Friday, March 30, 2007

Just fed up with England supporters to be honest

It's been a while since I've blogged, and it is down to a lot of Uni work: just for example, this week I had to write a 2,000 word dissertation chapter and create a 2' 30" long radio package from scratch. Did both in 4 days, I actually smashed it this week.

But anyway, despite to being smothered with Uni work and not keeping up with the news much, I haven't failed to notice how much criticism Steve McLaren has come in for this week. Ok, 0-0 against Israel is not the result of a team supposedly 6th in the world. But then, when 'England expects' as the saying goes, sometimes 'England forgets' the reality of the situation. Did the England fans watching the game (not least the ones actually there) somehow miss that for about 75 minutes, we were in total control and Israel just threw every single player behind the ball? How can you expect to win a football match like that when you're the only team trying to play football? Gareth Southgate has a point when he says that England shouldn't even have to play certain teams.

Returning to the England coach, Rome wasn't built in a day, and McLaren has been in this job about 8 months, playing only 6 competitive games. Sven Goran Eriksson, who spent most of his tenure as England manager under constant fire from the "anti-foreign managers of England" brigade, was given 5 years, and I suspect it's those same fans calling for McLaren's head. The pictures on Sky Sports showing those fans in Andorra berating McLaren with abuse and gestures just make me think: 'I'm English, I support England and want them to do well and would consider myself a fan, yet these so called 'real fans' that apparently represent my feelings just look like a bunch of wankers to me'.

What is also ironic, and saddening, is that only in England would a 0-3 away win in a competitive European qualifying match be classed as a failure. Like Israel 4 days earlier, Andorra just turned up to try not to lose by too many goals. For 45 minutes it worked, then England proved themselves. But the fans and the media were not happy. McLaren must feel hard done by: you manage a team that wins 3-0 and all the press want to ask you about is why we played so badly? No wonder he walked out of the press conference.

With that conference cut short, Sky Sports News turned to talk about themselves and the press, turning a news piece about England and football, incredulously, into a self-pitying parade of bollocks, acting as if it's not their fault - of course it is: we beat a team 3-0, and you're not satisfied with the good, so you talk about speculation and rifts and poor performances, while ignoring the basic facts. Is this representative of the way sports news, and indeed all news, is going? That 'good news is bad news', or perhaps that bad news is the only news. It just seems to me that the media needs to perpetuate something negative for the public to engage in, which is a really sorry, sorry state of affairs.

And the worst thing is that those witless fans that appeared in their droves in Andorra will lap up every word.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Upon meeting your heroes

It's that once in a lifetime chance. Make something of it, or let the opportunity slip. On Tuesday the 6th of March, 2007, (the day a key figure in my dissertation, Jean Baudrillard, died), I met one of my heroes, and the ACTUAL central figure to my dissertation. Christopher Morris.

I hadn't realised, until I was standing in a circle of likewise starstruck students listening to Chris Morris offer his sandwiches to a girl before the open interview he gave, how high a regard I hold the man in.

The thing is, he isn't your 'celebrity you'd love to meet', he isn't handsome, he isn't fashionable, he isn't even famous. His work is infamous. He himself is infamous, notorious but mysterious, a genius to some, a cunt to others.

He certainly is a genius to me. Taking it upon myself to pore over his most well known television material - The Day Today, Brass Eye, Jam - for my dissertation, instead of becoming sick and tired of going over the same ground constantly, as was the danger with writing a dissertation on a book, I was warned, I have instead become embroiled in the world of Chris Morris. The multitude of disguises, the phenomenal attention to detail, the brutally scathing but oh-so accurate parody and pastiche, the finest satirical material in contemporary television work, the man is regarded - in the right circles - to be perhaps the best comic satirist of our time. He was number 11 in Channel 4's 50 greatest comedians ever - a show voted for by other comedians and writers. That's some feat (if you ask me) when you consider his work isn't funny because it is comic, it's funny because it's true.

But to last Tuesday. Basically, if you don't know much about Morris: his last proper interview in a newspaper was in the Guardian in 2003. He thrives on not appearing in public to defend, explain or occasionally take credit for his work. He used to refuse to appear in public unless he was under the guise of a character from his television shows. All this I knew.

So for THE Chris Morris, the man who I am writing my dissertation on, the man who never appears in public, the man who has built his reputation on refusing to confirm or deny anything about himself, to be appearing, in public, at my University, IN MY MEDIA SCHOOL, FOR FREE, was about the biggest and most exciting coincidence of my life so far. In fact, so amazing to me was this coincidence, that until he appeared in Weymouth House at 6:05pm or so, bushy haired and with a spangly scarf, I was quietly prepared for him not to turn up at all.

When he appeared, he chatted leisurely with a few students about stuff, ate some sandwiches put on by the Media School and posed for one photo. I managed at this point to stand somewhat near to him, but my nerve failed me to step forward and ask him to sign my copy of Jam, as I was, actually, shaking. We all then trooped to the Barnes Lecture theatre for the main event. The interview itself, which we were specifically asked not to record audio or visual, was a fairly informal affair, conducted by Paul Lashmar, a freelancer who seemed to me to be fairly unsure what to make of Chris Morris. Things got a lot better when he opened up 'the floor' to the audience a chance to ask questions, which went on for about 45 minutes.

