Selected TV Cuttings

from The Student

Selected Radio Cuttings

from The Student

Dead Beauty Queens and Wheelchair Falsetto

Bill Clinton’s penis saved television. Or Lewinsky’s lips. Whether phallus’s fault or Monica’s mistake, the immediate impact of The Most Famous Blowjob of All Time was one of phew and sigh for comedians and writers, a sense of renewed liberty was palpable in the corridors of media power. In the words of talk show host David Letterman, it was “so easy” – Lewinsky left jokes on your lap, so to speak. After all, when the President of the United States admits to lewd behaviour live on television it’s not big government, but cosy entertainment, that’s over.

Let’s make this sexy. A new era of television was on the horizon.

What it meant, aside from sarcastic jokes aplenty, was a generation of television executives feeling as though they could take more risks and reach deeper into the alcoves of morality, and particularly that strange shape of adolescent morality: to tug harder at heartstrings and hold tighter to the bedframe, in a way that they hadn’t done before. That is to say that Clinton’s presidency and it’s smatterings of cool smut bled into a new wave of creative talent who used teenagers and their concerns as the focal point of their stories, much like Clinton had used them in his election campaign. Clinton’s first election slogan in 1992 read “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” and in 1996 he offered to begin “Building A Bridge to the 21st Century” – this white haired dude of languid jazz was as intent on moving forward as TV was.

Never before had fellatio been this well timed.

Television was already changing, and in particular the way it positioned teenagers was changing.  David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990) begins with the discovery of a dead beauty queen, a teenage torture victim wrapped in plastic and mystery. The series goes on to suggest that the American teenager of television past was unrepresentative of the contemporary landscape with Lynch’s set of postmodern darlings primarily concerned with sex and booze and surreal picnics. To what extent Lynch’s masterpiece can be considered as giving teenagers ‘freedom’ is debatable. One is dead and the others are enclosed in a claustrophobic town where cherry pie is their only sweet relief. Compared to the Cosby kids and Prairie daughters of yester-television-year though, there was a definite sense of progression and of greater emotional or at least erotic development, with their enclosed environment ultimately a necessary by-product of Lynch’s groovy macabre.

Referring to another landmark show offering teenagers new freedom, Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990) Mary Ann Watson wrote that “the show essentially glamourized what it professed to caution kids against.” whilst New York Times columnist John J. O’Connor shrewdly observed that moving into the 90’s “Virginity is decidedly unfashionable” – television then, bought into a second sexual revolution, just like it had done in the 60’s when innuendo ran ragged and blonde starlet’s eyes popped open in every other scene. Moving into the Clinton administration, teenagers on television were already hopping beds, sexually at least, freer than ever before, his scandal would heighten this racy temperament – the challenge would be to allow these teenagers space to contemplate as well as copulate.

This progression was something which would grow exponentially throughout the 90s and 00s and eventually create a thriving artistic industry in which the relevant concerns of an active teenage population would be transferred to the television screen: their various representations over the years chiming problematically in near perfect parallel with the political establishment of the day; their philosophies framed; and freedom to think for themselves curtailed or encouraged.

Indeed, the fight for freedom, for autonomy, had provided a reliable trope in American fiction long before the small screen and in fact since Huck bobbed down the river. ‘Huck’s voyage, like his creator’s was to carry him down the river into a world complex enough in its social strata to delight a modern sociologist’ (Stone Jr).

Since television became a barometer of cultural and social significance, and particularly since the 90’s, when Huckleberry Bill engaged a new generation, it has sought to mirror Twain’s vision and create, in the teenager, a microcosm of the turbulent strife of a country that has always felt burdened by its own indefinite identity.

This is why the tone of American teenage television lacks coherence. It is ultimately always an act of political posturing.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997) sees teenage concerns transformed into monsters and ghouls and a sexy ragbag of kissing cool kids responding to these crises in typically hip ways. It’s a product of a looser time in American history in which Bill Clinton’s mantra for entertainment to “reshape the culture” had been considered and then subverted from his original expectations into something sleeker and sexier than ever before. In 1998, when the Lewinsky Scandal emerged, Buffy could have hardly been a more appropriate hit. A scandalous expression of new freedom in a sordid era of tainted political discourse. These wild teenagers were wild America.

