Monday, 31 January 2011

Machine | Introduction | 1 0101 010

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Wide Reading | Cut Out & Keep

Jon Stone doing an impression of modern poetry criticism (ie. sucking... hah!)

Really interesting piece on the fantastic Fuselit blog last night about the lacklustre nature of modern literary criticism in poetry world:

"The problem here is this: all these blandishments and upbeat noises cover up real issues, debate and conflict within poetry that, were the separate strands to find their voice, would be far more enticing to the average Guardian reader (and others beyond), since they invite negotiation and navigation. The soft sell results in nothing but the reader noting, perhaps with a warm feeling, that poetry is doing all right for itself, before moving on."

Jon Stone makes some extremely well observed and insightful points in this article, and I firmly suggest that anybody involved in review-writing should go check it out.

One thing that Jon talks about in his piece, is the vagueness with which a poet's subject matter is often covered in reviews. I am almost certain that this is sometimes caused by the internet-literate poet's ability to publicly ridicule people (or at least throw their toys out of the iPram on Facebook), combined with the cryptic nature of many modern poetry collections. 

In a society where internationally accessible public comment is available to almost every poet, and the vast majority of reviews now have a handy little 'comments' section at the bottom of them, wouldn't you be scared of taking any sort of hard line on a collection of poems, for fear that you'd missed something important or entirely misinterpreted a text (I do realise that many people would fire back at me with 'but my dear boy, there IS no such thing as misinterpretation!', but they're wrong)?

With Desmond Swords around every corner and flame-wars imminent with every mildly contestable utterance made, no wonder that poetry reviews are always padded out with such non-commital guff as 'hers is surely a poem of the every day, and of great rarity' and 'one gets the sense of a poet sat contemplating life in this collection'. Best bet is probably for us to stay in our gang-huts until we've crafted the perfect nomenclature with which to discuss poetry in it plainest sense.

Phil Brown
Poetry Editor

Friday, 28 January 2011

Advert | Music | The Finest Piece Of Ass You'll Never Have

An interesting thing about Mad Men is that both its fiercest critics and its most dribbling fanboys draw upon a similar vocabulary when making their points.

Both camps’ starting points usually centering on the word ‘knowing’ – and then spinning off into rant or rapture about how this ‘knowingness’ is either intolerably smug or the only viable aesthetic treatment of a culture which viciously attacked women, blacks, Jews, homosexuals, men and women with even a passing interest in leftwing politics, whilst conceiving and celebrating new excesses of consumerism, vulgarity and kitsch. ‘Oh my, everything he says means something else too,’ murmurs a twenty-year-old identical twin halfway through Season One (the conquest of whom causes Roger Sterling to have a ‘coronary’) and truly Mad Men has become a by-word for winking doublethink. Take a recent CiF piece by Jonathan Freedland, discussing British republicanism and the King’s Speech:

Why do the Americans keep lapping up this stuff? Amateur psychology suggests it’s a collective case of projection. Americans take an aspect of themselves they don’t much like – in this instance, hierarchy and class difference – and dump it on someone else, in this instance us. Rigid, class-bound hierarchy can’t possibly happen in America, because look, there it is in Britain…with the US tacitly flattered by the contrast…But why do such stories work so well on us?...[There is] an element of Mad Men syndrome at work here. That excellent TV show flatters its audience, too: by exposing the gross sexism and racism of its 1960s characters, it implicitly praises the more advanced attitudes held by today’s viewers.

Another interesting thing about Mad Men is that seldom has this recognition of its effortless layering of irony been applied to its soundtrack. Actually, that’s not quite true – numerous CLEVER PEOPLE have noticed that, like, the second episode of Season One concludes with a song, The Great Divide, by the Cardigans, a band who, like, weren’t around in the early sixties, were they? Ergo, not all of the Mad Men music forms a part of the PERIOD DETAILING that folk are so into focussing on, for some reason.

And a more sophisticated reading of RJD2’s track, A Beautiful Mine – a brief cut of which accompanies Mad Men’s title sequence – has occasionally been attempted. Making some sense of the fact that a hip-hip producer sampling Autumn Leaves by Enoch Light – a man who produced the vast majority of his music during precisely the period during which Mad Men is set – might, like, represent a sorta musical mirroring of early-60s objects, lifestyles, attitudes, fashions being blended into an altogether contemporary television show. For Mad Men is not, after all, a Western like Bonanza; it is not a rock‘n’roll show like Hullabaloo. It bears, in short, absolutely no resemblance to early-60s television in its construction, choosing merely to depict an era, not become it (although it does make affectionate references to doing precisely that – Joanie becoming Shirley Maclaine in the Apartment in Episode 10 of Season 1, having earlier talked about the film with Roger – but in a knowingly noughties way).

And so having a contemporary framing of a contemporaneous fragment of music as a theme song makes coherent stylistic sense…

...And that’s where the commentary stops. At the bloody obvious, in other words.
Of course, it might sound bloody obvious to point out that Mad Men is a show about an era, rather than a show pretending to be of an era. But it’s something that simply isn’t emphasised enough, I think – particularly where the show’s accepted-too-much-at-face-value soundtrack is concerned. That there is residue all over the internet of people complaining about the fact Episode Two of Season One closed with a song by the Cardigans is concerning. Why shouldn’t a show utilising gorgeously contemporary cinematography, and laced with undertones of modern, liberal ideology, also play around with its own music? To say it shouldn’t is to suggest that music has no purpose to play in filmmaking beyond establishment of time, place, context atmosphere…

Indeed, atmosphere is at the heart of the standard complaint about 1.2 – that introducing the Cardigans at the end of an impeccably dated episode was a jarring, uncomfortable, emotionally confusing moment.

It’s easy to see where such a complaint comes from: one of the most original things about the Mad Men soundtrack is that it’s often impossible to tell whether the music you’re hearing is also being heard by the characters in a scene, from a jukebox or a radio. The man who scored the series, the excellently named David Carbonara, actually appears in an episode, as a member of the band in that hilarious beatnik club, what sing about weeping for Zion etc. In the publicity material orbiting the series, the music is often characterised as being chosen by the characters, rather than the producers. Here, for example, is Don Draper’s very own iTunes ‘radio playlist’ (as chosen by creator Matthew Weiner, but that's not important):

Misery – Barrett Strong
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – The Platters
Late Freight – Dave Hamilton
The Big Wheel – Howard Crockett
More – Kai Winding & Claus Ogerman

(There’s a bunch of these and they’re actually pretty fun. Albeit in a rather cartoonised way: Savlatore’s features a track by Liberace, for fuck’s sake.)
In short, everything about Mad Men’s music is telling you that its only aim is to be swallowed up by the show’s created world – to be assimilated within it, rather than to mess about with it from the outside. Everything about Mad Men’s music is suggesting that there’s no reason to unpack it in the way one feels compelled to unpack the show's other components. Even those moments when you’d have to be blind, deaf, stupid and dead not to realise the music is referring to the content of an episode – Pete Campbell looking out over the New Yoik skyline whilst Manhattan by the Buddy Bregman Orchestra skips into the foreground, Peggy, erm, vibrating to an accompaniment of ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ – are framed in such a comforting, almost silly way, that they feel like a flamboyant closing flourish, rather than a representation of how the show works as a whole.


