Posts Tagged ‘popular culture’

One of the lesser known and more interesting features of the social media Leviathan that is Facebook is that every year they release some country specific data allowing us to see what different parts of the world are talking about.

They have just released their Australian data today, along with about 20 other major countries.

Most talked about topics (by Australian Facebook users):

1. Vote
2. Kate Middleton
3. Cricket
4. Kevin Rudd
5. Grand Final
6. Election
7. GST
8. Lions
9. Tony Abbott
10. Big Brother

Most talked about Global Topics:

1. Pope Francis
2. Election
3. Royal Baby
4. Typhoon
5. Harlem Shake
6. Flood
7. Miley Cyrus
8. Boston Marathon
9. Tour De France
10. Nelson Mandela

Most talked about Entertainment Topics:

1. Big Brother
2. The Voice
3. One Direction
4. Breaking Bad

Most popular Check-in Location in Australia:

1. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

What does this tell us about ourselves?

Well, we’re sport obsessed. Duh.

We have an active and abiding interest in politics – read, in expressing our opinion – and social media is increasingly where we do it.

We seem surprisingly to still be very interested in “the Royals”.

And Miley Cyrus is, well, Miley Cyrus. We live in terror that the twerking popette will be chosen as Time Person of the Year.

Reviewing the full Facebook 2013 year in review is a fascinating glimpse into what “real people” are interested in.

Worldwide, our most commonly posted life event is a relationship. Getting married, engaged, or being “in a relationship”. How we perceive ourselves in a social sense is clearly an important part of our self-awareness that we wish to broadcast. And interestingly, sport in general seems markedly less important in Asia than it is in Europe or countries that “grew out of” old Europe.

Anyhow, you can checkout the Facebook annual report, including data from many other countries, here: http://www.facebookstories.com/2013/en-en

One of the quirks of this year’s results is the persistent success of “The Harlem Shake”. This silly internet meme was essentially tens of thousands of thirty second dance videos uploaded to YouTube worldwide. Always following the same format, the massive success of the videos was in part attributed to the anticipation of the breakout moment about halfway through the videos, and their universally short length, making them very accessible to watch.

The Washington Post opined that the meme’s instant virality by referring to the jump cuts, hypnotic beat, quick setups, and half minute routines. At Wellthisiswhatithink we were a little more cynical: the success is largely attributable to people having too much time on their hands and too little to do. Bah, humbug.

The Harlem Shake is technically very easy for fans to reproduce, as it consists of a single locked camera shot and one jump cut. Nonetheless, the simplicity of the concept allows fans considerable scope in creating their own distinctive variant and making their mark, while retaining the basic elements. In its simplest form, it could be made with just one person; a more sophisticated version might even involve a crowded stadium. Moreover, there is a level playing field for celebrities and fans alike, with no guarantee of success for either group. There is a strong vein of humour running through each video that is not dependent on language, further increasing its potential to spread virally.

Sample the best of the worst here. And a warning, this is four and half minutes you’ll never get back.

 

 

(In his “day job”, the author of Wellthisiswhatithink is a marketing and advertising consultant working for one of Melbourne’s leading ad agencies, Magnum Opus, see: magnumopus.com.au. To chat to Steve Yolland about proper grown-up paid advertising advice or to sample his communications knowledge, or maybe to get an opinion on your organisation’s current public profile, just email him on yolly@magnumopus.com.au …)

Catching Fire premiere, London

Catching Fire premiere, London

If you didn’t already think Jennifer Lawrence is a sweetheart, then this little clip of her at the red carpet Premiere of the new Hunger Games movie in London last night will convince you.

Instead of merely grinning inanely and looking smokily at the cameras, Jen spots a little disabled girl who is crying by the barricades, asks for them to be moved, and goes into the crowd to chat, sign an autograph, have her photo taken, and then gives the kid a couple of Jen-sized squeezes and a kiss.

The sweet act seems to cheer the child up.

Nicely done, right there. This 23 year old young lady seems so down-to-earth and ordinary, despite being (obviously) extremely pretty and awesomely talented. Really, what’s not to like?

catching fireWe’re not all that keen on the new short hairdo, but it seems to be a current trend with starlets to lop off their locks.

Change is as good as a rest, I guess.

The Silver Linings star also strives to be a role model when it comes to body image, admitting she fought for her Hunger Games character to have a more realistic figure in an effort to set a positive example for young women.

“We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing [in The Hunger Games] … girls see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain,” she explained. “It’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry. And also I think it’s better to look strong and healthy and I feel like Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow wouldn’t really be scary.”

Now the 23-year-old Oscar winner has gone one better, openly slamming body bullies and insisting she’d rather eat than try and conform to Hollywood standards.

“You look like you look, and be comfortable. What are you going to do – be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb,” says the Oscar-winning starlet. “Screw those people! We have to stop calling each other ‘fat’.”

We are officially impressed.

After writing yesterday’s blog, for which I have copped some praise but also a lot of furious criticism, it struck me that the hugely popular Hunger Games is really a fable about the triumph of the human spirit over fascism, wrapped up in a mythological society and love story that it’s mainly teenage audience can grasp.

