Friday, 26 June 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

Where were you when you found out the King of Pop had moon walked to that great fairground in the sky? It’s bizarre to think that Michael Jackson is dead. It’s a bit like learning that Mickey Mouse just died in a car accident or that Peter Pan passed away after a short illness. It’s baffling, the brain contracts as you try to imagine the two ideas in the same sentence, then you realise the problem, you had forgotten that Michael Jackson was actually real. He wasn’t from a cartoon or a character from a film you used to like in the eighties but an actual human being. He had morphed into a brand, a piece of pop culture, like a McDonald’s Happy Meal, you’d be forgiven for forgetting he had a heart, let alone one that could stop beating.

What are truly sad are the clips of the young Michael being shown on the news, the innocence, the desperate need to please. The jittery energy that at the time was endearing now seems unnerving and slightly haunting. In light of the physical and mental abuse we now know he was suffering from his father and the odd unsettling life we know lay in front of him, this image of the smiling big eyed boy manically singing for our entertainment is disquieting and slightly chilling. What a sad, lonely life the whoop, bopping boy had ahead of him, eventually dying exiled from his Neverland, in a rented house, attempting to revive a disgraced career with comeback gigs he was physically incapable of, exploited as ruthlessly is his fragile last days as he was in his younger years. In a career that soared from the sublime sound of Mowtown, swooped over the shameful era of black artists boycotted by MTV and ended in an America with a Black President in the Whitehouse, Jackson’s life bridged two different worlds.

Michael, the first black artist to play on MTV, was the African American male Middle America would let date their daughter. He was bland, he was safe he wasn’t the scary Blackman they saw on the news, huddled at the gates with an angry look in their eye. Instead of the intimidating alpha machismo of the racist stereotype he was an effete, high pitched androgynous No-Where man. In an America and Britain still reeling from race riots he was safe halfway between black and white, male and female, adult and child. It was this willingness to blend in, to acquiesce, that made him acceptable and paved the way for other black artists who would never have to dream of such compromises.

Michal could be seen as the personification of the American dream gone rotten. The soul, the sweat, the heart of the early Jackson Five magic, gradually morphing into the slickly produced mainstream pop of Reagan’s eighties, till Michael’s creativity became lost in a blizzard of expensive videos, overproduced emptiness and the soul corroding oblivion of spend spend spending. His music was the sound track for the "Greed is Good" eighties, buy Michael, buy Pepsi, buy America, buy happiness, and just as the banks and the dream of unrestricted consumption collapses around us Michael their poster boy dies frail, feeble, and broken, like the personification of the dream the decade he dominated promised.

He’ll be remembered as Michael the pop icon, the music, the videos, the money but that little boy dancing for our pleasure, what became of him?. What happens to the soul of a man who is never told no, who’s every whim is indulged, encouraged and sated, who spends an adult life never having to deal with consequences, responsibilities even morals because he is making the people around him so much money. The dark, disturbing excesses a human being is capable of descending to was glimpsed during the accusations of child abuse that money and expensive lawyers silenced. His life turned into a cautionary gothic fable about what happens when one’s every wish and desire is granted, the result is unsettling, horrifying and disturbing.

In The portrait of Dorian Grey, the anti-hero’s record of madness and excess is revealed in a hidden portrait in an attic; Michael Jackson wore the consequences of his life unchecked on his horrifically butchered, betrayed face. It is a portrait for our times, of what happens when you sell everything and know the value of nothing. His face became a grinning skull of an empty man and empty generation who sold their soul a long time ago.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Gordon Ramsey is a cock