To let oneself think this way is, I think, to fundamentally miss the point of the show though – both its soundtrack and its totality. To not, indeed, think hard enough. To forget that, as well as being a show about the early 60s – more than being a show about the early 60s – Mad Men is a show about advertising. About adverts. Every cliché, every stylistic over-emphasis, every full-of-itself moment of every episode can be (not that they necessarily need to be – but they can be) justified as a reflection upon the framework of gorgeous, glamourised manipulation that was conceived and brokered by the Mad Men of the 50s and 60s. A framework that continues to define our every decision, opinion, choice, to this day. The things we think we choose to like about Mad Men are the things Mad Men is telling us to like about it. It is perhaps the world’s greatest advertisement for the potency of the aesthetics of advertising.

Which include, of course, music among their number. There’s a wonderful moment in an episode towards the end of Season One when Kennedy’s presidential advert is favourably compared to Nixon’s – Don describing the latter as ‘an advert made by a public relations team: message received, and forgotten.’ The difference: Kennedy’s ad comes with music, and ‘catchy’ music at that. One of Don’s underlings goes on to convey the effect of Nixon’s music-less advertisement via – what else? – a song:

Ethel, go get the ice-pick: that Nixon ad is on TV again.

The music of Mad Men is a constant reflection on the power of music to influence, to affect, to convince – in advertising, in television, in one's own imagination. That's why when Weiner explains, in the sleeve-notes accompanying Mad Men (Music from the Television Series) that the show’s soundtrack ‘is never an accident,’ that it attempts to ‘enhance the feeling of the period while offering an artistic commentary on the themes of each show’ (my italics), he isn’t referring to a cheesy coincidence of content and lyrical accompaniment, or to an underwhelming commentary on the coming together of old and new. He’s referring to the fact that when Christina Hendricks jessicarabbits through the Sterling Cooper offices, all 39D-30-39 of her, it is the trumpets and swing of Carbonara’s theme, choreographing her every movement with a kind of delicious intendedness, that ensure she truly is the finest piece of ass you'll never have. Unless, of course, you're Roger Sterling.
Sam Kinchin-Smith
Music Editor

I should add that this is a reading of Season One of Mad Men, and Season One only. I'll write about the others when I've, y'know, watched them like.

Advert | Chapbook | Vol XLIII, 'Holograms of Rotten Roses' by Bobby Parker


Vol XLIII, Holograms of Rotten Roses

Bobby Parker (28.1.11)

'for the drug dealers who never gave me a chance' and now for all of you who happen to click. 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Wider Reading | Poetry | Woodward on Lexiphiles

The standard of literary criticism at Todd Swift's Eyewear is often incredibly high, and I check it for updates more or less daily. Today’s review by Catherine Woodward on five recent pamphlets stands out as a particular gem though:

“There is a strain of poets I call lexiphiles whose joy of language has at some point become completely subsistent on itself. They are a strange bunch, very passionate, particularly about phonemes and sibilance and glottal stops and I’ve read a lot of their poetry which is, suffice to say, heavy. It’s often hard to find the exact image that is being smothered by the exotic, word-horny enthusiasm that is meant to evoke it.”

To read the rest of the article click here.

Wider Reading | Free Screenplay: The Wire, Season 6 Draft


The mean streets of Baltimore. Runners and dealers for the MURDOCH crime syndicate media empire lurk on the corners.

Yo! Got your Fox TV, yo! Re-up on Fox TV!

News of the World! Got your News of the World!

Times! Got pay-for-view online Times!

A few gunshots are fired as the dealers attempt to take total control of SKY. Their only aim is material gain, and power for the sake of power. Which means getting in with politicians.

Down In The Hole, a song about the concealment of evil rather than the annihilation of evil, plays.


ANDY COULSON (WEEBAY) sits in the back of the courtroom, dreaming of the day he'll get to work with a rare breed of slimy fish (DAVID CAMERON). Beside him, REBEKAH BROOKS (STRINGER BELL) is doodling pictures of Superman, and LITTLE MAN (Glenn Mulcaire) has his arms folded. At the front of the court, CLIVE GOODMAN is taking a twenty for the sake of the MURDOCH family. STRINGER nods, approvingly.

BRIAN PADDICK, (JIMMY MCNULTY) angry and drunk, leans forward and hisses in STRINGER's ear,

Nicely done.

MCNULTY gets up and leaves, angrily.


JAMES MURDOCH (D'ANGELO BARKSDALE) is explaining the finer points of chess through an on-the-nose metaphor to IAN EDMONDSON (BODIE) and ANDY GRAY (WALLACE).

 Now this here, this is the King - like Rupe. You lose the king, you lost everything. So he got to stay back. He can't get involved in no war. And this is the Queen. Queen ain't no bitch. She take care of business.

 Remind me of Rebekah Brooks.

Your attitude towards women is going to get you into trouble one of these days, Andy...


A bunch of Metropolitan Police HUMPS, led by JOHN YATES (DEPUTY BURRELL) continue their not-too-thorough investigation into the MURDOCH family. Nobody suggests planting a wiretap on the phones, which is ironic, since that's exactly what the other side are doing. Sean Hoare (BUBBLES) attempts to give them evidence but his services are ignored. The investigation drags on for years.


REBEKAH BROOKS and RUPERT MURDOCH (AVON BARKSDALE) discuss their support of DAVID CAMERON (FUTURE PRIME MINISTER CLAY DAVIS). They also note that ANDY GRAY may be snitchin'. They also worry about their small-time, poverty-stricken competitor, who keeps attacking them and putting himself out there as a socialist Robin Hood figure, THE GUARDIAN (OMAR LITTLE). BROOKS in particular tries to strike out against OMAR.


OMAR gives evidence against the MURDOCH family. The case begins to shift slowly forward. There's simply too much evidence now to be ignored forever.


NEWS INTERNATIONAL, cleaning up their house, has WALLACE (ANDY GRAY) gunned down by his own colleagues in the projects. Nobody cares, because he sort of deserved it. Truly, there is no black-and-white in this complex, realistic depiction of a society in decay.