If you’re a fan of the books, or the films, here’s the trailer for the next movie, which has been released now even though the film isn’t out till Nov 22. Presumably we’ll have a bunch more by then, a la the Twilight series. Sometimes it feels like we’ve seen the whole movie by the time it ends up in theatres.

Anyhow. Enjoy. And ponder…

Mr Nice Guy. It's hard to find anyone, anywhere, with a bad word to say about Billy Joel. (Trust me, I looked.) And this story is just another example of why.

Mr Nice Guy. It’s hard to find anyone, anywhere, with a bad word to say about Billy Joel. (Trust me, I looked.) And this story is just another example of why.

I always thought – suspected – Billy Joel was a great bloke.

I’ve no idea if he really is, but he comes over that way, and I saw him once at Kooyong in Melbourne and the show just rocked along with great good humour, and awesome music, of course.

His marriage to Christie Brinkley – for whom he wrote Uptown Girl, and made the memorable video with her – was very publicly on the skids, and that she had not accompanied him to Australia was the cause of some speculation.

Someone called out from the audience “Where’s your wife?” He paused, looked down momentarily, then looked up and smiled. Leaning into the microphone he murmured:

“I know where my wife is, man. Which is more than we can say for you.”

Needless to say the audience erupted into applause. Very classy put down.

Another reason I like him is he  does those “Masterclass” things in schools and colleges, which is an incredibly generous thing for a huge star to do. At one, recently, his natural good nature shone out.

When lifelong Billy Joel fan Michael Pollack stood up to ask his childhood idol a question during the Piano Man’s recent Q&A at Vanderbilt University, he had no idea the answer would stay with him for the rest of his life.

Pollack, a piano player himself, asked Joel if he could accompany him in a performance of “New York State of Mind” — Pollack’s favorite song.

“He thought for a little – he took a second – and then he just said ‘Okay,’” Pollack would later tell the Vanderbilt Hustler.

That was good enough for Pollack, who took off toward the stage to prepare for whatever came next. After just a 15 second exchange with Joel, Pollack began to play. And the results are a rather wonderful rendition of what has always been a seminal Joel classic: I recommend you watch it.

Pollack recounted — or tried to recount — the next few minutes:

From there, it was just … foggy. It’s hard to remember. I just started playing. I had practiced it a little bit thinking maybe I’d get the chance to go up … I kind of lost myself playing. Then afterward he said to me … he said that I was great, where are you from … and I said, “I’m a Long Islander just like you.” He was like, “Cool.” Then I walked off, and that was it. It was probably the greatest moment of my life, up to date.

Joel’s advice to attendees to remember Pollack’s name won’t likely be much of a task: the young musician recently signed with the performing rights organization BMI and has already started working on some songs of his own. By the looks of him, there’s another Piano Man in the wings. Wonder if he needs any lyrics?

Alexa Ray, Joel and Brinkley's daughter, is "all growed up now", of course. At the time of writing, she's 26 and developing her own career as a painist and songwriter. "Lullaby" is her favourite song of her father's.

Alexa Ray, Joel and Brinkley’s daughter, is “all growed up now”, of course. At the time of writing, she’s 26 and developing her own career as a painist and songwriter. “Lullaby” is her favourite song of her father’s.

If I am writing about Joel, I may as well chuck in his immortal song Lullaby, also titled “Goodnight, My Angel”, seen performed here with an explanation of its genesis to another fascinated student audience.

As the video explains, it is his answer to a question from his daughter, “Daddy, what happens when we die?”

It is, without doubt, one of the most moving – and effortlessly simple – meditations on family, dying, death, and memory that one can possible imagine.

As the father of a daughter myself it invariably moves me to tears – you have been warned. Halfway through it appears to affect Joel similarly: he breaks down, and has to continue in a little while.

It’s been covered so many times now that people forget it’s Joel that wrote it.

It may be his most lasting gift to us all: that, and his good nature.

“So many things I still want to say.” Amen.

The video that was released with the song is here. And very lovely and beautifully produced and thought provoking it is. But I prefer the unvarnished live version. Then again, I’m just an old softie. What can I say?

Sometimes simple was best - it let the music shine

Sometimes simple was best – it let the music shine

Last night, for reasons so obscure they do not need elucidation, one found oneself with free tix for self, Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and Fruit Of One’s Loins at the Melbourne opening night of the latest run of Jersey Boys, the autobiographical re-telling of the rise and rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from the mean streets of New Jersey to mega-stardom and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

First opening night I had ever been to. Always good to rack up a first when already ensconced in one’s middle years. I don’t suppose it’s likely to happen all that often, so the credit card treated us all to dinner on the pavement at an ancient bistro next to the theatre (the type where you have to ask the price of the bottle of wine then you shouldn’t be there) and it was really quite amusing watching minor celebs arrive and be interviewed on the red carpet and photographed in front of the banners for the show and all that fluffy nonsense. Wannabee starlets primped and preened and wandered around squeezed into dresses that resembled sequin-encrusted handkerchiefs rather than practical garments. Luckily it was a warm night.

