Author Archives: Solo

About Solo

It's all about film. Not movies. I also like to ramble on about popculture and very occasionally pass social commentary. One day I would like to have a job and rejoin society. The tools of my trade are pen, ink and an acerbic wit. Please beware of endemic sarcasm.

Secret Diary of a Fangirl

Most of my visitors stumble here through Google [Other search engines are available. Though why would you bother?] and similarly I come across a good deal of my web stuff incidentally, stumbling around. This is the story of how I happened upon Tumblr and my first real brush with fandom. I know of fangirls, though I’ve met none personally as far as I’m aware, and I got that they all convened and communed somewhere online- message boards and what have you- from the comments on AfterEllen and IMDb and suchlike, I learnt of shipping and canon and the extreme seriousness with which some people take their popculture consumption.

Thing is- I did have the makings of a fangirl. Had there been such things as affordable laptops and unlimited broadband when I was of that age it is highly probable I would have fallen into the blog hole and never crawled out. My capriciousness, such a woeful flaw of personality IRL, is actually the trait that most distinguishes me from these fan types. That and a fundamental inability to feel genuine enthusiasm for more than an hour every lunar cycle. [Seriously I had this (I thought) amazing idea a month or two ago and I had been percolating it for a while, then when my last contract finished I got really buzzed about this project and was feverishly making notes and scrawling pages of potential directions to take it in and research I had to do; I even wrote to a couple of friends telling them how I was onto something big.  For a whole evening. The next day I just could not care less anymore and I’ve not even thought of it since. What is that?] They also have far beyond my rudimentary levels of technical nous, especially in the coding dept, though I suspect I would have picked it up easily enough, had I the tools at that malleable age.

So. My first ever submersion into genuine interactive fandom (There was my whole X-Files thing in the late nineties, but that was just between me and myself so it isn’t the same), Showcase Canada’s Lost Girl, I’ve mentioned it here before, but in no great detail. I fucking love this show. It’s one of the first ever things I’ve been in on right from the beginning, I’ve always been a late-to-the-party type. By serendipity, the week I heard of it online and started to get interested was the very week it launched on UK telly. Unheard of right? My mum even let me Series Record it in HD. Result.

I mean, I already knew pretty much everything that happened in it relationship-wise, though there was still the occasional plot surprise. Whilst dutifully watching each S1 episode the night it aired, I had been YouTubing the significant S2 OTP scenes in good conscience, knowing I would watch the series when it came to Blighty and definitely buy the boxset (which still has no UK release date incidentally) but by this point sporadic Googling had led me to the fansites. Oh hello Tumblr! That’s what you’re for. No one told me. Suddenly I had Urban Dictionary constantly open in the next tab for all the acronym thingies these kids use. (I worked a few out for myself, some of them though- where did that even come from?)

There is so much lore here, so many imbedded codes and shorthands (of language, not like HTML). It is genuinely amazing, it makes me want to go back to Sussex and do an MPhil in web community sociolects with a special focus on electronic communication of irony. For reals. The term ‘Fuck Yeah’ has been around donks right, but now it has specific meaning with respect to an artist, character or most commonly fictional couple (canon or subtext). These web savvy and occasionally literate, if utterly sex-obsessed and disconcertingly pervy, young women (almost always for any programmes I’m interested in following) are suddenly uninhibited linguistically and in their unabashed objectification of other women (men are in there too, just so much less so). Maybe it’s just because I’ve only really clicked on femslash tags (which isn’t nearly as nasty as it sounds. It just means FemaleA/FemaleB=OTP)

I think that blogs are a really valuable outlet for queer teens, especially in conservative towns/countries. It’s a safe means of confessing and connecting, of not being alone and that is a really vital thing though it may skew the demographic. I do wonder what the longer term social effect might be.

Team Lauren. Just sayin'

Anyway, there is a lovely (if you like that sort of thing) blog full of huge shiny GIFs and beautiful screencaps and manips [look at me with the lingo! Seriously, I barely knew what a GIF was three months ago. I thought they were extinct. And a bit annoying] and Zoie Palmer, run by a sweet Italian teenager and after an episode in which a significant canon occurrence occurred there was what I *thought* was a clip imbedded on this blog. So I click. It transpired after not too long that it was in fact a stream of the full episode and I felt bad about this because, despite my sub-Socialist and ‘Damn The Man’ rhetoric, I am in fact a very law-abiding citizen for the most part. (I fully condone and endorse underage drinking though. Tis a British rite of passage and they shall not take it from us!) More on that another post.