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a lazy writer in need of a good opening line can always rely on a bit of Austen. Luckily for me, it also a truth universally acknowledged that a celebrity in need of some publicity is also in need of a good celebrity scrap, so that’s alright then
. From the first nudge lining up for nursery to the full blown Venetian court of intrigue that is secondary school, a bit of "did you hear what she said about you" a little drop of "I shouldn’t say this but" has always been relished. It’s natural, it’s healthy, it’s good. That’s why I cheered at news that "rivals" Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minouge are to be reunited for the next series of "X Factor" with pay disputes adding fuel to the acrylic fire. Dannii has reportedly only signed for the next show if she got paid the same amount as the Girls Aloud star and Cheryl is reportedly fuming that her social inferior is earning as much her. Watching them fight over their relative status is endearing, like watching two toddlers scrap over a favourite blanket. Since their role on the show seems to be nodding blankly and trying to look concerned at the sad bits, I’m surprised they don’t just pay them their bus travel and lunch in the canteen. Has anybody in the entire history of the planet ever lost sleep wondering what Dannii Minouge thinks of them and I include Dannii’s family and ex husband in this, let alone considered her pearls of wisdom worth a reported half a million pounds? There are judges in Texas that don’t earn that and they have the power to give the death penalty. Actually maybe, that is the excitng new change to the format Simon Cowell has been hinting act. I can see it now, Cheryl, blinking back the tears as she reveals "Sorry, I love you but I’m going to have to put you down babes" as the contestant slowly walks towards the lethal injection room with Leona Lewis belting out "Run" in the background, I would watch that.
Of course, I hope that they genuinely do loath each other rather than it being another dreary publicity stunt and way of pitching women against each other yet again. Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell can work together and be mates but whenever two women are in the room together we assume they’re plotting each others down fall like bad Jackie Collins characters, It’s reported that the show’s producers are terrified of the pair bumping into each other behind the scenes. That’s right, not worried, not a bit concerned that it might be a bit wierd, they live in actual terror of such an event unfurling. Much like the simmering tension of the Cuban Missile crisis, or maybe the knawing forboding of trench live in World War One, that’s what X Factor producers live with every time these two women enter the same building. Age shall not waery them , or years condemn, those brave brave media men and women.
However, if there is a genuine Alexis Colby/ Krystal Carrington style malevolence between the two I demand to see that on air. Cut the boring singing bit and just have lots of shots of the girls tapping their acrylic nails and glaring at each other. Or maybe they could have their own ITV2 costume drama spin off series where they could sit stiffly beside each other like two Oscar Wilde heroines, but with better tans, trading witty barbs while delicately drinking tea. "When I see a spade, I call it a spade Cheryl" "Well when I see it a spade, I telll it how amazing I think it is Dannii" They could call it "The Importance of Being Orange".
Speaking of Australia (because we were just then kind of for a minute…stay with me) Gordon Ramsey has been causing a stir down under after a misguided attack on Tracey Grimshaw, one of the countries most respected broadcasters. After appearing on her show to publicise his tour, he launched a vicious and bizarre attack , comparing her to a pig and suggesting she was a lesbian. Refreshingly for a place that is often portrayed as what would happen if a can of Foster mutated into a country, the response was distinctly unimpressed. Akin to some foreigner arriving on our shores and slagging off dear Fern Britton (even with her endless weight loss stories ,you’ve lost weight, we get it,stop talking about it ,my brain hurts) the country rose up with such anger that the countries Prime Minister issued a statement defending her and condemning the TV chefs remarks. Which is wonderful, akin to Gordon Brown arriving at Fern’s doorstep and bowing "Madam, Recent Celeb magazines have gone too far, I fear you have been insulted, you have my sword my Lady". The lady in question responded by voicing her surprise since when she interviewed him, she never mentioned his alleged affair, the dodgy lies in his recent auto biography or his recent bankruptcy, thus neatly publicising all those very same things. Moronic Ramsey issued a swift apology, game, set, match, I would think. The message being, when it comes to a war of words, mess with an angry woman at your peril, something Jane Austen knew, Cheryl and Dannii know and Gordon Ramsey is slowly finding out.

Watch your bag, Lohan is about...

