Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lifting The Lid?

Liverpool has always produced comedians. Here's two more.

Returning, as we must, to the ongoing farce that will be 2008, Tony Parish, has unearthed another gem ( ) which the Echo will probably report as an exclusive sometime next month.
After the pathetically transparent attempt by Warren Bradley, Jason Harborrow, et al, to use Lee Forde as the scapegoat for the Matthew Street fiasco, the covering of arses is on a scale last seen at your average public school. However, the Subculture blog notes that Bradley, Harborrow & others knew in February of this year that there were real difficulties over the festival. In a series of emails between the relevant parties dating back to this point, it was acknowledged that the festival would be starved of resources & that the "Big Dig" in the city would make the staging of the event a near impossibility. This contradicts Bradley's oft-repeated claim that the first he knew of the situation was in July.

A week or so back, it seemed that the BBC was going to investigate the 2008 fiasco:'botched%92-preparations-for-liverpool-08?200711141345/ .
However, hopes were dashed this week, according to the same source: .
How-Do reported, "It is thought that the content of the programme was set to focus on the numerous well-documented 'hiccups' that have occurred on the road to Liverpool's highly prized Capital of Culture status. One insider noted that city officials were 'justifiably nervous' about the apparent plans."
According to the piece, Paul Rasmussen, a spokesman for the programme, was initially wary of saying much about the claim. However, he did venture, "We did do some initial research on a programme about regeneration, which would have been linked to Liverpool 08."
Panorama is a mere shadow of the programme it was in previous decades. However, it would have been nice to see the spotlight turned on the machinations, chicanery, spin & mind-blowing incompetence which has characterized the Liverpool Culture Company ( ).
The sigh of relief emanating from Liverpool 08's corporate sponsors will be audible at Jason Harborrow's Spanish hacienda.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jaded Jingoism & Flaccid Facism

Aside from picking up my winnings on a £5 bet on Croatia to beat England last night (generous odds of 9/2, thank you very much), I've taken little interest in the fall-out; I've said before that I'm too conscious of my Liverpool Irish background to wave the Union flag, bellow a monotonous drone of an anthem in praise of an institution I oppose & display utter disrespect for "foreigners". On a purely footballing level, there's a long, earnest & measured debate to be held on why England failed. On a non-footballing level, I'll simply say that it's always nice to see the Johnny Bullshitters get their racist prejudices rubbed in the brown matter. Next summer's European Championships will be worth watching; the best of a continent's football & a complete absence of lagered-up louts who laughably see & style themselves as an army. Mercifully, club football returns this weekend, its cosmopolitan character a welcome antidote to the sterile postures of the last few days.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

King Of America?

Alas, poor Declan, alack; once upon a time you seemed to be the only big name UK artist to survive the late 70s New Wave period with serious credibility (the Clash had their moments, but failed to sustain their momentum).

Costello's truly cringeworthy rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Hillary Clinton in New York last month followed closely on his appearance in a TV ad in the US for Lexus cars ( I have both to hand, but won't dignify them with the relevant YouTube links ).

Anyway, it seems that Costello has assumed the airs & graces of his namesake (Elvis, not Bud) with his ridiculously regal stance: .

In the original Mojo interview, Costello cites his reception at the Glastonbury Festival in 2005. However, the previous February, I saw Costello at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre, playing to a rapt & packed audience (he even jokingly dedicated "[I Don't Wanna Go To Go] Chelsea" to Steven Gerrard).

Perhaps he sees himself as the second Lennon, comfortably based in Manhattan. On this side of the Atlantic, however, his remarks evoke memories of Rod Stewart hopping across to New York with Britt Ekland.

I hope you're happy now, Elvis.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Nothing But The Same Old Story?

