Category: Pop Culture



If she slips it will help the job market.....

Young, unemployed, depressed.

I hate Strictly Come Dancing but that isn’t the reason why I’m going to trash national treasure and thoroughly nice old man SIR Bruce Forsyth.

The knighthood is the culmination of a remarkable career. The recognition comes for a multitude of achievements; not only has he been the recipient of the award for most prominent chin in show business for 70 years in a row but he can also list an impressive catalogue of work in entertainment and for charity.

I’m not going to dispute the charity work. I’m not even going to question the highly unlikely existence of said ‘biggest chin’ award or ‘Chinnies’. Instead I’m going for the juggernaut and questioning the value of his entertainment.

If the knighthood was for services to sticking to a routine through thick and thin never worrying about originality or creativity, fearlessly refusing to deviate let alone swerve from doing the same drab thing…. repeatedly…and getting away with it for a laughably long time, then he is a God.

He is spoon-fed laughter from an increasingly vacuous audience seemingly too bedazzled by Eurovision song contest style lighting and sparkly glitter to digest that his ‘jokes’ were tired and lazy when they were originally conceived. The fact that he’s still on TV is a damning indictment of both the creative team who thought that such a show was acceptable in the first place and the 10 million odd people who’ve made it a runaway success ever since.

But that’s enough chastising a career. To go further would be to rob the material of future historians when biographies of stars of light entertainment will have long since replaced political histories as the country’s favourite academic pursuit.

Rest assured there is a relevance to this blog, it’s not just a vitriolic rant unfairly thrown in the face of an elderly statesman. The context is a country with rising unemployment rates, 8.1 per cent to be reasonably exact, and a serious problem facing young people in getting a proverbial foot on the ladder.

A lot of readers will think they see where I’m going but honestly I don’t want to purge all old people. The problem isn’t older workers. With their pension problems and having lived through an age where pissing away money made economic sense, they have enough trouble. Instead I’m going to be reasonable and bemoan the BBC’s management system.

I am one of thousands of journalism graduates who torturously dragged themselves through an incredibly elongated education system, did my exams, paid my dues and, to an extent, paid my fees. Having given up on any grand delusions of being a musician, astrophysicist or archaeologist, I finally decided that journalism is what I want to do with my life.

It’s a reasonable enough ambition. In a way it’s a noble attitude. I don’t want to be the important person doing the important things; I just want to be the guy who passes on the message so that people in general can rest assured that important stuff is happening.

Yet as soon as I finally had that soul searching conversation with the mirror and determined once and for all that this is the career I can do and do well, I find that the world seems to have decided already that I can’t do it and won’t even give me a chance to prove it right.

Most of the jobs out there are for editors/deputy editors and are hardly a walk in job for a fresh-faced graduate. 99.9 per cent of available vacancies demand a ‘very experienced’ professional who’s spent years in the industry. So I turned to the BBC trainee scheme and BOOM, it doesn’t accept students who’ve graduated with a journalism undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

So am I useless because of my lack of experience or am I past my sell by date because I know too much?

The media is one of the most important industries in our society and it needs fresh blood and new ideas otherwise it gets stale quickly. We shouldn’t be proud that one man has been such a dominant force in the industry and for so long. His renaissance with ‘strictly fumbled prancing’ isn’t because he came back with new material; he didn’t have a tour de force that suddenly thrust him back into relevance. But whilst Brucie needs to have the good grace to step aside the far more important issue for the future of young journalists and young people generally is that managers of the companies of this country need to be brave enough to give youth a chance.

 

 

I’m an indebted graduate, one of nearly a million unemployed 16-24 year olds.

Bruce Forsyth is a million years old, rich and employed.

 

 

p.s. (I would have fleshed out my Brucie statistic at the end with a figure for his salary but I couldn’t afford to pay the Times subscription to read the article carrying the figure…)

 

 

 

 

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Just in case you didn’t know – IMDb (Internal Movie Database) is a hugely popular website that encourages the public to rate films out of 10 and subsequently calculates the average rating of each film.

I love IMDb. It reflects the point of view of the film going public that could previously only be gauged by Box Office takings. If you wanted to learn about the quality of a film you would have to rely on the opinions of critics, but with IMDb came an opportunity for film fans to contribute to a truly reflective audience reaction.  

Unfortunately sometimes the website gets things terribly wrong. For instance, whilst I’m very fond of its top 250 list, there are some glaring mistakes that reflect the problem of relying on the common man rather than professional film buffs.  Here are my examples of IMDb madness

Into the Wild: 8.2/10

This is the tale of an idiot. Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Emile Hirsch plays the role of a young man disillusioned with society who gives up all his earthly goods to truly experience nature. It culminates in his death in Alaska when he realises that he can’t feed himself. It’s of course tragic that McCandless died but there’s also no doubt that he was an idiot. Unfortunately, Sean Penn directs this as an anti capitalism story of the freedom of the human soul and in support of the man who wasted life in such a reckless way. A tale of lack of preparation is told as a story of inspiration. It’s tragically stupid, but still it’s better than Trainspotting, Scarface and Gone with the wind…….apparently.

 

Spot the difference......Oh there isn't any

Avatar: 8.2/10

Just over 300,000 people have contributed to this rating. It makes it the 164th best film of all time. One position ahead of Life of Brian, a few places clear of the Terminator. It may be a clichéd complaint but Avatar is a rip off of the Pocahontas story. It’s a boring rehash of the old evil invading army vs the natural world done 30 years ago in Return of the Jedi. Stephen Lang’s role as Colonel Miles Quaritch is modelled on the ultimate armed forces bad-guy…….‘Chip Hazard’ from Small Soldiers. And it’s just another excuse for director James Cameron to spend lots of money on special effects and sacrifice writing, performance and plot.