How much fun would it be to Lindsay Lohan’s best friend? Very fun. As much fun as walking into a crowded communal kitchen at work , opening up the fridge and using milk that does not belong to you, that’s how much fun. If you were ever bored, you could just pick up the phone give the erstwhile movie star a little tingle and enjoy the free entertainment of living vicariously through her life for the next half hour or so. You might never have to leave your house again, secure in the knowledge that you had a pretty good idea what falling asleep in your own hair matted vomit was like anyway.In the last six months Lindsay has split from her girlfriend/ stabilising influence Sam Ronson, lost half her body weight, turned to night club appearances as a way of raising cash and been accused of international diamond fraud. It sure beats the usual, oh you know, busy, fine, just working really…
The Freaky Friday star ( Do you remember? Ages ago, Jamie Lee Curtis was in it I think) was in London recently to take part in a photo shoot wearing Dior diamonds for Elle magazine (pay attention to this bit, like a good episode of Murder She Wrote, it’s importance will be revealed later). This sojourn in London coincided with a series of night club appearances her ex Sam Ronson was making in the city .Maybe it was a trip to London Dungeons, maybe it was a tour on an open top tour bus but something about the city worked some magic and now the pair are together again. They are back as each other’s top friends on Myspace, which is to a certain age group,is as good as engaged, and are returning to Hollywood in love. Unfortunately, Lohan is not returning with much else as her wild behaviour has made her virtually unemployable in the City of Angels. Lindsay Lohan is to annoying people what Susan Boyle is to singing Elaine Page songs and going a bit mad. The Herbie star ( do you remember? Herbie: Reloaded, ages ago, marked the sad day Matt Dillon was not longer fanciable) and has managed to annoy most of Hollywood, which is a pretty big achievement considering this is a town that still employs Russell Crowe . Back in her glory days, when she mixed some acting in with being photographed without her knickers ( who hasn’t gone commando once?Come on, I know I have but then I had just wet my pants and I was at primary school and I was five), she managed to be so obnoxiously disruptive on the set of "A Prairie Home Companion"( No sorry, not a clue) that the films producers sent a public letter to her lambasting her for her irresponsible behaviour. Yes, even Hollywood, the industry that glamorises guns, mainly produces movies based on comic books and is responsible for us knowing who Pauly Shore is, told Lindsay to grow up. She now resorts to public appearances in nightclubs and various fashion and business sidelines to raise cash. Have you ever opened your wardrobe and thought, damn what I really want to wear are some overpriced leggings, where are they, where are my Lindsay Lohan leggings? Have I left them with my Mischa Barton tank top in my "yer one from Dawson’s Creek" overnight bag- damnit my date with Tod is tonight! There’s also Lindsay fake tan, which from a pale freckly red head takes guts if nothing else.
It’s enough to turn a girl desperate, which brings us back to the Mean Girl’s photoshoot in Islington last month. The diamonds have gone missing, Dior are furious, Elle are embarrased and Lindsay is in LA. Freckles (her possible prison name prehaps?) has a history of forgetting to return the clothes on fashion shoots, and along with her convictions for drink driving , drug possesion and the stints in rehab, is barred from wearing certain fashion lines due to her absent minded fingers. What a gal, she’s like an Elizabeth Taylor on street crack. Don’t worry Li Lo, give Jessica Fletcher a dingle she’ll clear your name.The whole affair all like some big Hollywood movie, with the big obvious difference being of course that Lindsay Lohan is in it.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

B N to the P (yeah you know me!)