But that couldn’t last forever.

And so, under the administration of George W.Bush, of compassionate conservatism and silent violence, a spring of sunshine soaked shows about super rich kids with white teeth and sad parents emerged. The O.C and One Tree Hill both stand as series of quiet Republican propaganda in which the handsome prevail and the odd are squashed. If Buffy suggested that the pursuit of pleasure, the slaying of emotional demons and the freedom to be a strong female as good things, then these kind of shows said the exact opposite. Teenagers in the 00’s might have been even prettier than they were in the 90’s but they weren’t any more stupid – this new slew of serialised middle class masturbation positioned Americas youth as a collection of orange statues with “issues” – issues usually solved by money. These dullard teenagers were dullard America.

Five years into Barack Obama’s premiership and the most striking set of teenagers on television are the ones that were ostracised in the Bush years; the kids of Glee. Ostensibly a show about the outsider, Glee is an optimistic musical romp of wheelchair falsetto and heartbroken cheerleaders. But it is also cool. It shouldn’t have ever been successful. It’s modern. It jars with a political elite.  It’s Obama, baby. Just like Clinton’s era was Buffy and Bush’s a gruesome Californian landscape about to burn, Obama’s era will be remembered, is able to stand like Glee does, as triumphant and optimistic but crucially stunted by the shadows of the past. Just like The O.C retained Buffy’s sexiness, Glee is ultimately a programme about a specific set of students situated in the calm suburbia of American stagnation.

You can smell the burning Bush.

And so, just as each President becomes a slightly altered version of the next or the last, teenage-centred programmes rush to perform a similar regeneration, to neatly align. They rush to represent the right or the left, rush to offer ultimate freedom and supernatural sex or a limited landscape of life on the coast or something slapped in the middle (dependent on what the electorate seems to expect its future adults to desire).

It took a second sexual revolution, this one televised in Technicolor across living rooms and partially informed by a presidential blowjob for this cycle to properly begin, bringing with it a plethora of era defining shows – all of which have enriched America’s television history. Clinton’s penis did save television, then. But my god, it also haunts it. American television was previously a silly and chaotic minefield unable to recognise the myriad of political possibilities available by making teenagers stand as representatives of a national mood. The 90’s was the decade that these possibilities were realised. The medium reacted like a political party would and latched quickly onto a generation fascinated by its own newness, twisting it to suit a governmental or anti-governmental narrative.

It might take a third sexual revolution or something even more scandalous for teenagers to be cut properly free from the rope that television tightens or loosens dependent on political rule. Indeed, for teenagers to finally find freedom on American television, freedom to be more than holograms of a nation’s ruling force, free to just be themselves and not spotty metaphors: well, they’ll just have to grow up.  


(This article was first published in Retrospect Journal)

There Is a Cowgirl in the Bingo Hall!

The endearing, enduring appeal of democracy by balls

Bingo is church for working class atheists. It’s a calendared event that squashes brilliant people onto cushioned furniture, leaving them listening to a voice from beyond: ethereal, distant, familiar - in the hope it will bring them luck and then money.

If not then they walk home on penny loafers, penniless, and come again next week. Or on Wednesday. Or tomorrow – whenever Susan says she needs to talk about her kids, whenever staying in seems like a waste of time - so you go outside to go inside to sit on a strangers chair and waste your money instead. You might not kneel but you would if it guaranteed that the next number dabbed in ink was that elusive 17.

The flashing screen is the hymn sheet. Indolently mouth the digits. Try to contain enjoyment. Smile a poker face at your auntie.

I first went to ‘the bingo’ when I was 18 which was representative of an adorable level of rule adherence. It felt like quiet revelation entering the vast space, with heads staring at digits, acoustics announcing disconnected numbers and identical pens performing the same movement of gentle bounce. The party of people I was with were familiar with tables of customers but the intense isolation that the game demands (“Shush!” is the most popular phrase in a bingo hall) meant that nods and winks became a coded conversation and the shuffle to your seat a headhanging exercise in hushed wonder - they know something you don’t. It’s a greedy mile that walk to your seat.

