I love David Bowie’s new single Blackstar – it seems mysterious and cosmic – so it’s a little disappointing to dig further into the lyrics and realise that it’s probably just about being a cult famous person as opposed to a mainstream famous person.

And that reminded me of the way Bowie’s generation saturated my 1980s childhood.

The films with 1960s soundtracks.

T.V. shows about middle-aged women making it in the boardroom.

And the Rock God Behemoths – Elton, Jaggar, Bowie, Stewart, Queen, Sting – churning out over-produced power ballads and tastefully shot videos with young backing dancers and the occasional urchin.

Every Saturday morning a guy in his late 30s/early 40s in a causal suit would be awkwardly sitting on a sofa trying to talk to a studio full of hyper children’s presenters, bored real children and a puppet… or his latest release would be reviewed by envious younger stars and a proper journalist who thought it wasn’t as good the one he released in that MYTHICAL AND POSSIBLY FICTIONAL LAND OF FLARES AND PLATFORMS the 1970s. *

*no decade is weirder than the one you were born at the end of – no adult ever explains something they watched a few years previously to a kid who was too small or unborn to remember it.

Bowie – is one of those huge 80s OLD stars – who isn’t really a huge 80s OLD star. His sales have never matched The Beatles or The Rolling Stones & his profile is more about fashion than it is about music. He’s a cult star commenting on Stardom as if he was a mainstream star and it makes less sense now than it did then.

Then being a Rock Star was so important to the culture that it was mocked by The Ruttles, Spinal Tap and The Comic Strip Presents, the way Jane Austen felt she had to kill Gothick with snark before her realistic romances could take-off.

It was so important that they Shot John Lennon.

It was so important that Every New Star Was The New King – until he wasn’t.

It was so important that MADONNA and MICHAEL JACKSON were treated like corporations.

It was so important that Indie and Grunge felt they had to shun it or agonize about it.

It was so important that Comedy Was The New Rock’n’Roll.

It was so important that the massive youth culture shift into Clubbing and Gaming went entirely unreported beyond a few ecstasy deaths.

It was so important that Brit Pop tried to entirely recreate it from its Beat beginning to its Hippy Heavy Metal slide past Disco into Synth into over-produced power ballads.

It was so important that The 1990s ruined its life trying to hold on to a moment in Youth Culture that couldn’t exist emotionally beyond the post-war boom, and couldn’t exist economically beyond the world wide web; and that was mainly because the super-rich superstars were still there – flying from stadium gig to stadium gig in their private jets, living with their ex-model wives, in their stately homes or L.A. mansions.

It was visible but unattainable.

Modern stars push product or fill reality vehicles. No one expects them to front political change or lead us into a new lifestyle. No one thinks the puritan young will march past the corruption of the old into Utopia – the way they thought/feared they would in the 1960s.

We expect their charisma, talent or good timing to sell perfume or ghost-written novels, or franchise movies or phone votes.

Fame is dead. It’s not important. It’s an ephemeral chimera. It belongs in the 20th Century and the 21st would be wise to find a Newstar to sing about.


Mid-20th Century Realism

I was going to be cruel and entitle this blog plodding melodrama but that implies a lack of affection. I find the language of serious, realistic books on the dull side – but the world they conjure up is the only one I truly feel at home in.

It goes like this:

Pre-history. Ancients: Greek, Roman, Pagan, Biblical.

Dark Ages. Renaissance. Reformation. Elizabethans. Jacobeans.


Gothicks. Romantics. Regency. Georgians. Victorians. Edwardians.

Ist World War.

Roaring 20s. Depression 30s.

2nd World War.

50s Austerity. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Mrs Thatcher. Brit Pop. Reality T.V. Social Media.

These are the great European landmarks I think by and in a quiet, and methodical way they were set in stone by the realist novels of the mid-20th Century… Three of my favourite examples being: Winston Graham, Howard Spring and R.F. Delderfield.

Graham (1908 – 2003) is famous for the Poldark saga set in Cornwall in the late 18th Century. The plots centre on love triangles, banking, mining, politics, and business rivalries. He also wrote suspense novels that explore sex and crime, and seem more old-fashioned than his historical works.

Spring (1889 – 1965) was a Welsh journalist who wrote about idealistic young socialists bumping up against establishment forces. He’s most famous for Fame Is The Spur, Shabby Tiger and My Son! My Son! (filmed as O Absalom).

Delderfield (1912 – 1972) also centred the rise of socialism in his works. His sprawling tales of school masters (To Serve Them All My Days), journalists turned spies (Diana), and nouveau local squires (A Horseman Riding By) typically take decades to unfold, most often starting before the 1st world war and ending after the 2nd.

There were angrier writers like Alan Sillitoe, more satirical writers like Kingsley Amis, darker writers like Patrick Hamilton, and deeper writers like Graham Greene, whose work will last longer… but the sheer humane normality of these three writers as they pieced together epic historical events with small lives lived as best they can creates our social history even as their books slip from our collective memory.

