Tag Archives: Charlie-brooker

Give the public what they want

Based on the top Google searches that brought stray readers here today, there would be zillions of visitors to any post that referred to:

* morris dancers or morris dancing
* schwarzenegger
* adam curtis or charlie brooker
* quiche gay
* chip 666
* fine art
* castle with a moat or fairytale castle
* Viking names
* 5 fruit and veg a day

These searches do actually reach posts – usually from long ago. Sometimes I have to search this site myself, to find any post relating to a weird search term, because the idea that some particular searches brought anyone here seems inherently unlikely.

If we’d known that we’d hit the popularity motherlode with these topics, maybe we should have had the foresight to make the target posts more interesting.

I’m taking the opposite tack and using these words – nay, even tagging with them – just for the comedic satisfaction of seeing the number of hits go through the roof today. I.e., a day when there is no actual content in the post.

So, sorry, if you came here because of one of these search terms. Just think of yourself as taking part in a non-peer-reviewed experiment with the nature of internet “popularity.” Without any analysis of the results, either. But then, this experiment won’t give rise to any spurious pseudo-science or pseudo-consultation in the media, so it’s all good.

A theme (park) develops

As the curator of an office desk biscuit wrapping museum, how pleased was I by Charlie Brooker’s latest Guardian piece and the comments it brought in? (Rhetorical question. The answer is “inordinately.”)

Charlie Brooker was saying that the Lapland Museum that opened and closed recently was his kind of visitor attraction, unlike the slick delights of Disneyland or Alton Towers.

“Santa’s gone home. Santa’s fucking dead.” As theme park slogans go, it’s a winner.

That wasn’t the official slogan. The staff were reducing to yelling it at reporters. This attraction seems to have been a muddy field with a billboard, a couple of Christmas lights and a four hour queue to spend another £10 (on top of the £25 admission) to get your picture taken with Santa.

Charlie Brooker runs with the idea of crap attractions, like the Norfolk’s Collector’s World:

It consisted of room upon room of bizarre, apparently unrelated artefacts. There was a “Pink Room” dedicated to Barbara Cartland, a telephone museum, a collection of antique cars, some sort of hideous-sounding “gynaecological chair”, and best of all, a hall filled solely with memorabilia relating to the actor Liza Goddard, which apparently included pullovers and a mug she’d once drunk out of. Exhilarating and frightening in equal measure, I’d imagine, especially if you’re Liza Goddard yourself.

The commenters could put this half-hearted attempt to create a really rubbish day-out in the shade though.
Step forward:

  • Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick: “home of the first pencil!”
  • Noel Edmonds theme park, called Crinkly Bottom
  • Barometer world
  • Prairie Dog Town, Kansas
  • Cheeseworld in Southern Australia
  • Diggerland, “basically a glorified pit with mini JCBs you can play on, and big JCBs you can look at.”
  • Musée du Jambon in La Roche en Ardenne. (A ham museum)
  • ‘The Mosquito Museum in Sweden
  • The Bakelite Museum in Somerset
  • The Penis Museum in Iceland
  • The Drinking Water Museum
  • The Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Unsurprisingly, the Creation Museum gets quite a few mentions. For being rubbish, quite apart from its ludicrous content. Another more appealing comedy Christian theme park was visited by Babykangaroo

This is my favourite of all hilariously bad theme parks: Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires
http://www.tierrasanta-bsas.com.ar/galeria.html
A 10-metre high Jesus is resurrected every half hour and you get to view a waxwork show of the story of “Creation” involving mechanical animals. The rest of the time you hang around “Jerusalem” waiting for Jesus to do that thing again, whilst planes fly scarily low over head as it’s right next to the airport.
Bloody brilliant. I highly recommend a visit.

Obviously, if the word kitsch didn’t exist, something like it would have to be invented just to describe this single attraction.