But, I was already hooked. It was a really good ep you know. And after that, I just had to know what would happen next. Terrible. So against my own oft-espoused values I streamed the next three or four episodes on VideoBB or similar, whilst still keeping abreast of S1 via legitimate channels (SyFy channel to be precise. Sky 114) This was the height of my Lost Girl fixation and by clicking on the tags on FYBL I was led to other Tumblrs of considerable interest. Who knew there were interesting, articulate and funny people just out there? Online.

Incisive social commentary

Then I found out that S2 of LG was coming to SyFy in January, which was only 3 or so weeks away at the time and I just couldn’t justify stealing it anymore, so I resolved to wait thereon. The upshot of this being I had to avoid the Tumblrs I had come to heavily frequent (in a stalky lurking way, being very resistant to opening my own account) to avoid spoiling forthcoming eps. I failed of course. AE always has spoilers in the headlines and I’d miss too much if I never went on there.

One of the amazing things about Tumblr is how quickly everything happens, how quickly news or ideas or jokes spread through the community. A fun little thing that happens is ‘Confessions’ sites where you anonymously type in a ‘confession’ about your favourite fandom and then the admins find appropriate images from the series and post your comment like a ‘censored’ bar over the character’s eyes. Simple, brilliant. I mention this because I’ve submitted a couple and they can be up within minutes sometimes, then in the time it takes to make a coffee later, people all over the world have reblogged your confession. Awe inspiring and terrifying. I mean, imagine if you made a comment IRL and a few hundred people over heard it and then three dozen of them liked it so much they went and repeated it to their friends. One of my confessions is the second most reblogged on the whole LGCsite. By looking at the ‘Notes’ on a Tumblr post and reading the comments people have added when reblogging I have found my way to witty, likeminded people. Strange and simple. Is this how people end up with internet friends? Because very few of my real life, actual friends are internetty people in a social way. There is a whole gay online Grindr thing, but choose not to be aware that, I’ve witnessed the consequences.

WIT.

Through Tumblr I have seen stunning artwork, read hilarious quips, had genuinely engaging conversations and been introduced to shit I never would have otherwise heard of. (Including ACTA which will  fuck with pretty much everyone in the world.) Which I believe is actually why Tim Berners-Lee made the internet open access in the first place.

So, my LG fandom has come to a natural impasse I feel, I have settled back into just being a normal fan, which is what most people are and would always be, if not for teh webs in general and Tumblr in particular. Shipping is something I have kind of done in the past, but not knowingly, and I know this level of investment isn’t healthy or productive, so I’m weaning myself off again. Crack ships are hilarious though: Lauren/Morrigan FTW. The interesting thing is the level of active participation, of fans taking ownership of their consumption. It’s sort of weird but in many ways it’s a positive thing, as long as people aren’t obsessed. [Just don’t let’s even mention fanfic right now.]

 

The result of all this however, one thousand and three hundred words later, is that there are two Tumblr accounts I hop to pretty much every time I’m online, just to see what they’re saying [Funny story about that expression. If you want to hear it- ask me in the comments] and as they have kept me entertained at 4am on many occasions and patiently respond to my barrage of anonymous comments (I don’t want to be anonymous, but as I said, I’m leery of being a full-blooded Tumblrer and there’s no OpenID option or anything) I feel I should give them honourable mention herein. So Tedra of Evanevieve and Heartsways of Pathetic Poetic– Respect to you both.

Also, I really wish WordPress let you make #TAGS that appeared in the order you wrote them like on Tumblr. I narrate my life in my head and I’m reconciled with that, I’ve decided it’s a writerly thing, but now I’ve started mentally footnoting my actions with #TAGS. This cannot be a good thing. Though it is quite amusing. But no one knows!

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My So-Called Life

Remember My So Called Life? I didn’t. It was another one of those things I’d just heard about.

