Home Truths

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BBC Radio 4 streaming over DSL into my Tokyo pad brings some surreal juxtapositions. Yesterday I heard, superimposed over my view of alien ziggurat apartment blocks, 'Home Truths', the programme in which 'normal' British families talk about their lives in an amusing way.

Peel no longer seems to be the presenter, but when he was there was something particularly poignant about this show's basic premise. The message seemed to be: John Peel, who formerly brought you -- with evident relish and affection -- great British eccentrics like Viv Stanshall, Ivor Cutler, Syd Barrett and Marc Bolan, is now bringing you -- with, apparently, equal affection -- Viv Taylor from Aldershot and her difficult daughter Nicola, and Don Jones from Syddenham-under-Lyme and his attempts to get the twins out of the house for some exercise.

It strikes me that this brings us to a difficult question. Should normal people be interested in other normal people, or in exceptions, freaks, visionaries, loonies? Should entertainment reconcile them to their own inherent value, their 'all- rightness', or should it be leading them to new worlds of wonder they haven't even begun to imagine?

Obviously Home Truths seeks to justify a belief that 'every man and woman is a star', but listening to it yesterday, I just couldn't accept this. There were items about a man who digs his garden all the time and a moronic-sounding woman who had successfully battled a brain tumour.

I found myself saying to these people, half-seriously: 'Don't propose yourselves as interesting when you're not, English pigs! Go and read Nietzsche or Oscar Wilde and try to become truly exceptional! Become superbeings rather than convincing us that 'the herd' (as Nietzsche would have described you) is worth anybody's attention, or has any inherent dignity!'

So, am I setting up a false opposition here, Oscar Wilde (genius) versus Mrs Viv Taylor (breeder)? Is there enough space in the world for attention to both of them, or do we have to choose? And if I choose to fill my bandwidth and my headspace with Wilde rather than Mrs Taylor, am I beginning a process which will alienate me irreversibly from my fellow human beings? Also: if there is a way back to 'normality' from the world of art, aspiration, excellence and exception, will the afficionados of eccentricity call me a traitor to the cause if I take it (as Peel apparently has) later in life?

I hope they will. I hope there are a few of them left. I certainly blame Peel. How could the man who introduced me to PiL and Palais Schaumburg now be introducing me to Bob Black and his bad back?

Momus, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

christ you're an asshole.

ethan, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Back to your bedroom, teenager!

Momus, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

back to your planet of elitist bastards!!

ethan, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

there seems to be a misunderstanding of warhols maxim of fame for 15, i want people to fascinate me , they doesnt have to be famous, but why should people be awarded by their banality ?

anthony, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Of course, the perfect resolution of the problem might be The Osbournes . The home life of Ozzy and his kids. Nietschean dove-death mixed with battles for the remote.

Momus, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Well, Christ, there goes any enjoyment I had watching _The Osbornes_. Whoopee.

Daver, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i can hardly think of people more banal than pil and pierre schaumburg.

ethan, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

That's 'Palais Schaumburg' to you, mate. Pierre was his brother, the Texan skateboard champion.

Momus, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

even though this thread is ass, if you dont stop bad mouthing pil ethan, i'm never gonna make sweet love to you again.

grebe., Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm not enough of an exceptional nietzsche superbeing to proof-read my posts.

ethan, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Words of advice from an idiot: knowledge is just information gathering for those who dont have a life, go for a walk, play, laugh, drink, fight, love, whatever you do dont think to hard, or take yourself to seriously -if all else fails watch big brother

kiwi, Saturday, 13 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Pretty much everything would have to fail before I'd watch Big Brother

electric sound of jim, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

But Big Brother Brasil is over and casa dos artistas 2 is a total bore. I guess i will just wait till popstars begin

Chupa-Cabras, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The public h as developed I think an urge to feed on other peoples lives in lieu of any real community to gossip in. House arrest by internet and TV has made normaly sociable folks into spying hermits. Fear rules the day when contact is made on the street - fear of trust.

mike hanle y, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Sorry, but 'normal' is what, exactly? You don't *have* to listen to Plebs On Parade, you know, but the commissioners probably got the idea that Peel would be good at it due to boring family life segues in between Napalm Death and Fall records.

I sometimes find people who think they're choosing the artistic high road do so to mask or divert others from seeing their essential conservatism. Almost (cough) like a straight man pretending to be gay to insinuate himself with women who would otherwise steer well clear of him.

Also, the word you're looking for is 'aficionado'. Wilde would be shocked; he never misspelt anything.

suzy, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

But doesn't it also depend on how the portrayal is done? I would argue that coverage of "normal lives" can surge to extraordinary heights if covered using an interesting approach. From your description of "Home Truths", it sounds like they're covering these stories in an extremely dull way. I mean, even a boring plotline can come alive in the hands of a great director.

