September 27, 2007

Why Aye man! It's Art.

Everyone reading this will obviously be well informed about the Tyne and Wear arts scene and won’t need reminding that the police recently seized a photograph from an exhibition at the Baltic Art Gallery in Gateshead.
Apparently, the photograph in question, which is of a child, is being examined by detectives who have to decide whether the image is art or pornography.
Heaven help humanity when we have to the Boys in Blue: ‘Is this art?’
Why stop there. Why not introduce Art philosophy classes at Police Academy.
'Morning chaps and chapettes. Welcome to Police Academy. You may be surprised to learn that this, the first class on the first day, starts with a question rather than an answer. 'What is art?' Get used to it boys and girls. This is policing at the sharp end. Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me WITH A DEFINITION by 12 noon.' Maybe.
I know people who have studied and produced art all their lives and still don’t have the answer. One thing’s for sure. I think we all know where NOT to find the answer and that is at the local nick.
Imagine, if you will, how this whole sorry and sordid sutuation arose:
‘Afficer Broon to base come in man. Over.’
‘Why aye Afficer Broon, this is base. Go ahead. Over.’
‘Arite base, am currently in situ at Baltic Gallery Gateshead. Am in possession of photograph of questionable decency. The gallery owner initially tried to pass it off as a Madeliene McCann poster but I saw right through him and have made arrest on suspicion of challenging the public perception of photography as an artform. Please advise appropriate course of action. Over.’
‘Base tae Afficer Broon. We’re nae quite sure if challenging public perceptions of art is an arrestable offence. Sarge says yer going to have to arrest the artist himself on suspicion of producing pornographic images of a child. Afficer Broon, can you give us a description so we can put out an APB? Over.’
‘Roger that base. Gallery owner says artist is male, white, around five foot ten inches, speaks French and is currently wearing quite flamboyant trousers. Over.’
‘How flamboyant are the trousers Afficer Broon?’
‘Roger that base. Gallery owner says that on a 1-10 flamboyancy scale these trousers would rank about nine. Over.’
‘Okay Broon, we’ll put out and APB. Stand by. Over.’
‘Broon to base! Broon to base! Cancel APB. Perpetrator possibly sighted approaching gallery. Will lie in wait then pounce like cunning fox. Request permission to use stun gun. Over.’
‘Permission granted Broon. Be careful.’
Several minutes lapse.
‘Broon to Base. Come in. Over.’
‘Base to Broon. Give us a sitrep. Over.’
‘Ah seem tae have electrocuted Eddie Izzard. Over.’
‘Base to Broon, please clarify. Who is Eddie Izzard? Over.’
‘Eddie Izzard is a French-speaking English stand-up comedian known for wearing flamboyant trousers. Unlikely to be perp. Over.’
‘Fook. Afficer Broon, did suspect look at all titillated? Over.’
‘Negative base, although he did make moderately humorous reference to farm animals and one quite funny bible joke. Can we arrest him for that? Please advise. Over.’
‘That's a definite Negative Broon. Stand by. Over.’
More minutes lapse.
‘Base tae Afficer Broon, come in.’
‘Broon here. What are we going to do? Over.’
‘Afficer Broon. The boss has devised a strategy which should exctricate all of us from this sorry mess. Basically, we're going to suspend you on triple pay indefinitely as long as you never breath a word of this to any living soul. How does that sound Broon?’
‘Broon tae base. That sounds fookin’ marvellous. What about Izzard? Over.’
‘We can’t help him.’

God bless their cotton socks ('n guns)