Seminal nineties series This Life had two very successful series and is in the hazy collective conscious as a cultstream classic. They had a woefully received tenth anniversary reunion special though, which may have gone some considerable way to undermining the magic of the original. A lot of the appeal of these widely popular ‘cult’ series [hence ‘cultstream’ see?] is that they are the first of there kind and, vitally, very much of their moment. When programmes in that style are imbedded in our cultural lexicon, refined and enhanced, they lose their vitality in hindsight. One of the downsides to endless satellite channels buying up entire back catalogues and inflicting our entire popcultural adolescences upon us again is that they can utterly undermine fond memories. Sometimes though, things really are as good as you remember, which is in many ways a vindication of your memory and your teenaged tastes.

*On a kind of related note- many received cinematic classics are really only good if you saw them when you were at the target age- then they retain their appeal for all time I think- if you don’t experience them till adulthood, you’ll never quite be on the wagon. Growing up as I did in a household with no video and not a great deal of cinema-going or television watching, I missed out on most of the childhood favourites (e.g. The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Time Bandits, The Santa Clause) I’ve yet to see the latter two, and Christmas films tend to provoke a disagreeable gastric reaction, but the others I have sought out in adulthood and watched my peers fixated with delight throughout. I just don’t see it. Home Alone however? Can’t get enough of that. Even Matilda provokes an indulgent reaction. It’s about being there at the time.

Back to the case in point. Being a journey[wo]man popculture maven, I have been acutely aware of my ignorance of the oft-cited nineties pillar of televisual achievement US network ABC’s My So Called Life. References are frequently made to one of the first teen dramas as we know them today, just a wee bit before my time. By like a decade. So a colleague of mine, of that cohort, recently lent me the complete So Called boxset and now I have finally filed the show in my mental catalogue. I was sort of expecting it to be Dead Like Me because the two have always been fairly inextricable in my mind, I suspect because of the similar phrasing of the titles and fonts on the DVD covers. This misguided expectation probably lent to the slight disappointment I felt at the pilot episode. It kind of followed a complete narrative arc and left the characters with nowhere obvious to go. Okay, that was just to get the show picked up; I get how American television works (more or less). Episode Two, was just kind of dead. I was expecting, I don’t know, some kind of secret brilliance that leads to the wistful reverence of 30-something bloggers. Continue reading


Smells Like Teen Pennies

I was planning to mention E4’s cunningly appealing new range of Misfits clothes and badges in a forthcoming post about the new series, then yesterday [time of posting- read: last week] I witnessed a feat of merchandising so audacious it left me casting about for someone to witness my disbelief. ‘What could this improbable corporate cash-in possibly be?’ I sense you tweet. If only I had a Twitter stream to hear you with.

Well I’ll tell you anyway… JLS condoms. I shit you not. They aren’t available on the band’s official website which features a full cornucopia of merch, but I swear they’re real- Look see:

Considering where they're headed- they don't look too happy.

Reality show boyband JLS have teamed up with Durex to release [sorry. Sx] their own range of personalised prophylactics. So if you’re planninng to seduce any twelve year old girls (or if you are one) pick your favourite and pop him on- voila, no Chlamydia, no unplanned pregnancy[1]. I imagine each sheath is adorned with the signature of your chosen pop moppet. How erotic.

Recently I paid a visit to merchandising Mecca DisneyWorld (Not my pick, trust.) Everything you can possibly imagine is branded and sold at DisneyWorld and plenty of things you can’t. Ordinary products are not available in their parks and complexes either, it’s all branded. My friend and I began to speculate whether you could buy Disney condoms (with little Mickey ears on top of course- they put ears on everything) and we decided there was a secret Disney sex shop out the back of one of the other concessions- you go in and say the password and they lead you through to the adult fun zone. Anyone ever made it into the Magic Kingdom?

Two things I learnt at DisneyWorld:

  • My English accent carries disappointingly little currency. Brits are ten a penny in The Happiest Place On Earth.
  • Americans need to be told how to use a bus and that small children need to be watched. For serious.

Also, I was there for eight days and didn’t even get a bloody tan. WTFrack?

So wearable fandom is all go for Christmas 2011. It’s hardly a new idea and I personally really like that fans are afforded the opportunity to wear their preferred cultural consumption out, fangirl/boy hearts on their literal sleeves. Had I the funds (and the internet) as a teenager, I would have been branded all over; No Doubt t-shirts and Brushfire Records hoodies, Buffy socks. The works.