Then again, what do I know? I work on TV documentaries all day!

geeta, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

but there is this sense of middle class getting off on working class display. Like look at all the precious little workers telling ther cute stories. How come we are so afraid to notice such blatent examples of social tourism.

anthony, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

No, no, no Anthony. That programme is more or less about middle-class people, because the people profiled on it must write in about their problem/story or be nominated by someone who knows them. R4 has a very similar educated/middle-class listenership to, say, NPR.

suzy, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

or CBC ?
ok sorry misread the class thing
but still peoples lives are dull as a general rule . Its why i feel stupid blogging

anthony, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

John Peel is on holiday in Australia. I don't see why people shouldn't ramble on about their lives, I like that sort of thing. Wonder, mundane, boring, interseting, everday...you have to experience it all. What a dreary life it is to be only be interested in the "exceptional".

jel --, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm with momus, time to build the B ark

i get enough slice of dull life experience just existing, i'd rather expose myself to something else

bc, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Here are a few of my thoughts, brainstormed on the train to Shimokitazawa:

1. I saw a poster for a zoo. I thought, in the 'Home Truths' view of the world, a zoo is rather uncomfortably exotic. I mean, why would anyone go to stand in front of a cage containing 'difference' when they could stand in front of a mirror instead? That's what Home Truths is, as Suzy points out: a mirror for the kind of people tuning in. Not a through-the-looking glass, just a looking glass.

2. The family is a sacred social unit for politicians of the right. The suburbs are where people go to have families. Many kids come of age at 20 grateful for the security their parents and the suburbs have given them, but determined to do something more with life, to go somewhere else. This we could call 'becoming'. To pick up the PiL reference, it's that sense of 'My entrance, my own creation...' This, above all, is what I believe in. The moment when someone decides to 'become'.

3. Arguably, the world's number one problem now is social conformity. We have more people alive than have ever been alive at one time, and yet there are not enough different ways of living. There is, increasingly, a global monoculture based on 'the family' and 'shopping'. Episodes like Sept. 11th merely worsened things by making all different ways of being look like 'evil'. Where do we attack conformity, and with what tools? We attack it at the level of the family. With Nietzsche, perhaps.

4. Whenever I see things being done differently, I'm filled with admiration. For instance, a band is setting up for a performance. But instead of drums, bass, guitars, there are all sorts of strange instruments, in strange places, some folk, some electronic, miked oddly, and a video screen. And when the performance starts, it's unclear whether this is vaudeville, or theatre, or dance, or rock, or art. Now, this kind of thing is easy to attack, just as it's easy for Ethan to jump in and call me an asshole. But I feel strongly that we have an obligation to attack, not deviants (who, no matter how unacceptable today, might be signposting the future) but conformists.

5. 'Breeders, normals, straights, squares, plastics...' These insulting terms sound so 60s because it's not since the 60s that the world of 'normals' was really on the defensive, really threatened by revolution in politics and art. Yet we need such attitudes all the more now we're surrounded by Gaps and Starbucks, when cultural diversity is really threatened, despite the numbers of people on the planet.

Those are my home truths, anyway.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Also, since Suzy is on the thread, what is i-D magazine but a parade of deviants who have experienced a moment of 'becoming' and identify with things like 'the exceptional', 'the beautiful', 'the freakish', 'the transgressive'?

Of course, i-D toys with the concept of Family. But look at their family special issue of a couple of years back and you find that the 'creatives' interviewed mean by 'family' the people they work with, gangs of likeminded fellow refuseniks, with the occasional biological family thrown in.

By the way, one of the saddest things I've read recently is what i-D publisher Terry Jones says in an interview on Nick Knight's website Showstudio about an anti- globalisation photoshoot killed in i-D after September 11th:

'We were very aware of what people were saying after September 11th, for us it would have been totally hypocritical if we also started saying that these events occurred as a result of global capitalism, or if our actions could be read as that. I thought the images and the styling of the shoot were fantastic, but thinking about it intelligently it seems we are all part of that business, we are all part of the promotion of capitalism. Whether it is StarBucks or Dior, Gucci or McDonald's, you can take a variety of companies that have entered the consciousness and each are ultimately part of the shopping experience. Essentially, we are part of the promotion of the shopping experience. So for us to attack it at that point seemed totally hypocritical.'

I know you can't bitch about your employer, Suzy, but how sad is that? Jones is essentially saying: 'After September 11th, anti-global messages are no different from terrorist messages. Consumer magazines must be on the side of consumer culture. There can be no self-criticism in the fashion industry.' So even i-D is just more canned music in the shopping mall.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

again momus we are back to this dichotomous worldview of yours, either/or, normals/exceptionals. i'd like to see it, i really would, but i cant separate so easily, its all too blurred for me, what is it that makes the exceptionals exceptional? did they possess it before 'we' knew about them? would that make them exceptional before? the 'normals', is it that they haven't done their exceptional things yet? in which case, how do we know who are the norms and who are the exceptions? and who is this judgemental 'we' anyway? and what exactly is it that constitues exceptional? and is it separate from fame/notoriety? the line you are drawing seems so arbitrary as to be almost random

gareth, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The anti-globalisation shoot i-D cancelled is here.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i am v. conflicted on this. i believe that the overwhelming majority of "creative types" (which is which is how I'm reading Momus' concept of 'superbeings') are not in possession of superior content, but rather superior motivation. This is a problem I have with college education, which I see as not being about learning, but proving that you can see a task through to its conclusion even though it is pointless.

I have a great respect for the 'ordinary' individual, the problem being that I don't believe that such people exist anymore. The suburbs have destroyed the (American) honorable working class, the inhabitants of small towns, etc.

by definition, how could everyone be "exceptional" at the same time??

also, a genius is only fun to study and talk about etc. not much fun to talk to, they tend to be assholes

Ron, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm hoping clones will eliminate the need for an honorable working class. they mature at age 6, have no emotions, and when they die at 25 we can just make more

bc, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

do you have any blue collar friends?

Ron, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

All this stuff abt 'becoming' sounds like the serial killer in 'Red Dragon'.