I have a theory that left wing politicians, protesters, student groups and comedians are secretly delighted at the relative, recent triumph of the BNP party in the recent elections.
Let’s be realistic, the BNP party pose as much of a threat to mainstream politics as a spotty, gibbering fourteen year old Nuts reader to a drunk Angelina Jolie in a late night taxi cab, illegal or otherwise. Despite the recent expenses scandal, the plummeting economy and the evaporating jobs market, the far right party received only 6.3% of the vote in an election that only about 40% of the population voted in. In many areas they saw their vote go down and their leader only scraped into his seat due to an excessively low turn out in his area. Germany 1933 this isn’t.
It is this low turn out, coupled with a simmering resentment with mainstream politics, that created a sort of "perfect drizzle" for Nick Griffen and his little friends to take advantage of. That’s why I find it interesting that the same people who are now falling over themselves to express their wearied, hand wringing shame at the swing to the right are also the same people who a week before smugly insisted that the best way to protest was not to vote. Yes, it’s naïve to think that politicians are idealistic soldiers of integrity, that dream died along with Jimmy Stewart, but it’s equally immature to think that you’re somehow fighting the system by not voting. You only have to look at the recent presidential election in the USA to see the difference newly engaged voters can make. America didn’t go to bed a George Bush loving cowboy and wake up a latte swilling Obama fan, just as Britain hasn’t changed overnight into a country of racists. Political parties don’t actually care if you don’t turn up on ballot day, they will just aim their policies at the people who do and unfortunately they tend to be the people with more strident political views.
However uncomfortable we are with the results, throwing eggs isn’t the answer, in doing so we’re just creating martyrs, great, big, yolky martyrs. The protest organiser at the recent BNP press conference, Weyman Bennet of Unite Against Fascism explained "I support freedom of speech but not for fascists", but freedom of speech that is conditional on wether you agree with them or not is not freedom of speech at all really is it? If they really wanted to expose the BNP for the embarrassment to logic that they are, rather than silence them, we should positively drag them into public life. They could be the "and finally bit" at the end of every single news broadcast. Everyday, for as long as they are in office, they should be asked for their take on the day’s events- Tax benefits for higher income earners, the economic future of the European Union, International relations with Iran, and the camera would just linger on them for about two minutes while the audience could see their brains slowly whirr round while their eyes blinked for help as they slowly tried to bring the topic round to immigration. People would get so bored of them, as they slowly faded from darkly dangerous political underdogs to another tedious grey party with bizarre policies. The more mainstream they become the less danger they pose to anybody, as they’d finally become a track suited, Lidl version of Robert Kilroy Silk. When was the last time you saw a march against him? They should be ushered onto Question Time "So you really said you could tell if someone was really British just by looking at them? What? Really?! Could you explain that for me?" "So you really think white people are treated as second class citizens? How exactly? Where are your figures? Really?" "So you really plan to forcibly deport all non white Brits and turn Britain into some weird Tolkien meets Folk album cover wonderland? Really? How are you planning to that exactly?" By the end of the programme they would have so confused themselves, let alone the audience; they might just run away and never come back.
Which would be a shame for us because we like hating them. They are the dark Emperors to our Rebel alliance, the Ike to our Tina they make everything, if you’ll pardon the pun, so reassuringly black and white. Modern English politics is boring, the first division compared to America’s premiership. They have it easy there, they have anti abortionists, hard line creationist Christians, they even had George Bush for a while, the lucky bastards. What did we have? Duck Island. Duck Island and a few dodgy films on a claim expenses. Pathetic. If we can convince ourselves that the BNP really signal the rise of fascism, then it justifies getting really excited and we become a part of history.
For comedians it is a positive boon. They can feel self righteous as if criticising them they are making an important thrust for democracy, rather than making a point as obvious as the earth is round. Left fighting against the right is about as relevant as weekend civil war re-enactors, the argument has moved on. Communism was a bit of a disaster, nobody likes dictators and unrestrained capitalism hasn’t been doing that well either. An extreme right wing group will never turn Britain into a fascist regime, mass deportation is about as likely as a return to burning Catholics, the cavaliers are not suddenly going to win this time. Instead we have militant Islam that we want to respect but aquardly treats women appallingly, a Chinese government with a human rights record that can best be described as laiizer faire and a planet that’s very slowly boiling. We have a government that’s slowly weeding out our civil rights with mandatory ID schemes, detention without arrest and a police force that can get a bit bullet happy with out any consequences. But to protest about that would involve actually following the interminable slow moving draggings of parliament, reading newspapers, even voting- it’s much more fun to throw eggs at racist northerners. That’s why people like hating the BNP, it’s like disagreeing with an elderly grandad at Christmas, while your Dad in selling your inheritance from under your feet