WEEBAY (ANDY COULSON) takes life for the MURDOCH family; meanwhile, the Met's investigation has been closed down before it can really pinpoint the biggest political figures touched by this corruption, or the heads of the family itself. Some more mid-level players, including IAN EDMONDSON, are given up by BARKSDALE in exchange for his own freedom; STRINGER gets off free as well. NEWS INTERNATIONAL has to lose the NEWS OF THE WORLD, but sets up shop instead in an abandoned, dreary funeral parlour where nobody goes any more (THE TIMES). PIERS MORGAN (CUNT) complains publicly about WEEBAY's fate.

BRIAN PADDICK leans over and whispers in STRINGER's ear,

Catch you later.

He won't, though.


Nothing has changed. The dealers and runners still run around spying on public figures and cooking up scandals, the politicians still allow their journalistic connections to dictate their decisions and vice versa, the Met still have corrupt high-ranking officers in their ranks, and PIERS MORGAN remains a CUNT.

All in the game, yo. All in the game.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Advert | Fiction | Frankie Boyle Transmorphs Into The Black Swan, Nation Mourns

I often have nightmares about films I haven't seen.

Usually it'll happen like this; I'll see an intriguing advert, obsessively read up on the film's plot details on Wikipedia, then fall asleep and suffer a dream which is, essentially, my imagined plot of the movie, in which I am forced to engage as a participant rather than as a spectator. Then I'll get round to seeing the film, find - somewhat to my disappointment - that it isn't nearly as primally unsettling as the depths of my nightmare, and I'll never be troubled by that dream again. And my most recent haunting concerned the film Black Swan, being more specifically sparked-off by the uncanny moment in the trailer at which Natalie Portman spins suddenly towards the camera, revealing wide, mad, orange, swan-like eyes.

My dream ended at the film's climax - though my version was rather less triumphal than Arononfsky's. In the movie (turn back now, spoiler warnings, and so on and so forth) Portman's character, dying, exults in the fact that she has killed off her 'good' side in order to more fully become her 'bad' side and thus won the audience's applause. In my dream, dying, she addressed the Cenotaph - which was not, however, the Cenotaph, but rather an obelisk displaying Egyptian hieroglyphs - and mourned the fact that she'd deliberately destroyed her own individuality in order to become an abstraction.

As it turned out, my dream-interpretation was partly right - Portman's feverish repetition of her desire to be 'perfect' is evidence enough of that. But it was off - because her character, Nina, starts out as an abstraction as well, a childish, submissive 'little girl/little princess', created and nurtured by her domineering mother; an "angel in the house" in waiting, as Virginia Woolf might (probably not) put it. It's actually an interesting little take on the angel/'evil woman' myth, because it's born not just of domestic loyalty to a husband, restraint in opposition to Dionysian wildness, but also of infantile the child, adult sexuality can seem not only repugnant, but also evil. Odile (the Black Swan's real name) is not explicitly monstrous in Swan Lake itself, nor to Vincent Cassel's controlling maestro, who is a creature of Dionysus himself.

I remain ambiguous about Cassel's character, who is as unpleasantly controlling in his own way as Nina's mother, but whose unconscious aims are towards Nina's psychological unity - he does not want her to transform from the White Swan 'angel' into the sexual 'Black Swan' - he wants her to reach a stage of individuation where there is enough of her to tap successfully into both without being overcome by them. He's only doing it for the sake of his ballet, of course, but the fact that Nina slips past this opportunity for self-improvement is actually the hidden crux of the film. She cannot be a 'whole person' because she has been raised as an abstraction - and her only method of rebellion is to turn into another abstraction.

Jung fans (I know you're out there) will note the manner in which Nina and Lily - Mila Kunis' character - meet in moments when Lily is not Lily but Nina's psychological other (they might also note the little linguistic mirror-game Aronofsky plays with those two names). The first time they encounter one another, it's a union of sorts, in a sex scene which will no doubt thrill teenagers of all ages for years to come. But the very fact that it's a sexual union and not some other kind of symbolic meeting suggests that the Black Swan is gaining strength. The second time they meet, Lily dies and the Black Swan takes over. Jung frequently spoke about the importance of the 'meeting-place' in dreams - in Psychology and Alchemy, he goes into detail about a patient of his encountering an 'ape' representing his wild unconscious - and stressed the danger of one opposite consuming the other, rather than reaching a state of unity.

Those who read or watched Aronofsky explaining his motivations behind the film - an enduring interest in doppelgangers - will be entertained by Dostoyevsky's The Double, in which the timid, rule-obeying clerk Nikolai Mikhailovsky is haunted by a bacchanalian, riotous twin causing chaos all around him; in the end, he enters a feast held by his doppelganger and withers away into oblivion. It's the very same Jungian pattern, with the caveat that Mihailovsky is a symbol to begin with because of society's laws, rather than an individual's...and so he cannot bring himself to ever consciously become his opposite in the way that Nina does.

I'm also reminded of our old friend Stavrogin - some day, I promise you, I'll be able to stop shoehorning Dostoyevsky into my articles - from Devils, who stretches his behaviour so far to extremes that he can only be viewed by those around him as a symbol; he is seen, variously, as a noble prince towering over men, a great Satan, a charismatic figurehead of the revolution, a buffoonish Fool, and an ur-man and ultimate object of desire and affection by his lovers (in spite of his suggested impotence). The reality is more mundane - Stavrogin behaves like all of these superlative creatures because he is bored, apathetic and lukewarm about his life and life around him, and wishes to experience everything that's possible as a result - but it is very telling that the final symbol Stavrogin attempts to take on before his careless, self-consciously un-symbolic suicide is one of infantilism. He asks Dunya, one of his lovers, if she'll be his nursemaid. As a child, he'll be not simply innocent, but innocently amoral - he'll be able to come to terms with his own apathy without it being a burden upon him; he will have no responsibility to have the moral or the immoral path foisted onto him. Perhaps sadly, this never comes to pass.

I'm reminded, too, of the ceaseless, zero-individuality thumping rhythm of perfume adverts that we were forced to sit through over Christmas. In all of these commercials, a celebrity will embody a Dionysian ideal of perfect beauty and perfect sensuality, with extravagant wealth, nudity, and sex, often with a kind of self-conscious rebellion against the established order thrown in as well (Yeah, Charlize Theron, "diamonds are dead", "a limo's a car, don't pretend". You smash the frippery of false indulgence-consumerism! The only thing that's real, as it turns out, that's really down-to-earth and important, is your brand of perfume. I hate you, Charlize Theron. I hate you more than Matthew McConnaughey, from whom I expect nothing less than simultaneously shilling and flexing his absurd abdominal muscles). They're almost always in black-and-white, as well - would it be a little too Vigilant Citizen of me to suggest that this isn't just because some idiot from marketing thinks black-and-white is classier, but also because, unconsciously, the adverts suggest an opposition of glorious light - the celebrities themselves - and dull, clinging, darkness - the world around them, and specifically the paparazzi who inevitably scurry forwards out of the blackness, trying to get close to the Dionysian hero or heroine?