Andrew L, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

what is it that makes the exceptionals exceptional?

I know this is essentially an embarrassing issue. We live in a world in which the dogma is 'we're all equal, we're all as valuable as each other'. But that doesn't mean we're all the same. I, and most people I know, are people who were ostracised at school as 'freaks'. And school was the last contact we had with 'normal' people. We gravitated to people like ourselves -- by and large self-employed, artistic, creative people. People who actually work hard and demand a lot from themselves, but don't operate within institutional structures. What Jarvis (one of us!) calls 'mis-shapes'.

Now, not every 'exceptional' person has had his or her contribution recognised by society, but most get some sort of recognition, sooner or later, if only the respect of their peers. Only the slightly crazy persist beyond their 20s without any external validation (Henry Darger?).

did they possess it before 'we' knew about them?

Let's go back to the list of 'visionaries' that John Peel used to be famous for championing: Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan, Ivor Cutler, Viv Stanshall, etc. Most of them self-selected as 'creatives'. They went to art school, than got involved with music. They probably did have a sense of being 'different', yes. Their lives became a quest to be recognised. This is not just narcissism. If you are arrogant enough to say 'I am different' and then fail to get that difference recognised, you are mocked and ultimately crushed. Recognition is essential for survival.

the 'normals', is it that they haven't done their exceptional things yet?

That's a question I'm not qualified to answer. There are doubtless elaborate Oblomovian justifications people have for not yet having achieved anything. They get more nebulous the older the individual gets. It's possible, too, that some people have too much self-esteem to feel the need to prove themselves by creative work. Good-loooking people, for instance, people loved deeply and unconditionally by their families and friends. Why on earth would they need to create anything except babies?

who is this judgemental 'we' anyway?

It's all in the eye of the beholder. We all judge every day. It's essential. To know what's good.

and what exactly is it that constitues exceptional?

Constantly renegotiable, which makes it complicated, but not meaningless.

and is it separate from fame/notoriety?

Not separate, but not the same as either. Sorry it's so hard to pin down! All I can say is, we know exceptional talent when we see it. And we argue about it endlessly with our friends. It's happening right now over on ILM.

My original question was really, when we propose that normal people should be interested in other normal people precisely because they lack any exceptional features (and I'd argue that in shows like Home Truths, the truly interesting features of the people involved are smoothed away and swept under the carpet by the slick and pat style of the show itself), are we not by implication crushing people with exceptional talent underfoot?

Is this show the result of 'talent fatigue'? Isn't it a symptom of a dangerous backlash against the artist's right to be visionary, ie different and yet universal? Does it tie in with a dismally conformist music scene, where communication channels are choked up with 'boys and girls next door' rather than people with any gift for communication? And so on...

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

'Scuse my slant.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

:-(

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Since I've never seen anyone post the exact way to kill italics, it's this: close italic, open italic, close italic. Now form a band.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

momus the paradox is that your canon of non-conformists is itself so conformist = an earlier century's A-list intellectual slebs ranked according to established skills and instituinally respected artistic achievements: in other words a cultural intervention we ALREADY KNOW does not cause the forces of conformism to tremble, because it has made its careful peace with them (Wilde wasn't destroyed for being witty and strange and original, he was destroyed for having illegal sex with teenage cockneys: and BOY DID HE EVER COURT that destruction also, his last, most extreme and deepest theatrical twist, in a life he insisted one had to live as art) (were the boys he sought out "ordinary"? how many of them could even read?) (and could you find a more philistine reactionary conformist than BOSIE!!)

i don't think peel's evolution is in any sense a surprise: his "anti-mainstream" attitudes carry the same seeds of the reaction as yours sometimes seems to -> but he's a "find a companion i can die with" kinda fellow, reduced to seeking the ever-changing pure sensations of the new in one familiar loved face, whereas you are notoriously mr serial best girlfriend, so you hunt on round the world for the realm of untainted non-conformism (which you will NOT btw find in japan, beguiling as it doubtless is for a year or so)

my objection to indie-world has always been that it has ALREADY signed its pact with the devil it defines itself as resisting: which is to say, it underestimates the devil and overestimates itself

mark s, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

do you really feel that people have a responsibility to pay attention to you because you think you're talented?

Ron, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

(i was writing that while you were struggling with yr itals)

ps anyone watching POPULAR will understand that as usual american teen tv is exploring these issues more intelligently (= dialectically heh) than peel ever did, or even PiL and you KNOW how much i heart lydon

mark s, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Momus :
are your foreays into Japan an example of the west treating the eat with colonial exoticism ? You've read Said, is orentialism realvent to you ?
I'm still fucked up from school and i pretend to be more eccentric then i am because of being borgie and banal . But frankly i am middle class intelgencia and so were any of the revolutionaries that you so admire. Wilde had two boys by Constance and Freud lived in the better regions of London.
What am i saying, that the secuirty of wealth allows you t disdain those who live more ordianry and pleasent lives

anthony, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Mark: the reason I stress the importance of recognition is that I'm not claiming artists are somehow going to overturn the world. I'm portraying them very much as professional communicators, wedded forever to the world they came out of when they self-selected as 'creatives' but not intent on its destruction.

I have many different canons. In this thread my 'good objects' are the early Peel canon of Viv Stanshall, Ivor Cutler, Bolan and Barrett. Endearing quirky creatives, very English and somewhat whimsical, rather than radicals.