It’s quite unusual for telly programmes to have a clothing range though isn’t it? Shows aimed at adults certainly. Fantasy seems to be more marketable in that respect though. Which brings me back to my opening gambit:

Save Me Barry!

I mean, they look great, not just churned out on the cheap, but it troubles me how much I want this stuff. I mean merching is really for teenagers right? Even though you supposedly have to be eighteen to even watch Misfits. I’m also totally in the market for a Team Lauren iron-on patch for my shoulder bag if anyone’s got one? Being an unemployed mid-twenties waster who lives with her mother will never discourage me from dressing like a turn of the century adolescent. I suppose they know that, which is why such things are available. We’re buying.


[1] I went to look up JLS song titles to make an hilarious condom-related pun, but their discography was such a wealth of material I was overwhelmed. Here’s a list, write your own. (My personal favourite? One Shot.)

Everybody In Love, Beat Again, She Makes Me Wanna, Love You More, One Shot, That’s Where I’m Coming From, Go Harder, So Many Girls, Killed By Love.


“For Them, For Now, Forever 11.11.11/11.” The Appeal of the Poppy

For Then, For Now, Forever 11.11.11.11Remembrance Day. Armistice day, ninety three years since the close of the War To End All Wars, followed within one generation by the bloodiest century in human history. Until 2001, the kids who serve today were going to be our first generation without a war.

There is an element of controversy over the poppy, especially in places like The University of Sussex; historically a left-liberal activist institution with a proud history of anti-war action and protest. When I was a third year a motion was brought to ban the Armed Forces from Union events and property and I supported it. To wear a poppy in the Union house was a big deal- a statement- but I still wore mine and I’m wearing one this year. Not because I support our wars, I don’t, but because I need to show my respect and my gratitude.

Fellow students at Sussex were surprised, disappointed even, that I chose to wear the poppy, thinking me ignorant or conformist, but I’m neither of those things. The Poppy Appeal is about two things: Remembrance for those lost and Support for those left behind. Both vital. Where I live now, in a conservative (big and little ‘c’) Home Counties commuter town, it goes without saying. A poppy is not a statement here, but I still make a point of wearing mine, even though it will undoubtedly go unnoticed.

It’s been over half a century since the Second World War ended, but I’m grateful every day of my life for the freedoms afforded me as a British Citizen, many as a direct result of victory. For my access to good food, free healthcare and education, for the right to travel, live and work where I please and love who I want, I give thanks. It’s worth taking time every year to remember those rights were hard-won.

As for the present day- I protested against the invasion of Iraq, I petitioned for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; I don’t think that donating to the British Legion is an endorsement of our current military campaigns. Maybe others see me wearing their symbol and think that’s exactly what it is, but in the real world, as in the microcosm of university, I won’t forgo a small act of remembrance for fear of the assumptions of others. The reason is simple:

A poppy isn’t about politics, it’s about eighteen year old boys with their legs torn off.

It’s about blood, anyone’s blood, needlessly draining into the sand. It’s about men and women who, although at present are occupying forces in sovereign nations, are prepared to risk their limbs and their lives in defence of Britain and her allies. As an organisation, the Military are by no means heroes, but they are, and for a hundred years they have been, individually heroic.

So thank you.


“I don’t sing for the rainbow.”

Jay Brannan, who you may remember I blogged about in my inaugural Noctuary post, has just released his amazing new single ‘Greatest Hits’ digitally and I wanted to share.

My favourite line? “You may never be happy, but I still see your worth.” These are words you long to hear, when you’re an abject cynic. Anyway I love this song, I’m gutted I couldn’t make Jay’s only London gig this year and I think you should buy this. If any of you want to get me a Christmas present too- I’d like this please:

In seriousness though, this is an important song. It’s an independent release by an original artist in 2011, no mean feat in itself, and it is a beautiful paradox- tragic affirmation. A digital acquaintance of mine, on hearing Greatest Hits for the first time,  immediately recalled last year’s East London Pride when a MtF barmaid described being beaten up in her way through town that day. Even in Britain, even today, hate-fuelled violence against LGBT people (especially the T, for the inescapable crime of being visible) is a real and tangible threat to the safety of our citizenry. Brannan sings of taking knocks for being himself, for saying ‘fuck you’ to those who seek to disparage him and knowing that he is in the right. He takes strength from the knowledge that he is not subsuming himself to appease the mass sensibility, or the minority of thugs; the blood spilt is testament to his bravery and defiance. This sounds like a paean to the Stonewall rioters to me, but recalling his resistance not only to middle America’s homophobia, but homoAmerica’s insistence he is their bard, the lyric “I don’t sing for the rainbow, cos I taste the rain” takes on layers of meaning. This song is Brannan’s triumph, Jay’s pain, and his alone, it is not a clarion call to the Queer Diaspora to rise up, or to endure violence on their streets.

To me Greatest Hits says ‘none of you may claim me, whoever you may be, I am my own man and I have shed my blood to earn that right.’ In timeless tradition the gay community may well appropriate the track for their own use, but I think in many ways, this is Brannan’s definitive note of resistance to being claimed and put up as an icon. The line drawn under the debate I chewed over in FU no Q.


Libya is not the Falklands and this ain’t the Eighties. Shame on you The Sun.

Have you seen this?

The Sun front page "That's For Lockerbie"

I’m disgusted that my people would behave this way. A supposedly civilised nation and we’re gloating and cheering over a man being murdered in the street? It’s fucking barbaric. Maybe the Libyans have got an excuse, a group of men and boys with heated blood and lifetimes of oppression, they couldn’t wait for justice and instead took immediate revenge for their own personal gratification. But that’s not justice and we, as a peaceful (on our own soil anyway), supposedly developed and democratic nation, should know better.

How is an undignified and bloody death vindication for bloody Lockerbie? Even if the imbeciles who prove that the Sun really does originate somewhere in the seat of their trousers feel that this is the appropriate culmination to Gaddafi’s regime, gloating over his death on the front page is frankly disgusting.

Every one of the red tops ran a similar leader, but The Sun surpassed them all in grotesque, childish malice. It wasn’t for Lockerbie anyway, it was for his violent, bloody oppression of his own people for the last four decades. I very much doubt your average Libyan could really give tuppence for a plane full of dead Americans, bombed before they were even born. Avenging a few dozen foreign lives in the face of their own loss and agony would be a gross misplacement of priorities, however significant the PanAm atrocity might still be in the West.

Today I have to say, I am ashamed of my countrymen. This is not the face of Britain I want to show to the world, especially the newly emerging Arab democracies. Can we not set a good example for fuck’s sake? We’ve had long enough to learn.


Don’t Let It Fade Away

The cast of BBC3's new drama The Fades

There is so much to say about DIGITAL CHANNEL OF THE YEAR BBC3’s new supernatural yoof drama The Fades and its pocultural significance. There’s no time right now because I am out of town sans laptop and am soon going out to see Sweet Sweet Lies do their epic thing and witness Dot Cotton hosting Rock n Roll bingo. For real. I love Brighton, like you have no idea.

But when I get back, we’ll be talking about this!

Happy weekend all.

SX

Edit [28/09/22]

After the dominance of the vampire/werewolf canon, the other paragons of the paranormal are having their day in the sun. So to speak. New supernatural yoof drama The Fades started last week, going out on BBC3/BBC HD Wednesdays at 21:00 (repeated all through the week.) Fairly modish cast the DIGITAL CHANNEL OF THE YEAR put together here. Notables include thinking telly aficionado’s fox Natalie Dormer who properly sexed up S2 of ludicrous historical melodrama The Tudors as foxy, devious Anne Boleyn and most recently went blonde for blockbusting flop Captain America. She seems to be the estranged wife of Tom Ellis off Miranda.

Poor old Lily Loveless seems to have been cast simply so that the producers can say she’s in it, bringing that vital Skins capital with her, because she has around three minutes screen time, which she spends being a brat. Hopefully she’ll have more to do in weeks to come. She plays twin sister to protagonist Paul and the siblings seem to be following in that obnoxious American tradition of vile, disrespectful teenagers who cannot obey instruction or speak civilly to their parents. Are so many kids really like that? It feels like lazy shorthand from the writers.