However, entering ‘the bingo’ proper need not be your first experience of the game which is a perpetual presence in school as an easy alternative to actual education and in its most kitschy manifestation as night time entertainment on package holidays. 

Sunburnt Dads in linen collect the biggest pen from a spare table and hush spouse and offend offspring in-between glugs of aureate beer, convinced a win will save the holiday, convinced it will make everyone forget the broken waterslides. What becomes abundantly clear when you participate in bingo is that it’s a game that requires skill as much as luck. Slow dabbers need not apply. Soft fabric Fathers are right to take it seriously.

You’ve got to be quick to grasp the pace at which numbers fly from mouth-to-microphone-to-mothers and moaners. And whilst this might seem like an inconsequential act of passive listening tantamount to a nursery’s register, the weird rush you feel when somebody else who has been passively listening wins £1000 and whoops and grins and swears and cries condemns you to an enjoyable evening of absolute focus. To claim that a few sessions of weeknight bingo crystallised my mind-set and allowed me to consider the world as, like bingo, a series of codes and signals that the luckiest inherit and the sharpest claim and prosper from is perhaps a stretch but there is a definiteness in this democracy by balls that provides every participant with a chance and it is a solid, stable, tangible system that dishes out that chance.  

It’s serious fun.

And if one image encapsulates that notion of bingo as serious fun it’s of a cleaner performing her duties with a broom between her work-assigned-slacks during a visit early 2013. Past discarded felt-tip pens, empty glasses and the occasional misplaced cardigan, in between tables, balanced because of Tory pamphlets, past two pence pieces and five pence pieces, and never five pound notes, and never love notes but sometimes sick notes, she bounced on her black pumps, enjoying her mischief, if only for the silliness of it, if only for what it wasn’t. And during her cowgirl’s journey, with her broom as a stallion, numbers offered her a symphony. Ennio Morricone went monotone and numerical. 7, 24, 39 etc. It was that juxtaposition of grand idiocy and a set of mathematical absolutes that made me appreciate bingo as more than a mundane anachronism. It’s serious fun.

Seriously. 

A battered ballerina box: on Lou Reed.

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When you listen to music in a moving vehicle, the passing landscape tends to provide a convenient backdrop to whatever sounds you’re idly devouring.

The grass thrashes in time to the beat, buildings wobble in crescendo, wet strangers accidentally groove to the chorus. A modern urge to be made Technicolor, to be James Dean for the day, torments us into cinematic falsehood, pretending that an orchestra guides us or that their heartbreak is our heartbreak. We wear sunglasses and lean our elbows against a rolled window, “furnishing the score for every puny adventure” of our lives.

Lou Reed was a special artist because passing landscapes did not mirror his music. You could not try to connect a snapshot shack or a motorway cafe, a cascading bird or a half sunset to Lou’s poetry, to Lou’s twinkling guitar, to his loud and quiet, loud and quiet, scowl and growl.

Listening to Lou Reed, as I did so much when I was younger, driving to football matches or birthday parties, in various varieties of Vauxhall with my Dad, was a transformative trip.

He remains one of the few artists whose music wasn’t a soundtrack to solipsism or a mirror to your own environment, your own feelings, your own suave image in the tiny puddles on the traffic lights.

Lou’s music was a battered ballerina box. It was apartment block’s blooming into dead roses. It was violent and lonely and undercut by a shivering humanity laid bare and bastardised in black t-shirt and dirty jeans.

But it was his. We could only listen.

Arrogant aims to equate our existence inside his vision were useless and it was our duty to let the ever wrinkled, by time and time’s temptations, mouth of his turn tales of destitute romance into sweeping simplicity.

When you look out of the window whilst listening to any song in which Lou Reed played a (usually vital) part in, it is not your life his music makes widescreen, it is his life made windowsize: the pure and grotesque genius of Lou available for you, you lucky sods, to stare at and admire, be a vicious voyeur towards.