But just as Peel has veered towards 'the bloke next door' rather than these 'crazy diamonds', artists today increasingly have to compete with people-products who are no longer even pretending to be 'interesting' or 'insightful' or 'experimental'. The notion of paying attention to someone who has a more refined or imaginative inner life, or 'innervision', is not fashionable -- in fact it creeps people out. 'Why should I listen to you, Bjork, just because you were a child prodigy and live in a tent on the roof of a building in the Meatpacking District and listen to field recordings of voles and, okay, probably are, in some way talented, when I can listen to people who live in the same kind of two-up two-down semi as I do and have the same kind of reassuringly humdrum experiences?'

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I do think the US is more healthy in this respect. Pop culture there is truly Nietzschean. To get on Springer you have to be really fat or really angry or have a really extraordinary mullet. It lacks the twee British boundaries of taste and propriety, and therefore is evolving towards who knows what interesting madness.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

are your foreays into Japan an example of the west treating the eat with colonial exoticism ?

I'm going to call it the 'eat' from now on, thank you Ant. I'm just here to eat it. I'm lapping it up.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I absolutely can bitch about TJ; technically I'm a freelance, not an employee (a distinction which, thankfully, prevents me from being invited on staff team-building weekends which include his irritating hippy wife) and I've called him a Zen capitalist to his face. Wolfgang Tillmans has much worse things to say about him than I do, as it happens, but TJ has to swallow it whole because the association with Wolfgang is more valuable to him than it is to Wolfie. The Showstudio shoot was, for a killed-on-account-of-imagined-controversy type thing, incredibly innocuous. But the way TJ was scared of the reaction of that industry is very, very telling. He wasn't thinking about it intelligently because self-censorship may be self-preservation, but it is not intelligent if you take the long view. I would personally rather be unpopular with the mainstream for the right reasons than popular with the mainstream for all the wrong reasons, eg. because I didn't speak out against something wrong when I knew it to be so.

Here is my home truth: the advertising/marketing industry is THE MOST CONSERVATIVE of ALL, no question. It is imperialist, sexist, racist patronising, totalitarian, and utterly mediocre, colonising anything 'new' - and if you give an ad exec one inch, they'll take the mile eventually. In fact, anyone in ANY line of work who mentions their brand more than once in the first ten minutes of interaction must be taken away and shot in the spirit of revolutionary insurrection. Or at the very least this is a reliable guide for spotting assholes who aren't geniuses.

The current climate in consumer magazines, where advertisers claim to be tightening their belts, is detrimental to freedom of expression because the magazines in question are tripping over themselves to win favour with the stealth conservatives who make up the industry (look, I don't care how cool the toys are that you buy with your £50k a year are, if you use your economic power to prevent someone from disagreeing with you in public, you are on the same primrose path as Pinochet).

A few years ago I suggested a piece where advertisers would be called into question for appropriating the ideas of the creative types (eg. Gillian Wearing) regularly featured in the magazine, which never ran shy of profiling, for example, the McLibel trial people or grassroots anti-government protestors. But when faced with a criticism of the advertisers buying space in the magazine, my editor said no to such a piece because she was scared the advertisers would pull their spending if criticised (it was okay to criticise McDonalds because they didn't buy space, and the government because we do ostensibly live in a democracy in Britain). There was a similar problem with the criticism of 'foundations' run by fashion companies to give artists money for projects, eg. the Prada Foundation. As a friend of mine, a very prominent artist, said, 'Oh, a *foundation*. If it makes them feel any more intelligent, fine. But it has TAX DODGE written all over it.' These companies want to be seen as having a link with the cutting edge of the culture, to elevate themselves above mere 'shopping', but quickly display their true colours if challenged with the sort of discourse found at the cutting edge, where people argue about intent, content motivation and appropriation.

suzy, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

**There are doubtless elaborate Oblomovian justifications people have for not yet having achieved anything**

I've met virtually no-one who has achieved *nothing*. Of course stuff like building a boat, renovating a house, running a marathon, learning a couple of languages, coming out as gay at 30, working for charity, and juggling work and family through serious illness, probably rates as *nothing* vs the ability to flaunt a surface knowledge of two or three philosophers. (These examples btw were taken from my immediate family and folks at work).

**We live in a world in which the dogma is 'we're all equal, we're all as valuable as each other'. But that doesn't mean we're all the same. I, and most people I know, are people who were ostracised at school as 'freaks'. And school was the last contact we had with 'normal' people. We gravitated to people like ourselves -- by and large self-employed, artistic, creative people**

What Gareth said. If you bothered to find out, instead of holing-up with fellow pseuds 24-7, you'd see what people had to offer, and value what they know, respect the way they live. Problem is, they might just spot that you're a ridiculous, pompous bigot.

Dr. C (Suburban Breeder, Square), Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

taking sides: the eat vs the wet FITE!!

mark s, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Actually, intelligent ad execs do exist - they're the ones who realise that discourse and criticism make them look like they're doing a better job. I think there may possibly be half a dozen of them.