Stalked By Doctor Christian Jessen

UPDATE: The minute I published this the abuse seemed to stop unless he’s been cackling at me on his twitter feed while telling his fans to leave me alone… I wouldn’t know… I will never look… And it’s fine by me.

Doctor Christian presents a couple of medical programmes on Channel 4 (in the UK).

I don’t watch them.

I think he’s a bullet-head.

So he was harassing women on twitter for asking questions about breastfeeding. Not a subject I know anything about – or need to know anything about – but I tweeted to 2 women this:

I can’t stand him. He’s a misogynist narcissist.

I didn’t name him or @ him in – but because he was stalking these women (because he IS a misogynist narcissist) he came across it & he decided to set his followers on me.

About 10 of these little flying monkeys dutifully came flapping into my notifications – not a lot – he’s clearly not a popular man – but they tweet relentlessly. And I’m not one to slink off when under attack.

I replied to whatever bit of crap was in my notifications & some of them had @’d in Doctor Telly – so he saw them too.

This made the hypocrite decide I was playing the victim & harassing him.

I have never been on his profile page. I have never put his name into a search. I have never replied to a tweet that wasn’t in my notifications.

Since he started this I have called him:

a jerk

a creep

a stalker






no guts

a dreadful z-lister


a crap celebrity




a tosser

a worthless tossbag of the highest order

that kind of arsehole


not empathetic

& said that he’s breaking the recommended social media code of his profession & has orchestrated a pile-on.

I stand by it.

He came after me – I had no interest in engaging with him.

And he does this a lot:

I have no idea why he has the time for this – or why he’s so insecure he can’t let other people’s opinions go – but I wish he would bog off & leave us alone.


I Love John Osborne


One of my hobbies is making up jukebox musicals in my head. For years I’ve teamed up The Pet Shop Boys with The Blackheath Poisonings (I think it would be epic) and Pulp with Look Back In Anger (although I’ve never managed to keep the plot exactly the same).

Look Back In Anger is the seminal 1956 play by John Osborne that introduced The Angry Young Man, The Kitchen Sink and the personal invective of lead character Jimmy Porter.

Jimmy is a sweet-stall sales staffer (WHAT IS THE WORD FOR THIS) living with his posh wife and Welsh best-friend in a crappy midland town, who has an affair with a snobbish actress. Most of the time on stage is taken up by Jimmy insulting everything he hates about Britain (which is everything – but mainly the class system, losing the Empire and newspapers), and wishing misery on his miserable wife, who indeed ends up miserable.

In my head his wife kills him with an iron and runs off with the actress or Jarvis Cocker depending on my mood.

John Osborne himself was famous for his rudeness, his fights with his wives, his estrangement from his only daughter and for dwindling spectacularly from Polemicist of the Zeitgeist to Pootering Old Establishment Fart. This was before social media so there was no relentless monstering or huge scandal, just a few snarky reviews and gleeful features.

His work is mostly out of fashion. It’s time-specific. It belongs in that era of post-war austerity, shiny 60s satire and 70s paranoid chic; when I think of his work I see: donkey jackets, pullovers, kipper ties, cravats, polyester maxi-dresses, big hair, pan make-up and tatty furs. I expect everything to smell of boiled cabbage or prawn cocktail. His characters are raging egotists, camp dandys, repressed hags, and Martin Luther needing a poo. His polemics are out-of-date, beside-the-point or viciously-spiteful.

But they’re brilliant.

Deep down – who doesn’t want to spend 2 hours in front of an audience slagging off every last thing that comes into your proxy hero’s head? If the audience hates it – then you’re an Enfant Terrible. If the audience loves it – you’re the Spokesperson of Your Generation. John Osborne had the – great, fabulous, fantastic – founding career of our New Writing Theatre World but – in our climate of story re-armament – it’s just not on.

So I will wander around abandoned 1980s children’s parks making Jimmy sing Common People to his wife.

Jonathan Franzen Partook My Hamster


Poor Jonathan Franzen is getting it in the neck because he has a new novel out – Purity (about what a ball-breaker his ex-wife is) – and he always drips ego in his interviews… Personally I enjoy ego in interviews esp. if it’s marinated in bitterness and petty hatred but then I also enjoy his jealous haters spewing think-pieces all over the arts pages because trying to keep your intellectual dignity when you want to scream ‘why that bastard and not me!!!’ is entertainment.

It’s also a sneaky schadenfreude because he’s so successful and they’re so serious… and its rooted in the pecking order that exists between readers, writers and reviewers.

In the genre world the writer has to please the reader… they need to be their best mate or wise guide… they chase the readers with fantasy, wish-fulfillment and flattery… The readers have all the power although they often elevate the writer to the position of guru or God… It’s the kind of relationship that could exist when we were hunter-gathering and all our knowledge came in the form of animistic folk tales.