So Lou lives on as an artist who manages to suffocate our own gross selfishness by providing a world of songs that are only his soundtrack, not ours cynically shaped to satisfy our sharp thirst for a lead role in a horrible ensemble piece.

Don’t say they’re “your” songs. They’re his songs.

And so we’ll keep watching his New York and his Berlin unfold before us, but we must know that they’re Lou’s. That unique growler is, in black t-shirt and dirty jeans, asking us to linger on.

We must keep moving. Agog passengers not perfunctory actors.

We’re not James Dean for the day, but he will be Lou Reed forever

Jack On The Box: The Netflix Fix

The opening sequence of The Simpsons, most recently revised in 2009, still ends with a reoccurring gag of the family of yellow Americans attempting to sit down in front of their television. Their path to comfortable box-watching has been halted by hand standing elephants and Sigmund Freud in its 23 year reign but the aim of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie has always been the same; to watch television together.

In 2009, when the iconic sequence was altered, a notable change was the replacement of their traditional television set, complete with fiddly nobs and a crude aerial with a flat widescreen version: recognition that the parameters of family viewing had changed. Brighter! Sleeker! Bigger baby! But this new television set, this new experience for the inhabitants of 742 Evergreen Terrace, just four years after the change is starting to look as incongruous as when Mr. Burns impersonates a teenager: something’s not quite right.

IPads, Netflix and Twitter have ushered in a new age of television watching in which the traditional convention of gathering around and sharing the same sludge of entertainment is no longer a proper portrait of square-eyed suckers. If The Simpsons was to tell the current story of our relationship with TV, its opening sequence would skip the couch gag and pan to each individual room. Homer and Marge watching Modern Family on a laptop in bed, Lisa streaming TEDTalks on her iPhone, Bart searching ‘Violent Stuff’ on his Netflix account and Maggie still giggling, downstairs, at a special red button episode of something suitably adorable.

When Douglas Coupland wrote that The Simpsons ‘unite mankind far better than NATO, Esperanto, or metric’ it is implicit and underlying that the medium on which the show is beamed: the television, must unite us even more so; unite families far more than birthdays, Sunday meat or Cluedo disagreements.

Does the decaying sense of a collective televisual experience therefore diminish the sense of family that shows like The Simpsons or The Royle Family suggest, shows that we used to subconsciously imitate when we’d slump on soft sofas to stare at them? Not necessarily. In houses now, furniture remains pointed towards a Technicolor glow and eerie quiet, informed by moving pictures, still falls. But in separate rooms, at different times.

We watch TV alone, together. Joined by isolation.

By placing the remote into the hands of anyone who wants it, the television has become a portable pad for perfect viewing, meaning the couch that five yellow cartoons currently try to sit on is in reality, more of a meeting place: to discuss shows, recommend shows and of course…argue about shows.

Because screens will shrink in size, but family never changes.

Jack On The Box: The End

Aaron Paul, the actor who plays Jesse Pinkman on ABC’s remarkable and soon-to-be-ending series Breaking Bad, occasionally tweets whilst on location to inform his thousands of followers about certain moments in the final few episode’s scripts that have him excited. They’re usually paired with a picture of him: with his eyes as blue as the meth he makes.

His giddy messages, as well as an opportunity to show off well-filtered pictures of himself, are part of a perfect storm of anticipation, in which wild rumours and official announcements bleed into each other and make an event such as the ending of a major television series a monumental moment in society.

When Breaking Bad’s final scene fades out though, or more likely, explodes into a million pieces, the optimistic and excitable blather of now as we wait for the end whilst wowing at the beginning and wooping at the middle, will disappear – making way for a grumbling period of disenchantment. ‘That’s not how it should have ended!’ they’ll proclaim, ‘It’s ruined the show for me’ they’ll shitspout.

We’ve been here before. The Sopranos and Seinfeld, two other American TV institutions are widely regarded to have ended with a plop and a whimper, despite having fizzed with unparalled success prior to their final episode. Though ultimately, their underwhelming endings have since been disregarded and judged instead within the context of countless other stunning episodes, the immediate dent that it dealt left unexpected stains on otherwise pure clothes.

