Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Old fags and cabbage-stumps

Autumn is upon us like a damp, slightly-aroused setter, and still no word from the BBC about my programme suggestions. Never mind, here are a few more. Channel 4 can have them too, if they like. I'm open to a Dutch auction, or indeed anything else Dutch except their dismal breakfasts. On the subject of which:

1. Danny Dyer's Hard Men: the poignant spam-faced professional Londoner travels to s'Achtengracht to get to know the hardest men in Holland's XXXX gay porn film scene. An interactive feature on digital called 'Danny Dyer's Old Mum' will see mildly-sedated female relatives of the downward-spiral star talked through proceedings, both on set and in traction, by "Backpacking IV" star Bent Vanderpump and a team of proctologists.

2. Your Thought For The Day: Radio 4's team of house-trained clerics on the 'Today' programme are obliged to answer questions from listeners, instead of cramming some twee homily into the day's events. This week Glasgow University's Dr Mona Siddiqui is asked "Have you considered a sabbatical at Riyadh Poly?"

3. Oliver's Army: Following his success in reminding the Americans exactly why they had a Revolution in the first place, galley urchin 'Jamie' Oliver brings his unique blend of matey condescension to feeding hungry squaddies worldwide. This week Jamie tries out his new vegetarian menu on the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Next week Heston Blumenthal devises a basic meal that Jamie can consume through an array of tubes in Moscow's Botkin Infirmary Intensive Care Department.

4. Meidl Madonna: Every orphan's nightmare Madonna Ciccone visits the Jewish mystics of Israel's holy city of Safed and immerses herself in the esoteric depths of Lurianic Kabbalah. Episode One: Madonna has her head shaved and is told to stand behind a wall and shut up, already.

5. Suor Angela: German Federal Chancellor and Theresa May-o-gram Angela Merkel enacts Puccini's opera Suor Angelica in the full habit of a Benedictine nun, albeit one fashioned from latex. Well, I'd watch it. If need be, I'd direct it.

If anyone knows any machers I'd be grateful for a tip-off. No one wants to spend the next few months watching Minnie Driver, except perhaps in a lunar module.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dearth of the Cool

Gorilla Bananas has catalogued the disappointing career of sunny Swede Ulrika Jonsson. I shuddered - not because I've met Ms Jonsson, but because she cost me my fleeting Cool.

The quest for Cool is futile. Like Celticity, you either have it or you have not. We Welsh are effortless Celts.

Despite living only a few miles from the English and even having a lot of them all over the place back home, we remain relaxed in our sexual license, enthusiasm for herbs, proliferation of dark-haired plump women and speaking of an Xtreme language ("So, you change the endings of your words, do you? Well, we change the endings, middle and beginnings. Ha! let's see your dictionary help you now, Herr learner?").

Our Scotch cousins try too hard, what with the skirling, man-skirts and sheep guts. That work-ethic marks them out as Calvin's Krauts. They even grow kale, although health statistics suggest they don't eat it.

So to Cool. Like the joy of drink, it's easier to describe than to define. If we take the important stuff:

  • Jazz - yes; jazz fans - no.
  • World music - yes; your own folk music - no.
  • Unthinking Left - yes; any sort of Right - no.
  • Tea is cool; coffee is for those who can't cope.

I was once in the happy position of having Cool thrust upon me. On a weekend in London I ambled into HMV on Oxford St to buy some t-shirts. It was uncool to buy records there - that's what small shops in Soho are for. The HMV staff were nonetheless fairly cool, belonging as they did loosely to the class of what Americans call "record-store clerks".

Thrumming through the racks of the usual Pop Art sludge and '68 slogans, I struck medium-sized gold. It was a promotional t-shirt for the "What a Wonderful World" duet by Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan.

It portrayed the two crooners sitting side-by-side and black & white in a public house, arms across one another's shoulders, cradling cigs and glasses of some refreshment.

It was perfect. The Cave/MacGowan version is my favourite song, the artwork was tasteful without being primly minimalist, and a master-stroke had printed all of this on an off-white background - the colour that all credible t-shirts aspire to. And it was the last one in the shop. Indeed, I've never seen one anywhere else, and it remains my most cherished non-human possession.

Elated, I picked up another t-shirt and headed for the till. Record-Store Clerk #1 took one look at Wonderful World and gave me an almost-approving glance. He showed my purchase to the smoky Berlin cadaver at the neighbouring till. Her lip flickered. Indie Cool beckoned.

I saw myself, a few weeks later, deconstructing and rerolling unfiltered Camels in the editorial office/fuckbox of a lower-case fanzine in West Hampstead, muttering "Yeah, but when I say Beefheart I'm thinking Snakefinger" and filing down tenor sax reeds with a straight razor. I'd even pass off my unpalatable right-wing views with a shrugged "Ask Joey Ramone".

It would hardly be worth buying any pants, given the risk of friction burns from having them wrenched off by the rhythm guitarists of Japanese all-girl bands. Possibly twins.

Then #1 came to my second t-shirt. Anything tied to a mainstream television comedy show might have passed through the Irony Mesh, but the self-consciously surreal Reeves & Mortimer meant the instant Death of Cool. On reflection, I ought to have received some credit for audacity in presenting The Clerks not with Vic'n'Bob themselves, but rather their gormless "Ulrika-ka-ka-ka" sidekick, but there's no right of appeal in the Court of Cool.

Mind you, that wasn't my worst encounter with record-store clerks. There's a hardcore faction camped out at Tower Records in Tel Aviv. I rather like Israeli pop music of the 1950s and decided to buy a couple of compilation CDs while on holiday in the White City.

"You're buying this?!" barked the Clerk, brandishing "Our Tiny Country" like a Manx passport. "It's for my Dad," I mumbled, thereby slandering a man who thought music took a wrong turn when it spurned Skiffle for "that Presley boy and his drums". I thought of grabbing some last-minute Aviv Geffen, but rightly decided it would only make matters worse.

I'm glad I've now moved into the post-Cool phase of life. I've two children, a mortgage, car, career, standing orders, and a wife to run it all. I'm expected to dance badly at weddings, and look forward to embarrassing my daughter at school and in all social settings. I visit National Trust properties and enjoy war films in which our side wins. I find Felicity Kendall attractive.

All I have to do before dying is avoid humorous clothing (hats, Simpsons socks, "kipper" ties) and being jail-baited, and Paradise should beckon. Unless the gates are manned by a Recording Clerk Angel, rooting through my après-vinyl purchases with a beady, kohl-framed eye.