigued &, yes, pleased me. It appears that the web is seeing off the tube, at least to some degree (http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,1726019,00.html ).
Of course, it is true that there is a lot of garbage out there in cyberspace. The difference, however, is that the web does offer you the chance to examine & follow issues which directly appeal to you. This it does 24/7.

A sulphorous collision of human failing & twisted ambition was to be found last week in the Tessa Jowell affair. I know that New Labour creatures look askance at things like Labour movement history & egalitarian ethics. Yet there was still something jaw-dropping about the blithe defences put up by Jowell & her (now estranged) husband, David Mills. Jowell said something to the effect that the couple saw tempting business opportunities when there was a convenient "window".
It prompted this welcome, though long overdue, Guardian article, http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1725569,00.html .

A second example of human failings & twisted ambition came with the news that George Galloway is to host a show on Talksport radio (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/organgrinder/2006/03/its_galloway_am.html ).
Talksport is the British, or rather English, attempt to reproduce the U.S shockjock format. Radio 4 it ain't. Its approach & character are simple & simplistic. Its marketing direct: If you're male, white, straight, 18-40, read the red-top tabloids & like "havin' a laugh", it's your bag. Galloway, with his bull-headed certainties, self-styled saviour status & ludicrous self-importance has found his perfect home. As for the feeble mewlings from his small band of defenders that it gives the anti-Iraq war argument a platform, do me a favour! (Sorry for lapsing into Talksport terminology, there.)
It's similar to the case of Derek Hatton, a former "comrade" of mine, whose ability to perform well for the cameras as Liverpool seethed 20 odd years' ago morphed into manifest ego. "Degsy" has made a few bob for himself by attempting his own shockjock act. White Van Man loves him, in a straight, blokeish way, of course.

Local authority shenaniggans continue around this parish (http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/click/rss/1.0/-1/hi/england/merseyside/4785752.html ).
OK, so it's not exactly Mayor Daley making Chicago his own plaything, Poulson lining the pockets of 60s northern councillors or gerrymandering by Orange bigots in post-war Ulster, but it's still a nice, juicy tale for these environs.

"The Big Dig" grinds on in the middle of Liverpool. Adding to the caccophany it brings is the heated exchanges of those who have made the year of culture in 2008 an incohate, ill-thought vista. The reality is that key projects for the city -& which were instrumental in securing the prize for the city from Jeremy Issacs & co.- have either been scrapped or won't be ready on time. The Liverpool Culture Company, a moniker which is becoming more oxymoronic by the week, claims that all is in hand. This could be accepted at face value were it not for the fact that their website is still worryingly thin on details & hasn't been updated for a while (www.08.com ).
David Ward put his finger on the root cause of the delays & uncertainties in a Guardian article last Thursday when he asked, "what did the whole city think capital of culture was about? A glorious high-artcultural festival, a kind of year-long Edinburgh? A community knees-up that would have them dancing in the streets of Toxteth and Speke? Or a chance to show the world that Liverpool, a bit later than several other British cities, was heavily into economic regeneration and dockside apartments?"
The message, Ward gloomily concludes, was never clarified.

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