Monday, January 30, 2017

A President with nothing to hide

For years now I've been thinking, why would anyone run for high office in this day and age?

Some of the most effective leaders – Churchill,  Roosevelt, Mitterand  – had clanking great skeletons in their closet. But since the media took on the job of exposing everything about candidates that they might not want to have exposed, we've had leaders like Obama and Cameron and Merkel who are above all things careful and don't appear to have any secrets to cover up.

That's led us to people who don't have their fingers in the cookie jar, haven't changed their positions all that much and have a dull domestic life.

And now we have the opposite. A President who is largely motivated by money, has run as the candidate of a party who don't agree with him and has a domestic life like something out of a Tom Wolfe novel.

But here's the thing.

Donald Trump doesn't really have anything to hide.

He's exactly the blowhard his opponents say he is and precisely the bull in a china shop his supporters ordered. They didn't vote for him because they listened to his plans and thought, that seems sound. They voted for him because they wanted to roll a grenade under the door of the status quo. They wanted action. And they've got hyperactivity.

But is there anything, apart from the slow unravelling of plans entered into in his haste, that could derail him?

Certainly not the normal stuff. If his tax returns were to come out and to say that he'd been involved in massive tax avoidance it wouldn't particularly hurt him. If it were to suggest he wasn't quite as rich as he makes out that would annoy him but it wouldn't really damage him. If he were to be found in the outer office with an intern, like Bill Clinton was, would even the Evangelical right do anything more than shrug? I don't think so. This is not a man that anybody looks at and thinks, he represents my values or my country. Nobody would lend him their lawnmower.

He's a television personality. To twist an old Tom Stoppard line, he's the opposite of a person.

What he's doing at the moment is "Larping". Live Action Role Playing.

He has no principles. Therefore he has nothing to hide.

TV has a lot of answer for. This is the person the TV industry has been building towards since the middle 1950s. Nothing on the surface and nothing underneath either.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So is this why Americans drink before meals

These are just four of the scores of different covers that Frederick Allen's "Only Yesterday" has had since it was first published in 1931, which gives you an idea of how it's maintained its popularity.

It was a massive best-seller back then, and that was richly deserved. It's a brilliantly written account of the America of prohibition, red scares, irrational economic boom, dramatic changes in the relationships within the family, the transforming power of the motor car and the advent of radio, all written while the decade's paint was still wet.

Now I understand why Americans would still rather have two or three strong cocktails before a meal than wine with it. This habit dates from Prohibition, when people would meet their friends in a hotel room where they could serve each other a few illicit drinks in seclusion before going down to eat in the hotel dining room.

Can't recommend this book too highly.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Books have replaced records under the Christmas tree

I was in a few West End bookshops in the week before Christmas and they were busy, as busy as I remember record shops used to be in the week before Christmas.

Albums were formerly the ideal Christmas present. They were the right price and they were always appreciated. Tens of thousands of people would buy albums at Christmas who hardly bought them the rest of the year.

Now all that's gone. The people who used to give albums now give books.

The record business's loss seems to have been the book business's gain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why acts might tout their own tickets

I've no idea whether Robbie Williams' management really did sell marked-up tickets to his shows via resale sites as the BBC are claiming.

This I do know. If you're managing a hot act you know that there's a big difference between the price your artist is comfortable with charging and the amount the market will pay. It might be twice as much.

If people are going to pay double the standard price for tickets you can either watch that money go to wicked scalpers (or averagely shrewd members of the public who buy two lots and sell one in order to pay for their evening out); or you can get some of it for your artist.

I'm not saying it's right or desirable but I can understand it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The reason pop star deaths always make the news

We were out at lunch with old friends yesterday when we got the news Peter Sarstedt had died.

I asked my friends whether the news of his death would make the BBC Six o'clock News. The consensus of the table was it was unlikely. One hit and such a long time ago. It wouldn't be enough.

I said I thought he would be.

We were driving back when I got a text from one of the friends from the lunch. They had the radio on and, sure enough, the news of Peter Sarstedt's death was on the Six O'Clock.

With pop star deaths the question of news values becomes muddied by the desire of a radio producer to interrupt their diet of hard news with a little bit of music.

The one hasn't been born who can resist.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Mariah Carey cock-up was my favourite TV of the year.

I didn't watch any TV on New Year's Eve but I can't get enough of the Mariah Carey story that emerged the following day.

There's nothing I like more than seeing a self important pop star and an over-inflated TV show caught at it. The only thing more fun than watching the disaster unfold is following the fall out as everybody in earpiece land tries to pin the blame on everyone else.

Mariah Carey was supposed to do three songs for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest, which sounds like a heartwarmingly modest little do, doesn't it?

Something went wrong in the second one. Either the wrong track played or the right track played but she couldn't hear it. So she ambled around looking tight-lipped while her dancers carried on like the troupers they no doubt are.

There's a round-up of the latest state of the blame game here. On one side you've got the TV producers. On the other you've got Carey's manager. These things are usually six of one and half a dozen of the other so I'm not taking sides.

However it does cause you to reflect on the panic of the traditional gatekeepers of entertainment - the TV networks and the record companies - when confronted with the challenges of the wild world of today. Certain aspects are particularly interesting to me.

* By the look and sound of things she was going to sing most of the song live with only the difficult bits flown in from a hard drive. This is presumably how these things are increasingly done. Technology is now flexible enough to provide lots of such halfway house solutions, which would lead you to suspect that anything which sounds incredible is precisely that.
* The dancers don't appear to be thrown by not being able to hear the track because they're dancing by numbers. As long as they all start together they're likely to finish together.
* Is it possible that the producers were more interested in seeing it go wrong than seeing it go right because three days of speculation on the web is worth more than a massive audience on the night?
* If that's not true, isn't it interesting that Mariah Carey thinks it is?