And - yes - I'm reminded of Frankie Boyle, that very witty comedian and comedy-writer, who's embraced the reaction towards his most extreme jokes by turning into a comedian who is only able to make extreme jokes as an all-purpose pervert and misanthropist, and who's ended up with an easily identifiable, rather boring quip-structure as a result. His last DVD of stand-up and his sketch show might all just as well have been titled, 'This Famous Person Looks Like A Fucking Disabled Child With A Dead Foetus Glued To Their Cunt. Fuck. Rape.' Which is a real shame for those of us who actually admired his surreal turn of phrase and the interesting places his mind wandered into more than his ability to push buttons with a cheeky grin on his face. Come back and be an individual again, Frankie. We miss you.

Jon Ware
Fiction Editor

Wider Reading | Great Literary Moments In Microsoft Paint, Volume II

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Wider Reading | An Address To A Burns Night Haggis

Tonight being Burns Night, I proudly joined in the noble yearly tradition by scalding my hand on an iron. I have every intention of cack-handedly tossing hot spaghetti into my own stupid face later on.

I have also - because I occasionally go jogging up Primrose Hill and am forced to gaze at the druidically-dubious 1792 Gorsedd plaque at the very top, thus making me part of the noble tradition of middle-class, braying Englishpersons who decide they like the look of niche British-rather-than-English traditions and co-opt it for themselves, while bragging to their dinner-party friends about how they're actually one-36th Scottish - written an 'Address To A Burns Night Haggis'. I hope you enjoy it.

An Address To A Burns Night Haggis

Dear Kate Mosse,
In 1995, you co-founded
the Orange Prize for Fiction
-which was denounced as sexist
and unnecessary by many prominent
critics, but that's besides the point.

In 2005, you wrote Labyrinth,
a paper-thin, overlong, poorly-written thriller
marketed towards the Da Vinci Code crowd
which was praised by the Observer (twice),
the Times, and the Sunday Times
- which curiously enough offered money off
when you bought it through them -
both as a commercial work
and as a 'serious' feminist adventure,
won a British Book Award
sold millions of copies
and is in talks to become a film.

Word-of-mouth reviews have been
less positive. And while you might blame
the Da Vinci Code marketing for that,
note the endless angry critiques that point out
the cliches, poor spelling and inaccuracies
in your "admirably bold endeavour" that is Labyrinth.
One review asks whether you think we (the public)
are mugs. Indeed we are. Millions of us, in fact.

Kate Mosse, you are a Burns Night haggis.
Just as the lofty Stieg Larsson is praised
and gabbled endlessly about in the media
for his confused, too-little-edited
mish-mash whodunnits with added rape
and bits about investigative journalism
and just as Piers Morgan is given a chatshow
in mainstream American television,
you are a stomach full of half-digested food
and we are reliably informed by all of the very prominent friends you've met at your stomach parties
that you are delicious
and that we should enjoy eating you.

Jon Ware

Wider Reading | Don Paterson Namechecks Silkworms (sort of)

The Jocks and the Geordies from the Beano, your classic 
farty wee boys in gang-huts

Whilst it’s nice to know you’re even on the radar of a man who, to at least one Silkworms editor’s mind, has written at least three of the ten finest collections of poetry published over the last decade and a half or so, there was an overtone of chastisement in Don Paterson’s acknowledgement of our site in Saturday’s Guardian Review:

Facebook and blogs have helped enormously, though the blogs are still split between responsible, informative and entertaining sites such as Katy Evans-Bush’s excellent Baroque in Hackney, and too many anonymous others which resemble farty wee boys’ gang-huts, and where membership is conditional on hating the right people.

He’s talking about us. I’m certain of it. The sensation is part sadomasochistic thrill, and part reminiscent of a daydream I keep having in which I finally get the opportunity to meet Nick Cave, interviewing him maybe (the nearest I’ve got so far was an interview with the other members of Grinderman a few months back) and he calls me an arsehole or something. The famously hostile Zane Lowe Culture Show interview probably has something to do with this – if you can watch it to the end, you’re more of a vertebrate than I:

ZL: …a bidda Ziggy Stardust, just perhaps conceptually in the record, in the sense that there appears to be a certain character emerging…? I don’t know whether that’s a good observation or a bad one…?
NC: The Grinderman songs are extremely personal. It’s not as though we built some kind of alter-ego, which brings back the Ziggy Stardust thing: it’s not, it’s absolutely NOT our intention.

Nick later looks Lowe in the eye and murmers, ‘interviews are hugely counter-productive.’ It’s a curious thing, suspecting that the people you admire most in the world probably wouldn’t like you.


Advert | Introduction | The Sale of Experience

It's not the job of the 'adfolk' to sell products – that would be too obvious, too flat. With the hundreds, perhaps thousands of advert impressions we see everyday, the ones that statistically stand out flog experiences and feelings – happiness, manliness, madness.

This week we will be talking adverts and advertising.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Wider Reading | 10' O Clock Live, Just About Avoids Being Stillborn

Studio. Non-descript, moderately well-lit. Three dozen undergrads have been roped in to be the audience. Dispiritingly, they're more blandly partisan and raucous than many American audiences.

From left to right: Phil Brown, James J Harringman, Jon Ware, Sam Kinchin-Smith.

This is actually a pretty good idea. Bremner, Bird and Fortune seems to have wandered off for good, and it was starting to feel a bit dated anyway. So an entertainment show on current affairs with a cheerfully open bent towards the youthful-liberal demographic, sketches, interviews, sarcasm…

Basically, the Daily Show.

Yeah. Except that we don’t have any comedians with enough warm-hearted charisma to carry such a show all by themselves, so essentially we’re going to tag-team three of our best-known snarks and I’m going to sit in the corner asking straight-man questions so that they can come up with some real belters.
I’m Lauren Laverne.

And I’m David Mitchell. I’m going to do one of those rants they’ve been putting up on the Guardian, and then interview some people, engaging with the material so earnestly in my blustering-yet-impassioned way that the show actually livens up a bit.