The PR hacks and the journos and the publicists and the great and good of Melbourne society swirled around, all trying to work out who was looking at them without anyone noticing that it was them that was doing the looking, and in general, a good time seemed to be being had by all. The whole thing was about three millimetres deep in societal relevance, and all the more fun for that. The former conservative Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, sat behind and above us in the circle. What my Mum would have called “the cheap seats, for the genteel poor”. It was only continual nagging by the Memsahib that prevented me from pointing out to him that the socialists had the better seats.

This multi-award winning show, which has already done amazing business in the USA and around the world, just seems to roll on and on. Almost everyone I know had already seen it, and I had actually not bothered last time it was here – “Frankie Valli? Pfft!” – so I wasn’t overly geed up to finally make the show.

But what an error, Dear Reader! This was musical theatre at its most approachable, enjoyable, and even, on occasions, genuinely moving. All around the world right now I have friends and readers telling me how they are flocking to see the musical movie version of Les Miserables and coming away feeling sad and drawn. My advice? Forget “The Glums”, (it’s a thoroughly depressing book, it was a thoroughly depressing stage show, and now, apparently it is a thoroughly depressing movie), and hithe thee instead to the nearest production of Jersey Boys. Fly, if you have to. Because it’s a corker.

With a set that brilliantly combines the raw simplicity of steel, echoing the mills and hardships of the young lads’ backgrounds, with witty, eye catching video effects and massive TV panels (allowing the very clever tromp l’oeil effect of combining on-stage performance with genuine footage of the audiences watching the original Four Seasons performing on shows like American Bandstand), the overall effect is to encourage one to suspend disbelief entirely, and to feel one is back in the late 50s and 60s, witnessing the birth of a genuinely mass-movement popular music phenomenon, and the effect it had on both the participants and the society surrounding them.

Jeff Madden channels Frankie Valli so accurately all disbelief is suspended

The Melbourne production was previously singled out by critics as amongst the most impressive worldwide, and I am sure the same plaudits will rain on the heads of the current cast, choreographers, stage designers and musicians. At times, Canadian actor Jeff Madden channelled Frankie Valli himself with a passion and credibility (and the “voice of an angel” that made Valli so famous, with a natural falsetto that defied belief) that meant one had to pinch oneself to remember that the real Valli is now 78 and all this was a very long time ago. But all the cast were flawless. The sets were tight, the timing impeccable, the dialogue convincing, and above all, the music sublime. It was a perfect reminder, and in my case a reminder was needed, that these young people were responsible for some of the finest pop songs ever written and performed. Their talent and their popularity was certainly rivalling other mega groups like the Beatles at the time, or the later Abba, and they deserve to be recalled with affection and some awe. Especially the song-writing and producing skills of Bob Gaudio, charmingly brought to life by Decaln Egan.

What made the evening truly special were a few moments when the audience, swept away by the talent on display, both inherent in the music and in the performances of the young cast, hollered and whooped their full-throated appreciation.

As if taken somewhat by surprise, the cast allowed themselves a little self-regarding emotion, occasionally just taking a second to the thank the audience for their enthusiasm, throwing in the occasional bow, nods of thanks, and smiles, with sparkling eyes.

It was charming, unforced, and it seemed entirely appropriate.

It further blurred the line between history and today, between acting and reality, between New Jersey and everyone else, between the entertainers and entertained.

For a moment the bond between actors and audience really did feel like that curious and intimate mesh that binds pop idol and fan, that can make one feel bereft and bereaved at the death of a John Lennon or a Freddie Mercury, or in genuine awe of the athletic rawness of a Bruce Springsteen or Roger Daltry, or warmed by the sheer good naturedness of an Olivia Newton-John or Cat Stevens or fundamentally,and sometimes life-changingly, stirred by the righteous wrath of a Bob Dylan. In the music of these giants of the entertainment world we see glimpses of them, the real people behind the carefully-constructed images, and thus in turn of ourselves, expressed in new and meaningful ways.

Now and again, last night, we were privileged to feel what Frankie Valli and his friends gave their many fans. And it seriously rocked.

If you’ve forgotten, well, here you go. Do yaself a favour. Some of the video is a bit dodgy. The music sure as hell isn’t.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun loved the show too. As they did in Adelaide. And in Sydney, the Sunday Telegraph commented “Jersey Boys isn’t just a cut above most musicals;  it’s in a different league”. And the Syndey Morning Herald raved “This is easily the best musical ever – truly thrilling – the hits explode from the stage with verve, polish and conviction.”

You can also see exclusive footage of the Melbourne show with cast interviews on this blog.

Well there ya go, and now you know. Be there or be square, man.

Fist

This is a deadly weapon. We need to get the message out to our youth. And you know what? “One Punch Can Kill” sounds like a good starting point to me. As does, “Walk Away, Chill Out.

From AP

How many times have we all said “You know, I could kill that bloody referee!”

Tragically, now, a Dutch linesman has actually died after being beaten by players in the aftermath of a youth match the day before.

Richard Niewenhuizen

RIchard Nieuwenhuizen set out to run the line at a kids soccer game. Now he’s dead.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital hours after players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten punched and kicked him.