In the Catterick NAAFI the atmosphere brims with tension as the first ever ‘Meet The Plebs Q&A Session’ between high ranking Army officers and the ‘rankers’ - the soldiers who’s lives (the existence of) are quite literally affected by those taking the stand.
Unusually for the British Army, privates, corporals and sergeants have the opportunity to question their superiors without fear of reprimand. Your loyal correspondent has been invited to witness this most unique occurrence and never one to pass up such a rare chance to see military democracy in action, TheUrbanMonk had little choice but to attend.
Events get under way as Major General Rupert Lloyd-Arbuthnott enters, stage left, and takes up his position at the podium.
Evening chaps.’
The gathered troops, worn from their recent tour in Basra, mutter amongst themselves seemingly unreceptive but, perhaps, not quite trusting top brass’s assurances that they may express themselves freely.
Righto,’ says Lloyd-Arbuthnott, taking the lead. ‘As you all know, we’ve been brought together tonight mainly to talk honestly about some of the issues you’ve faced at home on your retuern from fighting abroad. Perhaps I should introduce myself first. I am Major General Rupert Lloyd-Arbuthnott and without further ado I think we should open to questions from the floor. First question?’
The first hand to shoot skywards belongs to Sergeant Jim Grant from the Royal Scots. Red-faced and burly, he doesn’t seem set for compromise:
‘Arite Boss. Sgt Grant speaking. Ah just want tae say, it disnae seem fair that when we come back fae Iraq naebody gies a shit. We’re oot there riskin’ oor necks an’ aw’ we get is shite when we get back.’
‘Quite. Quite,
’ respond the Major General. ‘Thought someone would mention that and you’ll be delighted to know, chaps, that the Army been working hard on a range of measures that demonstrate the nation’s gratitude for your sacrifice.’
‘Such as?’
asks Grant.
‘Well, you’ll be delighted to learn that your employer, the British Army, has arranged for all of you to receive a full 25% discount on your council tax.
‘Next Question.’
He points to a pale looking private.
‘Arite boss. Lance Corporal Tam McAfferty, Argyll and Sutherlands. Noo, Ah couldnae gie a flyin’ fuck aboot cooncil tax. Ah’ve never paid a penny in mah life and am nae aboot tae start noo. Dae ah look like a fuckin’ eejit? Naw. Mah Mum’s cousin Stevie’s in the United States Marine Corps and he sez they get a branch o’ Burger King anywhere in the world and tax-free Harley Davidson motorbikes. You gonnae sort that for us?’
Lloyd-Arbuthnott is admirably keeps it together: ‘Ah. Not quite. But we have arranged a token of appreciation from the nation, if you will.’
Lloyd-Arbuthnott: ‘Well, I thought you might ask so have a further announcement. I’m sorry to say Burger King were unwilling to open a branch in Basra, or indeed Catterick, but negotiations with Greggs Bakeries were successful and it gives me great pleasure to tell you that the first planned opening of a Gregg’s bakery in the Middle-East will take place in Basra this October. I should also like to take the opportunity to thank all those who made this greatest of achievements possible. Doubly so, given the offence that sausage rolls pose to Muslim sensibilities.’
McAfferty, a Glaswegian, seems vaguley satisfied but Sgt Grant, a canny Aberdonian, isn’t finished:
‘You fuckers never gie us anything. Fit’s the catch?’
‘Ah. Yes. Well, unfortunately, we’ve had to squeeze the bullet-proof vest budget chaps.’
‘Ah knew it,’
shouts Grant, ‘You bastards. Yer ay’s makin’ financial sacrifices wi’ oor lives.’
‘Ah. Not quite,’
says Lloyd-Artbuthnott. ‘You’ll be glad to know that the Army has secured an exclusive corporate deal with the vest manufacturers. You'll all be able to purchase them at cost price. Tax-free too. How's about that then.’
A brave and lonely voice, that of McAfferty, pipes up: ‘Ah’d rather a Bacon Double Cheeseburger and a tax-free Harley ya bass.’

BBC goes OTT

BBC Executives were this week left licking their paws, so to speak, after protests surrounding the Blue Peter ‘Cookiegate’ debacle erupted into full-blown violence.
As tensions subside, sketchy details of the weekend’s events have begun to emerge. These paint an alarming picture of the circumstances which ultimately led to the untimely death, some say execution, of ‘Socks’ the cat.
Protestors were angry that the winning entry of a viewers’ contest to name the cat was changed from ‘Cookie’ to ‘Socks’ as Cookie could be misinterpreted as a slang name for female genitalia. Wry commentators immediately pointed out that socks were often made for cocks but allusions to cookies and fannies were harder to find in mainstream discourse.
Whatever. Initial police reports suggest Sunday’s protest at Television Centre was orchestrated by an extreme fringe group of Daily Mail readers although insiders claim orders ‘came from the top’.
Witness testimonies also suggest that normally liberal-minded Radio 4 Stalwarts Eddie Mair and John Humphries led protestors. Neither police or BBC officials have confirmed this but it is well-known that both journalists were indignant at repeatedly having to ‘plug’ Blue Peter on their respective PM and Today current affairs programmes whilst Blue Peter had offered it’s viewers no such plug for Radio 4.
Sunday morning was quiet as usual at the BBC save for the presence of a small band of semi-retired ‘middle-class types’ who had travelled from Tunbridge Wells to voice their discontent at the obviously Communist conspiracy behind the naming scandal.
It is unclear how this routine Sunday morning descended into an afternoon of mob violence but many present told your correspondent that Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James Mey were spotted with an air rifle laughing and taking pot-shots at the mob from a fifth-floor window around four o’clock. Anger soon spread and events escalated.
One anonymous participant told TheUrbanMonk:
‘It was all very civilised at first – proper spirit-of-the-blitz stuff. My wife had made egg sandwiches and someone else had a radio so we didn’t miss Test Match Special. There had been some raised voices and general discontent at the TV licence throughout the day but nothing else.
‘That all changed though. The second we saw that bastard Clarkson leaning out the canteen window with an air rifle all hell broke loose.
‘Eddie and John led the charge. We bowled right past security and made straight for the Blue Peter garden.
‘All those bloody homosexual presenters were there looking all smug and BBC-like. We were nice at first but then it all boiled over. One of ‘em was trying to hide the cat. He seemed to think he could take us on but he had another thing coming. I mean, after 10 years of Labour government one shirt-lifter and a pussycat’s no match for us is it?’

