While British MP Tom Watson was discussing recent developments in “Hackergate” on Channel 4 News today, a strange, unidentified object sped through the back of frame, over the Houses of Parliament. Though best known for their hard hitting, intelligent journalism rather than any extraterrestrial frivolity, Channel 4 News still wondered if they had accidentally captured a UFO on tape? Or, perhaps the Murdochs leaving the country? What do you think?
Fuck me but pop music hasn’t changed much in 20 years. Headlining this year’s UK festivals is the very best of what the 1990s had to offer, Radiohead, Primal Scream, Pulp, The Prodigy, The Charlatan, and even, er, U2. Okay, the Gallagher brothers are unlikely to kiss-and-make-up, but there are still rumors about a Blur reunion, which means we can party like it’s 1995.
The very thought could make a fan weak-eyed and teary-kneed for the glorious UK music mag Select, which faithfully documented the very best of music during the decade.
Select‘s dedication to Brit Pop was only part of its appeal, for what made the magazine delightful, fun and certainly essential, was the quality of its writers who penned columns, interviews and reviews in its silky pages.
Now these names read like a Who’s Who of TV and pop culture, from the darkly handsome genius of Graham Linehan, through the grumbling brilliance of wit and wisdom from David Quantick, to the ever-smiling J. B.Priestly of pop, Stuart Maconie, and let’s not forget Miranda Sawyer, Alexis Petridis, Andrew Collins, Sarra Manning, and Caitlin Moran.
To jump start the memories, some kindly soul has scanned a damn fine selection of covers and some lovely features from Select magazine “to give random flashbacks to the 90s music scene.” How cool is that? Answers on a postcard, please.
It was a splatter of foam pie rather than any humble pie that Rupert Murdoch received today. It added a surreal touch to an odd day for the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Hearing, where Rupert Murdoch at first came across as a seemingly frail Wizard of Oz. It was only his hand slamming the table in front of him that gave any hint this is a man used to getting his own way; a man who is rarely questioned, let alone cross examined by a round table of MPs, who were, let’s be fair, rather ineffectual.
Rupert was humbly evasive, while is son, James easily deflected questions, though he did admit the rather shocking news News International has been (and may still be) paying the legal fees of the phone hacking journalist Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire.
Then came the pie master, an alleged comedian called Johnnie Marbles, who may have delivered a better hit than any member of the Select Committee, but in doing so took away from the serious intent of the proceedings.
This little clip of a puppet Rupert Murdoch, having an editorial with his vulturous editors, is almost as fresh today as it was twenty-five years ago, when it first aired on the satirical sketch show Spitting Image.
Is it a surprise that twenty-five years ago Murdoch was seen as a ghastly, untrustworthy, muck-raking shit?
How could anyone have forgotten?
The fact that so many did, and the fact that Murdoch became so very, very powerful over those twenty-five years, fully underlines the extent to the unhealthy and undemocratic relationship maintained by past governments with the media tycoon.
Apparently, in Estonia the average person spends 3 to 4 hours a day watching television. A fact which photographer Andris Feldmanis has used for the basis for his latest project TV Portraits.
Feldmanis’s idea is quite simple but highly effective, as he has reversed the point of view (a bit like My Game Face or a photographic version of The Royle Family), creating portraits of people “posing for their television sets.”
“It is not a critique of mass media and its influence, it is a document of what the TV sees.”
In 2002, 13-year-old Milly Dowler disappeared. In the hours that followed, her family left desperate messages on Milly’s cell phone begging her to get in touch. There was no response, and the family’s messages soon filled Milly’s voice mail.
Then something strange happened - the messages were deleted. This gave the family hope that Milly was still alive.
But the truth was: Milly hadn’t deleted the messages. She was dead, murdered by Levi Bellfield.
It now turns out that it was a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, employed by Rupert Murdoch’s paper the News of the World, who had allegedly hacked into the ‘phone and deleted the messages. As the Guardian reported on Monday:
Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl’s own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word.