Nieuwenhuizen’s club, Buitenboys, said the 41-year-old linesman died Monday evening but did not announce the exact cause of death.

Three players, whose ages range from 15 to 16, were arrested earlier Monday for alleged involvement in the beating in the town of Almere.

It remains unclear why the players beat Nieuwenhuizen, but they certainly weren’t justified. The police haven’t ruled out making more arrests as their investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, Nieuw Sloten have already announced that they banned the players arrested from the club and pulled their team out of the league.

Apart from this terrifying loss of control by the boys concerned, this story highlights something that we are always concerned about at Wellthisiswhatithink, namely, that as little as a single blow can kill someone. Tragic cases happen all the time, they are in the news regularly.

Typically, one teenage boy hits another, usually fuelled by alcohol, and the next thing we know one boy is dead and another is on trial for murder or manslaughter, their life ruined. Two families destroyed.

We see campaigns, constantly, persuading youth not to carry guns or knives. Well, we think we are long overdue a broad public education campaign reminding boys – whatever they see in popular media, and surely the casual violence of continual fist fights in Hollywood movies must have de-sensitised us to the use of punching – that fist fights kill, and a single blow can be all it takes.

Zero tolerance for violence. Nothing else is acceptable.

I found this site, One Punch Can Kill, from Queensland, which is a start. Well done them. But we need a wider campaign reaching youth around the world. The yield will be hundreds if not thousands of young lives saved, and a similar number saved from having their lives ruined by a moment of insanity. Surely social media – YouTube, Facebook, would be perfect to get the message out to the right audience. And it should be reinforced at the places that matter – clubs, pubs, public transport, on the streets.

You may also care to checkout the Matthew Stanley Foundation. Matthew was just 15 when he died attending a party in Queensland. 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

The Matthew Stanley Foundation are responsible for the “Walk Away, Chill Out”  campaign.

Walk Away, Chill Out.

If only we could get that simple message out there so EVERY young person hears it.

Ideas, comments, help, all welcome.

OK. This is enough reason to have Pay TV. But only just.

Over the years, those so-obliging and ever-so-clever clever cable people have gradually got me to add more and more channels to my box, until now I have a vast incoming feed of every possible type of TV programme imaginable.

I have been talked into every money-saving pack on offer. My monthly Foxtel subscription now rivals the Greek debt.

I can now watch re-runs of Iron Chef America on three different channels. (Bobby Flay, if you make that chipotle sauce one more time I have you taken out, I swear. And what the fuck is chipotle anyway?)

I have seen every episode of “Extreme Fishing”  at least three times. (Admittedly Robson Green does make me laugh a lot.)

And watching early episodes of Midsomer Murders before John Nettles’ face became so rigidly, brilliantly expressive that he could convey the guts of an entire scene with just the tweak of one facial muscle and an exhalation of a long-held breath does give one an interesting insight into the growth of an actor’s craft.

But in general, what is served up is total crap. Last night, at 10.03 pm, I had to concede that there wasn’t a single programme on I wanted to watch, on any channel. Furtively, my eyes even travelled across the room to the bookshelf. I couldn’t, could I?

This is the bread and circuses of today. Mindless, brain numbing, threatening to drag one down into a morass, a pit, an abyss, filled with mental confetti and candy floss, drizzled with sticky engine oil, in which we become stuck, never to escape. Cloying, suffocating, deadly.

You can almost hear the executives and politicians chanting their mantra quietly as they watch us sitting in traffic jams on the freeway, gazing affectionately at us from their gleaming glass and steel eyries. Work hard, spend up big, go home, switch your brain off. Work hard, spend up big, go home, switch your brain off.

You know why they don’t need troops on the barricades to keep us quiet any more. They have pay TV.

Emilia Clarke as the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones

Turn it off. Go outside. You know it makes sense.

And its not even good crap. For every Game of Thrones (“Oh! Khaleesi! Be still my beating heart!”) we have to endure a “Restoration Nightmare”, “Vanished”, “Jersey Shore”, “Teen Mom”, “16 and Pregnant”, even some unbelievable pap called “Entertainment Tonight” – surely that show should be done under the Trades Descriptions Act?

And, of course, those fucking Kardashians – a cipher for our modern age if ever there was one – in any one of 17 universally brain numbing, over-made-up but subtly different incarnations. ” Where are we doing this series, Hun? I know, let’s do Paris!”

Anyway. (Deep breath.) So when I saw the artwork below, I am afraid I could not resist reproducing it.

Feel free to do the same, on WordPress, Facebook, wherever. And well done to whoever is behind Ryotiras.com, who dreamed it up, I guess. One image can make all the difference.

Who knows, we could start a small revolution. Or a big one. I am even going to positively discriminate against advertisers who allow their ads to be run – ad nauseam, as if that helps – in the middle of TV shows with no redeeeming social, artistic, news or dramatic content, merely because the shows “deliver” an audience. The fact that the audience is half-sitting, half-lying, in a catatonic near-brain-dead state incapable of taking in information because their alpha and beta waves have been driven inexorably downwards to a negligible level is all the more reason to boycott those who support such nonsense.

