Monday, March 19, 2007

Eurovision and politics

Just to clarify and expand on what I wrote yesterday, in case it seemed inadvertently trite or naive. Some (or even lots!) of people may think the Eurovision Song Contest is a load of crap not worth taking any notice of, or barely register its existence. It does, however, occasionally become embroiled in international political issues or reflect a national mood in its voting patterns or performances.

For example, the 1969 contest, when Austria refused to enter a contestant in protest against the competition being held in Spain, under Franco's dictatorship.

Or the recurrent problems reflecting political conflict in the middle east... In 1978, during the performance of the Israeli entry, Jordanian TV suspended the broadcast and showed pictures of flowers (!) instead, later announcing the winner as Belgium (who came second), rather than acknowledging that Israel had won.

Or the current entry from Israel, 'Push the Button', controversially singing about 'demonic' and 'crazy rulers', in their allegedly well-supported musical response to Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Islamic republic's president's apparent call for an end to the state of Israel.
(BBC Online)

So when the UK got zero points in 2003, it was widely regarded over here as an international protest against 'Britain's decision' to go to war in Iraq, regardless of whether it was a crap song or not.

Against this seething background of political turbulence and Euro-pop, this year's rather camp UK entry by Scooch, masterfully incorporating the British flag into an airline-themed song and choreography, seemed a refreshingly kitsch spectacle. I'd rather the UK was represented by a camp pop song apparently not taking the the whole thing too seriously, as it seems infinitely preferable to a jingoistic, ego-fuelled attempt at global domination via dodgy music and beyond. I know pop music (good or bad) and the Eurovision Song Contest is absolutely no solution to the world's problems, but I'm afraid it is inextricably linked. And a very strange visual and aural experience too, if you've got nothing better to do.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Trolley-dolly pop represents UK at Eurovision

An ultra-camp pop song has been selected by the public to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Scooch (who I'd never heard of before) sounded like a camped-up version of Steps or S Club 7, with a catchy airline themed song 'Flying The Flag (For You)' complete with air hostess uniforms and actual trollies incorporated into the choreography- literally trolley dollies.* Excellent mix of pop and kitsch, perfectly in the spirit of Eurovision and by far the best of the UK acts in the running.

No point in treating Eurovision like a 'normal' musical competition, though I get the feeling many of the other countries take it very seriously indeed... fascinating given the totally surreal and aurally challenging entries frequently offered. Our other contenders took themselves far too seriously... there's no point- since when was the competition about music alone?? It's not the Brit Awards. Justin Hawkins (from The Darkness) walked off when he heard he'd been voted out by the viewers, despite being the bookies favourite.

I liked the way Scooch incorporated the British flag into their routine too... camping up the Union Jack is good in this case. Maybe a really kitsch, perky pop performance could undo some of the damage done a few years ago, when everyone in Europe hated us for going to war in Iraq and gave us the infamous 'nil points'.

* For those who don't know, trolley dolly is a term affectionately used for Flight Attendants (male and female) in the airline industry. It's not derogatory as far as I know, but apologies if it is. I'm assuming it wouldn't have got onto the BBC if it was considered politically incorrect, but then it's hard to keep up with pedantic changes in colloquial language use these days.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rebel with a cause

I thought I might have been hallucinating the other day, speculating about rebel police bloggers conducting their own form of protest anonymously across the internet. I've marked too many essays and completed too many Unit Assessment Forms on too little sleep to think very clearly.

But it seems I was right... Inspector Gadget's latest post, 'What you read will shock you', promises to post some information into the public domain soon that will make everyone that reads it change their opinions about our Criminal Justice system for ever.

In his words, "I want this to become an urban legend. I want everyone in the country to read this. I want to create a storm even if it costs me personally."

There seems something quite significant about this, though I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's because police aren't meant to be 'politically active' because of the nature of their job (correct me if I'm wrong obviously). So if your job prevents you (for perfectly legitimate reasons) from voicing any sort of overt opposition or protest, what do you do if something comes along which you feel really should be in the public domain? Do what Inspector Gadget is doing and post it on the internet before you get officially stopped, I guess... I wonder where it could all lead.

On a different but vaguely related note, as it's about covert activities, I must go to see the Science of Spying exhibition at the Science Museum. Saw a picture of a strange robotic leg for spies a while back, not very James Bond, but interesting (above). One of the students wanted to do an essay on prosthetics which I know absolutely nothing about, so I feel obliged to investigate.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The power of the blog?

One of the most popular UK police bloggers, Inspector Gadget, has prompted an article in a national newspaper. He highlighted a case a while back where a young off-duty officer was beaten into a vegetative state by a couple of teenage thugs. A year on from the attack, the officer is unlikely to ever recover, having effectively lost any normal semblance of life, while the custodial sentences of the two offenders was reduced considerably on appeal. Inspector Gadget's original post created a huge debate, almost 200 comments to date, of incredibly varying views. It was also highlighted and linked to by various other police bloggers.