Equality: we are supposed to enjoy equal protection under the law regardless of sex, income, beliefs or race. Talent of an exceptional type can crop up anywhere.

suzy, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It would actually be tremendously reassuring for me to know that my enemies were just people in marketing and advertising, and their conservatism. Alas, I'm feeling more and more that the 'enemies of promise' are the people themselves. Just plain, ordinary people, and their conservatism. What do I do? I make my work financially independent of them, at the risk of having to do jingles for Pizza Hut to support my lifestyle (I kid you not, I am doing a song about cheese for a cheesy Hut commercial right now). Or I ignore them, at the risk of being called an elitist, as I have been on this thread. I don't mind that, really. How can there be a powerless elite? An elite of the spirit, perhaps? It sounds glamourous. A secret global society of initiates, like the one in Chesterton's 'The Man Who Was Thursday'. Count me in. I'll recognise you by the secret handshake.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Arguably, the world's number one problem now is social conformity. We have more people alive than have ever been alive at one time, and yet there are not enough different ways of living. There is, increasingly, a global monoculture based on 'the family' and 'shopping'.

For someone so interested in seeing the world and dinding 'interesting' folks, how can you have so little faith in people? How fucking boring.

Graham, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Are you in Japan because you do not want to be another english eccentric. Look at what happened to Syd Barret. He isn't happy,none of the eccentrics you mentioned except for Dranger are/were (and he was happy mostly cause he was silent). Is yr foray into the world of Tokyo a way to wean from the tit of the Queen?If that is the case, why are you listening to the BBC and obsessing over home? How frightened are you that you will be the next John Peel ? And how much does the "strange allure of other cultures" figure into this ? Why did this program upset you so, when you have spent months creaming yr jeans abut the glories of Shibuya? What happens if you become Thomas Hart Benton ? Remember Benton gave birth to Pollock . Aside from all that haven't the most realevent artists for the last 100 years worked ready mades and concepts,lets argue that Peels new program is a Duchampian Readymade or a Lomaxan Field Recording . If this happened 100 or 200 years ago it would be hip and important. Fuck the feelings of Episthillia and concentrate on why this upset you so ? Are you afraid yr really British under all the DAndies clothes ?

This sounds ad hominem , it isnt intended to - it's me wondering where its coming from

anthony, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

PS
Jerry SPringer=American Culture is a cheap shot and you know its crafted as much as anything else, the work of Allen Ball is a better example .

anthony, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

And, you know, all this stuff about how I should hang out with steel workers -- I'm just doing exactly what a steel worker does. I'm hanging with my own, and guffawing at outsiders from the works canteen (in my case, of course, a minimalist sushi bar called, ironically, Canteen). I don't see any steel workers making big, er, bridge- building efforts with me, holding out fisty, dirty, friendly hands to the geek in the girl's pink shirt, asking how my sampler works...

If I was Joe Orton I would probably be fucking them, though.

Momus, Sunday, 14 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

They are marked out from the 'normals', the stagnants by their Hope. It's this Hope that creates a between their normal lives and their aspirations. Thus creating pressure => movement. [Ultimately, though it breaks down 'cos their hope is all lies].

david h, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

"creates a [insert "tension" here] between".

david h, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I agree with that but that is shakey ground when England is concerned especially when a 102 matriach who was insane from brain cancer and rotten teeth is given a funeral of a god with no one querying why, I would have to query that the normal and the exceptional.

But if Momus is defining this as bettering oneself, I agree absolutely, but you are talking to someone who dropped out of university in the second year to work in a factory. So, maybe I am not the best example.

Do we live in a system of mediocrity? Yes. YES. YES.

Are the normal people (who I count myself as part of) responsible for the mediocrity? No.

It is the artists responsiblity for this, the artists and cultural critics, who, as there job, should be responsible for this.

But then it's a tricky question, is there nothing more subversive than normality, nothing more violent and interesting than the psychosis of the american dream?

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Ie. Artists and culturalists are responsible for the quality control. Not the normal people.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

ie.

if the artist or culturalists places himself in the exceptional rather than normal mind set, which is fine, he will have to expect a cult sized audience of people who, as he does, think that they are successful but that way of thinking is hardly successful with the mainstream. You can still educate to some extent but it has to be subtle....

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

ie. Momus' market audience is basically people who know all of his references, etc, etc, Momus would be successful if he were to be much more subtle, write a pop hit, whilst still referencing his usual topics but in a less obvious way. Then I would place Momus in the exceptional catergory of entertaining folk. But until then, he knows who he is singing to, knowns his market audience and he knows what to do and what they expect (speaking from a western viewpoint of course as I have never been to Japan) but if he were to cross over and maintain the naivity and idealism, he would then inform 'the mass public' and entertain at the same time. Until then I think he is just talking out of his ass to his already select market audience.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

ie.

if he were to write a subversive and educating pizza hut jingle I would honestly think that he was exceptional.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

and if the pizza hut jingle was a pop hit, he would move out of his artist ghetto of overeducated affluent white males and into the mainstream, he would be extremely useful as a cultural agent.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

or even if he wrote songs for Christina Aguilera.

but the thing is that he's stuck in the artist ghetto, by his market audience, the only way he can escape if he has some message of intent before entering the mainstream. If he had a pop hit, he would lose his bread'n'butter (his fanbase....who want him to be exclusive/elusive) but me thinks he wants to have the big pop hit and that is the interest aspect of Momus. One foot in cultdom and the other in mainstream superstardom, back and forth. Until he goes fuck it and goes for it, then he really can't complain. His cultdom has provided him probably the income of a city investment wanker or a member of Westlife, he has a couple of pads and meets interesting people...

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

ie. if Momus had a sexy pop girl singer on his label with all songs written by him or a boyband with all songs written by him, then he would subvert normality and probably be very successful at it. It's a risk though.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It strikes me that Momus's definition of valuable strangeness is rooted too heavily in performance: I find myself much more interested in quieter understated strangeness or abnormality.