Yes, I know it’s all a matter of opinion. But you know what? I’ve spent a lifetime honing my opinions, and they count.

A scientific survey will not be required. I will make my own mind up. If millions of us switched brands because we resent advertisers wasting their margin (which is passed onto us as consumers as increased prices, of course) by advertising in the middle of shows that merely pollute our lives then sooner or later they’d actually look at the schedules provided by their media buying agencies and express an opinion. Starved of funds, the worst shows would struggle. And eventually close.

Every act of resistance has meaning. This is mine. Join me?

You know it.

British TV Actor Jeremy Irons in the Borgias

He’s got that distant look off just right, no?

Last night, relentlessly sleepless after a rather large piece of rib-eye steak that wasn’t, for once, washed down with a couple of bottles of good Shiraz (hence still being wide awake, I guess) I ended up round midnight, family all asleep, aimlessly flicking the cable TV channels looking for something to keep the brain marginally occupied.

I’d just finished watching the last episode of the first series of the marvellously bodice-ripping The Borgias – what on earth does an actor of Jeremy Irons’ standing really think of acting in tosh like this? Helas, it’s all about the dosh, sometimes, I suppose – and a surfeit of murders, sex scenes and hard-core history had left me wide awake.

The Borgia's Francois Arnaud and Holliday Grainger

A big welcome to Francois Arnaud and Holliday Grainger

(Incidentally, whilst Irons was doing his “Jeremy Irons acting by numbers” bit, young French-Canadian actor François Arnaud was effortlessly marvellous in revealing the inherently awful nature of Cesaré Borgia. How could this apparently sensitive man adore his young sister so, feel disgust at the excesses of licentious medieval Rome, and yet not flinch to order horrible slaughter to protect his family’s position? Watching both the way his character was written, and the consistently compelling performance by Arnaud, I was reminded powerfully of those Nazi prison camp guards who would play adoringly with children in villages near the camp one day, and then throw living children in the camp furnaces the next, with no apparent understanding of the enormous evil and irony of their behaviour – or if they did understand, their exercise of the ability to compress their conscience to the extent that such a moral contradiction didn’t matter.

As the bulk of her work had previously been on UK television, the show also introduced me to the work of young British actress Holliday Grainger as Lucretia Borgia, and apart from being very pretty and winsome (she was apparently voted one of the 55 Faces of the Future by Nylon Magazine’s Young Hollywood Issue in May 2010 – whatever Nylon Magazine is) her acting in a relatively under-written part revealed real depth and layers of emotion. I see she is to play the cruel Estella in a 2012 production of Dickens’ Great Expectations; a role which I suspect she was born to play.

And yes, yes, I know, I know: I should have been blogging, not watching TV, but all work and no play, eh?)

Chelsea Handller of "Chelsea Lately"

Chelsea Handler

Anyhow, having devoured the last Borgias episode I came across American comedienne Chelsea Handler and her show Chelsea Lately. Whilst I often think this programme is testament to the absolute worst of faux-celebrity culture – can anyone enlighten me as to what Kim Kardashian is actually for, by the way? – I do enjoy Handler’s acerbic wit and that of the comics who share the stage with her for the first half of her show.

She is often unkind, but usually at the expense of those features of our society, or its citizens, who would receive much benefit from a jolly good slap up against the head, so I tend to forgive her when she herself falls into the traps associated with the mainly mindless psychological cruelty that seems to pervade much of America’s gutter culture – the seemingly endless obsession with people’s sexual antics or marital status, the latest beautiful face to command our attention momentarily, and people’s fluctuating body shapes or looks.

She is not afraid to be controversial. During the June 20, 2011 episode, while discussing doomed Amy Winehouse’s poorly-received performance at a concert in Belgrade, Handler read a statement by Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac calling Winehouse’s performance a “shame and a disappointment”. Handler then stated, “Well, so is your country”.

The comment has since drawn criticism, with requests for Handler to apologize for the comment. A Facebook page and change.org petition have also been created calling for a boycott of Handler and E! until a public apology is given: apparently Handler has yet to comment on the matter. On June 25, 2011, Serbian Ambassador to United States, Vladimir Petrović, sent a letter to the makers of the show describing Handler’s act as “inappropriate, distasteful, and just plain bad humor”. Few modern comics touch such raw nerves, whatever the merits of her comments.

She also doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously, unlike most celebs, which is refreshing:  it’s as if she is permanently somewhat surprised that anyone seems to enjoy this puerile drivel.

Snookie, aka Nicole Pollizzi

Snookie, aka Nicole Pollizzi, does what she does best

What is less clear is the extent to which shows like Handler’s merely perpetuate the problem of moronic celebrity adulation, whilst simultaneously taking the piss out of it, and at risk of seemingly needlessly tendentious or censorious, that’s what I’d like to think about for a moment.

Last night, Handler welcomed a star guest (and no, if you don’t watch MTV, I am not making this up) called “Snooki”, aka Nicole Pollizzi, from the hit reality TV show Jersey Shore, which is essentially an excuse to watch a lot of relatively unattractive Italian background Americans (so-called Guidos and Guidettes) make idiots of themselves.