The Liverpool most residents know
The Liverpool most tourists know
Before the Liverpool Culture Company, aided & abetted by their allies, Trinity Mirror, try to persuade us that Merseyside will be transformed into Disneyland on the Mersey by 2008, it's necessary to innoculate oneself against such bullshit.
Perhaps one vaccine has arrived today in the form of a report on the BBC's own website:
It relates, "The think tank Policy Exchange said Liverpool and another 18 cities and towns, including Warrington, are not catching up with the rest of England.
"The Labour Government had been 'well-intentioned' but 'successful towns are becoming more successful, poorer towns are becoming less so', the report said."
The article goes on to say: "Local Government Minister John Healey rejected the claims, saying the economic performance of six of England's eight largest cities had improved since 1997."
Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? After all, it's his job to bang the drum for "the provinces", as they were once patronisingly called. So, Healey's brief, it's valid to say, involves a good deal of PR.
Healey said he found it "alarming" that the think tank report had come to its finding. Does he mean "alarming" as in inaccurate, or as in "shit, we've been dropped in it by some intellectual's candour!"?
To try & get a little more context on this story, I visited the Policy Exchange website ( ).
It should be noted that Policy Exchange describes itself as "the UK's leading centre-right thinktank".
Aha, the picture's getting a little clearer. The Right (let's not bother with the media savvy "centre-right" tag) has long had an approach to areas like Merseyside which could be seen as, at best, benign neglect, or, at worst, outright hostlity. The first approach was voiced by then Tory Chancellor Geoffrey Howe in 1981, when he recommended that the Thatcher Government's policy on Merseyside in the wake of the Toxteth riots should be one of "managed decline". The second approach manifested itself in the Tories' use of unelected law lords to bar the 47 Liverpool Labour councillors from office in 1987.
The report's author, Dr. Oliver Marc Hartwich, is, perhaps predictably, vague on detail:
"While we should not give up on urban policy, much of the £30bn spent in the last decade appears to have had no effect. Britain needs to consider policies that will make it easier for people to work in places that have high productivity and therefore offer high wages. Urban policies should provide towns and cities with incentives to grow, prevent ghost towns from appearing, and give towns and cities much more freedom to decide how to use regeneration money."
Couple of morsels to feast on here: So, areas known for high productivity also offer high wages, do they? That'll be news in the Asian sweatshops. Ghost towns should be prevented, eh? It is in the nature of global capitalism to leave ghost towns in its wake; look at the area around Detroit in the US, where the decline of the car industry has had that social & economic result. Towns & cities should be able to decide how regeneration money is spent in their areas. Fine. Just as long as the decisions aren't taken by locally elected representatives who start to question the "logic" of market forces.
Back to your ivory tower, Dr. Hartwich.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Smiling All The Way To The Bank

Gillett: "They do say it's only a game, Bill."
Hicks: "Suckers!"

Walk On, Walk On, With Cash In The Bank

Talking of things you're unlikely to read in Trinity Mirror's titles, today's Guardian carried a piece by Andy Hunter, ironically once a Daily Post football correspondent, about the real cost of the George Gillett/Bill Hicks reign at Liverpool FC:,,2206007,00.html .
It turns out that Gillett & Hicks are seeking a £500m loan to finance the new stadiun at Stanley Park (the cost having spiralled to £400m), as well as refinancing the £298m loan they secured from the Royal Bank of Scotland with which to purchase the club. One paragraph, in particular, from Hunter's piece is both damning & daunting to the city's taxpayers, not just the club's fans:
"The Americans intended to borrow from Goldman Sachs in a deal arranged by Liverpool's financial advisor, Robert Tillis, until the financiers responded to the global credit crunch by asking the sports tycoons to invest more of their own money into the refinancing package. With his employers reluctant to do so, Tillis has held talks with other financial institutions, including Wachovia and Morgan Stanley. The deal is yet to be finalised but, given current interest rates, the Americans are likely to be refinancing under worse terms than they received from RBS."
As well as shining a light on murky & opaque dealings, the article makes mention of the credit crunch, a phenomenon which has brought the global banking system to a juddering halt, & which has shaken the traders on Wall St. out of their triumphalist mindset about global capitalism.

Money For Nothing

I've refrained from commenting on the decision to stage next year's MTV Europe Awards in Liverpool ( ) mainly because it's little more than a further vanity exercise for the Culture Company (whether Jason Harborrow returns to the city from his Spanish hacienda for the occasion remains to be seen).
The much vaunted aim of the chancers, charlatans & third-rate spivs in charge of 2008 for the year to feature the best that the city's cultural talents has to offer sits uncomfortably with this rather unneccessary addition to the calendar. If the Awards could be adapted to showcase local unsigned acts before a global TV audience, I'd be all for it.
However, we all know that it won't be anything of the sort. Most likely, it will offer the most cursory of nods to You Know Who's musical legacy before grinding on with homogenized, formulaic pap. It will also amount to little more than yet another stopping-off point for the usual suspects (bling-obsessed rappers, crooning soul boys, emoting divas, screeching banshees, etc.).
The event will take place in the city's newly-built Arena, a venue which will bear the name of the Liverpool Echo Arena, although as the Liverpool Subculture blog has been pointing out ( ), the terms of this apparent sponsorship deal are shrouded in an Autumn mist rolling in off the Mersey.
As Tony Parrish has noted (great work, BTW, Tony, keep it going!), expect Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Echo & Daily Post, to be fawning & sychophantic in its coverage of the Culture Company.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Welcome Return

Some good news for a change. The Liverpool Freethinking Festival is back after the success of last year's event ( ) .
As with last year, there seems enough to get your teeth into.