The definite ending of a television series is a difficult dance to groove to. It requires a careful and considered conclusion of that series’ main narrative arc whilst also having to stand symbolically for the show as a unified whole, as something which has lasted for five, sometimes even ten, years.

So how should Breaking Bad end? ‘How Vince Gilligan, the creator, wants it to’ claims Bryan Cranston whose twisted and tortured performance as Walter White/Heisenberg has reimagined the potential of character acting on the small screen.

And that’s the best way to end. As it probably means bullets and blood.

Jack On The Box: The Snowman

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When David Bowie crouches, it should be to look into the swirling eyes of a sexy goblin or to pick up the glitter he dropped whilst making intergalactic love to an abstract idea, it shouldn’t be to introduce a tedious tale about snow.

And yet, for me, my first real sighting of Bowie was him doing the latter as he squatted in a messy attic to foreword the widely-considered ‘Christmas classic’ The Snowman. Consequently I took the Thin White Duke to be a Strange Pale Zonk. Nudged and nurtured by my Dad into thinking that this chap was some sort of silver icon, I couldn’t grasp why he’d front such a seasonal sludge of animated gloom.

What follows his now infamous introduction, complete with Mr. Whippy quiff and uncomfortable scarf playing, is an apparently innocent tale of one boy and his snowman friend who travel across the snowy roads and frosty skies of the world being unruly bastards to any living thing they can: violent aviators of Christmas Eve, the Wright Brothers meets The Mitchell Brother’s with added tinsel and terror.   

The story eventually, in the time it would take to build a SnowEmpire, shrinks, ending with a festive (drunk) jig amongst several other vivacious (drunk) snowmen and a hug from a jolly (drunk) Father Christmas and then a sunrise and a death and before you know it, the sketched sadness stops and leaves you grasping at the nothingness of it all and looking around your living room for answers or the remote or a Toffee Penny or a rope.

That’s the unfortunate whirligig of The Snowman; it drags you and tricks you into believing that it might be an engulfing Christmas tale for the ages. It has a child in a dressing gown. It has hand holding. Sometimes people smile. It is cold. There is some falsetto. The snowman is rotund.

But in fact, it’s a loose sleet of forlorn sensibility and a dull dose of poisoned milk; sluggish sentiment pours down your throat before you’ve had the chance to say “But these are quite clearly contemptible characters?”

The boy is an obnoxious posh sneak and the snowman a clueless cross-dressing abductor whose buffoonish ways conspire to end a whilst boring, admittedly burgeoning friendship, when he’s so stupidly sozzled after his SnowPissUp that he bumbles into the countryside’s heat beam instead of dropping of the little Etonian-in-waiting and heading back to continue the chilly rave.

The message then clearly isn’t ‘Think about the Things That Really Matter This Christmas’ it’s ‘Idiots Generally Act Idiotically (Especially When Leathered) So Stay Away, They Will Only Hurt You’ – I’m just surprised David Bowie didn’t realise that.

Unless he was pissed as well.

This article was first published in The Student

Him And Her Review

       

Pitched in a key of normal, Him and Her crawls out of bed for it’s third series on BBC3. Retaining the gorgeous mix of gravitas and grossness that lifts it out of generic expectations and into a different sphere of skewed beauty, it’s an adorable belch of relationship reality and a smart peek through the keyhole of Unambitious Britain.

Picking up where series two left off,  in the squashed squalor of twenty-something unemployed couple Steve and Becky’s flat, this opening double header seeks to set up what the central narrative arc of the series will be.

Steve, played with the dopey charm of a monkey in a bow tie by Russell Tovey has purchased a ring and is ready to ask Becky (Sarah Solemani) to go one step further than co-existing on a diet of crisps and morning sex and marry him.

Once he’s bumbled through the obstacle course of flat invading cranks that is.

Perennial hangers on; Paul (Ricky Champ) now moustached and childishly astounded by his new place of burly solace: ‘the gym’ and his pregnant finance Laura (Kerry Howard) who has a a squawking venom and a blooming kleptomania to accompany her viviparous state provide a serious stumbling block in Steve’s plan to propose, whilst also representing the perfect antithesis to his and Becky’s adorable bond.