They fight, they drink, they hook up, they break up, they cuss. And that’s it, essentially.

The beginning of an adulatory interview with Snooki on Good Morning, America recently called the show “ground-breaking”. It’s also been called “a cultural phenomenon”.

A cultural phenomen? Really? Well, the University of Chicago has announced an academic conference that will examine the show. And in 2010, the cast of Jersey Shore was named on Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People list, (not that this is a great recommendation, as in years 2007-2010 she also nominated Sarah Palin, who is about as fascinating as watching paint dry), and the series has since exported to dozens of countries worldwide.

Thanks to the ever-increasing success of the show, Ms Pollizzi is now paid thirty thousand dollars an episode, and can apparently command the same sum for making a speech. In April 2011, for example, Snooki was paid $32,000 to speak at Rutgers University. Her message included what it’s like being a celebrity, and also what she thinks is important in school, including the sage advice “Study hard, but party harder”. There was a big uproar from both Rutgers students and alumni, who thought that Polizzi was invited merely for her celebrity status and was an inappropriate speaker for an academic setting.

Anyhow, on Chelsea Lately last night, Snooki waddled cheerfully on stage covered in ridiculous adornments, including a spiky bracelet which could have got her arrested for carrying a deadly weapon in most jurisdictions, but not around the studios of E!, apparently. (E! is the NBC subsidiary which makes Handler’s show.)

For the next five minutes or so, she burbled excitedly about her latest ventures, which apparently include a range of bedroom slippers, and the ubiquitous perfume release that seems a mandatory add-on to every up-and-coming star today.

(When asked about said perfume on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Snooki kindly offered that “I wanted it flirty and bubbly like my personality, and obviously something DTF.”

If you’re not sure what that means, ask Leno’s first guest of the evening, Jeff Bridges, as Snooki had to explain the explicit acronym to the actor during the show. Or Google it, as I admit I did.)

But that wasn’t always what she envisioned for her signature smell. Snooki said she originally wanted it to smell like pickles. “I like pickles so everybody else should like pickles.” But after sniffing the mock-up, which she said smelled like – shock! – pickles (and grass, apparently), Snooki chose to go in a more conventional direction.)

I did consider changing channels, but a cursory flick through the listings on the TV revealed a football game I already knew the score of, and a BBC show with a young man hunting down the owners of the world’s biggest breast implants and watching them strip on stage. Somewhat confronted, I stuck with Handler.

OK, now look: this is where I am going with this ramble.

I am sure Ms Pollizzi is a pleasant enough person underneath all the pretended outrage and set-up-for-the-camera tension (sexual or otherwise) that is the staple for such shows.

What worries me is that, beyond her gallons of chutzpah and a distinct lack of personal shame, she is hardly worthy of our attention. Nor are her fellow cast members.

Jersey Shore is merely the mental equivalent of one too many vodkas. It’s what you do when you’re slumped at a bar and you can’t be stuffed to go home. Yet millions of (primarily) young people watch the show with rapt if somewhat vacuous attention. The more moronic the behaviour exhibited, the higher the ratings.

My core question is this: is this type of mind-numbing nonsense essentially harmless – and our concomitant fascination with the participants – or is this kind of reality TV dumbing down our reactions to the real world around us to an as yet ill-determined but probably worrying extent?

I am reminded of all the research documents that reveal that hyper-violent movies and slasher computer games produce a de-sensitisation to casual violence which shows up as a lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions in some young people.

So is the inevitable result of shows like Jersey Shore that teenagers and young adults will gradually assume that all one really needs to do to end up on Chelsea Lately – talking about one’s ever-burgeoning business empire – is to allow oneself to be filmed 24/7, yell fuck repeatedly at one’s “friends”, screw around and not care who knows it, drink to excess (preferably in public), wear ridiculous clothing and evidence the all-important “attitood”?

Perhaps the most worrying indication that this might be the case are the many opinion surveys of pre-teen children (in numerous countries) who, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, can’t actually nominate a career, but simply answer: “Famous”.

It’s also worth noting that on July 30, 2010, Polizzi was cited on a count of interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the beach, which AP called “essentially, disturbing the peace”, as well as for disorderly conduct and criminal annoyance of others. In a September 8 plea bargain, Judge Damian G. Murray sentenced her to a $500 fine and community service. In handing down the sentence, he characterized Polizzi as “a Lindsay Lohan wannabe”.

Needless to say, her arrest was taped during production of season three of Jersey Shore.

And on May 31, 2011 in Florence, Italy, (where the latest series was being filmed) Polizzi was briefly taken into custody by local police after the car she was driving collided with a parked traffic police car. According to Italian police, Polizzi was cited and released, and two police officers sustained minor injuries. Yep, it made it into the show.

Naked snowboarding: when will it be on TV?

Naked snowboarding: when will it be on TV?

At least back in the days of the Borgias, people basically knew this stuff was unhealthy. Not exactly “world’s best practice”.