I don’t know why, but the museum visited by kbfrome appeals to me the most:

….I defy anyone to better The Pilchard Experience, the museum about pilchards in Cornwall somewhere. Three of the shittest hours of my life. And my parents were entranced by every aspect of it

(Don’t book your visit, though. Distressingly, the Pilchard Experience is no more. It’s closed. I googled it. Although Cornwall seems to have plenty of other pilchard-themed attractions)

jemimapiddledick said:

I always fancied a visit to McLeod Cuckoo Land. A theme park based on the 70´s horse riding cowboy law enforcer. Alas, it was just a VIZ creation.
Shame.

Cross factor

Reality TV show producers are getting really desperate for topics. On the face of it, this would seem unlikely, given that reality is infinitely interesting, but to run out of ideas you have to redefine “reality” in a novel way. You have to take the word “reality” to mean “Start from an absurd premise. Gather a few people with moderate to severe psychological problems. Put them under pressure until they break.”

Granted this sounds like the actions you’d expect from a cult. So, it’s appropriate that a new UK Channel 4 “reality” show is called Make me a Christian. A crack team of four types of Christian try to change a comically diverse set of subjects.

Charlie Brooker’s introduction to this series in Saturday’s Guardian said more or less all you ‘d want to know about it.

In true oversimplified TV-conflict tradition, it’s a clash of absurd extremities. The Christians, for instance, consist of an evangelical preacher, a lady vicar, a Catholic priest and – very much heading up the pack – the Reverend George Hargreaves, founder of Operation Christian Vote, and the Christian Party, and the Scottish Christian Party, and the Welsh Christian Party. If it’s Christian and a Party, chances are George is its figurehead. He scatters Christian joy like a muckspreader flings shit: indiscriminately and everywhere.
Said Christians are pitted against a group of volunteers containing the following widely representative social types: a lesbian schoolteacher, a tattooed militant atheist biker, a white Muslim convert, a boozing fannyhound who claims to have slept with over 150 women, and a lapdancing witch. Nice work, C4. I’m sure we can all learn from this. Let battle commence.

The atheist (militant, tattooed, biker, yada, yada) complained about brainwashing. He refused to even go into York Minster, on the grounds that it was built just to keep the peasants down and had nothing to do with the “love” that this programme is supposed to be about. Well, this may have been pretty a statement of fact, but his attitide didn’t exactly endear him the other volunteers. The others hated him for his strident opposition, seemingly becoming more responsive to the evangelical message just to prove that their manners were better.

While the evangelists were cleaning out the suspiciously generic items of decor in the lesbian’s and lapdancer’s homes, the Catholic priest was bringing fresh kitsch to the home of the 17-year-old lapsed catholic father-to-be. A terrifying picture of the Pope, for instance. Some icons. You know the sort of thing. The participant’s girlfriend drew the line at one item of sculpture. “I don’t think that a dead man hanging on a cross is a nice thing to have hanging up in your house.”

When I say that the decor was “suspicious,” I mean this in the sense that the mansions of minor rock stars are suspcious on MTV Cribs. Just as the owners of many Cribs don’t seem to have ever walked through the front door before the start of filming, these people’s homes seem to have been madeover in special “reality” mode. They didn’t seem to have a book or a photograph that didn’t fit into their TV programme persona. You didn’t see the random trash that turns up in real people’s rooms. The witch’s books seemed to have been bought by the yard from the New Age section of Waterstone’s. It looked as if none had ever been opened.

She didn’t really seem like a great reader. For a start, she’s a lapdancer and would-be glamour model who has had her chest and nose cosmetically enhanced and who owns thousands of pounds worth of hideous and expensive shoes. Call me a godawful snob, but there is nothing in that list that you would usually associate with the profile of a deeply philosophical thinker.

She was a great crier, though. She was sobbing at the first suggestion from her selected christianiser that her lifestyle may not be ideal. Well, he put it much more forcefully. He said she was chasing the false idols of materialism and demonic powers and was on a trajectory to hell.

Her achievements to date don’t suggest philiosophical depths, but they do suggest a pretty low level of respect for herself and an excessive willingness to please. So, she seemed to me to be fair game for a conversion.

Her evangelist clearly felt the same. He said “She is a broken lady … but it’s a good place to be to welcome Jesus into your life.”