It is hard to describe how surreal, how "once-in-a-lifetime" that moment truly was. Chris Morris, a man who cloaks his every move and covers his every track, sitting, stripped of any mask or disguise, in a grubby lecture theatre in front of perhaps 200 or so students (mainly) , the very people who want to surround the him with the attention and hype he so deliberately avoids, though of course we all knew that and tried not to act so breathless and in awe. When the opportunity arose to ask a question, engage in conversation their media hero, everyone tried to outdo each other with interesting questions. I thought of three myself, but by the time I had the guts to put my hand in the air, I was overlooked for what turned out to be the last question and for the second time that night, I missed my opportunity.

After that, there was a generous 15 minutes before he had to be escorted to a train, in which some IDIOT animation students took up almost all his time trying to sell Chris Morris their ideas and productions. At this point, I could see the flicker of annoyance begin to appear in his face, a face which seemed to gently say 'Ah yes, this is why I don't do public appearances'. With that 15 minutes up, and still no one on one conversation held with him, I had no option but to join a couple of others in apologetically thrusting something into his hand to sign.

On taking my Jam DVD cover, which is purple, and my blue Biro, he said "this will just be some sort of colourless indentation", and looked at me slightly quizically, before writing "colourless indentation" above his signature. He briefly considered the futility of it, it seemed to me, and probably considered what sort of person I am not to care that you can only read what he's written in a good light. Maybe, just maybe, it appealed to him, this satisfying a fan with a colourless indentation.

It was over in 2 hours. I had two chances, but I DIDN'T MENTION THAT I AM WRITING MY DISSERTATION ON HIS WORK. Fuck fuck fuck fuck, why why why? I can at least count myself very, very lucky that this once in a lifetime opportunity occurred, and I think I almost managed to make the most of it. It isn't every day you get a chance to meet your heroes, and with Chris Morris, it's unlikely I will have such a clear opportunity to do so again. But I did, I met one of my heroes, and that, as I still seem to be unable to quite comprehend that it happened, was enough for me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Something I still remember from either a Bournemouth Open Day, a very first lecture or perhaps something another student said when I started at Bournemouth, was that 'you will find that postmodernism is everywhere'. Back then, postmodernism was just another one of those words to put aside til the time came, like SPSS, Feminism, decontexualised and chlamydia. But now, whoever it was, I see, was right.

This year, postmodernism has been looking over my shoulder in almost everything I do: it's fuelling my dissertation argument, it's been at the heart of some of my essays, and generally, whether I've realised at the time or not, it's underpinning just about every text book I read on all my University projects at the moment.

The problem is, whoever warned me about postmodernism nearly three years ago got one thing wrong. They hadn't bargained on me actually liking it.

Perhaps Universities, if they do nothing else, really open your eyes to your place in society, and finally show you glimpses of the real world before you enter into it. They act as the central site for generations of young people to take on board and evaluate the great thinkers and ideas that have shaped our society up til now - right before we go on to try and shape it ourselves. And since postmodernism is defining the aesthetic of the society we find ourselves in (it IS everywhere), it seems not the worst thing to actually spend some time thinking about.

For I quite fancy myself as a bit of an intellectual in the making - again, going to University at all has probably brought this egotism on - in that I want to entertain and try to understand the ideas of the great 20th century names, Saussere, Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida and so on; those names that, on the first day of Uni, simply washed over you into the part of your brain marked 'probably won't need this name again', so that I can better understand, exist in and, who knows, affect my lifetime. University has perhaps dampened my belief in politics, despite it being the breeding ground for various movements and causes and petitions and campaigns and so on, all of us young people despairing at the inability for anyone but ourselves to see the way things really are. That sense of involvement, a genuine conviction in being able to make a difference, has lost some of its charm for me now.

Instead, I can see great enjoyment in the pretentious life of sitting about, writing about social and cultural issues in a detached, superior manner, casually obliterating entire periods of history, social movements and cultural trends of the past and the misguided present, telling people what was definitely wrong about 'Then' and what 'Now' definitely is and is not. Yes, that's the life for me.

And the reason postmodernism appeals so much in my modest quest for reputation and intellect is because, as University has shown, it is in everything I'm interested in, it is the period of my life, it is inescapable, for now. As someone once said, very wisely as it turns out, "You'll find that postmodernism is everywhere."

Update, 8/3/2007. I had no idea at all at the time I posted this blog, that on the same day, the 6th of March 2007, Jean Baudrillard died. He was 77.

Was Baudrillard, as I wrote about aspiring to critique and emulate the great philosophers of the last century like himself, uttering his very last words? Could his death have coincided with my declaration, setting in digital stone, as it were, that I would love to be considered a writer or even a philosopher of MY time? As Baudrillard died...have I begun? We shall soon see.

Jean Baudrillard, 1929 - 2007. In death we find out that he did live in reality, after all.