News International’s Chief Executive, Rebekah Brooks was the paper’s editor at the time. In an email to staff Brooks claimed she was “appalled and shocked” by the allegations, and thought it “inconceivable that [she] knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.”
Of course, this is what Brooks has to say, until there is evidence to the contrary.
Even if that evidence is forthcoming, it is unlikely that Brooks would have sanctioned such actions on her own, which opens up the whole of Rupert Murdoch’s News International for very serious and critical examination.
“...pursue this in the most vigorous way that they can in order to get to the truth of what happened.
“I think that is the absolute priority as a police investigation.”
Which may bring interesting results, as another former editor of the News of the World tainted with phone-hacking allegations is Andy Coulson, who was appointed by Cameron as his Director of Communications - a position Coulson eventually quit because coverage of the phone-hacking affair.
1. Boycott the paper. Treat it just as the people of Merseyside did when The Sun ran its infamous Hillsborough story in 1989 following the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.
2. Pressure advertisers and media buyers not to buy space in the News of the World and to withdraw ads they’ve already booked.
3. Back the call for an independent public inquiry into the whole hacking affair. It will be officially launched tomorrow at a meeting in the Lords.
4. Demand to know who has been, and is, paying the legal expenses of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed for intercepting voicemail messages on behalf of the News of the World.
5. Ask the PCC if it has inquired of News Int whether it, or any of its associated companies, has been responsible for paying the legal fees of a convicted man? If it has not, why not? And is it therefore time that it did so?
Crucially, the ‘phone hacking allegations come just as Murdoch has succeeded in gaining regulatory permission for a 100% takeover bid for the British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), the UK’s largest pay-TV broadcaster, with over 10 million subscribers.
avaaz.org are currently organizing a campaign to stop Murdoch’s media take-over:
We have just three days to flood the government’s public consultation with requests to stop the deal.
We’ve done it before—in the last consultation Hunt said our avalanche of 40,000 messages delayed the deal as his officials had to read each email carefully, fearing a legal challenge. But the government is pushing the deal through despite the hacking scandal of murdered Milly Dowler—the latest grim episode that shows how Murdoch’s media tramples standards and ignores ethics.
Murdoch already controls more of our media than is legal in many countries – and is notorious for using his power to skew our politics. The official consultation ends this Friday—let’s tell the government we don’t want his media empire to control our largest commercial broadcaster. Send a message now—using your own words to make it stand out—calling on Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron to refuse Murdoch’s BSkyB deal until there’s a full Competition Commission review and a full public inquiry into phone hacking.
For its access to interviewees and the archive alone this should have been a better documentary, but its proposition, the Final 24 hours of Hunter S Thompson’s life, stops it from being excellent. It’s too morbidly obsessed with why the great good man killed himself (just count how many times we’re told HST was in “constant pain”), his addictions, his operations and the method by which he died. All fine and dandy for Forensics 101, but Thompson deserves better.
The problem stems from TV commissioners, who don’t trust their audiences to sit through a straight documentary on Hunter S Thompson (or Jim Morrison, John Belushi or any of the other talents who’ve been included in the Final 24 series) without having a gimmick, a hook to keep them watching during the adverts. Most of the time these gimmicks just get in the way of what is usually a fascinating, full and inspiring life.
Okay enough from me, here’s the blurb from Biography:
He was an author trapped in the body of a rock star. His drug-fuelled adventures were legendary and became the basis of one of the classics of 20th century literature. Thompson’s constant questioning of authority and wild antics made him a hero for a generation of rebels across the globe. But in the end it wasn’t enough. A lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse was taking their toll and at 67, with a broken leg, two hip operations and in chronic pain Thompson could no longer live up to the legend he’d created. On February 20, 2005, he decided to end it all with one of his favorite possessions, a Smith and Wesson 45. We chart the life of this troubled genius and uncover why a bullet to the head was the only way out.