Friday, 5 June 2009

Lesbian for attentshiun..(really try and you can make that rhyme)

Following complaints Simon Cowell has announced that there would be serious changes to next year’s “Britain’s got Talent” format. They have decided, due to lack of public interest, to scrap the “talent” section of the show and focus on the part that has caught the public’s imagination, character assassination. Ten random people will be picked for their ability to interest and pander to the public’s smug good opinion of itself, built up by the media and then torn apart by the tabloids. It will be a bit like a Soviet Russia show trial but with added Ant and Dec. Whoever makes the public feel better about themselves at the end wins and the entire series will be sponsored by the Priory clinic. Ha ha ha.

As I write Susan Boyle is in still in residential treatment following the show’s life final. Named as the favourite to win after her show stopping first audition, the public no longer saw her as the show’s underdog and quickly lost interest in her. She was popular when the public felt they were showing how compassionate, idiosyncratic and original they were in rooting for her, but when everybody liked her the joke wore a bit thin. The change in public opinion was summed up in a message left under the You tube clip of her performance in the final; dressed in a gorgeous glamorous dress and with a new hair do, Susan just “wasn’t the woman we fell in love with anymore”. The British public didn’t want a confident middle aged woman getting a second chance at life, they wanted a freak with big eyebrows that they could patronise and feel sorry for. She was a bit like the slow girl at primary school that the popular girl on a whim decides is actually really nice, but then dumps just as quickly when she turns up at her house. Newspapers claimed she began to crack up the week before the final, unable to sleep, eat and having imaginary conversations with her cat on the phone. Although in Susan’s defence, I’d probably fake conversation with a kitten to avoid making small talk with Amanda Holden –sorry, hold that thought Mandy, I really need to take this , Mr. Whiskers has been going through a lot of shit at the moment… I’ve said it before but Amanda Holden as a judge on “Britain’s got Talent” is like North Korean President Kim Jong II being a judge on “The Country it’s be a right laugh to live next door to!”. Producers realised that Boyle wasn’t handling the success very well, when she told a gaggle of journalists that were hassling her to bugger off and after coming second announced she “bloody hated” the show. Again, in her defence, that sounds like a woman finally seeing sense rather than cracking up.

Also speaking her mind is Gossip singer Beth Ditto. The Texan has hit out at American songstress Katy Perry, accusing her of exploiting lesbian culture with her 2008 hit- “I kissed a girl and I liked”. Wow, Katy, how shocking, kissing a girl?! But you are a girl? This is blowing my mind. You, an attractive girl next door pop star are subverting the medias perception of you, undermining patriarchal societies assumptions about female sexuality and introducing lesbian identity as a mainstream force in popular culture, rather than a token projection of male fantasies. What’s that Katie? You hope your boyfriend doesn’t mind? So, you have a boyfriend then. So, you’re not actually lesbian at all, you’re just pretending to be a little bit gay in order to keep his attention for a while because, you don’t want to lose him, as you can’t bare the thought of being single and are willing to do anything, even appropriate an entire culture that has fought for centuries for respect and equal rights in order to keep your man and get a tiny scrap of attention. Drunk, numbly snogging your confused best friend in the corner of a sticky nightclub as you desperately scan the room to see if Derek is noticing while your heart sobs don’t leave me, I’ll do anything, I’ll try dogging next week if you want, don't leaaave meee!… You go girl! Why not for a follow up single “I went to a Mosque and I liked it” or “I used a wheelchair and I liked it”…but sexy! or just go the whole hog and black up. She could use the whole of black histories struggle for equal rights as a way to desperately get her straying boyfriend to notice her for a bit. I can’t wait to hear about it- oh, sorry Katie, I’ve got a phonecall, it’s Mr. Whiskers again, sorry I’m going to have to take this…