Exactly what happened next remains unclear but what is known is that ‘Socks’ was found floating, dead, in a tightly tied black bin bag.
Another participant, also anonymous, told TheUrbanMonk: ‘After we’d got rid of the cat it all quietened down a bit. We were just trying to make a point to the liberals, you know?
‘To be honest, I think people knew it had got out of hand and just wanted to get home in time for the Antiques Roadshow.’
Life may have returned to mind-numbing suburban normality for the protestors but, for producers and management at the BBC, tough questions remain unanswered.

Frankly Darling...

Dear Sweet,
As parting shots go, ‘You have my email address, right?’ won’t go down in history as the most dramatic or heart-breaking. It doesn’t really rank with the timeless classics. ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ would have had more impact and if you had said that I would have appreciated your honesty.
You were right though. I do have your email address. You also have my email address, not to mention my street address and phone number, but you so rarely used any of them while we were going out that I can’t imagine in a million years that you would start using them now.
No matter. I have your email address and this letter has been swimming around in my head since the last time I saw you so I’m going to write it. Whether I send it or not is another thing altogether.
Our cultures collided in a dark crowded room way back in April yet I still find myself wondering: ‘What were the chances?’ Had we left our respective flats five seconds earlier or later that night we would never have bumped in to each other. We did though. I don’t believe in fate but I do keep wondering how often this kind of thing happens and whether or not it’s likely to happen again - although not, obviously, with you.
One thing's for sure, I really feel for the next guy that bumps into you in a dark crowded room.
For some reason you always made a point of highlighting the 'differences' between our cultures and I always resisted because it was always negative. I found it divisive. One always had to trump the other and lets be honest babe, it’s not like you come from some Amazonian tree tribe. You’re a white, Catholic English-speaker who values family and likes fish. Just like me. You could be from the Highlands just like me. We’re not from different planets. You just made it seem that way.
One real difference stood out though and I think it's what’s been bugging me for the past few weeks. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or just you but in this country, we care about manners.
You could dismiss manners as an out-dated anachronism; a symptom of Britain’s stereotypical stiff upper lip but to do so is to confuse them with etiquette - a different thing altogether.
Passing port to the left, for example, is an unnecessary anachronism but manners, on the other hand, serve a purpose. They’re about respect and consideration.
Now, I’m the first to admit that my manners could use polishing but you, darling, need a beginners’ class.
Suppose, for example, you arranged to meet a friend but later realised you couldn’t make it as a more-valued friend had shown up. What would you do?:
1)Tell the original friend to beat it.
2)Ignore the original friend
3) Apologise to the original friend for changing or abandoning the arrangement, give an explanation then offer, if possible, an alternative ie: ‘Let’s meet up next Wednesday.’
Someone completely lacking in manners (you) may respond with ‘1’ or ‘2’ but in British culture, the only acceptable response is ‘3’.
You might think it’s okay, even funny, to be tactless and inconsiderate towards individuals who don’t really matter to you but this, again, is all wrong.
Manners are timeless, selfless and universal. That means paying respect to everyone; from the checkout girls to whom you are exceptionally rude to casual Summer lovers you’re trying to discard.
Applying good manners also involves not lying to friends/colleagues/family to avoid seeing them. There can be something in this new approach for you too. Appropriate application of good manners could have helped you avoid having to fake a limp for a week after you invented an imaginary leg injury to get out of a meeting.

See, I wasn’t especially hurt that we finished, just pissed off with the way you ended it. I’m not being bitter or making this up. Honestly. All this stuff is written down in our country. Sometimes it’s even taught in schools and occasionally in the family home during childhood.
I have an excellent book on the subject called The Done Thing by Simon Fanshawe. Look it up. I considered lending it to you but figured you’d never give it back and, in any case, you never gave me anything except a sore head.
Which brings me neatly to another aspect of manners. Reciprocation. When someone gives you, say, chocolates, dope, flowers, festival tickets, etc, THE DONE THING is to reciprocate in some way.
Come to think of it, for someone who always said they hated taking, you were remarkably good at it. In fact, you were really quite hypocritical in a lot of ways. You told me that actions speak stronger than words yet your words, like when you said: ‘Thanks for everything,’ the last time you walked out of my flat, often rang hollow and any kind of generous action was non-existent.
You did teach me a few valuable lessons though. Principally, that I am a poor judge of character. Also, that I should be more careful around laptops; that sometimes when women say ‘yes’ they mean ‘no’ and (I should have known this already) that falling for non-UK passport holders can only cause problems.
By leaving the way you did though, you also reminded me of something important. You reminded me that I too have dreams and ambitions and that I’m the only one that can make them happen. Despite everything, I can’t hold that against you. Good luck with yours.
So long.

PS: I originally intended to send this directly and exclusively to you but my blog’s been lying idle for a while and the last entry could use an appropriate epilogue. Anyway, I figure you’ll show it to half, or indeed all, of Malta.
Take it easy.