Avatar is the ultimate dull blockbuster. But somehow it confused people with pretty 3D jellyfish floating and plenty of flying around. So this is apparently enough to place it above Life of Brian, often considered the culmination of Monty Python’s genius.

Leon: 8.6/10

This is rated as the 34th best film ever edging out Kubrick’s dark comedy classic Dr Strangelove, Francis Ford Coppola’s intense masterpiece Apocalypse Now and Orson Welles’ powerful portrayal of a media giant Citizen Kane. Of course it isn’t better than any of these films. It’s not even that good. It’s a rip off of the Terminator 2 relationship between an unfeeling killing machine and a kid whose life is threatened with some misguided symbolism of a plant pot and milk thrown in. I hope that doesn’t sell it as it’s really not worth seeing. Director ‘Luc Besson’ is now associated with the Transporter and Arthur trilogies. Not really a body of work to unseat Kubrick, Coppola or Welles in the history books.

So what’s the solution? IMDb is still a good guide and I discovered a number of films through its ratings. For instance it champions much of the late Sidney Lumet’s great work with the likes of 12 Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon rated highly. But if you want a more reliable guide then the critics are still the best. In particular the website “rottentomatoes” which amalgamates scores in a similar way to IMDb but only allows contributions from film critics.  But as always when in doubt follow the good Doctor Mark Kermode and he will show you the light.

Why I hate Mainstream Clubs


Nostalgia or Nausea?

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you’ve been at the same party for years stuck in a rigidly structured routine? I do every time I go to a conventional club. Mainstream clubs are nearly always exactly the same, dominated by a vast central room and occasionally attached to underwhelming ‘alternatives’. In said main room the music is invariably exactly the same with “R&B” and “cheese” having somehow become the columns upon which nightclubs are built.

But how did this convention begin and why has it stuck? My prime example is the location I am most familiar with; Sheffield. Having been at university here for four years I have put in more ground work for the basing of this blog than any I could ever conceivably write. The clubworld is dominated by Embrace, Plug and five completely individual, yet utterly indistinguishable, University nights (Tuesday club disregarded). But this seeming lack of choice does not deter the punters. Instead it has resulted in a situation whereby anything out of sync with this quagmire of stodgy, insipidness is actively rejected by the masses.

Pre-drink parties now include the very music you will be subjected to in a club. The eternal line is: “It doesn’t matter what the music is, you just get drunk and then you can dance to anything”. I hear it so often it’s almost as if there was a meeting attended by all potential clubbers who decided upon this as the official line. I unfortunately missed this extensive briefing that garnered the foresight to address the natural response: “But if you’ll dance to anything, why does it always have to be dreadful.” Dare to venture a suggestion, maybe anything well regarded by those of a critical disposition or a single that didn’t rely on a target market of 10 year old girls and the answer is this: “Well you can’t dance to that.” It is a sad state of affairs when prepubescents have become the deciders of what those of drinking age can dance to. Club music is indistinguishable from primary school discos or embarrassing post wedding parties. There is no point arguing any further. You’ve lost. It’s check mate. Even though it clearly isn’t!!! It definitely is.

The problem may be the state of pop music itself. “R&B” took over from Indie music as the king genre and much like its precursor it has lurched along until it reached the nirvana of musical formula: structured, repetitive, and uninspired. It is a genre consisting of cliché wails spouted from a production line of lookalike/soundalike/dancealike singers with instrumental accompaniment consisting of, seemingly, a single drum line that is the same in a billion billion billion songs. There isn’t exactly the world of difference between Ne-yo, Akon, Flo-Rida, Sean Kingston and Chris Brown. Just think that this is a day and age where “Chris Brown” as a name suffices for a pop star! How boring is that??  I digress, the point is they’re just rip offs of Usher who in turn was a rip off (although an improvement) of R Kelly.

Indie music had gotten just as stale with the Arctic Monkeys being the swan song of a genre that had run out of ideas. By the end it was gushing out the likes of The Enemy and The bloody View with that garbage “Same jeans” song which would have been an entertaining pastiche of the previous five years had it not catapulted the band and revealed they had an entire album of the stuff. I was just about old enough to get into clubs at the end of the Indie era and since then it has been “cheese” and “R&B” all the way.

Why cheese?? Why do Steps, S Club 7, Westlife, Blue, Backstreet boys, B*Witched etc. etc. etc. get continuously played often in the same order? Nostalgia is a wonderful thing when used sparingly. I would happily ironically dance to a surprising play of “C’est la vie” maybe once every couple of years. But if it’s on every night at numerous venues day in day out then it isn’t a happy nostalgia trip anymore. It’s just a rubbish song being played as often as it was 15 years ago when it was a novelty rubbish song everyone assumed would be forgotten by the end of the week. For instance, if Limp Bizkit is played once in a while then, out of surprise as much as anything, I will roar with approval and bust out the old Fred Durst pervy pelvic thrusts and ‘rollin’ arm movements. I’m as willing as anyone to be a 12 year old again but it’s like watching the occasional episode of Fireman Sam, you don’t watch four hours of continuous CBBC coverage.

So if music doesn’t liven up soon the mainstream will remain dead and that means junk pop club venues will plough on. I’m not saying we need a new Brit Pop, but I am saying we need a new Brit Pop. The problem is that X Factor and friends of X Factor are dominant on both sides of the Atlantic. The brand has taken control of the music buying public and commands popular music. Anything new and original is not encouraged and so struggles to break into a world that has never been so difficult for legitimate talent to blossom into.

I’m not saying the situation is wrong. I’m saying that it’s simultaneously as mental and depressing as scientology.