It's possible to overrate the importance of how people earn their living: some (many) people lead outwardly 'normal' lives while being gloriously strange.

Similarly, Suzy's 'cannon fodder' statements overrate the importance to having a full / rich / strange life of consuming the stuff she considers good.

Both of you seem to be saying "if you're going to be strange you'd better do it like us".

Tim, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

He'd only 'subvert normality' if normality was the homogeneous bloc of mediocrity that has to be invoked for the kinds of argument Momus is making to make any kind of sense. There's something creepy and context-free in the way that domesticity, normality, consumerism and lo culture are conflated here into a monolith of mediocrity*, with artistic extraordinariness standing outside of it, and as if the 'content' of both stances was perfectly clear to all of us, and as if the two poles at issue don't co-construct each other. What Suzy said about the dull mores of the capitalist fodder (and I know this was said in exasperation rather than criticism) - that's what allows for an artistic/avant garde/extraordinary mode of life to operate and discourse, both materially and culturally. The dichotomy in no small way fuels itself. The contradictions and paradoxes of most peoples' lives are perhaps a better route to thinking this through, and I feel like there's no room in Momus' manifesto for contradictions. Ivor Cutler leads you 'into another world', but takes me on a quirked path through the one I know, ditto David Shrigley,

*Something ineffably male too; the kind of lofty contempt tossed around for 'breeders' and hyperbole re artistic 'difference' neglects that the feminist (if not female) take on Momus' account might bring to light whole sets of social and artistic/cultural relationships, contradictions and possibilities otherwise steamrollered over here. Of course the 'life of the mind' (good god) is possible in conjunction with the domestic and the parenting; a history of women artists have (had to) make this pretty clear in ways that a fleeting reference to Patti Smith's retreat into the suburbs to raise a family doesn't address.

I can't help wondering if what irks you about H Truths (and like other people have intimated, picking on it is a straw man for cheap potshots; the issue w/ Home Truths is style of discourse rather than content) is Peel's occupation of what might conventionally be thought of as a woman's role, picking through the detritus of the ordinary/extraordinary in family life (a version of the lady novelist, perhaps), his move from sibilant seducer of sixteen year olds to domestic partner, rather than what it might have to say about the state of culture more generally.

Ellie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

yeah, Home Truths is a world away from both the Starbucks globalisation culture and the 'Brutish' Loaded magazine culture that Momus hates. he's attacking something which is part of intellectual culture (R4), and maybe ought to remember that Home Truths is on at 9 on Saturday mornings when people are eating their breakfast and is correspondingly pitched at a level appropriate for the time-slot

michael, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

There've been some excellent late points made here, and I want to get round to them. But first, this notion of infiltrating the mainstream as an 'agent':

if he were to write a subversive and educating pizza hut jingle I would honestly think that he was exceptional.

The history of this jingle has been a textbook example of how difficult it is to infitrate the mainstream (and I'd say it's also a refutation of that old chestnut about how we live in a time when you can't be avant garde because advertising and marketing leap on fresh, subversive ideas as soon as they're hatched -- nonsense, say I, they leap only at some things, others they wouldn't dare touch, and not only because they're too outré, but because they're too gentle and strange).

I was contacted last week by an ad agency to make the jingle. 'We don't want to tell you too much about the scenario,' they said, 'because we don't want to cramp your style. Just approach it as a song on your own album. Do whatever you want.' Well, my own style just now is Cantonese / Kabuki, but I couldn't see that selling pizza. So I gave them a first demo in a style I thought might be a compromise: a kind of Goldoni farce theme, a light Italian operetta full of doors opening, heads being popped out of windows, and people singing 'Where's the cheese?' (The pizza is called The Insider, because the cheese is inside. The concept of the commercial is a town without cheese.)

This was rejected, and little by little I was told what the agency and client really had in mind. They wanted to emulate the Swedish wonder agency Traktor (who are winning all the creative awards currently for stuff like their MTV campaign 'Jukka Bros', about some kooky Swedes who live in a cabin and copy the antics they see on MTV, saying 'That's soooo LA!'). And the music they wanted was 'Where's Your Head At?' by Basement Jaxx. Except they wanted it to say 'Where's the cheese at?' So for take 2, that's exactly what I gave them.

No more pretense that they want my unique take, no more genuine creative input from me, no chance of infiltration or subversion of the mainstream. You do it on their terms, or not at all.

That's the price you pay for reaching the mainstream. You basically have to copy pre- existing templates, reach pre-defined audiences, give them more of what they already know and recognize. To break through with stuff that's totally new and strange is, I believe, virtually impossible. You can only do that at the margins. On little labels, on college radio, in art galleries. So that's where I feel comfortable. The mainstream is just where I go to get subsidies when the cash runs out. Anyone coming up through the suburbs who really wants challenge, imagination, adventure, knows where to come looking. 'Outside, it's happening outside.'

Momus, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I dont agree at all, what about the bluegrass being hip all of a sudden or N Sync deconstructing pop tropes or a poet making a fortune on sears or burroughs asked to shill for nike ( nike in general are fucking beutiful and reach for a sublime abstractness)

anthony, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Well, I also did work for Nike earlier this year. Music for a Nike/NBC Winter Olympics special. In that case our needs meshed better, because I could do folktronic curling music with bagpipes and stuff. Also, in Italy there's a radio commercial using my song 'Giapponese A Roma', which is fine, because I basically wrote the song the way I wanted to, then they used it as they found it. But am I subverting anything in these cases? I doubt it. The music is usually mixed way down behind the voice over, all subtlety and strangeness is lost.