They’re snappy, cold and narcissistic with an uncomfortable craving for compliments and alongside the warm, languishing and mainly horizontal relationship of Steve and Becky stand for the reactionary version of modern love that wants a round of applause for a dinner dined without murder and a party thrown for an unplanned pregnancy.

In fact, this sitcom, though it’s grubby aesthetic and penchant for the crude and the not so euphemistic might potentially melt it’s message into base vulgarity is in fact a compressed consideration of 2012’s various branches of L.O.V.E: Steve and Becky’s complete adoration, Paul and Laura’s hopeless trudge of forced civility and permanent pyjama wearer and creepy neighbour Dan’s (Joe Wilkinson) blossoming romp of dainty naivete with his timid beloved Shelley (Camille Coduri)

Crucially, each branch is trodden on by the other as a spike of minimalist farce threads through the fabric of Becky and Steve’s life; with spontaneous picnics, uninvited half-brothers and clumsy plasterers all colluding to stop the joyous squints of sarcasm and hallway hugging that they share when they’re alone.

This is a shame, because it’s in these moments of quiet mundanity that Him And Her is most impressive, it’s in the silence of idle romance that the slick script of delicious wit can take a momentary back-seat and let the universality of the show’s sentiment do the talking.

A sentiment that rests, ultimately, on love.

And blowjob gags. And pizza. And vomit.

This review was first published in The Student

Jack On The Box: R.I.P Ceefax

One of my most vivid childhood memories is that of me trudging down carpeted stairs to find my Mother crying, in a fluffy dressing gown, in front of the television. There she was, my co-creator, wobbling lips and puffy eyes, staring at a black screen with yellow writing that was crudely screaming “Princess Diana Dies in Paris Car Crash” – whimpering at a box that was screening Royal misery into our tiny front room.

Previously, my relationship with the black screen with yellow writing was one of quiet voyeurism, sneakily peeking over my Granddad’s shoulder and pretending to understand the horse racing results that he so delighted in. I never expected people to cry over it. Not even if a horse bumbled home last. It was just, after all, a black screen with yellow writing.

I was a precocious 6 year old, relatively ambivalent about the death of anyone, never mind a stranger and so what stuck with me was not necessarily where I was when Princess Diana died,  but rather where I was when I saw my Mum cry over something that wasn’t a family christening.

Ceefax had made her cry. Before she’d flip to news reporters wiping away tears and celebrities mourning in their morning-wear, she felt it necessarily to consult the black screen with yellow writing – the quick, clear expression of rolling daily news.

As of last week, Ceefax ceased to exist. Increasingly a clumsy antique, squashed by red buttons and Twitter and the internet and 24-hour news channels, Ceefax slowly became an accidental option: the page that appeared when you sat on your remote or when your Sky wasn’t working and you were too lazy to get up and fix the thing.

In a digital age, Ceefax sucked. We demand, we crave, we urge and we hurry. We don’t want to search or follow an index, we want it crystallised and talking. We want it from the mouth of a handsome reporter, assisted with Technicolour graphics, not on a black screen with yellow writing.

As the world has got more miserable, the reportage has got glossier. Compensating for the horror of a dark decade of international idiocy, our media melts grisly facts into colourful packages; our news channels now house hoards of grinning blondes, laminate faces and gaudy, distracting pie-charts.

If Sky News makes you cry, it’s not because of the simplicity of its morbid message but the maddening display of phoney humanity.

Ceefax was the faceless truth: night black and lightning yellow, a bolt of alphabet veracity that refused to manipulate or masquerade. It couldn’t fake emotion. It couldn’t bend agendas.

But with honest font, it could make children hug their Mothers, and remember it forever.

R.I.P.

This article was first published in The Student

Taking back the beautiful game.

                    

Lights flicker and the evening falls on a blustery Saturday evening. It’s 4:54 pm and the football watching masses collectively snap their chairs back, clap or groan and shuffle from sore-arse to stamped-on feet. A hundred herds of bobbing heads bustle out of turnstiles and into the heavy smog of kneejerk punditry and burger van fumes: dedicated disciples of a weird creed that teaches ecstasy and agony on alternate weekends.

