Thursday, March 31, 2005

No Blacks, No Scots, No Irish

I sometimes feel a bit sorry for the good folks at the Commission for Racial Equality. Their latest caper involves a full investigation into, of all things, the 2004 appointment of Zoe Salmon - aka Miss Northern Ireland 1999 - as Blue Peter's latest presenter.

According to an article from the BBC website, the Commission "received a complaint that the BBC practised racial discrimination by targeting people from Scotland and Northern Ireland for the role."


Several questions spring to mind here, such as who made this complaint in the first place? One deranged xenophobe? And if so, why is the CRE taking it so seriously? Because surely it's fairly obvious to everyone that one nutter's "racial discrimination" is everyone else's inclusiveness and regional representation? I would have thought that most of us would agree it's a good thing that we've begun to move on from the days when everybody on the Beeb sounded like they were from the Home Counties. Wouldn't the world be a duller place without the fantastic Marcus "Deh 44 in tha Big Brootha House" Bentley? If anything, we need a bigger variety of accents and origins on the BBC, not less.

And on a more sombre note, if the CRE is seriously validating ludicrous claims such as these by launching an investigation, what will they do if a similar complaint is lodged, only this time over the media's "unfair bias" towards blacks or Asians? Slippery slope, etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fuck the Poor, says C4

Dear god, has anyone else witnessed the horror that is The Coach Trip, the latest reality show to hit Channel Four? I think it's on at about 7.30 or 8 in the morning. Maybe there's something about being up that early that makes me more able to appreciate the full tragedy of the situation, but I think it's the first time that your normally even-tempered writer has ever been genuinely offended by reality TV.

In a nutshell, the concept is this: 14 Brit holidaymakers (I can see you cringeing already) are brought on a six-week coach trip around Europe, seeing some of the most beautiful sights on offer around several different countries. Except, backpackers found too annoying or unpopular are regularly voted off the bus by their fellow passengers and sent home.

Putting aside for one moment how mind-numbingly dull it is to watch total strangers oohing and aahing over monuments and admittedly stunning vistas for 30 minutes you'll never get back, the sheer two-facedness of the show is breathtaking. How can they standthere and tell us that whoever survives the cull the longest and wins the show will have fantastic memories of an idyllic six-week holiday in the sun, when in reality all they'll be feeling is relief that the public humiliation is finally over? All this show does is take people who can't afford a dream holiday, lure them in with the promise of a trip of a lifetime, and then promptly ruin it by threatening to send them home by means of a daily popularity contest! You'll never afford it on your own, Channel Four seems to be saying, so this is the only way you can go, and you can forget about being left in peace to relax and unwind. And what's more, everybody in the country is going to watch your misery and laugh.

Shower of bastards.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Funny Strange

Oh dear. Canada's best-known (and probably only) national-level satire magazine has closed down publication. December 2004! The fact that it's taken four whole months for the news to filter down to me across the pond is pretty funny to begin with; in fact, it's probably a lot funnier than most of the content of good ol' Frank Magazine itself.

Like Viz in the UK, Frank's glory days were in the 1980s, when the yuppie takeover meant that there were enough people who actually cared to read scathing parodies of, erm, Bay Street traders. And journos, politickers, celebs, sports figures and all the rest you'd expect to fuel any half-decent satire rag. Except, well, it just wasn't that funny.

The CBC chronicled the demise of Frank in an article you can read here, in which it says that in the year prior to its closure, the magazine had a circulation of 8,500 compared with "roughly 16,000 during the 1980s." For a country with a population of around 30 million, that's actually quite a lot, considering that several of Britain's well-established lefty mags I could name survive on a circulation of less than 5,000, in a country with nearly twice Canada's population.