I’m Charlie Brooker. You know exactly what I’m going to be doing. Look at my sexy silver perma-stubble.

Jesus, what am I doing here? I’m at my best when I’m clipping off sharp, wincey one-liners or being a poor man’s Angus Deayton. I have absolutely no place on a current affairs programme. I bet they’ll give me loads of warmed-over material about paedophile Catholics.

JIMMY does an unfunny, warmed-over bit about paedophile Catholics. Also, the Pope’s a Nazi. Hahahaha. Then CHARLIE’s forced to perform a sketch about Sarah Palin that manages to be frantically uninspired, far too easy, and miss a great many possible targets, in spite of being one of the parts of the show that isn’t actually live.

DAVID gets in three articulate people with opposing views and tries to solve the issue of Goldman Sachs’ bonuses. Each of them gets to speak a single sentence before he’s forced to end the debate so LAUREN can do a shitty, pointless sketch about Sudan in which she pretends to be American in some sort of cheesy stupid American news programme or something.


You’re just a bit of an idiot, aren’t you? Releasing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere? Volcano? James Bond villain?
No, wait – I’ve suddenly decided I'm going to try and conduct this interview seriously and try to actually wring something out of it. Dammit, this show’s going to need to find a coherent identity for each of its segments if it wants to survive, and it’s going to have to figure out what to do with me. Am I the light-hearted funnyman to Charlie and David’s grizzling snarlers? If so, why am I doing the interview about the issue that could potentially destroy our planet?
Anyway, it doesn’t matter because we’re out of time. More adverts!

DAVID does a rather good one of his Guardian video-blog rants and CHARLIE, shattering his established TV persona once and for all, watches some things on a screen and says sarcastic stuff about it. It’s also pretty funny. It’s also pretty superfluous, seeing as how it’s about Tunisia, which JIMMY already covered in an extended bit. Fortunately, CHARLIE is funnier than JIMMY, so we soon forget about JIMMY's bit.

DAVID interviews David Willetts and tries to have a very sincere go over tuition fees, bless him. But he doesn’t get very far before it’s time for more adverts.

DAVID, JIMMY and CHARLIE gather around a table. LAUREN, lurking quietly in the darkness behind them, tries to set them up for zingers, but most of the time they just end up talking over each other. Then it’s time to go home.

This wasn’t actually…bad, was it? I mean, it started pretty appallingly but it got a decent head of steam going towards the end.

Needs better writers and a more fully-formed sense of itself.

Needs me to actually do something, not just get handed the weakest segment that could have been performed by any of you three.

Quiet, you.
Needs to drop the whole ‘live’ thing. No audience member gives a toss about it being live – surely it could be filmed almost live a few hours before broadcast, thus maintaining its up-to-date thing while giving us a little more space to manoeuvre?

Maybe…just maybe…needs one of us to step up and fill the central Stewart role. It'll make the show have a much better focus and it'll end the desperately democratic way we keep skipping between each character to make sure everybody gets equal airtime.

CHARLIE, JIMMY and DAVID give each other dagger looks.

Except for me.

Nobody seems to hear her. LAUREN's legs are enveloped by the ever-rising sand.

It might even help to get some big-name politicians onboard.

The sand is up to LAUREN's waist now.

Actually, if there's one thing that this show really does need if it's going to survive, above all...


It needs to be less Channel 4.

As the sand reaches LAUREN's head, she begins to sing 'I love you so' from The Merry Widow.


Beer/Bear | Justification Of This Week's Theme | A Hist-Lit-Fic Epistolary Novel (in one part)

Dearest Mother,

Thank you for the candied fruits and better-than-average claret. We saw off both during one of the eternal parties we have here – y’know, those congregations of gamblers, boxers, authors, parsons and poets in B’s rooms that I was telling you about. The ones that begin with a kind of simultaneous braying, a sort of aristocratic music-making, debating baronets and trochees and nectarines, and end with us all bumming one another in a curious sequence that I’m told goes back 200 years. Be assured, good my mother: as a freshman, I was soundly bummed!

It’s lovely here at Trinity – dawdling in the bootsteps of Elizabeth’s Essex, Dryden, Newton, all the lads. B can afford to live on campus – en suite, for goodness’ sake. The man really is astonishingly affluent. Subject of which, you really mustn’t worry about my lodging in town. A beautiful boy with an unfortunate name, Scrope Davies (I shall bum him for sure!) came round with a pamphlet yesterday entitled Hints to Fresh-men at the University of Cambridge. I’ll include a paragraph to set your mind at rest:

Suspect danger from WOMEN; those women, I mean, who haunt the lanes, and ends, and corners of the town, who are Hebes at night, and Hecates in the morning. But for them, the once healthful HORATIO would not now be secluded from his friends, stung with disease, and stupefied with spleen.

I insist that you inform father that, like the good Westminster praefectus that I am, I shall not deviate from the path of intellectualised sodomy. I should mention that B is more of a cynic than I – I enclose a transcription of something he said at table the other day (I keep a pad with me at all times so that, as B’s notoriety begins to throb outside of Cambridge’s walls – as it surely will – I shall be known also, by association. For I am notoriety’s documenter! I am Louis Theroux! I’ve also begun to sketch little illustrations for B’s poesy. He doesn’t seem to mind. He wrote a filthy little thing called ‘To Mary’ all aquiver with ‘ecstatic postures’ and ‘dusky mantles’ and I designed a delicate pattern of tits and arses for him to use as a calligraphic border. Á la that engraver that went bananas in Soho. Brake? Bake?). Here it is:

This place is the Devil, or at least his principal residence. They call it the University, but any other appellation would have suited it much better, for Study is the last pursuit of the Society; the Master eats, drinks and sleeps, the Fellows drink, dispute and pun, the employments of the undergraduates you will probably conjecture without my description.

He, dear mother, would know! He has been spending an awful lot of time with Regius Professor of Greek Richard Porson, a genial cove whose translation of Aeschylus is quite extraordinary – almost as extraordinary, indeed, as the consistency with which he is likely to be found under a table in the Trinity beer cellar in the early hours of a weekday morning, bellowing the following to himself:

I went to Frankfurt, and got drunk
With that most learn’d professor, Brunck;
I went to Worms, and got more drunken
With that more learn’d professor, Ruhnken.

Which reminds me of why I began this missive in the first place, belovedest mater. An interesting dialectic, concerning Porson and B. And, I think, a justification for my choosing a life of letters despite father’s (if you won’t mind me saying so) rather provincial concerns (how is Bristol, incidentally? B and the chaps claim to have never heard of the place). For at the heart of this interesting thing is a single letter, the tiniest twist of an E into an A – the sort of thing a fellow who doesn’t know his Xenophontis Anabasin couldn’t possibly appreciate the significance of...