His first assignment for Esquire was to interview Frank Sinatra - no easy task, as Old Blue Eyes had knocked back such requests from the magazine over several years. But Gay Talese wasn’t so quickly put off. He spent 3 months following Sinatra and his entourage, racking up $5,000 in expenses. Not common then and unthinkable now in these days of Google and Wikipedia.
The result of Talese’s hard work was “Frank Sinatra has a cold”, possibly the best profile written on the singer and certainly one of the greatest pieces of New Journalism written at that time. As writer and broadcaster Michael Kinsley has since said, “It’s hard to imagine a magazine article today having the kind of impact that [this] article and others had in those days in terms of everyone talking about it purely on the basis of the writing and the style.”
What’s great about “Frank Sinatra has a cold” is what’s best about Talese as a writer - his ability to make the reader feel centered in the story by reconstructing the reported events using the techniques of fiction. You can see this technique in another of his essays, “Joe Louis: The King as a Middle-aged Man”, which begins:
“ ‘Hi, sweetheart!’ Joe Louis called to his wife, spotting her waiting for him at the Los Angeles airport.
She smiled, walked toward him, and was about to stretch up on her toes and kiss him, but suddenly stopped.
‘Joe,’ she said, ‘where’s your tie?’
‘Aw, sweetie,’ he said, shrugging, ‘I stayed out all night in New York and didn’t have time.’
‘All night!’ she cut in. ‘When you’re out here all you do is sleep, sleep, sleep.’
‘Sweetie,’ Joe Louis said, with a tired grin, ‘I’m an ole man.’
‘Yes,’ she agreed, ‘but when you go to New York you try to be young again.’”
The article has its own symmetry and ended with one of the boxer’s ex-wives, Rose, watching home footage of Louis’s fight against Billy Conn:
“Rose seemed excited at seeing Joe at the top of his form, and every time a Louis punch would jolt Conn, she’d go ‘Mummmm’ (sock). ‘Mummmm’ (sock). ‘Mummmm.’
Billy Conn was impressive through the middle rounds, but as the screen flashed Round 13, somebody said, ‘Here’s where Conn’s gonna make his mistake: he’s gonna try to slug it out with Joe Louis.’ Rose’s husband remained silent, sipping his Scotch.
When the Louis combinations began to land, Rose went ‘Mummmm, mummmm,’ and then the pale body of Conn began to collapse against the canvas.
Billy Conn slowly began to rise. The referee counted over him. Conn had one leg up, then two, then was standing - but the referee forced him back. It was too late.
But Rose’s husband in the back of the room disagreed.
‘I thought Conn got up in time,’ he said, ‘but that referee wouldn’t let him go on.’
Rose Morgan said nothing - just swallowed the rest of her drink.”
It’s a clever and poignant ending, revealing as much about Rose and her relationship with her husbands, as it does about Talese’s talent as a writer. It also signals his need to record everything, which is all the more impressive when you know Talese never used a tape recorder when working on these profiles.
Gay Talese was born into a Catholic, Italian-American family in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1932. It was an upbringing he would later claim made him “not unfamiliar with the condition of being an outsider”:
“Indeed it was a role for which his background had most naturally prepared him: an Italo-American parishioner in an Irish-American church, a minority Catholic in a predominantly Protestant hometown, a northerner attending a southern college, a conservative young man of the fifties who invariably wore a suit and a tie, a driven man who chose as his calling one of the few possessions that was open to mental masqueraders: he became a journalist, and thus gained a licence to circumvent his inherent shyness, to indulge his rampant curiosity, and to explore the lives of individuals he considered more interesting than himself.”
His father was a tailor and his mother ran a dress boutique, it was here the young Talese learned his first journalistic skills:
“The shop was a kind of talk show that flowed around the engaging manner and well-timed questions of my mother; and as a boy not much taller than the counters behind which I used to pause and eavesdrop, I learned much that would be useful to me years later when I began interviewing people for articles and books.
I learned to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments (as the listening skills of my patient mother taught me) people are very revealing - what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them.”