Literary novels are different. They’re supposed to be objectively educational – expanding our horizons and depth of understanding about What We’re Doing and Where We’re Going and When We’re Doing It and Why and How. The writer has to be a word-master with something new and important to say. The literary reader may be more sophisticated than the genre reader – but – if the literary writer is accepted as good – the literary writer is above them. And that can feel slightly demeaning when you’re a smart cookie.

Genre hits this power-struggle when it comes to awards. In the sci-fi world there’s currently a culture war between Progressives (or Social Justice Warriors) whose stories include more minorities and Conservatives (or Men’s Rights’ Activists) who prefer old-fashioned adventures with male protagonists… Good writing is good writing, fan-bases are fan-bases… the fight has more to do with us being trapped between the hyper-demands of individualism and the tanking economy… it’s a narcissistic malaise that finds comfort in cosplay and scrolling without being entirely sure what it wants to dress up as or look at… but to the fighters it’s about who gets to be Top Dog.

Literary fiction is Top Dog but it has to be championed by a critic or academic in order to have a tiny smart cookie public. The critic has a higher status than the writer or the reader – but only if he or she likes the work. If they don’t like the work and someone else does – they’re lower. Agents and publishers are higher than the writer until the writer is successful – but then they’re consoled by money and most wannabe writers don’t care about them now self-publishing is a click away and all they can offer is the prestige of being ‘picked’.

Who gets ‘picked’ by agents, publishers and critics is an issue. The white male heterosexual is still the universal voice. Everyone else is niche. They might be an interesting, talented or worthy niche – but you can’t learn about the Human Condition from the them. They don’t control enough resources. Not controlling enough resources often throws them off literary fiction and into Causes – which may or may not punt them higher than the keyboard-bashers – who may or may not resent that X is whinging about Y and getting all the attention.

It’s these massive, conflicting – and superficially pointless but soul-deep vital – status war tensions and pressures that make reading about writers so enjoyable.


1980s TV Quest


Years ago I saw a UK TV play or TV series about a school in a future world or other planet where the sun doesn’t shine and young pupils have to stand in front of a sun lamp for a certain amount of time every day.

I think there was a female headmistress, and a male teacher – and there was some kind of sinister subtext… I think the planet was about to die and the Head wasn’t facing the truth – or something like that.

For some reason I think it was on the BBC and might have been a single play – and it must have been transmitted sometime between 1982 and 1992.

That’s all I can remember.

If anyone has a clue what it could be – please tell me!!!

Bitch Better Have My Controversy.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Singer Rihanna performs onstage during the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on NBC from The Shrine Auditorium on March 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 29: Singer Rihanna performs onstage during the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on NBC from The Shrine Auditorium on March 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

UPDATE: having watched the video a couple of times – the wife seems to be there for A. tits (obviously) but also for B. a twist ending – it’s THE BLOKE WHO IS THE BITCH… 

In other thoughts – they missed a trick not getting Lana Del Rey to duet, play the wife and then run off with Rihanna at the end. ART! 

Years ago Julie Burchill asked why violence against women was such a safe art ball to play – yet – say – racist violence wasn’t.

The answer is obvious – violence against women doesn’t threaten the social order… except when it’s committed by an out-group… and while the West has plenty of racists and plenty of times and places where racism is safe… at the moment there’s a strong enough anti-racist political movement for it to cause trouble (in art – if not in life – where things can be hidden and denied).

Sexual violence against women – in art (and in life if you can get away with it) is sexy.

That’s it.

It involves power & tits. *

*and we can always pretend it’s a morality play about things we strongly disapprove of – if pushed. 

Sexual violence against men could be sexy – but most men won’t watch it – so it’s less likely to be mainstream (at least without an I Spit On Your Grave level of rip-roaring revenge).

So that brings me to Rihanna’s – Bitch Better Have My Money – video.

It’s sexy.

The acting is great.

Rihanna is amazing.

But – it’s undeniably sexist.

The men stay fully clothed.

The women get naked.

The man’s torture and death is implied.

The woman’s torture and near death is shown.

The woman has been described as a ‘rich bitch’ who has ‘white privilege’.

The man has been described as ‘that actor from Hannibal’ and ‘an accountant’.

It appeals to anyone who has ever been turned down by ‘that bitch’ and anyone who thinks ‘that bitch thinks she’s prettier than me’.

But it’s also a hymn to capitalism – where gangsters are our favourite metaphor for non-stop consumption and no one fucks with our money.

And because it’s what ‘the people’ really, really want (they buy it in vast numbers of their own free will) – it’s impossible to fight against… but it’s still worth mentioning that it’s part of our grubby dark side and it’s hardly edifying.


according to this article the song is about reparations for slavery and racism… but that seems like a fig-leaf for enjoying her bad-girl pimp-stripper Pour it Up aesthetic… It’s wrong and it’s fun – you may as well admit it.