So this Porson character, he’s in the process of losing his fellowship, he’s refusing to take holy orders, he’s writing journalism, would you believe – the man is waning, mother, and he shall be spent before the year is out. And all because of the brews. Because of beer. This, mother, this double E of Porson’s is the Old Literature. Drunken translation of translation of translation and so on and so forth and, frankly, yawn.

Out with the Old and in with the New, I say.

And the New Literature’s name begins with a B. For get this, mama: some horrible little jobsworth told B that he wasn’t allowed to keep dogs in his rooms (I know, right?!) so he bought a bear. A fucking bear, mother, he installed a bear in his lodgings, on a leash, with a foxglove garland round its neck – a bear who dances with a tambourine whilst we sip brandy from each others clean, pink sphincters. A bear who shall surely form the centrepiece of all B’s future writings. A bear who shall inform all future writing, via B. Unless, of course, B's bear simply becomes another fragment of a fruitily literary biography that hinges on an intellectually irrelevant conception of poetic depravity that actively gets in the way of the man's actual, y'know, work, because of its titillating simplicity. But that's not going to happen, is it? I mean, people aren't idiots. Anyway, I shall never forget his announcement:

I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. You shall ask me what I mean to do with him. And my reply shall be that he should sit for a fellowship!

The age of BEER has become the age of BEAR and literature will change for ever, mother. It will be no accident, for example, that A.A. Milne will choose to study at Trinity. And it will be an astute blog that, 200 years down the line, appreciates the fact that the Beer/Bear moment is as valid a theme for a week of literary commentary as, say, the translation of the bible into English, or Heminges and Condell’s First Folio. Or something. Anyway, Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua, quae de largitate tua sumus sumpturi, et concede, ut illis salubriter nutriti, tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus, per Christum Dominum nostrum and all that sort of thing,


John Hobhouse, your devoted son

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Wider Reading | Editorial For The New Year | You Sick, Sick Puppies

It really has been one of the most fascinating experiences of my life, coming onboard Silkworms Ink and watching the site flourish and grow. We've had some wonderful, truly talented writers publish their work with us (and we plan for a whole lot more in the future), and we've published quite a lot of vaguely-arts-based, frequently surreal eclectica which should hopefully really freak out Internet scholars three hundred years ago. I should also probably thank our real founder, the mysterious Mr. Silk, who continues to fund us from behind the scenes. I don't care what they say about the eroto-necromantic rituals that go on in that secret 53rd floor of your company skyscraper, Mr. Silk; your money's good enough for us.

Indeed, one of the most interesting things about Silkworms is that we write about a whole lotta nonsense. And, equally, we swear quite a bit. To be more specific, we say 'fucking' a lot. Which means we get a lot of slightly odd visitor traffic coming our way. And it breaks my heart - honestly, it does - to see people Googling a particular phrase and stumbling onto a UK arts-blog and e-publisher of poetry chapbooks instead, probably causing intense disappointment and a certain amount of droopage.

So to the individual who, six months ago now, was specifically looking for 'anal fucking with midgets', I am genuinely sorry that you didn't find what you wanted here at Silkworms Ink (I mean...presumably). I almost want to Google the same thing just to check whether or not you've found the very niche sexual satisfaction you so obviously crave. And to the individual or individuals who Googled 'Harry fucking Hermione'...errr...

...oh, you sick, sick puppies.

And a big, big hug to the 300-odd readers who checked our site on Christmas Day. If you were lonely, we're here for you. If you were a spambot, we will in future try and arrange some on-site dating service where you can meet other spambots looking for kindred souls and lasting commitment.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Beer/Bear | Fiction | Thirty-Pun Puns on 'Pun'. No, Wait. Thirty-Two.

"I shall approach. Before taking off his hat, I shall take off my own. I shall say, 'The Marquis de Saint Eustache, I believe.' He will say, 'The celebrated Mr. Syme, I presume.' He will say in the most exquisite French, 'How are you?' I shall reply in the most exquisite Cockney, 'Oh, just the Syme—'"

Syme, The Man Who Was Thursday (original)

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church.”

Jesus (Translation)

“A change of policy saved me from the police.”

Stefan Trofimovich, The Devils (Translation)

The Prince and you sit apun the battlements, gazing across the lush fields below.

"When I first started punning," he says, slowly, "when I set the world alight and the mouths of schoolchildren a-titter with my greatest quip, concerning country matters-"

"Puntry matters," you add quickly, and laugh a little too heartily at your own joke.

"Quite," grunts the Prince, pundling the greyhound at his side. "Quite."

"But the pun," he sighes, "has gone quite out of fashion. You put it in your Christmas crackers simply to make pun of it, to mock its inadequacies as a joke, to groan."

"I quite disagree with your opinpun," you tell him, firmly.

A waiter brings you both pun collins.

"You see, dear Prince," you continue, taking a sip, "too often the pun is placed as a punchline, over-stated, signposted, when in fact it must be covert, fast, and deadly. Just imagine if I'd written, 'Too often the pun is placed as a PUNchline.' You'd groan, wouldn't you?"

"I am groaning," the Prince says. But he seems to genuinely punder the matter.

“What about the fact,” you reply skipping an instance of punctuation, “that the most widespread use of literary punning in our time is in punnography? In such cases, the pun gets away with being deeply lame simply because it’s extreme, and absurd. You’d have to have a punny-bone of steel not to smile at classic pieces of idiocy such as ‘The Witches Of Breastwick’, ‘Risque Business’, ‘Shagnet’ or ‘Honey, We Blew Up Your Pussy 2’. Okay…maybe not the last one. It’s not even a pun, really.”

The Prince’s punis rises, very slightly, in his tights.

"Tim Vine," you puntinue, "one of our most popular stand-up comedipuns, and pun of the very few who doesn't rely on having a specific shtick, a thing, a persona, relies almost entirely on them. There’s a reason every critic talks about how hilarious Rushdie is, but almost nobody can recall one of his jokes – he uses puns above all. The pun is the poisoned umbrella of wit. As a concealed weapun, it's brilliant - and you've struck the deadly blow before your oppunent even realises it - but you'd feel very silly waving it around self-consciously if you wanted to raid a bank."

"Oh, you misunderstand me," the Prince insists. "I quite punpur." But, you suspect, he just wants you to stop talking.

"Or punsider again," you continue, "the recent revival, as the loathspun Piers Morgpun's got his own television progpun, of Stepun Fry's description of 'countryside' on 'Sorry, I Haven't A Clue' as 'the killing of Piers Morgpun.'".