But does anyone still care? Are the barbarians not so much at the gates, as already ripping them down and making snow-boards out of them for the next episode of Xtreme Winter Naked Snow Challenge?

In short, I fear for Snookie. I fear for her friends. I fear for those who watch her.

I think we’re losing the plot.

Oh, there isn’t a plot, any more?

Silly me.

Yolly reading at the drunken poet

Yours truly reading at the "Drunken Poet". Yes, that's me, over there in the distance, struggling to see.

Apologies for the rough quality of the photo, but it was a dark and crowded pub on a dark and soggy night.

After 20 years of writing poetry, publishing “Read Me”, (see below), and innumerable public speaking appearances, this was, believe it or not, the first time I have ever actually read any of my work in public. In proper public, I mean, not at dinner parties with a captive audience who are forced to listen to be polite. Anyhow, I thought the event deserved recording on the blog.

Interesting experience it was, reading to a noisy pub full of people who’d had a skinful of Guinness and Irish whiskey. (It was near 10pm by the time I was called up.) “Shut the fuck up! Especially you noisy bastards at the back!” seemed to do the trick long enough for the work to speak for itself. I don’t feel I have quite ascended to the heights of courage of a new stand up comedian at a northern working mens’ club in the UK, but I will certainly treat their stories on chat shows with more respect from now on.

Anyhow, it was a very fun night at the Drunken Poet – was a pub ever better named? – and some of the music was brilliant, and they seemed to genuinely like my poetry. Either that, or they just thought I was too big and ugly to boo off. The walls of the pub are adorned with photos and caricatures of the greats – Yeats, Shaw, Behan, Beckett. No Dylan Thomas, though, so I may have to donate one.

The stars of the night were three kids in their early 20s who were visiting Melbourne from Quebec, who played Québécois folk music – in French, naturally – to huge acclaim. Interestingly, I recognised one of the songs from a recording of Welsh folk songs I have from Susan Davies. It would be fascinating to know how a folk song migrates from Wales to Canada and gets translated and transmogrified into French.

Next Open Mic at the DP (as we cognoscenti now call it) is the Thursday before Easter – “Hungover for Good Friday” – how appropriate! I am emboldened to have another go. Would be great to see some of the readers of this blog there.

And if you feel like investing thirty bucks in the book, I’d be delighted. There’s 71 poems and a long short story. That’s less than 50 cents a poem. Feed the starving artist! As I once saw on a little sign by a poet reading his work in public, next to his cap with a few coins in it, “Will Think For Money”.

Read Me

Go on, grab one. I dare you. I won't tell anyone you read poetry. Promise.

Davy Jones in 2011

The same chirpy grin, the same good-natured twinkle in the eye

How sad to hear that the Monkee’s Davy Jones has died of a heart attack at just 66 years young.

I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, and the Monkees were simply part of my life. Discussions about whether they were a “real” pop group or merely a manufactured confection are surely irrelevant.  They were enormous fun and took to their roles with huge enthusiasm – in an era when much “popular” music was created by hard headed folks with an eye for what the public wanted. I have heard it argued they were the first “boy band”. Whatever.

What mattered is the lads themselves oozed talent – you can’t fake that – and none less than irrepressible young Brit Davy Jones, who instantly won a huge following in the US and elsewhere with his Beatles-style haircut, natural good looks and elfin charm.

Here’s a great clip of the lads performing in New York just last year, and obviously having a great time. The reaction of the crowd reveals their genuine appeal.

They copped a lot of flak – included being called the “Prefab Four” as opposed to the Beatles, but the criticism seemed carping and mean-spirited then and still does.

That they went on to create a genuine following and deliver some of the best pop tunes of the era was their sweet revenge.

If you want to enjoy the original, too, here it is. The bit at the end where the boys vie to be in the front was kicked off by prankster Mickey Dolenz, (it starts at about two minutes in), and whilst it might have been scripted it looks spontaneous, and as this particular video became very well known it obviously explains why he and Davy and larking around in the same way in the 2011 show. And you know what? It’s still funny, all these years later. I defy you to watch it and not smile.

The success of the band should not be under-rated. As David Bianculli noted in his Dictionary of Teleliteracy, “The show’s self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group’s first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes.” Quite some record.

Well someone thought they were good. This is the Monkees in 1967. From left: Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz pose with their Emmy award at the 19th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in California. It's not as well-known that Jones had previously been a child star in England and been nominated for a Tony for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver, on Broadway. Pic: AAP Source: AP

And though initially the Monkees weren’t allowed to play their own instruments, they were supported by enviable talent: Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Neil Diamond penned I’m a Believer. Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston (who only later played with the Beatles), Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young. That they had their own musical talent is undoubted – Peter Tork wrote the piano arrangement of Daydream Believer himself.

The outpouring of grief at the death of this much-loved 60s icon seems entirely genuine, and of a more proportioned and thoughtful – and gentle – nature than that which greeted the news of Whitney Houston’s equally untimely demise a couple of weeks back.