A couple of years a whole ad campaign for an online knowledge service called Questia was based on my cabaret show 'Electronics in the 18th Century'. But by the time it was stripped down to 30 second clips with the URL and the selling line, it was just some guy in a wig with a silly french accent. It had none of the gestalt shock that I put into my original cabaret, the 'what if' proposition about a parallel world where they had Pong games in the 18th century. Was I surprised to have all the interesting bits smoothed off my original concept? Was I fuck. It's the story of the majority of creative people working in capitalism.

Momus, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It's the story of the majority of creative people working in capitalism.

Yeah, but my original point stands, you are still attempting as well as drawing money out, to enter the mainstream through the advertisements. It's clever and it's often done. Stereolab/Spiritualized/Lilys/Clash/New Order/etc. Do it. And do it alot. Just not as blatant as you are.

doomie, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

let's ask this question, if we agree that nike makes pretty ads- how do we reconcile that with its colonial view of labour ? Are we all in Austens drawing room, talking about wonderus marvels while refusing to acknolwedge where that money comes from ? How does this blindness relate to the obsession with "real lives" in the BBC or on CBS ?

anthony, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

the name of the realm that peel placed on offer w.the perfumed garden = PROG!!

Prog — which was an anti-canonic cross-class space in the late 60s and early 70s — was aggressively de-working classed by punk, a younger-sibling-rival strand of anti-canonic cross-class bohemianism.

(very early prophet of where peel was always headed = julie burchill) (both now shill for difftly shrill versions of normalcy, of course)

mark s, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think Momus would like HT if they simply rechristened it 'Critique de la vie quotidienne' and got Nicholson Baker or Gaston Bachelard to present it.

The Ghastly Fop, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Bachelard was too busy doing the andrex toilet-roll voiceovers

mark s, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Bachelard's Super Noodles for tea tonight.

Tim, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Blimey. I've read about a sixth of this monster carefully - anyhow a couple of points, possibly not cogent but I'll forget them otherwise.

1. I came to Peel in the late 80s when he was already domesticated. His show was the first place where I heard reggae, techno, experimental pop musics and any kind of African musics. Yes admittedly at the time I endured these while waiting for that next Weddoes session track but I'm still grateful. Crucially he also played all this stuff with constant asides about Flossie and William and The Pig. Doing this he was setting out an inspiring having-it-all style model to me - he can have the comforting intimacies of family life and still be collecting thousands of records and reaching across the airwaves to shape the tastes of geeks like me, hooray!

2. I want to have children so I can make up stories for them, red others, embellish still more. A huge huge part of the imaginative and artistic tradition, certainly in the West and no doubt elsewhere, is born out of 'normal life'/'family life'. Next to religion it's the biggest artistic motor going - you told stories to entertain the family; you learnt to play, or compose, music in a family setting. So perhaps Momus misunderstands the problem - not one of elites vs normals but a change in the idea of what 'family life' is, one which downplays the self-created family experience in favour of the shop- bought one.

3. I think people are underestimating the wish for individuality, or at least the wish to define one's own environment - it's a motive force for 'creatives' but also for 'normals', too. What Momus is really talking about isn't elitism so much as cliquism, the desire to find a bunch of mates who share similar interests and disinterests. Momus producing art which gets consumed mostly by other artists or wannabe-artists doesn't seem too dissimilar to Pete or Emma or me or John or Tim or Sarah producing jokes in the pub which get consumed by other jokers.

Tom, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

NB I'm not saying with point #3 that us-down-the-pub are as good as artists but that I suspect the motivations behind both are more similar than this thread currently admits.

Tom, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i stuck my hands between john finns thighs

Queen G, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

What I want to know is : what is this 'diamond seller' bullshit? Someone has the right to know if they've been 'sold' like a piece of meat.

Ignore Otherwise, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

momus you are such a conformist.

di, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

He's already released an album called The Ultraconformist, so he shan't take that as an insult.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

momus you fail to acknowledge your own position in the silencing of people. uberintellectualism and obscure art only has the value that it has BECAUSE IT EXCLUDES AND SILENCES those without education and knowledge of art. what i'm saying is how much you are railing against the system is definitely up for debate.

di, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

"excludes and silences" -- i'm not sure what that means because i don't know if i understand what's meant by 'value' -- isn't that a bit like defining a painting based on its use of negative space? does my knowledge of, say, math and physics only have value because others might not have this knowledge? ie it's possible, but sometimes it's easier to talk about things based on what they are, rather than what they aren't -- instead of continually defining your 'value' based on a series of seemingly arbitrary constraints?

geeta, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

*Momus:It's possible, too, that some people have too much self- esteem to feel the need to prove themselves by creative work. Good- loooking people, for instance, people loved deeply and unconditionally by their families and friends. Why on earth would they need to create anything except babies?*

Urgh! Those lines make me shudder. I hope he didn't mean for them to sound the way they do to me. Apparently, this argument is about John Peel but that just made me imagine a row of pretty but moronic girls, knees spread, crying "Impregnate me because I could never hope to achieve anything else in life!". It seems hateful of the housewife, a male disdain for the drudgery, the "less important" role of raising children. Can mothers and fathers not produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art, even more beautiful because it deals with their children? I am thinking of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. Flemish art that depicted domestic life (specifically female roles such as laceworkers and spinners) or Caravaggio's fortune tellers and local peasants were both considered controversial because it deviated from the 'high art' of the typical classical, elevated heroic mode. Jesus, I don't know how old John Peel is but he must be getting up there. He can't be dealing with bouncing girls and perfumed sex gardens forever, can he? That would be incredibly depressing. Everyone else will eventually have to deal with liver spots/sagging breasts/wrinkled penises which will not impress the cute girl/boy out there unless we happen to be fabulously wealthy. By then, will perfumed sex gardens even matter? No, you'll be hoping that you have grandchildren to take care of, tell stories to, admire their potential. Well, that is what I will be hoping anyways. Oh I am letting this thread frustrate me, sorry!