The Prince's mouth is opun.

"That bastard pundit stole my joke!" he snaps.

"Shakespeare's joke, as it happuns," you reply, looking smug. "Or should it have been, 'puntryside'?"

The Prince shakes his head grimly and punbles,

"You've already pun that one."

"But on the other hand," you puntinue, "while many jokes are temporary because they reference current affairs, puns are slightly more durable - yet still barely able to last more than a few pundred years, since they rely upun language and the distortion of language. And in an inter-connected, globalised envirpunment, the pun is partially bound to go out of vogue, since celebrity-related quips, like those Ricky Gervais spouted at the Goldpun Globes, can actually cross internachpunal language boundaries more easily than wordplay. (Pace Asterix, and its translators who do such a good job of transferring every witty name into equivalently funny English) I mean, for every classic that endures like 'country matters', how many pundreds of Shakespeare's puns have to be broken down and explained based on a word that no longer exists?"

“So what you’re saying,” says the Prince, “is that the pun is currently ill-used in our literature, but that literary history itself mainly justifies that neglect?”

“Punderful,” you murmur. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Punk!” Hamlet shouts.

He punches you out.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Beer/Bear | Poetry | Right Down to the Bone

“Finding new readers can be a full-time occupation, and like cold calling, is not for the faint-hearted. Whatever you do, don’t drink.”
- Chris Hamilton Emery, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell

“I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies. I think that’s a record.”
- Dylan Thomas (plinyism)

Poetry and alcoholism. They’ve always been connected, haven’t they? Along with the poverty, promiscuity and paleolatry, we want that image of the male poet as a sad lonely booze-hound, crying into his tumbler whilst scribbling away at a profound, immaculate first draft.

Willmott had his wine, Thomas had his whiskey, Berryman had his gin and Bukowski had his beer.

The reasons for this correlation between poetry and alcoholism are an interesting point for speculation. There is the depressive element obviously, not that all poets are depressed but the cathartic benefits of creativity do tend to attract those poor folks with all the demons and baggage and black dogs and such don’t they?

And then there’s the poverty to consider. As the graph below shows, poets living under impoverished circumstances are far more susceptible to alcoholism than any other demographic:

Oh so you want to argue with Science now, do you?

This is caused partly through the self-perpetuating image of the steaming poet, and partly because alcohol is commonly perceived as a shortcut to warmth, sleep, self-esteem, sophistication and sexual prowess in lieu of the luxury amenities that we capitalists usually use to hike our way up Maslow’s pyramid.

My main association of booze with poetry, however, is that being drunk seems to be one of the only socially acceptable paths to automatic writing, and anyone who has ever suffered the feeling of being a dried up, muse-less poet will tell you that sometimes automatic writing is your only weapon against a blank page.

Sure, some people do this with marijuana, but it stinks, bums people out for hours afterwards, leads to obnoxiously pseudo-profound conversations and is, well, um, illegal. And then there’s the old fashioned method of simply counting backwards from one hundred whilst writing as ferociously as your subconscious will move your hand across the page. Which works, don’t get me wrong, but you look a bit weird doing it in polite company.

But a beer. Alone in a pub. With nothing but a thoughtful grimace and a notebook. Now that’s the poetry we know and love. By this point you’ve got the uninhibited frankness of thought and the necessary arrogance to kick aside all thoughts of futility and write some real world-changing stuff. Or at least you may find that, amongst your pages of drunken idiocy you might be able to salvage an aesthetically pleasing phrase or two. Before getting the night bus home and being sickened by everyone around you for doing all that fakery like having friends and being happy and stuff.

I might add that none of these is in any way a valid substitute for just, you know, reading lots of poetry and doing writing exercises and forming lucid, sober friendships with other creative types who are happy to swap bits of writing with you. But when you do follow this method and hit the big time, make sure you have enough well-rehearsed anecdotes of how you wrote your Forward Prize Winning collection after waking up in the alleyway outside Spearmint Rhinos. That'll show all those phoneys.

Anyway, in writing this article, I have been wrestling with the fact that I will never have anywhere near as much to say on the topic of poetry and alcoholism as the very poster-child for this relationship, one Mr. Charles Bukowski.

Because it is one of the finest documentaries on a poet that I have ever watched, I have embedded here, the entire 2 hours of the fantastic documentary ‘Born Into This’, charting the rise, fall and horrific personality of the poet who turned drunkenly line-breaking sparse prose into a movement.

Please excuse however, the presence of Bono in this documentary. Seriously. Bono. He smugly refers to Bukowski as ‘Hank’ as if to connote some sort of deep friendship and mutual respect between them.

He poncily postulates through his pretentious glasses:

“I started to discover a new kind of writing which had a kind of directness, aside from the beats which is what I grew up with… He’s got no time for metaphor, let’s just get right down to the bone, to the marrow of the bone.”

I’m sorry Bono, but last time I checked, 'getting right down to the bone' is a god damned metaphor.

Ignore Bono though, enjoy the documentary, for there ain’t many like it.

Phil Brown
Poetry Editor

Born Into This

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Beer/Bear | Introduction | Exeunt, Pursued By A Beer

'The government will fall that raises the price of beer.' Czech Proverb

'Minimum alcohol price levels planned by coalition.' BBC News

'It would be fitting, I think, if among the last man-made tracks on earth would be found the huge footprints of the great brown bear.' Earl Fleming 

This week, Beer/Bear.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wider Reading | Why Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood' Is A Bit Rubbish

I have a bone to pick with you, Ridley Scott. I just sat through your movie of last year, Robin Hood, and I only cried out ‘Huzzah’ twice.

Just twice. Compare that to the ‘Huzzah’ levels as measured in the classic Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland film The Adventures of Robin Hood – roughly one ‘Huzzah’ every two-and-a-half minutes. I mean, it’s obviously still more ‘Huzzahs’ than in that Americanised pantomime abomination, Prince of Thieves, or the dreary, Dalton-era-Bond-esque Sword of Sherwood Forest. In fact, you’re basically level with the Disney Robin Hood (that’s one ‘Huzzah’ when Clucky US Footballs her way through a horde of identical, evil rhinos, and one when we discover Robin survived drowning by breathing air through an upturned straw).

But still, it’s not good enough. And I’ve got some reasons for you.

The first reason? Lightness of touch.