In his brilliant “Frank Sinatra has a cold” Talese created a portrait of the singer that captured his over-bearing “mood of sullen silence”, his capricious nature, which made him at times both cruel and aggressive; or kind and overly generous. Talese revealed the background of Sinatra, the only child from Hoboken, who was scarred at birth by forceps, considered a weakling, reared mainly by his grandmother, his father a Sicilian who boxed under the name of Marty O’Brien, his mother worked at a chocolate factory, was strict and ambitious, who originally wanted her son to become an aviation engineer.
“When she discovered Bing Crosby pictures hanging on his bedroom walls one evening, and learned that her son wished to become a singer too, she became infuriated and threw a shoe at him. Later, finding she could not talk him out of it - ‘he takes after me’ - she encouraged his singing.”
Unlike other members of the New Journalism group (Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson), Talese didn’t put himself at the heart of his essays, rather he saw himself as a non-judgmental writer, who allowed each subject to speak for him / her self. Nowhere was this more true than in “The Loser”, his incredible profile of boxer Floyd Paterson, which included a shocking admission by the former World Champion:
“Now, walking slowly around the room, his black silk robe over his sweat clothes, Patterson said, ‘You must wonder what makes a man do things like this. Well, I wonder too. And the answer is, I don’t know…but I think that within me, within every human being, there is a certain weakness. It is a weakness that exposes itself more when you’re alone. And I have figured out that part of the reason I do the things I do, and cannot seem to conquer that one word - myself - is because…is because…I am a coward.’”
Non-judgmental, perhaps. But somewhere down the line, Talese makes the decision of what to keep and what to cut out, and by nuance and omission, he shapes our impressions, and gives the reader an intimacy mere facts could not supply.
Now in its 80th year, Afri-Cola, Germany’s answer to those other well-known soft drinks, has used some wonderfully thirst-quenchin’ advertising to promote itself over the years. None more bizarre than this lip-smackin’ beauty from 1968, which says everything you need to know about the sixties and the “sexy-mini-super-flower-power-pop-op-cola”, Afri-Cola in sixty seconds.
Sometimes we sit for hours staring at a seashell.
Other times he’ll hold me by the neck in front of the pyramids.
But there’s nothing we like more than nearly kissing each other near some horses.
I always try to look hot in front of him so he doesn’t leave me.
“It was my idea, I thought it would be funny. I painted the backdrops, and sourced the clothes myself.
They were shot in my studio at my flat in London with the help of my creative partner Oli Kellett and a lot of fake tan.”
Mills and Boon have been publishing racy romantic fiction for over one hundred years, and Oliver Rhodes, Head of Marketing, at the company welcomed the Alex’s homages, as he told the Guardian:
“Our covers have always captured contemporary fashions and styles from our classic 1960s book jackets to our newest range, Riva. It’s great to see that Mills & Boon’s iconic covers continue to inspire the art world.”
After its release in 1971, Stanley Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singin’ in the Rain”.
Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”.
Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release.
But banning the film didn’t have the desired effect, for when the film was eventually released in the UK on DVD, it led to another spate of copycat crimes, the most notorious of which, was the murder of a bar manager by a “Clockwork Orange gang”.
Whether movies can make people commit crime, is a moot point, but as director of American Psycho, Mary Herron points out in the documnetary, Still Tickin´: The Return of A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick’s film is a “dangerous work of art,” one that some have suggested seduce “viewers into its violent world and implicates them in its protagonist’s crimes.”
Produced by Channel 4, Still Tickin´: The Return of A Clockwork Orange examines the controversy over Kubrick’s iconic film, explaining the film’s “demonic level of attention,” and its influence on culture, politics and society, which led to the director’s self-imposed ban.
John Butler’s superb latest animation T.R.I.A.G.E. is a speculative tale showing how:
A sick and failing area is swiftly restored to sound financial health
T.R.A.G.E. is an acronym for
Of course, triage is “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.” With this in mind, any similarities between actual events is purely intentional.
Bonus animations by John Butler ‘Unmanned’ and ‘Sub Optimal’ after the jump…
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.