How transparent is that? The more fucked up the person, the more likely that the Christian can get them to accept Jesus into their lives, yada yada. What was it the biker chap said about brainwashing, again?

The religious converters have been recruited as a spiritual makeover team. The equivalent of those TV presenters who tell receptive morons how overweight they are, how filthy their houses are or how badly they are dressed.

It’s exactly in tune with standard reality tv – a messed-up person is encouraged to fall to bits on camera for the entertainment of the masses. In return they get access to the magic of fame and, if they are really lucky, a couple of years in which they are mildly interesting to the readers of Heat and can earn good money for nothing.

I tried to come up with good arguments for why the existence of a religious makeover show is even more disgusting. But I’m not going to bother. It just somehow seems even more repellent when religion comes into it.

Secular fundament, my butt

Today’s Guardian has articles at both extremes of the bell-shaped curve of sense. First, the great Charlie Brooker, scoring a goal for the good guys, in a brilliant and passionate TV guide (yes, you read that right) piece about Iraq.

However, “nature knows balance”, as people say. In the Review part of the Guardian, John Gray writes tosh on “The atheist delusion”. The introductory subhead hints at the content with “John Gray on why the ‘secular fundamentalists’ have got it all wrong

Do I need to read on. Secular fundamentalists? Will there be reference to Dawkins as the Pope of Atheism next? I can barely bear to read this stuff to find out. But I’ll try.

(This blog is being served to you in real time.)

No. I’ve read it now. There is no point in even addressing it.

To give you a flavour, “The new evangelism mirrors the faith it rejects” is the picture caption, taken from a lazy assertion in the text.

These are the same tired old arguments based on the idea that finding a flaw in some irrelevant Dawkins’ metaphor somehow disproves everything anyone says about the non-existence of the god and about the minus value of the impact of organised religion.

For once, in this type of work, he hasn’t actually SAID Dawkins is the “Pope of Atheism” but he’s taken it for granted. He had to throw in the standard Stalin and Hitler nonsense, which certainly doesn’t bear discussion, being so dumb and mistaken, an’ all.

As an example of his arguments, it turns out, according to Gray, that

In today’s anxiety about religion, it has been forgotten that most of the faith-based violence of the past century was secular in nature”

What? It was faith-based but it was really secular? :-D Don’t ask me what that is supposed to mean. Unless, of course, he’s veering dangerously close to the views of those of us who see religion as a tool for manipulating people for material ends…..

Read Charlie Brooker instead. Justified anger, true intelligence and a tv review all in one short column. What more could you want?

Don’t have nightmares

This is a link to a really good, if disturbing, video. It discusses parallels between extreme Islam (in the shape of a Muslim man with a Hitler moustache) and Christian fundamentalism and how this has given our rulers a pretext to build up our fears to achieve their ends.

h/t to paul canning whose blog reminded me about the video Charlie Brooker showed to da yout’ this week, and even provided a link.

Charlie Brooker’s sample of young people found it infinitely more interesting than the youth tv dross he also showed them.

Oddly, given that Charlie Brooker is a tv critic so brilliant that he can make you chortle out loud, (hence giving away the fact you are secretly reading his Guardian column in work) his own tv ventures are not usually crowned with glory. But, even so, it takes a superhuman effort of will to disagree with his conclusions on any programme. And, he’s right on this one.

Reason on TV

The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker returns to form after his recent spate of lame Big Brother-centred columns and pulled out all the stops for Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins’ new programme is on tomorrow in the UK. It’s called The Enemies of Reason and it’s on Channel 4 at 8 p.m.

Charlie Brooker’s in no doubt about how important the arguments in this programme are. He complains about the growing influence of irrationality and applauds Dawkins for trying to stem the tide. As you expect from Charlie Brooker, at his best, he expresses this beautifully.

I’ve lifted a couple of paragraphs here but it’s well worth reading.