Observe Flynn in the classic scene early on in Adventures when he crashes Prince John’s Nottingham party. He does so by beating up the guards with the antlers of a stag he’s got slung over his shoulders. Then he waltzes in, tosses the stag onto the table, puts his feet up on the table in front of the Prince, exchanges barbed quips with him, flirts with Marian, survives an assassination attempt, gets into a fight with the entire hall, and escapes via a window. This is, of course, quite awesome. But just as important is how he fights. He slips through the chainmail-wearing guards, scrambles over the tables, shins up a tapestry, and he’s away. Robin is a rogue; a swaggering fellow who uses wits and quickness instead of brawn. As John Fowles pointed out in Daniel Martin, he’s a folk hero who hides rather than confronts, who escapes rather than wins, and who tricks rather than conquers. He’s our Brer Rabbit. And that lightness has to apply to the whole film. Moviegoers know that it’s silly that Prince John spends his whole time up at Nottingham and that Richard the Lionheart didn’t really come back and make everything okay again for the rest of time (and where the hell is Ivanhoe, anyway?). But that mustn’t matter. Robin Hood has to shrug his shoulders, forget about ‘history’ and get back to swinging on chandeliers. The worst example of this was the BBC’s awful TV version, which had a serious Robin in a storyline which simply could not be taken seriously.

Wascally wabbit.

Whereas your Robin Hood, Ridley, gets so weighed down by the millstones of history and folk-tale that you end up having to perform cartwheels to get the narrative to the point where you can have some ridiculous nonsense about Robin’s dad having invented the Magna Carta, with whole armies riding from Nottingham to London and back in the time it takes a French fleet to cross the Channel. It also gets weighed down by, well, your Robin Hood, who you have doing his full Maximus earnest-and-dour thing when he’d have been much better off channelling Ben Wade from 3:10 to Yuma.

Grumpy bear.

It also doesn’t help that you clearly don’t care about archers. Robin Hood is an archer. He’s the deadliest shot in England – no, you’d rather have the entire plot be about a sword? Well, that makes sense, seeing as how you’ve changed him from being a nobleman who’d use a sword to a peasant who most likely wouldn’t. Oh, right, you’re going to have him ride about the place on a horse as allies constantly toss up melee weapons for him to catch impressively? Great. Oh, and…right, so he’ll pick up a random bow and fire one climactic shot with it at the end of the film. Well, that’s all right, then.

And while we’re on the subject, I get your Maid Marian dilemma. De Havilland’s part was essentially to swoon about the place until she got captured. So it is totally groovy to make your Marian tough and resourceful and not a damsel in distress. But then you decide to have her (her character being, let me remind you, a rural-village problem-solver) riding up on a warhorse in full armour waving a sword at the very end, without explanation. This is unacceptable, particularly if you’re only doing it so that she can get into trouble fighting the baddie and need to be rescued.

There was some stuff I liked, sure. It’s always a pleasure to see William Hurt. And the French king Phillip totally looks like Silkworms Ink poetry editor Phil Brown.

Phil's expression upon reading this article.

But, frankly, we’ve been to Nottingham once too often. Now that this is over, hopefully there’ll be no need for us to go again.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Wider Reading | The Advert Critic - Michelle at First Direct

An irritating little girl is making whale noises in the middle of her schoolroom. A ‘stern but not really’ teacher comes in and says, in a tone which isn’t really chastising at all, but really rather slow, almost, oddly enough, seductive (note the upwards lilt towards the end of the sentence, whereas true anger would most likely be expressed with a lowering of pitch).

“Michelle Green! You and I are going to be having a long conversation.”

Cut to twenty-odd years later. A woman is sitting in a call-centre as a bewildered voice says that she isn’t how he imagined a call-centre worker being. The implication there is, of course, that all First Direct customers spend their lives dreaming of the personalities of people who irritate them on the phone. Michelle (for it is she) responds thusly,

“I’m a fish outta water, me. We’re all like that here.”

So much is wrong with this. Firstly, of course, a fish out of water is a person placed in unfamiliar circumstances who struggles as a result. This is not a good thing. Secondly, what the advert’s clearly trying to suggest is that ‘a fish out of water’ refers to someone who broke the mould, a true individual, a unique and wonderful person, and so on. But if everyone at First Direct is like this, then, logically speaking, they’re not truly individual – and why does the customer have this image of all his bank’s call-centre workers as being identical, dullard drones, if every single one of them is being handpicked for their idiosyncracies? Thirdly, why is being over-talkative related to being unique, and why is being over-talkative then presented by the end-of-advert voice-over as First Direct’s selling-point (“We haven’t shut up since!”) instead of uniqueness, when uniqueness is a positive quality and the inability to shut up isn’t? Maybe if Michelle had stopped talking shit about whales, for example, and got on with her damn schoolwork, she wouldn’t have ended up working in a call centre.

There was a bit of an Internet backlash, in fact, over said commercial – so much so that the Advert Critic now notes a second edition to Michelle’s saga, in which she doesn’t make the “fish outta water” slip, but instead comforts a man who’d woken up in the middle of the night having forgotten to pay a bill. And so the ‘uniqueness’ theme is very awkardly shoehorned in by having Michelle say,

“Oh, you’re only human, just like the rest of us!”

Yeah, sure, Michelle. “You’re only human.” Is that what the bailiffs will be saying as they repossess his house, leaving him weeping in his pyjamas on the front lawn? I bet they will. And more to the point, as she deals with his issue quickly and professionally and then lets him get back to bed, what does any of this have to do with the framing theme of “not shutting up”?

The Advert Critic's rating - 2 Mindless Consumerist Zombies Like From Dawn Of The Dead Out Of Ten

Biography | Chapbook | Vol XLII, 'In Memoriam to a Marionette' by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé


Vol XLII, In Memoriam to a Marionette

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books, two of which were anthologies. The other titles span the genres of ethnography, journalism and creative nonfiction, some edited pro bono for non-profit organizations including Sok Sabay Cambodia, Riding for the Disabled Association, and the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. A former entertainment journalist, Desmond has traveled to Australia, France, Hong Kong and Spain for his stories, which have included features on Madonna, Björk and Morgan Freeman, culminating in the authorship of the limited edition Top Ten TCS Stars for Caldecott Publishing. Trained in book publishing at Stanford University, Desmond studied sociology and mass communication at the National University of Singapore, and later received his theology masters (world religions) from Harvard University and fine arts masters (creative writing) from the University of Notre Dame. His poetry and prose have appeared in more than a hundred literary journals. An interdisciplinary artist, Desmond also works in clay. He has designed and sculpted ceramic works to commemorate Albert Camus’ 50th Anniversary, the Dalai Lama’s 50th Year of Exile, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ 120th Anniversary, Edgar Allan Poe’s Bicentennial, and Grolier Poetry Bookshop’s 80 Years of Service as the Oldest Continuous Poetry Bookstore in the US, among other commemorative pieces. His ceramic works are housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.