Burly bastards in Adidas Samba 5’s shout prices and sling out sheets of paper to the coffee-warmed palms of these fans who, streaming out of stadiums, into taxis and onto Twitter are already venting frustration or grinning buffoonish :D’s at their respective team’s result.

As they fumble their pamphlets into jeans or make them double up as makeshift face wipes for a tricky drip of tomato sauce, this blooming breed of fanzine-buying, actively engaged supporters will later read their newly purchased ramshackle leaflets of terrace journalism. Thereafter, they will proceed to tell their friends that there are people thinking what they’re thinking and that the expression of their collective disgruntlement or shared delight is to be found in glorious A3.

The football fanzine is back. To recapture the lost spirit of the game.

*****************************************************************************

Tracing the history of the football fanzine is a difficult task. Embedded in their creation is a philosophy of D.I.Y; of glue and staples and often, anonymity.

It is not unreasonable though to imagine sheets of witty vitriol against a clubs manager or ownership being spread around packed stadiums in the 60’s or circulated in the alehouses of the 70’s: when punk spawned a generation of liberated snark.

Through the 80’s and 90’s, they became a vital outlet of humour and anger as the game descended into a calamitous relationship with money and television and saw club’s owners sacrifice history for cash and cash for history.

These shabby spreads of paper provided a bold voice for a concerned majority and became memoirs of an age.

Poignant in times of tragedy and impassioned, funny and inventive every weekend, writing for them mattered. It mattered because you were penning a fight for a sport that had become an industry and for teams who were now businesses.

And then, into the new millennium, fanzines quietly slip into obscurity as the inevitability of the Modern Football mopes into reality: fan culture is squashed and edged out to die on message boards. Billionaires swing open the doors of boardrooms across the country and Sky Sports becomes the undisputed King and Court and Clown and Cunt of the game. That Bruce Hornsby 1986 classic sounds: “THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS” and the jingling piano’s a cruel refrain and the lyrics ring too true. “Things will never be the same”

Modern football was a monster with no slayers in sight.

**************************************************************************

Until now.

In the first issue of exciting new fanzine STAND: Against Modern Football co-editors Seb White, Daniel Sandison and Mark Smith set out their aim to “bring together football fans and provide them with unified voice, a pooling of resources, and a tangible product to rest their beer on in the pub.”

Featuring articles from fans of clubs up and down the country and across Europe, it documents the transforming face of football and seeks, as fanzines did in the past, to advocate change. Namely, to stop the games obsession with rampant commercialisation and highlight “the blatant disregard for the fans who formed the traditions that made it so great.”

By creating a product that can be pulled out of a pocket and flicked over with friends, STAND and its disciples, in the shape of redesigned, reimagined fanzines, offers a physical example of the sports current guise.

Fanzines provide dog-eared evidence of drama and decay in a way that Tweeting cannot and the hope is that this form of retro journalism will bridge the ever-widening gap between fans and club.

That from the success of STAND, a new ensemble of writers, illustrators and photographers will emerge from the doldrums of inactivity and in doing so will make football a fans sport again, finally changing the record from “The Way It Is” to another 1986 classic, Queen’s “A Kind Of Magic”

“One dream. One soul. One vision. One goal.”

To take back the game: one sentence at a time.

Jack On The Box.

We live in a hash tag world. #####. Little gates of changing meaning: once meant number, now means hash tag. Once a signifier, now an attention seeking siren.

Every television show has a dedicated Twitter hash tag; from #Modern Family, and #EastEnders to #SharkWeek and #Sexcetera.

Don’t be surprised if you see this in the coming weeks:

#TheJimmySavileCorpseDigUpLive

They provide a handy way into cyber-chat. The internet’s equivalent of a primary school teacher passing a tennis ball around to instigate conversation.

Consequently, they’ve made television watching a peculiar competition.

On Twitter, everyone’s wants to be involved in the discussion. Hash tags are the invitation to the party. It’s a democratic medium, a representative shindig. But as with all parties and indeed, democracies, there are a few garish cranks cavorting in amongst the hubbub, desperate to be a deity, destined to be a dickhead.