Evangeline, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

but sometimes it's easier to talk about things based on what they are, rather than what they aren't -- instead of continually defining your 'value' based on a series of seemingly arbitrary constraints?

'what things are' is quite open to debate, is not not? what things are depends on what context you are looking from.

di, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

or have i misread what you are trying to say?

di, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

di: what things are = "mmmm pies" thread, which is where i'm going now - if i choose to fill my bandwidth with pecan pie rather than wilde, will the aficionados of eccentricity call me a traitor?

geeta, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

what i most loved about this thread so far was momus' little tantrum about "most artists not hanging around after someone calls them an asshole..." make way for the ARTISTE. except to about 2/3 of the people who post here who've never heard your music, to whom yr just another prat.

jess, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

This thread and the Intellectuals and the masses thread which continues it: 426 posts.

'SOMETHING GOOD ON TELLY ALERT' thread: 1 post. Mmm Pies: 76.

Come on, admit it, you love it!

Momus, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

momus for someone living in a perfumed sex garden you sure do post a lot.

ethan, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think there's a terminal round the back of the second grotto, ethan.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Sexy, posting, whatever. 'It's very stimulating', in the words of Tracer's double.

Momus, Monday, 15 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

This thread vs N.'s bras thread vs Lord of the Rings FITE.

Tom, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

to about 2/3 of the people who post here who've never heard your music, to whom yr just another prat

Oh but I think there are several who HAVE heard his music and consider that also.

Sarah, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Hey, guys, there's something good on the telly. Something very, very creative. It's sort of difficult, not for most. But I know you'll love it.

Momus, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The first time I AIM'ed ethan, he mistook me for Momus.

Ethan, what the fuck.

Ramosi, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Whats on the telly? They are talking about the budget on ITV! They are asking members of the public what they think!

jel --, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think he was being an insufferable cunt by talking irrefutable pabulum.

david h, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Or being slightly cruel. Rise, my son, rise.

david h, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I've got some sweet, wild, devastating news for you Momus: I think you are so wrong about the difference between Marc Bolan and Viv X from suburbia! Marc Bolan was the great baroque poet of the trivial, the fantasist of suburbia surely - like lots of the British psychedelic musicians. Marc Bolan wrote 'I've got some sweet, wild, devastating news for you baby - it's Christmas time again!' And if John Peel's doing the same thing, perhaps he's simply becoming sort of an 'artist' himself.

maryann, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I have just returned from an evening making hard ghouse w/charvers & have thus missed all this which lokks somewhat interesting & i will read it in a little while etc. To answer momus' original question, yes home truths is bloody rubbish. My parents used to litsten to it, but seem to have given up ov late. From what I have heard ov it it did seem a little more interesting at first. Perhaps, like Eurotrash, it ran out of interesting weirdos, but kept going on & on nevertheless, despite having probably scraped through thee bottom ov thee barrel. As I become older & more & more embittered, life does sometimes seem somewhat "us & them". Being interested in, & attempting to create anything in an art-for-art's sake creative manner does seem to seperate one from the rest of, like humanity or something. It depresses me a little, partly b/c one wonders what do all these people that one sees actually do? What are they interested in? (etc) and partly b/c One envies this state where one is boring, but has money & "success". A little bit of an aside, which may or may not be relevant is that we do have friends who we like dearly who are into the normality lifestyle, and I do envy them. All of their things that they own actually work, eg a reasonably new motor-car which always works instead of a tatty old saab that needs a new driveshaft, a hopuse which is not falling to bits etc etc. However, two such folks, by which I mean thee male 1/2s ov het relationships, I haf found out via my delightful & charming wife's gossip w/their husbands, are intensely & phearfully jealous of ME. This is clearly insane. I am a complete fuxing crank. I sit & dick about w/modular synthesisers, making CD albums that sell <500 copies. My car is a wreck. I cycle 20 miles to work 2wice a week - clearly thee action ov a loony. I have long greying hair & a beard. I have no money. I have no money. I have no money. All ov this they are jealous ov. WHY for fuxake? I am a fucked up loser. They are "winners". I am baffled (& also v.tired & losing the plot) Apolofgies if thiz duplicates that already posted elsewhere. Answer to one of momus questions is that one has to ration one's headspace, and ignore the shit. Some of the "geniuses" are interesting, but most of them are rubbish. Most of the "breeders" are rubbish, but some of them are very interesting.
blah
blah blah
blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah
(etc)

Norman Phay, Tuesday, 16 April 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
Babylon 5 is a big pile of shit

Frank Swedehead, Monday, 17 May 2004 18:25 (seventeen years ago) link

four years pass...

lol home truths

cozwn, Thursday, 15 January 2009 16:46 (twelve years ago) link


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