If it wasn’t for the Enlightenment, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You’d be standing in a smock throwing turnips at a witch. Yes, the Enlightenment was one of the most significant developments since the wheel. Which is why we’re trying to bollocks it all up…..
Everywhere you look, screaming gittery is taking root, with serious consequences. The NHS recently spent £10m refurbishing the London Homeopathic Hospital. The equivalent of 500 nurses’ wages, blown on a handful of magic beans.

And watch Dawkins of course.

Charlie Brooker tries to get you to watch the Wire

Charlie Brooker has just struggled to do the Wire justice on FX. And failed. But you can’t blame him. No one can really do the Wire justice. All you do is end up saying “Best TV programme ever made” or “work of art”

He started out funny and fanatical. He was basically agreeing that it’s really boring listening to people banging on about such and such an American tv programme being great. But in any case, you can ignore them all because only the Wire was worth watching. And it’s “a true work of art.”
Then there were various talking heads, a few of whom were recognisable, saying “it’s a work of art” and so on. Someone said a freind from America had said it was the best thing that had been on TV since Abigail’s Party . Alexei Sayle said “Hi, my names Alexei and I’m a Wire-aholic”

The rest of the programme was pretty pesh. It even achieved the seemingly impossible and used clips in a way that made the Wire look corny and formulaic.

The interviews were so focussed on the British and Irish actors in the Wire as to have Brooker forced to misrepresent the plot. He introduced Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) as the leader of the Barksdale crew. Argh. This rides roughshod over a whole subplot, in which Stringer is manoeuvring his way through the ranks to take over. (Starting as the dumber but tougher Avon Barksdale’s sycophantic sidekick, he works in his own ideas about puttting the Barksdale gang on a standard commercial footing and goes for Avon’s crown.)

The talking head suggestions as to why the greatest TV series ever made wasn’t even remotely popular threw up the likeliest reasons as being that
(a) most people are too stupid to appreciate it,
(b) it’s very complex and cumulative so you have to commit to the whole thing or it’s too hard to follow and
(c) its cast is 70% black, so it would never reach a mass US audience. All probably true.
(Plus the extravagant use of cuss-words, I suspect, given that the Charlie Brooker trailer show had to blot out half the dialogue in its clips. It’s probably never going to be on mainstream TV. But, then, as one of the talking heads said, you want everyone to watch it but you also want it to kep it as your own secret.)

The main point here is that you can’t do the Wire justice. Everyone who loves it is awestruck. You just end up gushing or saying ludicrous things like “it’s your civic duty to watch it” as Charlie Brooker did at the end, “or else watch celebrity goose-wrestling on ITV6.”

The Trap- BBC2

The Trap – on BB2, on Sundays at 9pm for the next few weeks – is well worth watching. It is mainly brilliant. It’s rare to find television that addresses fundamental issues about our current society. If it’s any indication of how good it is, Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn in Saturday’s Guardian – which introduced it as unmissable – was probably the only totally serious piece Brooker has written in that column.

The programme looks at our ideas about freedom, where they originated and how they serve to cage us. Ian Curtis traces our current views of individuals as totally self-serving to inventions that were necessary to make Rand Corporation cold-war game theory work, through anti-psychiatry’s attack on institutions and Thatcher-inspiring economists to a situation where, as Brooker put it

“conventional human traits such as sadness or irritability are reclassified as aberrant medical conditions, Narcissism and selfishness, however, are normal.”

I can’t say I can go along with all the arguments – I can’t believe that R.D. Laing was truly so influential anywhere, nor that anti-psychiatry can be blamed much for the medicalising of normal behaviours. Curtis’s argument here is that Rosenham’s experiments, by showing that psychiatrists misdiagnosed mental illness, shook the medical establishment and led to the application of non-human computerised automatic diagnoses. When applied to large numbers of non-mental patients, the diagnostic questionnaires showed that half of the US population had a recognised mental disorder. The questionnaires provided an “objective” set of standards of normality that became a model for the population as a whole to judge itself against.

I don’t know where the argument is going with this, yet, but it seems a little far-fetched. I don’t think the detail is really important. Tonight’s programme was very impressive and important. It looks very broadly at the action of ideas in our society, from their origin to their implications.. It should really make you think.