But getting back to my main point, Frank never really did it for me. It carried virtually no weight in Quebec, where I grew up, and even for English Canada, I often wondered who actually read the thing. Just look at the picture of the cover page in the linked CBC article above. Not exactly Private Eye, is it? Yet weirdly enough, whoever was in charge of editorial at Frank showed definite signs of envying its British cousin. Its bi-weekly publication rate was one clue, which gradually became less and less justifiable as the years progressed. But more baffling was the editorial's use of British slang words peppered throughout the magazine. Not that the average Canadian couldn't have figured out what "arse" or "wanker" meant (no comment from the peanut gallery), but why use them at all when the mag's target audience simply doesn't speak like that? It wasn't even being pretentious, it was just misguided and out of touch. And speaking of which, it turns out that when the magazine fell into new hands just over a year ago, the new publisher had (brace yourselves) "promised to relaunch Frank with a focus on Bay Street gossip." Hello?!?!! Way to lose an audience (FYI for non-Canadian readers, i.e. all of you, Bay Street is the Toronto equivalent of Wall Street or The City).

Now that Frank's dead and buried (although apparently founding editor Michael Bate might bring it back as a website, oooooh, watch out world!), I'm hopeful that it won't be too long before another, fresher contender can rise up to take its place. Or indeed several. After all, it's not that Canadians don't get irony, or don't have a sense of humour. This is the country that produced the Kids in the Hall and Vice Magazine, for crying out loud, and equally brilliant TV comedy programmes like Trailer Park Boys that have yet to reach an international audience. We can do political satire well enough on television, thanks to This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the slightly faded but still much loved Royal Canadian Air Farce. So it's more than a bit embarrassing that our best-known print equivalent to date has been more funny strange than funny ha ha.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Warning: RANT AHEAD.

What the fucking fuck do these fuckwits think they're playing at. Huh? It's pissing me off now. Last time I checked, the natural order of things was that people who were popular and mean in their schooldays have their moment in the sun DURING their schooldays, and then face the real world and end up crumbling into a pile of uselessness and shame. What they're NOT supposed to do is to retain their smug insouciance and general assholishness and then go on to achieve fame and fortune! You can't have them both, it's got to be one or the other! Says who? Says ME. It's just not right.

The thing is, I've just discovered (Google can be such a double-edged sword) that this really über-smug, bitchy cow of a girl from my university back home has been given her own column in a popular city newspaper, which is one of the best-known in the country. By the sound of it, the column is just about as vapid and plodding as I remember her to be. What I don't understand is how the hell she got it in the first place.

I realise that there's a fair amount of sour grapes involved here, easily summed up by two questions: Do I have a newspaper column? (No.) Do I want a newspaper column? (Yes!) But my annoyance isn't entirely fuelled by jealousy. Okay fine, it is. But even so, I can't be the only one to inwardly retch upon reading the bio page on the newspaper's website. Here's an edited excerpt. Names and places have been changed, etc etc.
At 24, [Jane Smarmy] obtained B.A. in journalism before landing
this plum job as the "young and hip [Newspaper name] girl".
Pet topics include cheeky exposés on [Anytown] nightlife, social climbers, young trendy people - how do they stay so trendy? - and the [local baseball team].
Her hobbies include snagging invites to ultra-glam Anytown events like
fashion week, attending concerts - Busta Rhymes, anyone? - and representing the hopes and dreams of Anytown's twenty and thirty-something community.
Okay, first of all, representing the hopes and dreams of Anytown's twenty and thirty-something community? I know she's trying to be tongue-in-cheek, but fuck me. She probably believes it. And word to the wise, Jane. If you feel the need to describe yourself as "young and hip" in your bio page, it probably means that you're not. The clue's in Busta Rhymes. Ugh. Ugggggggggggggggh.

This is one of those days when I'm really, really glad (not to mention 200% convinced) that I made the right decision and moved to London. It has its faults, but I'm pretty sure that Ms. Smarmy would find it a lot harder here to get a receptive audience for her mind-numbing bile. The thing about my hometown is that it doesn't yet seem to have grasped that big ain't always clever, and that popular doesn't always equate with cool. They're just happy to have a big name in town. Ms S's coattails-riding column is the proof.