It’s not over til the fat lady sings…

“It’s the day when no-one must flinch”

  1. James Naughtie

    In my waking consciousness yesterday I heard James Naughtie talking to Carter Wren, Republican consultant on Radio 4s Today Programme:

    “This is a story about Obama”…”The otherness of Obama, not just a matter of colour”…”this man has made history just by him participating in the election”, “…this man has generated such thunder, certainly… it has made so many Americans think”

    What leapt out at me was Carter Wrens comment in response to James Naughties question “it is often said in this country [America] the generation of under 35 of white americans are largely colour blind, do you think that’s true?”

    “Nah. Race like original sin, it’s just with us and when we start telling ourselves we’ve cured it, or gotten beyond it or healed it, it’s probably an illusion.”

    “When I look at John McCain, I understand John McCain, I understand his background, I identify with him. When someone my age [53] looks at Barack Obama, whether we like him or not, and I found a lot to like but I don’t understand his story. I don’t understand his background so there’s a natural tendency for me to vote for the man I’m more comfortable with. I think that’s how race plays into this”. Carter Wren

    then later, again on Obama – “he suits the moment, his articulateness, his unflappability”.

    and finally JN notes how for Ray Nelson of Florida that ‘this is the break with the past that he thought might never come’.

    I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, history for most people has already been made. Will America welcome in Barack Obama as the new President of the United States? I can’t pretend it doesn’t matter to me, because it does. The ripples from across ‘the atlantic pond’ will effect us little ‘ole UK islanders as profoundly as the result of the US presidential elections will effect Americans. So here I am, listening out for the Fat Lady to see if I recognise the song because it’s time for change.


A cheap joke too far?

I have been trying, very hard (honest) NOT to write about the recent Ross/Brand BBC2 Radio furore but i just can’t help it. I didn’t hear their programme but what a lot of complaints they generated (18,000+). From Biggleswade to Nottingham there have been calls to suspend the pair of unruly presenters. It doesn’t really matter whether Grandfather and veteran comedy actor Andrew Sachs did or didn’t hear the alleged “rude, imflamatory, insulting, degrading” etc., etc. messages on his ansa phone as suggested on breakfast radio this morning, it wasn’t particularly clever for Ross the older, wiser more experienced professional to encourage this typical Brand ‘schoolboy behaviour’ thereby endorsing such “negative social behaviour ” (Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary). It is very interesting that radio executives decided to let the gimmick be aired some days later. Did they think it was acceptable entertainment to breach someones privacy in such a way or did they expect it to upset people and was it a way of letting Ross know that he’s getting a bit above himself these days?

It seems you can’t pick up a paper or turn the radio on for presenters and journalists debating the point – how did such a tasteless stunt get to be aired on the publicly funded mainstream radio channel BBC2 ? Is it tastless or was it funny? I don’t doubt some people found it funny but for my money Ross is decidedly off-form these days and has resorted to very low humour indeed. I imagine that he partly justifies his reputed 6million fee from the BBC by being something of an icon and commanding a considerable amount of followers/fans. I used to like him and he used to make me laugh but nowadays if I even tune in, I tend to switch off before the end of his regular TV slot “Friday Night Live with…”. Who’s changed, him or me? I find there’s very little insight to his interviews and far too much ego, he consistently leers at his female guests and reminds me far less of a professional presenter and more of a lecherous old man. I have started to find that behaviour offensive. Perhaps he needs extra support from his employers, some counselling or re-training, maybe he should have coaching sessions from Michael Parkinson?

Has the BBC lost sight of it’s audience and what they want? Does it really know who’s out there listening and watching? Do those tick box audience response forms really allow for peoples tastes and preferences to show through or or we just too adept as a society at ticking boxes for the sake of ticking boxes?

If we want to start seeing some accountability from our public services perhaps we should start turning off, switching over and perhaps we should complain more. In times of uncertainty, impending gloom and bust, it might be better if we start saying no rather than letting things pass, being pro-active not passive. So well done all those people who took the time and energy to complain – finally you’re getting your money’s worth from your licence fee.

I heard someone suggest on the radio this morning that they doubted whether half the people who complained had actually heard the programme – so? The point is about the quality of provision from our Public Broadcasters – harrassing people via their answerphone certainly isn’t new but all parties have to accept the  premise and be happy for it to be broadcast, otherwise it’s a step away from deliberate bullying and cruelty and yes, it is of public concern that this should be deemed acceptable behaviour. Re-assure us BBC that you know who we are and what we want (what we really, really want).

Pushing Buttons

“Push the button” the man said. Mitchell glared at the keypad in front of him and wished he’d stayed indoors this evening. “Push the button” the man repeated, slowly leaning in towards Mitchell. Mitchells hand trembled towards the pad, his mind wasn’t working so well but it was only money. If he lived he would be grateful, right now he would be very grateful, the man was mean and stank, whatever he had in his pocket, it gave him power. Mitchell thought about pizza as he touched the keypad, then he thought about how weird this was, him alone on the street with this man menacing him, then he prayed, ‘please let it just be about money’. He pushed the button, hard, so the man was in no doubt. Silence. Was this it? The man flicked his fingers in his face, snapping them on his palm “Damn” Mitchell strained to keep from reacting, his stomach clenching, tension coiling inside. Nothing. “Push the button”. Mitchell tried again, stabbing, three times, pantomime style. A car passed by, it’s head lights etching the mans face, fighting the urge to scream Mitchell shrugged. “Damn” the man snapped his fingers again and flung his fist at the screen, hard. Must have hurt thought Mitchell, ashamed that he had flinched at the impact. “I tried it four times, guess it’s broke”. Mitchell was swimming through panic but not yet drowning, he nodded jerkily. “I tried it, you tried. Damn”. The man lurched past Mitchell with one final “Damn” swiftly fading into the murky shadows where the betting shop awning flapped in the wind. Pizza popped into Mitchells head again as the scent of garlic was blown past.