This ep’s got a pretty cool aesthetic, which is vital for the style-savvy demongraphic. [That was a typo, but then I really liked it, so now it’s a word. So there. Sx] The title sequence looks like a mash up between Misfits and True Blood; doubtless intentional- laying out all their goods in the shop window.

 

I really appreciated the saturated, sodium palette and shiny, grimy urban dystopia of the opening sequence. The DOP and crew have taken notes from the sparse look that works so well for Misfits and looks sharp on a budget.

Beautifully framed long shots abound with squares and bars of light. Silhouettes flitting about bleachy estate-scapes speak of an urban visual language familiar from the independent British cinema of the last ten years.

The linear grey of the psychiatry session in a bare, intimidating room, is redolent of A. Some limbo or hinterland scene, quite possibly set in a character’s subconscious or B. The Skins hyper-reality of unreliable or absent adults. Throughout, the cameras are close and intimate with the actors, but on first watching, the first fifteen minutes is all action, no character. A rewatch made me revise that opinion however. Continue reading


Six Degrees of Downton


Downton Abbey
was a surprise hit for ITV and uncharacteristically well-produced. Securing a thesp like Julian Fellowes was quite a coup for the also-ran of terrestrial broadcasting. It’s great to see a recurring role for the lovely Joanne Froggatt too, quietly upholding the British end in quality one-off drama for as long as I can remember. She last appeared on the channel in the short-lived and ill-executed, though well-conceived and densely cast Identity. Her episode, in which she was on chilling form, also featured Keeley Hawes, Kelly Harrison and the much-missed [by me at any rate] Laura Aikman. It was like a Who’s Who of blonde British televisual talent. She’s only been on Casualty once though.

Michelle Dockery is finally becoming a household name, after a quiet few years. Her powerhouse performance in Waking the Dead brought her to the attention of talent spotters but she failed to capitalise on it.

Really strong, and hopefully coming more to the forefront this year is Jessica Brown-Findlay as the youngest Crawley sister, the socio-political voice of the series. You might recognise her as the absinence girl from Misfits who makes Nathan come a cropper at the end of S1.

The older cast members don’t really need further praising (Though I was championing Hugh Bonneville for the next Doctor Who, before Matt Smith and his cheekbones were cast. My friend Katie wanted Sandi Toksvig for the part.), they are all well regarded already.

I can recall very little, especially on the small screen, which focuses specifically on this era of history. Recent enough to be recognisable: the language and fashions quite reasonable and familiar, yet the horribly unfair, seemingly unshakeable class system is firmly in place. There is no NHS, Europe as we know it is yet to be shaped. This soapy and very Society above/below stairs drama has begun to touch upon politics, but rather superficially. They rather rely upon us to know our history, but honestly, it isn’t much taught in school. We do the Wars [boy, do we do the Wars. And the Tudors.] but nothing on either side. Suffragettes abounded so I hear and flapper types were soon to make an appearance, and conservative values were still very much at the fore, but I’d really like to get deeper into the culture and (small ‘s’) society. A second series, airing imminently will present Downton in the midst of war, possibly even serving as a military hospital [or is that a WW2 thing?]. The ‘Who-will-Lady-Mary-marry-and-what-will-it-do-for-her-position’ rigmarole is a little wearying- the other characters’ interactions are far more engaging. Her jealousy and sniping however, delicious.

Some complain about anachronism, especially in speech, but as long as it isn’t clunking I feel those little modernisms can add to the immediacy of the drama. It’s still more Vile Bodies than Servants. Anyone remember Servants? The BBC’s raunchy, foul-mouthed below stairs drama starring pretty, young Joe Absolom (off Personal Affairs with Laura Aikman! It’s 6 Degrees…] and Felicity Jones. I think they were trying to cash in on the Gosford Park vogue, but it’s only just really caught on. I don’t think a rich tapestry like Downton Abbey would bear that coarse contemporism of speech; the inconsistencies in behaviour however (the master waltzing into the servants’ hall. Not done, apparently) are less excusable. Surely they have researchers, fact checkers and the like?

Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes open for more Drama Connections and Degrees of Separation and update the post as and when I spot them. I actually wrote this one last November when my laptop was being trashed by the fucktards at PC World, so it’s high time it got posted really. SX

Not entirely relevant- I just found the juxtaposition visually pleasing.