Rather than a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, the world simply seems to have paused for a moment and breathed a collective sigh, and to my mind that sigh reflects a wistful sadness at a symbol of the passing of a simpler and somehow less fraught era when not every media appearance was attended by a cavalcade of “fucks”, messy unwanted pregnancies, world-weary cynicism, and endless stories of foolish drug-taking and idiot drunken-ness.

That this feeling is also the product of the rose-tinted spectacles that accompany any retrospective view makes it no less true. The world has become a harsher place, and the death of Davy Jones and what he stood for just makes it more so, by a tiny but perceptible increment.

A lot of us are still Daydream Believers as we waddle grumpily through and past our middle age, and if the song comes on at a party or in a club are suddenly transformed into carefree teenagers again, belting out the lyrics with delighted abandon. What bigger compliment could a band want? Thanks for the memories, Davy.

I do love the internet. Well, I’m fascinated by it, anyhow.

One of the great things about WordPress is it lets you see which Google searches (or other search engines) have led to people dropping in on your blog. I always give it a glance, to see whether my tagging of the 100 articles I have now written and image descriptions and so on is actually doing any good.

Anyhow, here is a brief selection of ways that people found my writing the last two days.

  • the biggest naked tits in the world
  • big breast touch
  • snooki
  • hot teen naked tits
  • short naked teen with big tits
  • big tits naked
  • who has the biggest tits
  • tits actress Italian
  • nude beach big bobs
  • bigtitted readheads
  • tits

You’ve gotta love that last one, haven’t you?

Just “tits”.

Now there’s someone who knows exactly what he wants Google to deliver him. (Well, “Him”, presumably. But maybe not.) I just had to have a go. And you know what? Hopefully seaching on simply “tits” brings up 645 MILLION hits on Google.

So, if you could click on one link a second, which you can’t, that’s over 20 days of wall-to-wall mammary glands of all shapes and sizes. Why oh why doesn’t WordPress let me know who used that search term? I want to ring them and just ask, you know, wtf?

And a little way down the list was someone with a website called “Two Tits Per Hour”, which looked, on a cursory glance, like someone, somewhere could be bothered to post a photo of, yes, a girl with two tits, every hour. For, seemingly, ever. 24/7. Anonymously, for no apparent economic gain. I mean, hello?

Interestingly, Googling images of tits with “safe search off” revealed only 177 MILLION hits, so writing about tits is clearly more than three and a half times more common than photographing them. Who’d of thought, eh?

There was a slight pause in writing this article while I perused the Google images result. Research, dear reader, research. Within a very short space of time I had found my way to a website asking the question “Which celebrity has the best tits?” Apparently the answer is Jennifer Love Hewitt closely followed by Katy Perry. Discuss. No, better still, don’t.

Why my website has become such a magnet for tit searchers is because I wrote a serious (well, moderately serious) article about popular culture that actually included a discussion on popular TV’s obsession with, er, tits – and someone called Snooki from the show “Jersey Shore” in particular.

It’s far and away consistently the most popular article on my blog, and I actually am happy with it; I think it’s a fun read. Sadly, I am sure most of the people accessing it aren’t thoughtfully considering my erudite take on popular culture. They’re just accidentally rocking up there because about day 14 of their twenty day tit-fest I come up on Google. They will be sadly disappointed, and I apologise to them. You can read the original article here, and it’s worth it:

http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/on-snookie-chelsea-the-borgias-big-tits/

Meanwhile, I am delighted with all the attention my blog is getting, as some of the great unwashed will also be happening upon articles about politics, economics, culture, art, iPhones, and Lord knows what else. I think I am onto something here.

So: tits tits tits tits tits tits. Er, bottom. Arse. See how I did that? Targeting a whole new demographic. There ya go.

Oh yes, and some artfully shot pictures, of course to deliver satisfaction to the third or so of readers who need such things. A pair of Great Tits. Oo-er, missus.

A Great pair of Tits

Did you know the Great Tit is, like other tits, a very vocal bird, and has up to 40 types of calls and songs? Celebs: they all release an album sooner or later, right?

As I publish this, the blog is approaching 9000 hits. I confidently expect to crack 10,000 in about the next four minutes.

The grounding of the entire Qantas fleet on October 29 left tens of thousands stranded worldwide, such as these confused customers at LAX.

The grounding of the entire Qantas fleet on October 29 left tens of thousands stranded worldwide, such as these confused customers at LAX.

Hilarious story from the blind ivory tower that is Qantas, currently deeply mired in consumer scepticism and industrial relations issues following their recent grounding by Qantas management and lockout of their staff.

Click below to see just how badly wrong a Twitter campaign can go when it is launched at the wrong time, dropped into the bubbling maelstrom created by pissed off consumers and even more pissed off workers.

Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid.

http://www.theage.com.au/travel/travel-news/qantas-makes-hash-of-tweet-campaign-20111122-1nsa4.html

Just one more reminder, if it was needed, that social media is not separate from a company’s overall advertising and media posture, it is integral to it.

Well This Is What I Think’s contribution to the, er, “debate” was: A bread roll that isn’t like rock? Anything edible at all? In-flight movies that work? Clean tray tables? Smiling hosties? #qantasluxury

We look forward to hearing yours.