Mitchell couldn’t move, didn’t want to. He felt guilty about an episode at work today. He felt scared. He felt an urge to cry with relief. He was feeling bad that he had been hard on the girl from finance sharing the lift to the ground floor today. She had poured her heart out and not only did he barely listen, what was it he had said? Someone stepped into the light cast by the bus stop’s digital timetable. Mitchell froze, was it him again? No. Someone waiting for a bus. What must he look like, Mitchell wondered, stood here like a criminal, or a mad man? What had he said? Mitchell laughed but it sounded wrong and the man at the bus stop pulled his collar up around his neck protectively. Of course, what else would he have said, he was anxious to get out of the building and the doors had a habit of sticking on the ‘slow lift’ . What else would he say, she was nearest to the panel, sniffing into a hanky as if that might buy her sympathy, she had bent his ear all the way from floor 17 to floor 4, when irritatingly the lift had stopped and the doors had opened but no-one was there. “Push the button” he had said with all the sensitivity and understanding of an idiot. It had been a slow but quiet ride down to the ground floor, she’d gotten the message.
Stories on the side © Juliet Brain, Artsmonkey, October 2008

Blog link: Imustbedreaming : Quickie: “I’m going to be very, very disappointed if we end up electing a man who can’t figure out which button to push. Since he’ll be the one who’ll have the authority to, you know, PUSH THE BUTTON.”

Hard Times

A life – monkeying around the arts and theatre prepares you well for hard times. Having never earnt enough to salt it all away in an Icelandic bank account and having worked several jobs at once to pay the mortgage countless times in the past, I should be suitably qualified to weather out this economic downturn but it is with heavy heart I roll up my sleeves to hunker down once again to ‘what ever comes my way’ and re-visit my skills bank in order to ensure I’m where the market is. Just when I was beginning to enjoy myself and entertaining creative ideas and formalising plans for film+story+choir+beach+acoustic music / bands + partnerships with good people + x =regeneration project with big budget and community involvement plus artistic satisfaction and soul food, I’m now faced with a new equation  i.e. creative plans= big risk.

Over the next few years, whatever the economic outcomes, the Arts should flourish as many artists relish the challenge of ‘against all odds’ and there’s nothing like looming poverty as a creative stimulus plus we often look to culture for comfort when the chips are down and become more ‘creative’ in our lives as our ‘survival instinct’ kicks in and we must subvert, re-invent and re-define our lives in order to outwit the ‘recession’. It is often the arts that becomes the many voices, both subversive and established that reflect the suffering of the masses in hard times.

“It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will do; but not all the calculators of the National debt can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred, for patriotism or discontent, for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of one of these quiet servants, with the composed faces and the regulated actions.”  Dickens, Hard times.

In the UK we are looking forward to the Olympics, unusual and strange alliances are being formed as Art organisations and individuals look to discover how to access a piece of the governments financial ‘2012 pie’. At ground level this happens all the time and people are used to seeing the ‘goal posts change’ or at the ‘nth’ hour facing the risk of having funding pulled or cut, or local politics interfering with artistic integrity and having to cast around for new alliances to underpin the project and save the day. We’ve come to be very adaptable and hard times or good times, we continually cast about for emerging trends, new opportunities, new ‘friends’ to keep ahead or at least abreast of the game

“Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
A breath can make them, as a breath has made”

These are challenging times; some will fall but live to rise another day, some will breeze through on a wave of determination, vision, faith and good partnerships, others will simply fade away weary of the struggle.

“But there are higher secrets of culture, which are not for the apprentices, but for proficients. These are lessons only for the brave. We must know our friends under ugly masks. The calamities are our friends.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Actually I’m not sure I agree with Ralph but the quote conjures up some interesting pictures, either way times are hard and we’re all looking to get through them and hoping it won’t be long and that creativity will see us through (creativity, good humour, positivity, common sense… etc, etc.) and that’s where social media comes into it’s own – hurrah for facebook, mento, netvibes, google, stumble upon, word press, et al.


Artsmonkey logo

Fiddled with html, downloads and css plus a heap of other geeky things today but soothed the irritation away with some interesting visits to the Jackson Pollock site by Miltos Manetos, spent my break watching Blu’s MUTO video, a wall painted animation published under a creative commons license and had a quick peek at today’s ‘Someone Once Told Me‘ photo – if I had the time I’d submit my own but the wonderful world of web publishing is eating through my space-time-continuum hyperdrive and the world is spinning at double speed and I’m still trying to get my head around the guardian article by Maddy Costa on women in the arts failing to take the top jobs – thinking outside the box – are we just too nice, or too busy?