GRAFFITI WARS: Because refusing to grow up will teach ‘authority’ some kind of ill-defined lesson

A polished up copy of King Robbo's famous tag

C4’S Street Summer has thrown out some fairly engaging content, if only in tried and tested formats, which provide a nice counterpart to the backwards looking programming favoured by Auntie and the Other Channel of late. One programme that particularly caught my attention was Sunday’s Graffiti Wars– an hour long interview-doc about tagger King Robbo and his childish feud with the fabled Banksy. [In the absence of doing any actual research, I’m going to assume that all the information contained therein is factually accurate and impartial. Or pretend that I am assuming as much. I’m also not going to bother roasting Banksy- it’s been done over and again.]

Both men take great pains to conceal their identities- in order to avoid prosecution for their profligate and ostentatious criminality and to perpetuate the myth of some kind of urban heroism. Like Batman or something. But with spray cans instead of an unassuagable desire for justice. Robo- who must be well into his forties- spends(t) most of his time working out how to plaster his trademark in hard to reach places. Legendary in the underground- figuratively and literally- for plastering his squiggle all over Tube trains throughout the eighties, he resents Banksy’s cult→mainstream appeal and mushrooming commercial success. He feels that stencilled pictures are artistically and politically inferior to the timeless art of writing your name on things- the accepted gold standard way of fucking the system and raging against the machine.

A “seminal piece” of his, wittily placed on a canal underpass beneath the London Transport Police HQ, which had been left untouched by city clean-up crews since 1985, was half obliterated by Banksy and incorporated into a new work by the Bristol spritzer.

Banky's piece incorporating King Robbo's old tag

This followed the low key rumbling of a newspaper flame war between the two and resulted in full-scale street conflagration. KR had ‘retired’ from his life as an eloquent and demonstrative political activist on account of his children needing a father. A grown man who runs around with his hood up and a scarf over his face, slapping people who haven’t heard of him, being the kind of role model children are desperately in need of, judging by recent events. Banksy’s aesthetic affront (tantamount to child murder apparently) was enough to bring our Bob out of retirement and back onto our streets with Teams Robbo and Banksy taking every opportunity to sting each other and escalate a tit-for-tat campaign of defacing each other’s work.

What with his being neither famous, nor apparently gainfully employed, our Bob had plenty of time to stew over the dispute, taking any chance he could engineer to snipe at his more successful rival and ‘modify’ Banksy’s works. Because at forty-five your priority in life should be getting revenge on some bloke who painted a picture over the name that you painted on a public wall twenty five years ago. Suggestion: Try using the expression ‘street cred’, unheard by relevant ears since 1991, to point out to your opponent how much cooler you are than him. Failing that, you could get your mum to tell his mum that he hasn’t being playing fair and it’s your turn.

Incidentally the GraffitiArtists™ (men who tag and write their names on things- as opposed to StreetArtists®: self-dubbed artists who paint on streets and buildings) so outraged by Banksy’s imposition in assimilating KR’s famous tag, are the ones who so besmirched this ‘priceless’ work of British urban art that it was barely recognisable by the time Banksy did his thing. But that’s okay, cos they’re graffitos.

King Robbo's famous tag under layers of graffiti

Heaven forfend graffiti should be overlaid with art. It’s worth noting that the film opens with Robbo himself painting out someone else’s tag.

Banksy had it down with this quote:

“If you want things to last you shouldn’t paint them under a bridge on the canal.”

Truesay.

According to the programme, shortly after his first exhibition as a legitimate if highly derivative artist, King Robbo was set upon in the street and left in a coma. It’s considered poor form to kick a man when he’s down, but I considered the programme itself worthy of response. If he comes round, hopefully he’ll reassess his priorities and stop griping over such a minor act. Maybe. You’ve got to hope it was random street violence and not one of Banksy’s sycophants fans who did this, because as far as Robbo took it- that is well beyond a joke or even childishness.


Things I have Learnt Today #1-2

#1 Socks are less absorbent than you might think, and therefore not an appropriate alternative to cotton wool.

#2 Mobile telecoms conglomerates are apparently not beholden to statutory law, and therefore you may not cancel your ill-advised mobile phone contract within hours of signing it.


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