It’s a battle to be the boldest and anyone who’s sat with their phone in hand scrolling down the azure madness that is Twitter on Eurovision Night, Take Me Out Saturday or any opening ceremony (basically something with guaranteed wacky shooting out of its tele-tits) will testify that EVERYONE wants to get involved: boy, girl, man, woman, parody and celebrity. The Tweet Family Robinson.

At least that’s the impression you get from the blur of @’s and #’s and RT’s, however a recent piece of analysis has shown that certain shows will attract certain types of people more than others and that even though both men and women are more than welcome to Tweet throughout a spot of TV-viewing merriment, they often feel edged out and so take a vol-au-vant and scarper to watch something more ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine.’

The company behind the analysis are Second Sync: a technology start-up focused on social analytics for TV. They measure the amount of Tweets per show and determine an accurate gender percentage.

Their findings confirm that the sausage-fest of soccer and stripy shirts Match of the Day is mainly for men’s amusement and that The Great British Bake Off chiefly gets females fawning over frosted cupcakes and pretty aprons.

More interesting findings include the revelation that Nigellissima gets slightly more men tweeting than women (I can think of two good reasons) and Never Mind the Buzzcocks sees more women (well, probably horny Boosh-girls) taking to their keyboard.

By analysing the nations Tweeting habits, Second Sync shines a light on a) our insatiable need to show off our condensed opinions b) our very British, orderly and conservative nature of neatly lining up into male and female.

BOYS LIKE FOOTBALL. GIRLS LIKE CAKES.

Proving that no matter how inclusive or hip Twitter is, we’re just glorified Neanderthals with iPhones, really.

Jack On The Box: The Emmys

                                                           

The Emmys, the sycophantic schmooze fest that celebrates the bounty of brilliance that is contemporary television, rolled in to Los Angeles last week. It left behind a trail of hired tuxedos and lavish gowns, all clasping and clawing at the award ceremony’s prestigious coattails: either to fawn in thanks or to fume in confusion.

While the victors will now be sleeping next to their pretty statues and burping up champagne, those who missed out will be reading out their planned acceptance speeches to a confused bellboy in a hotel room full of Chicken Chow Mein and melancholy. 

These people can consider themselves mightily unlucky: born into a time where bastard advertisers, drug dealing teachers, fictional Kings and prisoners of war are all staking significant claims as the absolute apex, their success should not necessarily be based on trophies.

John Hamm can take solace in the fact that he’s cooler than you, Breaking Bad in the knowledge that it’s redefined the TV thriller and Amy Poehler, still after her first major award win is probably alright with being the least decorated but most adored darling of American comedy.

That is to say that the modern TV awards ceremony is no longer the monumental measurement of a shows success. Individual praise, mantel piece beautification and Ryan Seacrest staring at D-cups are an endearing sideshow to the real thing but when astonishing shows like Girls and Sherlock are missing from a roll call of Emmy winners, it’s clear that a gong is more of a pretty cherry than a fluffy, buttery splodge of sponge cake.

I know which one I’d rather eat.

A stimulating stream of wild scripts and the pursuit of the bizarre and the meaningful through ingenious concepts have put TV in a position of prancing glee. It has not been a process of gentle calibration. It’s been a whizzing wind of invention and it should be celebrated.

But perhaps the tedium of slow-clapping, God-thanking déjà vu is not an appropriate way to crown these artists. It seems like sad sacrilege to still shake hands and wait for waterworks when the room is full of beam-box mavericks and sage saviours of the small screen.

I propose that next year, as a way of mirroring the blazing talent that television produces, the Emmy’s again invites the great & the good to a posh hall in Hollywood.

But instead of giving out individual awards and leaving ego’s bruised and Chinese food orders up, they place a gigantic replica of the golden statue in the middle of the room and let everyone hug, kiss and hump the thing at their hearts content.

Except for anyone involved in the production of Two and a Half Men, obviously.

This article was first published in The Student.

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Words by Jack Murray

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