As Inspector Gadget points out, police blogs are usually banned. Ones that exist often disappear or end up in the 'police blogger's graveyard', but all have to remain anonymous. It's really interesting that one police blogger has managed to start a debate and prompt wider coverage of an issue in the national media. I'm wondering how far rebel police bloggers (for want of a better phrase!!) could theoretically take an issue... it starts with a single blog post, then national press coverage... public outrage... where next? Very interesting to see how far a snowball effect could lead, as it completely bypasses both official police communication channels and established political routes for instigating change.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I don't think about it usually, because there's no point and I'd turn into a right miserable b*stard, but sometimes I really wish I didn't have life-threatening allergies... It would be nice to be able to do what everyone else does without having to plan ahead. I hate having to tell people I can't do something because of possible anaphylactic shock. I always feel that no-one really believes me and I just sound like a mad hypochondriac with too much time on my hands, dreaming up weird excuses for not doing stuff... life-threatening food allergies seem tainted by associations with fussy eaters.

A friend (believe it or not) lumped me into the same category as other people she knew with 'problematic relationships with food', eg anorexics, bulimics and picky eaters. It really annoyed me at the time, as with the best will in the world, I don't have any control over a useless little antibody in my system that makes me swell up, stop breathing and lose consciousness when I accidentally ingest something dodgy.

Sorry if I sound a bit miserable... I'm usually fine. There's no point in telling real people (as opposed to virtual ones reading this) as there's nothing anyone can do, and anyway I forget about it again quite quickly. No point in upsetting other people as well, it's a bit too selfish/self-indulgent. Apparently I 'manage' it very well, as I have normal health, do most things I want to with my life and I'm not dead yet, am I! But sometimes, like today, I really, really wish I was normal.

Anyway, enough of the moaning and self-pity, the listening ear of the ever-patient blog has fulfilled its purpose... Time for dinner, I think. Then finish off the marking.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Not a gorehound... sigh...

More dissertations marked (whoopee!!!). One was by a fashion student who did my course a few years ago, still interested in people's apparent fascination with dead bodies. Good research idea, interviewing various ' death-care industry' people about their jobs. She found out along the way about the strange reactions one gets doing research on certain subjects... as she noted, people who work in that line of business think you're weird for being interested, though they do it.... so does that mean they're weird too?? And people not in that line of work also think think you're a bit of a pervy gorehound, so you can't win. As she pointed out, when is it ok to be interested in death, given that it happens to everyone?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Derek Jarman in EastEnders!

Couldn't believe my eyes yesterday... and it wasn't just from overwork!! I was half eating my dinner and half watching TV (soap drama EastEnders) while allegedly marking student essays... yes, I know, it's multi-tasking at it's worst but I still do it... then I realised the scene I was watching was set in Derek Jarman's garden at Dungeness.

So why is that so weird, for those who don't know Jarman's work or watch EastEnders?

Derek Jarman died in 1994 from AIDS related illnesses, a gay film maker whose work, though very influential, was avant-garde rather than Hollywood top-of-the-box-office material. He spent years when he was diagnosed as HIV positive, in the late 1980s, creating a garden at a cottage on the Kent coast at Dungeness, near the nuclear power stations. The bleak setting influenced the nature of the garden, making use of plants that grew in those conditions, but also materials such as shells, driftwood and stones found in that area.

EastEnders is an early evening soap drama, one of the two most popular on UK TV, set amongst so-called ordinary working-class folk in a fictional part of East London. It's fairly populist and broad in it's storylines rather than avant-garde, presumably to relate to it's general target audience and pull in the viewers.

This particular episode featured one of the characters (Phil Daniels/Kevin Wicks) a month after he'd run away from London to think about life and stuff. He was standing around in the Jarman garden, berating someone else he'd just met and telling them to have a bit of respect for the lump of driftwood they'd been waving around like a light sabre, as it belonged to Derek Jarman, a film maker who made the garden when he knew he was dying. It just seemed a bit... incongruous... someone in EastEnders mentioning Jarman and claiming to 'like films'.

I'd love to know how many EastEnders viewers knew what the hell he was talking about, or thought garden?? What garden... it's just a load of old shingle... it's not the typical English Country Garden type of thing. Or how many viewers had even heard of Derek Jarman, but maybe I'm underestimating the general populous! Or maybe not, thinking about the soapstar magazines in the supermarkets...

I appreciated The Clash's London Calling playing quietly on the pub jukebox in the same scene, a nice bit of original punk! Though Joe Strummer's dead too, of course... hhmm, lots of death and memory in that episode. I wonder whether the scriptwriters were just having a bit of fun, working obscure, personally meaningful references into an episode, even though it didn't really matter to the overall storyline if the viewer noticed them or not. I'm glad they do these things though, it's much more interesting!